England, My England
Part 4 out of 5
refinement, no touch of beauty anywhere, except that she was beautiful.
He was a blustering, impetuous man, she was rather cold in her soul, did
not care about anything very much, was rather capable and close with
money. And she had a common accent in her speech. He outdid her a
thousand times in coarse language, and yet that cold twang in her voice
tortured him with shame that he stamped down in bullying and in becoming
more violent in his own speech.
Only his dogs adored him, and to them, and to his pigeons, he talked with
rough, yet curiously tender caresses while they leaped and fluttered for
After he and his wife had been married for seven years a little girl was
born to them, then later, another. But the husband and wife drew no
nearer together. She had an affection for her children almost like a cool
governess. He had an emotional man's fear of sentiment, which helped to
nip his wife from putting out any shoots. He treated his children
roughly, and pretended to think it a good job when one was adopted by a
well-to-do maternal aunt. But in his soul he hated his wife that she
could give away one of his children. For after her cool fashion, she
loved him. With a chaos of a man such as he, she had no chance of being
anything but cold and hard, poor thing. For she did love him.
In the end he fell absurdly and violently in love with a rather
sentimental young woman who read Browning. He made his wife an allowance
and established a new menage with the young lady, shortly after
emigrating with her to Australia. Meanwhile his wife had gone to live
with a publican, a widower, with whom she had had one of those curious,
tacit understandings of which quiet women are capable, something like an
arrangement for provision in the future.
This was as much as the nephew knew. He sat beside his uncle, wondering
how things stood at the present. They raced lightly out past the cemetery
and along the boulevard, then turned into the rather grimy country. The
mud flew out on either side, there was a fine mist of rain which blew in
their faces. Berry covered himself up.
In the lanes the high hedges shone black with rain. The silvery grey sky,
faintly dappled, spread wide over the low, green land. The elder man
glanced fiercely up the road, then turned his red face to his nephew.
'And how're you going on, lad?' he said loudly. Berry noticed that his
uncle was slightly uneasy of him. It made him also uncomfortable. The
elder man had evidently something pressing on his soul.
'Who are you living with in town?' asked the nephew. 'Have you gone back
to Aunt Maud?'
'No,' barked the uncle. 'She wouldn't have me. I offered to--I want
to--but she wouldn't.'
'You're alone, then?'
'No, I'm not alone.'
He turned and glared with his fierce blue eyes at his nephew, but said no
more for some time. The car ran on through the mud, under the wet wall of
'That other devil tried to poison me,' suddenly shouted the elder man.
'The one I went to Australia with.' At which, in spite of himself, the
younger smiled in secret.
'How was that?' he asked.
'Wanted to get rid of me. She got in with another fellow on the
ship.... By Jove, I was bad.'
'Where?--on the ship?'
'No,' bellowed the other. 'No. That was in Wellington, New Zealand. I was
bad, and got lower an' lower--couldn't think what was up. I could hardly
crawl about. As certain as I'm here, she was poisoning me, to get to th'
other chap--I'm certain of it.'
'And what did you do?'
'I cleared out--went to Sydney--'
'And left her?'
'Yes, I thought begod, I'd better clear out if I wanted to live.'
'And you were all right in Sydney?'
'Better in no time--I _know_ she was putting poison in my coffee.'
There was a glum silence. The driver stared at the road ahead, fixedly,
managing the car as if it were a live thing. The nephew felt that his
uncle was afraid, quite stupefied with fear, fear of life, of death, of
'You're in rooms, then?' asked the nephew.
'No, I'm in a house of my own,' said the uncle defiantly, 'wi' th' best
little woman in th' Midlands. She's a marvel.--Why don't you come an' see
'I will. Who is she?'
'Oh, she's a good girl--a beautiful little thing. I was clean gone
on her first time I saw her. An' she was on me. Her mother lives with
us--respectable girl, none o' your....'
'And how old is she?'
'--how old is she?--she's twenty-one.'
'_She's_ right enough.'
'You'd marry her--getting a divorce--?'
'I shall marry her.'
There was a little antagonism between the two men.
'Where's Aunt Maud?' asked the younger.
'She's at the Railway Arms--we passed it, just against Rollin's Mill
Crossing.... They sent me a note this morning to go an' see her when I
can spare time. She's got consumption.'
'Good Lord! Are you going?'
But again Berry felt that his uncle was afraid.
The young man got through his commission in the village, had a drink with
his uncle at the inn, and the two were returning home. The elder man's
subject of conversation was Australia. As they drew near the town they
grew silent, thinking both of the public-house. At last they saw the
gates of the railway crossing were closed before them.
'Shan't you call?' asked Berry, jerking his head in the direction of the
inn, which stood at the corner between two roads, its sign hanging under
a bare horse-chestnut tree in front.
'I might as well. Come in an' have a drink,' said the uncle.
It had been raining all the morning, so shallow pools of water lay about.
A brewer's wagon, with wet barrels and warm-smelling horses, stood near
the door of the inn. Everywhere seemed silent, but for the rattle of
trains at the crossing. The two men went uneasily up the steps and into
the bar. The place was paddled with wet feet, empty. As the bar-man was
heard approaching, the uncle asked, his usual bluster slightly hushed by
'What yer goin' ta have, lad? Same as last time?'
A man entered, evidently the proprietor. He was good-looking, with a
long, heavy face and quick, dark eyes. His glance at Sutton was swift, a
start, a recognition, and a withdrawal, into heavy neutrality.
'How are yer, Dan?' he said, scarcely troubling to speak.
'Are yer, George?' replied Sutton, hanging back. 'My nephew, Dan Berry.
Give us Red Seal, George.'
The publican nodded to the younger man, and set the glasses on the bar.
He pushed forward the two glasses, then leaned back in the dark corner
behind the door, his arms folded, evidently preferring to get back from
the watchful eyes of the nephew.
'--'s luck,' said Sutton.
The publican nodded in acknowledgement. Sutton and his nephew drank.
'Why the hell don't you get that road mended in Cinder Hill--,' said
Sutton fiercely, pushing back his driver's cap and showing his short-cut,
'They can't find it in their hearts to pull it up,' replied the publican,
'Find in their hearts! They want settin' in barrows an' runnin' up an'
down it till they cried for mercy.'
Sutton put down his glass. The publican renewed it with a sure hand, at
ease in whatsoever he did. Then he leaned back against the bar. He wore
no coat. He stood with arms folded, his chin on his chest, his long
moustache hanging. His back was round and slack, so that the lower part
of his abdomen stuck forward, though he was not stout. His cheek was
healthy, brown-red, and he was muscular. Yet there was about him this
physical slackness, a reluctance in his slow, sure movements. His eyes
were keen under his dark brows, but reluctant also, as if he were
There was a halt. The publican evidently would say nothing. Berry looked
at the mahogany bar-counter, slopped with beer, at the whisky-bottles on
the shelves. Sutton, his cap pushed back, showing a white brow above a
weather-reddened face, rubbed his cropped hair uneasily.
The publican glanced round suddenly. It seemed that only his dark eyes
'Going up?' he asked.
And something, perhaps his eyes, indicated the unseen bed-chamber.
'Ay--that's what I came for,' replied Sutton, shifting nervously from one
foot to the other. 'She's been asking for me?'
'This morning,' replied the publican, neutral.
Then he put up a flap of the bar, and turned away through the dark
doorway behind. Sutton, pulling off his cap, showing a round,
short-cropped head which now was ducked forward, followed after him, the
buttons holding the strap of his great-coat behind glittering for a
They climbed the dark stairs, the husband placing his feet carefully,
because of his big boots. Then he followed down the passage, trying
vaguely to keep a grip on his bowels, which seemed to be melting away,
and definitely wishing for a neat brandy. The publican opened a door.
Sutton, big and burly in his great-coat, went past him.
The bedroom seemed light and warm after the passage. There was a red
eider-down on the bed. Then, making an effort, Sutton turned his eyes to
see the sick woman. He met her eyes direct, dark, dilated. It was such a
shock he almost started away. For a second he remained in torture, as if
some invisible flame were playing on him to reduce his bones and fuse him
down. Then he saw the sharp white edge of her jaw, and the black hair
beside the hollow cheek. With a start he went towards the bed.
'Hello, Maud!' he said. 'Why, what ye been doin'?'
The publican stood at the window with his back to the bed. The husband,
like one condemned but on the point of starting away, stood by the
bedside staring in horror at his wife, whose dilated grey eyes, nearly
all black now, watched him wearily, as if she were looking at something a
long way off.
Going exceedingly pale, he jerked up his head and stared at the wall over
the pillows. There was a little coloured picture of a bird perched on a
bell, and a nest among ivy leaves beneath. It appealed to him, made him
wonder, roused a feeling of childish magic in him. They were wonderfully
fresh, green ivy leaves, and nobody had seen the nest among them save
Then suddenly he looked down again at the face on the bed, to try and
recognize it. He knew the white brow and the beautiful clear eyebrows.
That was his wife, with whom he had passed his youth, flesh of his flesh,
his, himself. Then those tired eyes, which met his again from a long way
off, disturbed him until he did not know where he was. Only the sunken
cheeks, and the mouth that seemed to protrude now were foreign to him,
and filled him with horror. It seemed he lost his identity. He was the
young husband of the woman with the clear brows; he was the married man
fighting with her whose eyes watched him, a little indifferently, from a
long way off; and he was a child in horror of that protruding mouth.
There came a crackling sound of her voice. He knew she had consumption of
the throat, and braced himself hard to bear the noise.
'What was it, Maud?' he asked in panic.
Then the broken, crackling voice came again. He was too terrified of the
sound of it to hear what was said. There was a pause.
'You'll take Winnie?' the publican's voice interpreted from the window.
'Don't you bother, Maud, I'll take her,' he said, stupefying his mind so
as not to understand.
He looked curiously round the room. It was not a bad bedroom, light and
warm. There were many medicine bottles aggregated in a corner of the
washstand--and a bottle of Three Star brandy, half full. And there were
also photographs of strange people on the chest of drawers. It was not a
Again he started as if he were shot. She was speaking. He bent down, but
did not look at her.
'Be good to her,' she whispered.
When he realized her meaning, that he should be good to their child when
the mother was gone, a blade went through his flesh.
'I'll be good to her, Maud, don't you bother,' he said, beginning to feel
He looked again at the picture of the bird. It perched cheerfully under a
blue sky, with robust, jolly ivy leaves near. He was gathering his
courage to depart. He looked down, but struggled hard not to take in the
sight of his wife's face.
'I s'll come again, Maud,' he said. 'I hope you'll go on all right. Is
there anything as you want?'
There was an almost imperceptible shake of the head from the sick woman,
making his heart melt swiftly again. Then, dragging his limbs, he got out
of the room and down the stairs.
The landlord came after him.
'I'll let you know if anything happens,' the publican said, still
laconic, but with his eyes dark and swift.
'Ay, a' right,' said Button blindly. He looked round for his cap, which
he had all the time in his hand. Then he got out of doors.
In a moment the uncle and nephew were in the car jolting on the level
crossing. The elder man seemed as if something tight in his brain made
him open his eyes wide, and stare. He held the steering wheel firmly. He
knew he could steer accurately, to a hair's breadth. Glaring fixedly
ahead, he let the car go, till it bounded over the uneven road. There
were three coal-carts in a string. In an instant the car grazed past
them, almost biting the kerb on the other side. Sutton aimed his car like
a projectile, staring ahead. He did not want to know, to think, to
realize, he wanted to be only the driver of that quick taxi.
The town drew near, suddenly. There were allotment-gardens with
dark-purple twiggy fruit-trees and wet alleys between the hedges. Then
suddenly the streets of dwelling-houses whirled close, and the car was
climbing the hill, with an angry whirr,--up--up--till they rode out on to
the crest and could see the tram-cars, dark-red and yellow, threading
their way round the corner below, and all the traffic roaring between the
'Got anywhere to go?' asked Sutton of his nephew.
'I was going to see one or two people.'
'Come an' have a bit o' dinner with us,' said the other.
Berry knew that his uncle wanted to be distracted, so that he should not
think nor realize. The big man was running hard away from the horror of
'All right,' Berry agreed.
The car went quickly through the town. It ran up a long street nearly
into the country again. Then it pulled up at a house that stood alone,
below the road.
'I s'll be back in ten minutes,' said the uncle.
The car went on to the garage. Berry stood curiously at the top of the
stone stairs that led from the highroad down to the level of the house,
an old stone place. The garden was dilapidated. Broken fruit-trees
leaned at a sharp angle down the steep bank. Right across the dim
grey atmosphere, in a kind of valley on the edge of the town, new
suburb-patches showed pinkish on the dark earth. It was a kind of
Berry went down the steps. Through the broken black fence of the orchard,
long grass showed yellow. The place seemed deserted. He knocked, then
knocked again. An elderly woman appeared. She looked like a housekeeper.
At first she said suspiciously that Mr. Sutton was not in.
'My uncle just put me down. He'll be in in ten minutes,' replied the
'Oh, are you the Mr. Berry who is related to him?' exclaimed the elderly
woman. 'Come in--come in.'
She was at once kindly and a little bit servile. The young man entered.
It was an old house, rather dark, and sparsely furnished. The elderly
woman sat nervously on the edge of one of the chairs in a drawing-room
that looked as if it were furnished from dismal relics of dismal homes,
and there was a little straggling attempt at conversation. Mrs. Greenwell
was evidently a working class woman unused to service or to any
Presently she gathered up courage to invite her visitor into the
dining-room. There from the table under the window rose a tall, slim girl
with a cat in her arms. She was evidently a little more lady-like than
was habitual to her, but she had a gentle, delicate, small nature. Her
brown hair almost covered her ears, her dark lashes came down in shy
awkwardness over her beautiful blue eyes. She shook hands in a frank way,
yet she was shrinking. Evidently she was not sure how her position would
affect her visitor. And yet she was assured in herself, shrinking and
timid as she was.
'She must be a good deal in love with him,' thought Berry.
Both women glanced shamefacedly at the roughly laid table. Evidently they
ate in a rather rough and ready fashion.
Elaine--she had this poetic name--fingered her cat timidly, not knowing
what to say or to do, unable even to ask her visitor to sit down. He
noticed how her skirt hung almost flat on her hips. She was young, scarce
developed, a long, slender thing. Her colouring was warm and exquisite.
The elder woman bustled out to the kitchen. Berry fondled the terrier
dogs that had come curiously to his heels, and glanced out of the window
at the wet, deserted orchard.
This room, too, was not well furnished, and rather dark. But there was a
big red fire.
'He always has fox terriers,' he said.
'Yes,' she answered, showing her teeth in a smile.
'Do you like them, too?'
'Yes'--she glanced down at the dogs. 'I like Tam better than Sally--'
Her speech always tailed off into an awkward silence.
'We've been to see Aunt Maud,' said the nephew.
Her eyes, blue and scared and shrinking, met his.
'Dan had a letter,' he explained. 'She's very bad.'
'Isn't it horrible!' she exclaimed, her face crumbling up with fear.
The old woman, evidently a hard-used, rather down-trodden workman's wife,
came in with two soup-plates. She glanced anxiously to see how her
daughter was progressing with the visitor.
'Mother, Dan's been to see Maud,' said Elaine, in a quiet voice full of
fear and trouble.
The old woman looked up anxiously, in question.
'I think she wanted him to take the child. She's very bad, I believe,'
'Oh, we should take Winnie!' cried Elaine. But both women seemed
uncertain, wavering in their position. Already Berry could see that his
uncle had bullied them, as he bullied everybody. But they were used to
unpleasant men, and seemed to keep at a distance.
'Will you have some soup?' asked the mother, humbly.
She evidently did the work. The daughter was to be a lady, more or less,
always dressed and nice for when Sutton came in.
They heard him heavily running down the steps outside. The dogs got up.
Elaine seemed to forget the visitor. It was as if she came into life. Yet
she was nervous and afraid. The mother stood as if ready to exculpate
Sutton burst open the door. Big, blustering, wet in his immense grey
coat, he came into the dining-room.
'Hello!' he said to his nephew, 'making yourself at home?'
'Oh, yes,' replied Berry.
'Hello, Jack,' he said to the girl. 'Got owt to grizzle about?'
'What for?' she asked, in a clear, half-challenging voice, that had that
peculiar twang, almost petulant, so female and so attractive. Yet she was
defiant like a boy.
'It's a wonder if you haven't,' growled Sutton. And, with a really
intimate movement, he stooped down and fondled his dogs, though paying no
attention to them. Then he stood up, and remained with feet apart on the
hearthrug, his head ducked forward, watching the girl. He seemed
abstracted, as if he could only watch her. His great-coat hung open, so
that she could see his figure, simple and human in the great husk of
cloth. She stood nervously with her hands behind her, glancing at him,
unable to see anything else. And he was scarcely conscious but of her.
His eyes were still strained and staring, and as they followed the girl,
when, long-limbed and languid, she moved away, it was as if he saw in her
something impersonal, the female, not the woman.
'Had your dinner?' he asked.
'We were just going to have it,' she replied, with the same curious
little vibration in her voice, like the twang of a string.
The mother entered, bringing a saucepan from which she ladled soup into
'Sit down, lad,' said Sutton. 'You sit down, Jack, an' give me mine
'Oh, aren't you coming to table?' she complained.
'No, I tell you,' he snarled, almost pretending to be disagreeable. But
she was slightly afraid even of the pretence, which pleased and relieved
him. He stood on the hearthrug eating his soup noisily.
'Aren't you going to take your coat off?' she said. 'It's filling the
place full of steam.'
He did not answer, but, with his head bent forward over the plate, he ate
his soup hastily, to get it done with. When he put down his empty plate,
she rose and went to him.
'Do take your coat off, Dan,' she said, and she took hold of the breast
of his coat, trying to push it back over his shoulder. But she could not.
Only the stare in his eyes changed to a glare as her hand moved over his
shoulder. He looked down into her eyes. She became pale, rather
frightened-looking, and she turned her face away, and it was drawn
slightly with love and fear and misery. She tried again to put off his
coat, her thin wrists pulling at it. He stood solidly planted, and did
not look at her, but stared straight in front. She was playing with
passion, afraid of it, and really wretched because it left her, the
person, out of count. Yet she continued. And there came into his bearing,
into his eyes, the curious smile of passion, pushing away even the
death-horror. It was life stronger than death in him. She stood close to
his breast. Their eyes met, and she was carried away.
'Take your coat off, Dan,' she said coaxingly, in a low tone meant for no
one but him. And she slid her hands on his shoulder, and he yielded, so
that the coat was pushed back. She had flushed, and her eyes had grown
very bright. She got hold of the cuff of his coat. Gently, he eased
himself, so that she drew it off. Then he stood in a thin suit, which
revealed his vigorous, almost mature form.
'What a weight!' she exclaimed, in a peculiar penetrating voice, as she
went out hugging the overcoat. In a moment she came back.
He stood still in the same position, a frown over his fiercely staring
eyes. The pain, the fear, the horror in his breast were all burning away
in the new, fiercest flame of passion.
'Get your dinner,' he said roughly to her.
'I've had all I want,' she said. 'You come an' have yours.'
He looked at the table as if he found it difficult to see things.
'I want no more,' he said.
She stood close to his chest. She wanted to touch him and to comfort him.
There was something about him now that fascinated her. Berry felt
slightly ashamed that she seemed to ignore the presence of others in the
The mother came in. She glanced at Sutton, standing planted on the
hearthrug, his head ducked, the heavy frown hiding his eyes. There was a
peculiar braced intensity about him that made the elder woman afraid.
Suddenly he jerked his head round to his nephew.
'Get on wi' your dinner, lad,' he said, and he went to the door. The
dogs, which had continually lain down and got up again, uneasy, now rose
and watched. The girl went after him, saying, clearly:
'What did you want, Dan?'
Her slim, quick figure was gone, the door was closed behind her.
There was silence. The mother, still more slave-like in her movement, sat
down in a low chair. Berry drank some beer.
'That girl will leave him,' he said to himself. 'She'll hate him like
poison. And serve him right. Then she'll go off with somebody else.'
And she did.
_The Horse Dealer's Daughter_
'Well, Mabel, and what are you going to do with yourself?' asked Joe,
with foolish flippancy. He felt quite safe himself. Without listening for
an answer, he turned aside, worked a grain of tobacco to the tip of his
tongue, and spat it out. He did not care about anything, since he felt
The three brothers and the sister sat round the desolate breakfast table,
attempting some sort of desultory consultation. The morning's post had
given the final tap to the family fortunes, and all was over. The dreary
dining-room itself, with its heavy mahogany furniture, looked as if it
were waiting to be done away with.
But the consultation amounted to nothing. There was a strange air of
ineffectuality about the three men, as they sprawled at table, smoking
and reflecting vaguely on their own condition. The girl was alone, a
rather short, sullen-looking young woman of twenty-seven. She did not
share the same life as her brothers. She would have been good-looking,
save for the impassive fixity of her face, 'bull-dog', as her brothers
There was a confused tramping of horses' feet outside. The three men all
sprawled round in their chairs to watch. Beyond the dark holly-bushes
that separated the strip of lawn from the highroad, they could see a
cavalcade of shire horses swinging out of their own yard, being taken for
exercise. This was the last time. These were the last horses that would
go through their hands. The young men watched with critical, callous
look. They were all frightened at the collapse of their lives, and the
sense of disaster in which they were involved left them no inner freedom.
Yet they were three fine, well-set fellows enough. Joe, the eldest, was a
man of thirty-three, broad and handsome in a hot, flushed way. His face
was red, he twisted his black moustache over a thick finger, his eyes
were shallow and restless. He had a sensual way of uncovering his teeth
when he laughed, and his bearing was stupid. Now he watched the horses
with a glazed look of helplessness in his eyes, a certain stupor of
The great draught-horses swung past. They were tied head to tail, four of
them, and they heaved along to where a lane branched off from the
highroad, planting their great hoofs floutingly in the fine black mud,
swinging their great rounded haunches sumptuously, and trotting a few
sudden steps as they were led into the lane, round the corner. Every
movement showed a massive, slumbrous strength, and a stupidity which held
them in subjection. The groom at the head looked back, jerking the
leading rope. And the calvalcade moved out of sight up the lane, the tail
of the last horse, bobbed up tight and stiff, held out taut from the
swinging great haunches as they rocked behind the hedges in a motionlike
Joe watched with glazed hopeless eyes. The horses were almost like his
own body to him. He felt he was done for now. Luckily he was engaged to a
woman as old as himself, and therefore her father, who was steward of a
neighbouring estate, would provide him with a job. He would marry and go
into harness. His life was over, he would be a subject animal now.
He turned uneasily aside, the retreating steps of the horses echoing in
his ears. Then, with foolish restlessness, he reached for the scraps of
bacon-rind from the plates, and making a faint whistling sound, flung
them to the terrier that lay against the fender. He watched the dog
swallow them, and waited till the creature looked into his eyes. Then a
faint grin came on his face, and in a high, foolish voice he said:
'You won't get much more bacon, shall you, you little b----?'
The dog faintly and dismally wagged its tail, then lowered his haunches,
circled round, and lay down again.
There was another helpless silence at the table. Joe sprawled uneasily in
his seat, not willing to go till the family conclave was dissolved. Fred
Henry, the second brother, was erect, clean-limbed, alert. He had watched
the passing of the horses with more _sang-froid_. If he was an animal,
like Joe, he was an animal which controls, not one which is controlled.
He was master of any horse, and he carried himself with a well-tempered
air of mastery. But he was not master of the situations of life. He
pushed his coarse brown moustache upwards, off his lip, and glanced
irritably at his sister, who sat impassive and inscrutable.
'You'll go and stop with Lucy for a bit, shan't you?' he asked. The girl
did not answer.
'I don't see what else you can do,' persisted Fred Henry.
'Go as a skivvy,' Joe interpolated laconically.
The girl did not move a muscle.
'If I was her, I should go in for training for a nurse,' said Malcolm,
the youngest of them all. He was the baby of the family, a young man of
twenty-two, with a fresh, jaunty _museau_.
But Mabel did not take any notice of him. They had talked at her and
round her for so many years, that she hardly heard them at all.
The marble clock on the mantel-piece softly chimed the half-hour, the dog
rose uneasily from the hearthrug and looked at the party at the breakfast
table. But still they sat on in ineffectual conclave.
'Oh, all right,' said Joe suddenly, _a propos_ of nothing. 'I'll get a
He pushed back his chair, straddled his knees with a downward jerk, to
get them free, in horsy fashion, and went to the fire. Still he did not
go out of the room; he was curious to know what the others would do or
say. He began to charge his pipe, looking down at the dog and saying, in
a high, affected voice:
'Going wi' me? Going wi' me are ter? Tha'rt goin' further than tha counts
on just now, dost hear?'
The dog faintly wagged its tail, the man stuck out his jaw and covered
his pipe with his hands, and puffed intently, losing himself in the
tobacco, looking down all the while at the dog with an absent brown eye.
The dog looked up at him in mournful distrust. Joe stood with his knees
stuck out, in real horsy fashion.
'Have you had a letter from Lucy?' Fred Henry asked of his sister.
'Last week,' came the neutral reply.
'And what does she say?'
There was no answer.
'Does she _ask_ you to go and stop there?' persisted Fred Henry.
'She says I can if I like.'
'Well, then, you'd better. Tell her you'll come on Monday.'
This was received in silence.
'That's what you'll do then, is it?' said Fred Henry, in some
But she made no answer. There was a silence of futility and irritation in
the room. Malcolm grinned fatuously.
'You'll have to make up your mind between now and next Wednesday,' said
Joe loudly, 'or else find yourself lodgings on the kerbstone.'
The face of the young woman darkened, but she sat on immutable.
'Here's Jack Fergusson!' exclaimed Malcolm, who was looking aimlessly out
of the window.
'Where?' exclaimed Joe, loudly.
'Just gone past.'
Malcolm craned his neck to see the gate.
'Yes,' he said.
There was a silence. Mabel sat on like one condemned, at the head of the
table. Then a whistle was heard from the kitchen. The dog got up and
barked sharply. Joe opened the door and shouted:
After a moment a young man entered. He was muffled up in overcoat and a
purple woollen scarf, and his tweed cap, which he did not remove, was
pulled down on his head. He was of medium height, his face was rather
long and pale, his eyes looked tired.
'Hello, Jack! Well, Jack!' exclaimed Malcolm and Joe. Fred Henry merely
'What's doing?' asked the newcomer, evidently addressing Fred Henry.
'Same. We've got to be out by Wednesday.--Got a cold?'
'I have--got it bad, too.'
'Why don't you stop in?'
'_Me_ stop in? When I can't stand on my legs, perhaps I shall have a
chance.' The young man spoke huskily. He had a slight Scotch accent.
'It's a knock-out, isn't it,' said Joe, boisterously, 'if a doctor goes
round croaking with a cold. Looks bad for the patients, doesn't it?'
The young doctor looked at him slowly.
'Anything the matter with _you_, then?' he asked sarcastically.
'Not as I know of. Damn your eyes, I hope not. Why?'
'I thought you were very concerned about the patients, wondered if you
might be one yourself.'
'Damn it, no, I've never been patient to no flaming doctor, and hope I
never shall be,' returned Joe.
At this point Mabel rose from the table, and they all seemed to become
aware of her existence. She began putting the dishes together. The young
doctor looked at her, but did not address her. He had not greeted her.
She went out of the room with the tray, her face impassive and unchanged.
'When are you off then, all of you?' asked the doctor.
'I'm catching the eleven-forty,' replied Malcolm. 'Are you goin' down wi'
th' trap, Joe?'
'Yes, I've told you I'm going down wi' th' trap, haven't I?'
'We'd better be getting her in then.--So long, Jack, if I don't see you
before I go,' said Malcolm, shaking hands.
He went out, followed by Joe, who seemed to have his tail between his
'Well, this is the devil's own,' exclaimed the doctor, when he was left
alone with Fred Henry. 'Going before Wednesday, are you?'
'That's the orders,' replied the other.
'Where, to Northampton?'
'The devil!' exclaimed Fergusson, with quiet chagrin.
And there was silence between the two.
'All settled up, are you?' asked Fergusson.
There was another pause.
'Well, I shall miss yer, Freddy, boy,' said the young doctor.
'And I shall miss thee, Jack,' returned the other.
'Miss you like hell,' mused the doctor.
Fred Henry turned aside. There was nothing to say. Mabel came in again,
to finish clearing the table.
'What are _you_ going to do, then, Miss Pervin?' asked Fergusson. 'Going
to your sister's, are you?'
Mabel looked at him with her steady, dangerous eyes, that always made him
uncomfortable, unsettling his superficial ease.
'No,' she said.
'Well, what in the name of fortune _are_ you going to do? Say what you
mean to do,' cried Fred Henry, with futile intensity.
But she only averted her head, and continued her work. She folded the
white table-cloth, and put on the chenille cloth.
'The sulkiest bitch that ever trod!' muttered her brother.
But she finished her task with perfectly impassive face, the young doctor
watching her interestedly all the while. Then she went out.
Fred Henry stared after her, clenching his lips, his blue eyes fixing in
sharp antagonism, as he made a grimace of sour exasperation.
'You could bray her into bits, and that's all you'd get out of her,' he
said, in a small, narrowed tone.
The doctor smiled faintly.
'What's she _going_ to do, then?' he asked.
'Strike me if I know!' returned the other.
There was a pause. Then the doctor stirred.
'I'll be seeing you tonight, shall I?' he said to his friend.
'Ay--where's it to be? Are we going over to Jessdale?'
'I don't know. I've got such a cold on me. I'll come round to the Moon
and Stars, anyway.'
'Let Lizzie and May miss their night for once, eh?'
'That's it--if I feel as I do now.'
The two young men went through the passage and down to the back door
together. The house was large, but it was servantless now, and desolate.
At the back was a small bricked house-yard, and beyond that a big square,
gravelled fine and red, and having stables on two sides. Sloping, dank,
winter-dark fields stretched away on the open sides.
But the stables were empty. Joseph Pervin, the father of the family, had
been a man of no education, who had become a fairly large horse dealer.
The stables had been full of horses, there was a great turmoil and
come-and-go of horses and of dealers and grooms. Then the kitchen was
full of servants. But of late things had declined. The old man had
married a second time, to retrieve his fortunes. Now he was dead and
everything was gone to the dogs, there was nothing but debt and
For months, Mabel had been servantless in the big house, keeping the home
together in penury for her ineffectual brothers. She had kept house for
ten years. But previously, it was with unstinted means. Then, however
brutal and coarse everything was, the sense of money had kept her proud,
confident. The men might be foul-mouthed, the women in the kitchen might
have bad reputations, her brothers might have illegitimate children. But
so long as there was money, the girl felt herself established, and
brutally proud, reserved.
No company came to the house, save dealers and coarse men. Mabel had no
associates of her own sex, after her sister went away. But she did not
mind. She went regularly to church, she attended to her father. And she
lived in the memory of her mother, who had died when she was fourteen,
and whom she had loved. She had loved her father, too, in a different
way, depending upon him, and feeling secure in him, until at the age of
fifty-four he married again. And then she had set hard against him. Now
he had died and left them all hopelessly in debt.
She had suffered badly during the period of poverty. Nothing, however,
could shake the curious sullen, animal pride that dominated each member
of the family. Now, for Mabel, the end had come. Still she would not cast
about her. She would follow her own way just the same. She would always
hold the keys of her own situation. Mindless and persistent, she endured
from day to day. Why should she think? Why should she answer anybody? It
was enough that this was the end, and there was no way out. She need not
pass any more darkly along the main street of the small town, avoiding
every eye. She need not demean herself any more, going into the shops and
buying the cheapest food. This was at an end. She thought of nobody, not
even of herself. Mindless and persistent, she seemed in a sort of ecstasy
to be coming nearer to her fulfilment, her own glorification, approaching
her dead mother, who was glorified.
In the afternoon she took a little bag, with shears and sponge and a
small scrubbing brush, and went out. It was a grey, wintry day, with
saddened, dark-green fields and an atmosphere blackened by the smoke of
foundries not far off. She went quickly, darkly along the causeway,
heeding nobody, through the town to the churchyard.
There she always felt secure, as if no one could see her, although as a
matter of fact she was exposed to the stare of everyone who passed along
under the churchyard wall. Nevertheless, once under the shadow of the
great looming church, among the graves, she felt immune from the world,
reserved within the thick churchyard wall as in another country.
Carefully she clipped the grass from the grave, and arranged the
pinky-white, small chrysanthemums in the tin cross. When this was done,
she took an empty jar from a neighbouring grave, brought water, and
carefully, most scrupulously sponged the marble headstone and the
It gave her sincere satisfaction to do this. She felt in immediate
contact with the world of her mother. She took minute pains, went through
the park in a state bordering on pure happiness, as if in performing this
task she came into a subtle, intimate connexion with her mother. For the
life she followed here in the world was far less real than the world of
death she inherited from her mother.
The doctor's house was just by the church. Fergusson, being a mere hired
assistant, was slave to the countryside. As he hurried now to attend to
the outpatients in the surgery, glancing across the graveyard with his
quick eye, he saw the girl at her task at the grave. She seemed so intent
and remote, it was like looking into another world. Some mystical element
was touched in him. He slowed down as he walked, watching her as if
She lifted her eyes, feeling him looking. Their eyes met. And each looked
again at once, each feeling, in some way, found out by the other. He
lifted his cap and passed on down the road. There remained distinct in
his consciousness, like a vision, the memory of her face, lifted from the
tombstone in the churchyard, and looking at him with slow, large,
portentous eyes. It _was_ portentous, her face. It seemed to mesmerize
him. There was a heavy power in her eyes which laid hold of his whole
being, as if he had drunk some powerful drug. He had been feeling weak
and done before. Now the life came back into him, he felt delivered from
his own fretted, daily self.
He finished his duties at the surgery as quickly as might be, hastily
filling up the bottles of the waiting people with cheap drugs. Then, in
perpetual haste, he set off again to visit several cases in another part
of his round, before teatime. At all times he preferred to walk, if he
could, but particularly when he was not well. He fancied the motion
The afternoon was falling. It was grey, deadened, and wintry, with a
slow, moist, heavy coldness sinking in and deadening all the faculties.
But why should he think or notice? He hastily climbed the hill and turned
across the dark-green fields, following the black cinder-track. In the
distance, across a shallow dip in the country, the small town was
clustered like smouldering ash, a tower, a spire, a heap of low, raw,
extinct houses. And on the nearest fringe of the town, sloping into the
dip, was Oldmeadow, the Pervins' house. He could see the stables and the
outbuildings distinctly, as they lay towards him on the slope. Well, he
would not go there many more times! Another resource would be lost to
him, another place gone: the only company he cared for in the alien, ugly
little town he was losing. Nothing but work, drudgery, constant hastening
from dwelling to dwelling among the colliers and the iron-workers. It
wore him out, but at the same time he had a craving for it. It was a
stimulant to him to be in the homes of the working people, moving as it
were through the innermost body of their life. His nerves were excited
and gratified. He could come so near, into the very lives of the rough,
inarticulate, powerfully emotional men and women. He grumbled, he said he
hated the hellish hole. But as a matter of fact it excited him, the
contact with the rough, strongly-feeling people was a stimulant applied
direct to his nerves.
Below Oldmeadow, in the green, shallow, soddened hollow of fields, lay a
square, deep pond. Roving across the landscape, the doctor's quick eye
detected a figure in black passing through the gate of the field, down
towards the pond. He looked again. It would be Mabel Pervin. His mind
suddenly became alive and attentive.
Why was she going down there? He pulled up on the path on the slope
above, and stood staring. He could just make sure of the small black
figure moving in the hollow of the failing day. He seemed to see her in
the midst of such obscurity, that he was like a clairvoyant, seeing
rather with the mind's eye than with ordinary sight. Yet he could see her
positively enough, whilst he kept his eye attentive. He felt, if he
looked away from her, in the thick, ugly falling dusk, he would lose her
He followed her minutely as she moved, direct and intent, like something
transmitted rather than stirring in voluntary activity, straight down the
field towards the pond. There she stood on the bank for a moment. She
never raised her head. Then she waded slowly into the water.
He stood motionless as the small black figure walked slowly and
deliberately towards the centre of the pond, very slowly, gradually
moving deeper into the motionless water, and still moving forward as the
water got up to her breast. Then he could see her no more in the dusk of
the dead afternoon.
'There!' he exclaimed. 'Would you believe it?'
And he hastened straight down, running over the wet, soddened fields,
pushing through the hedges, down into the depression of callous wintry
obscurity. It took him several minutes to come to the pond. He stood on
the bank, breathing heavily. He could see nothing. His eyes seemed to
penetrate the dead water. Yes, perhaps that was the dark shadow of her
black clothing beneath the surface of the water.
He slowly ventured into the pond. The bottom was deep, soft clay, he sank
in, and the water clasped dead cold round his legs. As he stirred he
could smell the cold, rotten clay that fouled up into the water. It was
objectionable in his lungs. Still, repelled and yet not heeding, he moved
deeper into the pond. The cold water rose over his thighs, over his
loins, upon his abdomen. The lower part of his body was all sunk in the
hideous cold element. And the bottom was so deeply soft and uncertain, he
was afraid of pitching with his mouth underneath. He could not swim, and
He crouched a little, spreading his hands under the water and moving them
round, trying to feel for her. The dead cold pond swayed upon his chest.
He moved again, a little deeper, and again, with his hands underneath, he
felt all around under the water. And he touched her clothing. But it
evaded his fingers. He made a desperate effort to grasp it.
And so doing he lost his balance and went under, horribly, suffocating in
the foul earthy water, struggling madly for a few moments. At last, after
what seemed an eternity, he got his footing, rose again into the air and
looked around. He gasped, and knew he was in the world. Then he looked at
the water. She had risen near him. He grasped her clothing, and drawing
her nearer, turned to take his way to land again.
He went very slowly, carefully, absorbed in the slow progress. He rose
higher, climbing out of the pond. The water was now only about his legs;
he was thankful, full of relief to be out of the clutches of the pond. He
lifted her and staggered on to the bank, out of the horror of wet, grey
He laid her down on the bank. She was quite unconscious and running with
water. He made the water come from her mouth, he worked to restore her.
He did not have to work very long before he could feel the breathing
begin again in her; she was breathing naturally. He worked a little
longer. He could feel her live beneath his hands; she was coming back. He
wiped her face, wrapped her in his overcoat, looked round into the dim,
dark-grey world, then lifted her and staggered down the bank and across
It seemed an unthinkably long way, and his burden so heavy he felt he
would never get to the house. But at last he was in the stable-yard, and
then in the house-yard. He opened the door and went into the house. In
the kitchen he laid her down on the hearthrug, and called. The house was
empty. But the fire was burning in the grate.
Then again he kneeled to attend to her. She was breathing regularly, her
eyes were wide open and as if conscious, but there seemed something
missing in her look. She was conscious in herself, but unconscious of her
He ran upstairs, took blankets from a bed, and put them before the fire
to warm. Then he removed her saturated, earthy-smelling clothing, rubbed
her dry with a towel, and wrapped her naked in the blankets. Then he went
into the dining-room, to look for spirits. There was a little whisky. He
drank a gulp himself, and put some into her mouth.
The effect was instantaneous. She looked full into his face, as if she
had been seeing him for some time, and yet had only just become conscious
'Dr. Fergusson?' she said.
'What?' he answered.
He was divesting himself of his coat, intending to find some dry clothing
upstairs. He could not bear the smell of the dead, clayey water, and he
was mortally afraid for his own health.
'What did I do?' she asked.
'Walked into the pond,' he replied. He had begun to shudder like one
sick, and could hardly attend to her. Her eyes remained full on him, he
seemed to be going dark in his mind, looking back at her helplessly. The
shuddering became quieter in him, his life came back in him, dark and
unknowing, but strong again.
'Was I out of my mind?' she asked, while her eyes were fixed on him all
'Maybe, for the moment,' he replied. He felt quiet, because his strength
had come back. The strange fretful strain had left him.
'Am I out of my mind now?' she asked.
'Are you?' he reflected a moment. 'No,' he answered truthfully, 'I don't
see that you are.' He turned his face aside. He was afraid now, because
he felt dazed, and felt dimly that her power was stronger than his, in
this issue. And she continued to look at him fixedly all the time. 'Can
you tell me where I shall find some dry things to put on?' he asked.
'Did you dive into the pond for me?' she asked.
'No,' he answered. 'I walked in. But I went in overhead as well.'
There was silence for a moment. He hesitated. He very much wanted to go
upstairs to get into dry clothing. But there was another desire in him.
And she seemed to hold him. His will seemed to have gone to sleep, and
left him, standing there slack before her. But he felt warm inside
himself. He did not shudder at all, though his clothes were sodden on
'Why did you?' she asked.
'Because I didn't want you to do such a foolish thing,' he said.
'It wasn't foolish,' she said, still gazing at him as she lay on the
floor, with a sofa cushion under her head. 'It was the right thing to do.
_I_ knew best, then.'
'I'll go and shift these wet things,' he said. But still he had not the
power to move out of her presence, until she sent him. It was as if she
had the life of his body in her hands, and he could not extricate
himself. Or perhaps he did not want to.
Suddenly she sat up. Then she became aware of her own immediate
condition. She felt the blankets about her, she knew her own limbs. For a
moment it seemed as if her reason were going. She looked round, with wild
eye, as if seeking something. He stood still with fear. She saw her
clothing lying scattered.
'Who undressed me?' she asked, her eyes resting full and inevitable on
'I did,' he replied, 'to bring you round.'
For some moments she sat and gazed at him awfully, her lips parted.
'Do you love me then?' she asked.
He only stood and stared at her, fascinated. His soul seemed to melt.
She shuffled forward on her knees, and put her arms round him, round his
legs, as he stood there, pressing her breasts against his knees and
thighs, clutching him with strange, convulsive certainty, pressing his
thighs against her, drawing him to her face, her throat, as she looked up
at him with flaring, humble eyes, of transfiguration, triumphant in first
'You love me,' she murmured, in strange transport, yearning and
triumphant and confident. 'You love me. I know you love me, I know.'
And she was passionately kissing his knees, through the wet clothing,
passionately and indiscriminately kissing his knees, his legs, as if
unaware of every thing.
He looked down at the tangled wet hair, the wild, bare, animal shoulders.
He was amazed, bewildered, and afraid. He had never thought of loving
her. He had never wanted to love her. When he rescued her and restored
her, he was a doctor, and she was a patient. He had had no single
personal thought of her. Nay, this introduction of the personal element
was very distasteful to him, a violation of his professional honour. It
was horrible to have her there embracing his knees. It was horrible. He
revolted from it, violently. And yet--and yet--he had not the power to
She looked at him again, with the same supplication of powerful love, and
that same transcendent, frightening light of triumph. In view of the
delicate flame which seemed to come from her face like a light, he was
powerless. And yet he had never intended to love her. He had never
intended. And something stubborn in him could not give way.
'You love me,' she repeated, in a murmur of deep, rhapsodic assurance.
'You love me.'
Her hands were drawing him, drawing him down to her. He was afraid, even
a little horrified. For he had, really, no intention of loving her. Yet
her hands were drawing him towards her. He put out his hand quickly to
steady himself, and grasped her bare shoulder. A flame seemed to burn the
hand that grasped her soft shoulder. He had no intention of loving her:
his whole will was against his yielding. It was horrible. And yet
wonderful was the touch of her shoulders, beautiful the shining of her
face. Was she perhaps mad? He had a horror of yielding to her. Yet
something in him ached also.
He had been staring away at the door, away from her. But his hand
remained on her shoulder. She had gone suddenly very still. He looked
down at her. Her eyes were now wide with fear, with doubt, the light was
dying from her face, a shadow of terrible greyness was returning. He
could not bear the touch of her eyes' question upon him, and the look of
death behind the question.
With an inward groan he gave way, and let his heart yield towards her. A
sudden gentle smile came on his face. And her eyes, which never left his
face, slowly, slowly filled with tears. He watched the strange water rise
in her eyes, like some slow fountain coming up. And his heart seemed to
burn and melt away in his breast.
He could not bear to look at her any more. He dropped on his knees and
caught her head with his arms and pressed her face against his throat.
She was very still. His heart, which seemed to have broken, was burning
with a kind of agony in his breast. And he felt her slow, hot tears
wetting his throat. But he could not move.
He felt the hot tears wet his neck and the hollows of his neck, and he
remained motionless, suspended through one of man's eternities. Only now
it had become indispensable to him to have her face pressed close to him;
he could never let her go again. He could never let her head go away from
the close clutch of his arm. He wanted to remain like that for ever, with
his heart hurting him in a pain that was also life to him. Without
knowing, he was looking down on her damp, soft brown hair.
Then, as it were suddenly, he smelt the horrid stagnant smell of that
water. And at the same moment she drew away from him and looked at him.
Her eyes were wistful and unfathomable. He was afraid of them, and he
fell to kissing her, not knowing what he was doing. He wanted her eyes
not to have that terrible, wistful, unfathomable look.
When she turned her face to him again, a faint delicate flush was
glowing, and there was again dawning that terrible shining of joy in her
eyes, which really terrified him, and yet which he now wanted to see,
because he feared the look of doubt still more.
'You love me?' she said, rather faltering.
'Yes.' The word cost him a painful effort. Not because it wasn't true.
But because it was too newly true, the _saying_ seemed to tear open again
his newly-torn heart. And he hardly wanted it to be true, even now.
She lifted her face to him, and he bent forward and kissed her on the
mouth, gently, with the one kiss that is an eternal pledge. And as he
kissed her his heart strained again in his breast. He never intended to
love her. But now it was over. He had crossed over the gulf to her, and
all that he had left behind had shrivelled and become void.
After the kiss, her eyes again slowly filled with tears. She sat still,
away from him, with her face drooped aside, and her hands folded in her
lap. The tears fell very slowly. There was complete silence. He too sat
there motionless and silent on the hearthrug. The strange pain of his
heart that was broken seemed to consume him. That he should love her?
That this was love! That he should be ripped open in this way!--Him, a
doctor!--How they would all jeer if they knew!--It was agony to him to
think they might know.
In the curious naked pain of the thought he looked again to her. She was
sitting there drooped into a muse. He saw a tear fall, and his heart
flared hot. He saw for the first time that one of her shoulders was quite
uncovered, one arm bare, he could see one of her small breasts; dimly,
because it had become almost dark in the room.
'Why are you crying?' he asked, in an altered voice.
She looked up at him, and behind her tears the consciousness of her
situation for the first time brought a dark look of shame to her eyes.
'I'm not crying, really,' she said, watching him half frightened.
He reached his hand, and softly closed it on her bare arm.
'I love you! I love you!' he said in a soft, low vibrating voice, unlike
She shrank, and dropped her head. The soft, penetrating grip of his hand
on her arm distressed her. She looked up at him.
'I want to go,' she said. 'I want to go and get you some dry things.'
'Why?' he said. 'I'm all right.'
'But I want to go,' she said. 'And I want you to change your things.'
He released her arm, and she wrapped herself in the blanket, looking at
him rather frightened. And still she did not rise.
'Kiss me,' she said wistfully.
He kissed her, but briefly, half in anger.
Then, after a second, she rose nervously, all mixed up in the blanket. He
watched her in her confusion, as she tried to extricate herself and wrap
herself up so that she could walk. He watched her relentlessly, as she
knew. And as she went, the blanket trailing, and as he saw a glimpse of
her feet and her white leg, he tried to remember her as she was when he
had wrapped her in the blanket. But then he didn't want to remember,
because she had been nothing to him then, and his nature revolted from
remembering her as she was when she was nothing to him.
A tumbling, muffled noise from within the dark house startled him. Then
he heard her voice:--'There are clothes.' He rose and went to the foot of
the stairs, and gathered up the garments she had thrown down. Then he
came back to the fire, to rub himself down and dress. He grinned at his
own appearance when he had finished.
The fire was sinking, so he put on coal. The house was now quite dark,
save for the light of a street-lamp that shone in faintly from beyond the
holly trees. He lit the gas with matches he found on the mantel-piece.
Then he emptied the pockets of his own clothes, and threw all his wet
things in a heap into the scullery. After which he gathered up her sodden
clothes, gently, and put them in a separate heap on the copper-top in the
It was six o'clock on the clock. His own watch had stopped. He ought to
go back to the surgery. He waited, and still she did not come down. So he
went to the foot of the stairs and called:
'I shall have to go.'
Almost immediately he heard her coming down. She had on her best dress
of black voile, and her hair was tidy, but still damp. She looked at
him--and in spite of herself, smiled.
'I don't like you in those clothes,' she said.
'Do I look a sight?' he answered.
They were shy of one another.
'I'll make you some tea,' she said.
'No, I must go.'
'Must you?' And she looked at him again with the wide, strained, doubtful
eyes. And again, from the pain of his breast, he knew how he loved her.
He went and bent to kiss her, gently, passionately, with his heart's
'And my hair smells so horrible,' she murmured in distraction. 'And I'm
so awful, I'm so awful! Oh, no, I'm too awful.' And she broke into
bitter, heart-broken sobbing. 'You can't want to love me, I'm horrible.'
'Don't be silly, don't be silly,' he said, trying to comfort her, kissing
her, holding her in his arms. 'I want you, I want to marry you, we're
going to be married, quickly, quickly--to-morrow if I can.'
But she only sobbed terribly, and cried:
'I feel awful. I feel awful. I feel I'm horrible to you.'
'No, I want you, I want you,' was all he answered, blindly, with that
terrible intonation which frightened her almost more than her horror lest
he should _not_ want her.
_Fanny And Annie_
Flame-lurid his face as he turned among the throng of flame-lit and dark
faces upon the platform. In the light of the furnace she caught sight of
his drifting countenance, like a piece of floating fire. And the
nostalgia, the doom of homecoming went through her veins like a drug. His
eternal face, flame-lit now! The pulse and darkness of red fire from the
furnace towers in the sky, lighting the desultory, industrial crowd on
the wayside station, lit him and went out.
Of course he did not see her. Flame-lit and unseeing! Always the same,
with his meeting eyebrows, his common cap, and his red-and-black scarf
knotted round his throat. Not even a collar to meet her! The flames had
sunk, there was shadow.
She opened the door of her grimy, branch-line carriage, and began to get
down her bags. The porter was nowhere, of course, but there was Harry,
obscure, on the outer edge of the little crowd, missing her, of course.
'Here! Harry!' she called, waving her umbrella in the twilight. He
'Tha's come, has ter?' he said, in a sort of cheerful welcome. She got
down, rather flustered, and gave him a peck of a kiss.
'Two suit-cases!' she said.
Her soul groaned within her, as he clambered into the carriage after her
bags. Up shot the fire in the twilight sky, from the great furnace behind
the station. She felt the red flame go across her face. She had come
back, she had come back for good. And her spirit groaned dismally. She
doubted if she could bear it.
There, on the sordid little station under the furnaces, she stood, tall
and distinguished, in her well-made coat and skirt and her broad grey
velour hat. She held her umbrella, her bead chatelaine, and a little
leather case in her grey-gloved hands, while Harry staggered out of the
ugly little train with her bags.
'There's a trunk at the back,' she said in her bright voice. But she was
not feeling bright. The twin black cones of the iron foundry blasted
their sky-high fires into the night. The whole scene was lurid. The train
waited cheerfully. It would wait another ten minutes. She knew it. It was
all so deadly familiar.
Let us confess it at once. She was a lady's maid, thirty years old, come
back to marry her first-love, a foundry worker: after having kept him
dangling, off and on, for a dozen years. Why had she come back? Did she
love him? No. She didn't pretend to. She had loved her brilliant and
ambitious cousin, who had jilted her, and who had died. She had had other
affairs which had come to nothing. So here she was, come back suddenly to
marry her first-love, who had waited--or remained single--all these
'Won't a porter carry those?' she said, as Harry strode with his
workman's stride down the platform towards the guard's van.
'I can manage,' he said.
And with her umbrella, her chatelaine, and her little leather case, she
The trunk was there.
'We'll get Heather's greengrocer's cart to fetch it up,' he said.
'Isn't there a cab?' said Fanny, knowing dismally enough that there
'I'll just put it aside o' the penny-in-the-slot, and Heather's
greengrocers'll fetch it about half past eight,' he said.
He seized the box by its two handles and staggered with it across the
level-crossing, bumping his legs against it as he waddled. Then he
dropped it by the red sweet-meats machine.
'Will it be safe there?' she said.
'Ay--safe as houses,' he answered. He returned for the two bags. Thus
laden, they started to plod up the hill, under the great long black
building of the foundry. She walked beside him--workman of workmen he
was, trudging with that luggage. The red lights flared over the deepening
darkness. From the foundry came the horrible, slow clang, clang, clang of
iron, a great noise, with an interval just long enough to make it
Compare this with the arrival at Gloucester: the carriage for her
mistress, the dog-cart for herself with the luggage; the drive out past
the river, the pleasant trees of the carriage-approach; and herself
sitting beside Arthur, everybody so polite to her.
She had come home--for good! Her heart nearly stopped beating as she
trudged up that hideous and interminable hill, beside the laden figure.
What a come-down! What a come-down! She could not take it with her usual
bright cheerfulness. She knew it all too well. It is easy to bear up
against the unusual, but the deadly familiarity of an old stale past!
He dumped the bags down under a lamp-post, for a rest. There they stood,
the two of them, in the lamplight. Passers-by stared at her, and gave
good-night to Harry. Her they hardly knew, she had become a stranger.
'They're too heavy for you, let me carry one,' she said.
'They begin to weigh a bit by the time you've gone a mile,' he answered.
'Let me carry the little one,' she insisted.
'Tha can ha'e it for a minute, if ter's a mind,' he said, handing over
And thus they arrived in the streets of shops of the little ugly town on
top of the hill. How everybody stared at her; my word, how they stared!
And the cinema was just going in, and the queues were tailing down the
road to the corner. And everybody took full stock of her. 'Night, Harry!'
shouted the fellows, in an interested voice.
However, they arrived at her aunt's--a little sweet-shop in a side
street. They 'pinged' the door-bell, and her aunt came running forward
out of the kitchen.
'There you are, child! Dying for a cup of tea, I'm sure. How are you?'
Fanny's aunt kissed her, and it was all Fanny could do to refrain from
bursting into tears, she felt so low. Perhaps it was her tea she wanted.
'You've had a drag with that luggage,' said Fanny's aunt to Harry.
'Ay--I'm not sorry to put it down,' he said, looking at his hand which
was crushed and cramped by the bag handle.
Then he departed to see about Heather's greengrocery cart.
When Fanny sat at tea, her aunt, a grey-haired, fair-faced little woman,
looked at her with an admiring heart, feeling bitterly sore for her. For
Fanny was beautiful: tall, erect, finely coloured, with her delicately
arched nose, her rich brown hair, her large lustrous grey eyes. A
passionate woman--a woman to be afraid of. So proud, so inwardly violent!
She came of a violent race.
It needed a woman to sympathize with her. Men had not the courage. Poor
Fanny! She was such a lady, and so straight and magnificent. And yet
everything seemed to do her down. Every time she seemed to be doomed to
humiliation and disappointment, this handsome, brilliantly sensitive
woman, with her nervous, overwrought laugh.
'So you've really come back, child?' said her aunt.
'I really have, Aunt,' said Fanny.
'Poor Harry! I'm not sure, you know, Fanny, that you're not taking a bit
of an advantage of him.'
'Oh, Aunt, he's waited so long, he may as well have what he's waited
for.' Fanny laughed grimly.
'Yes, child, he's waited so long, that I'm not sure it isn't a bit hard
on him. You know, I _like_ him, Fanny--though as you know quite well, I
don't think he's good enough for you. And I think he thinks so himself,
'Don't you be so sure of that, Aunt. Harry is common, but he's not
humble. He wouldn't think the Queen was any too good for him, if he'd a
mind to her.'
'Well--It's as well if he has a proper opinion of himself.'
'It depends what you call proper,' said Fanny. 'But he's got his good
'Oh, he's a nice fellow, and I like him, I do like him. Only, as I tell
you, he's not good enough for you.'
'I've made up my mind, Aunt,' said Fanny, grimly.
'Yes,' mused the aunt. 'They say all things come to him who waits--'
'More than he's bargained for, eh, Aunt?' laughed Fanny rather bitterly.
The poor aunt, this bitterness grieved her for her niece.
They were interrupted by the ping of the shop-bell, and Harry's call of
'Right!' But as he did not come in at once, Fanny, feeling solicitous for
him presumably at the moment, rose and went into the shop. She saw a cart
outside, and went to the door.
And the moment she stood in the doorway, she heard a woman's common
vituperative voice crying from the darkness of the opposite side of the
'Tha'rt theer, ar ter? I'll shame thee, Mester. I'll shame thee, see if I
Startled, Fanny stared across the darkness, and saw a woman in a black
bonnet go under one of the lamps up the side street.
Harry and Bill Heather had dragged the trunk off the little dray, and she
retreated before them as they came up the shop step with it.
'Wheer shalt ha'e it?' asked Harry.
'Best take it upstairs,' said Fanny.
She went up first to light the gas.
When Heather had gone, and Harry was sitting down having tea and pork
pie, Fanny asked:
'Who was that woman shouting?'
'Nay, I canna tell thee. To somebody, Is'd think,' replied Harry. Fanny
looked at him, but asked no more.
He was a fair-haired fellow of thirty-two, with a fair moustache. He was
broad in his speech, and looked like a foundry-hand, which he was. But
women always liked him. There was something of a mother's lad about
him--something warm and playful and really sensitive.
He had his attractions even for Fanny. What she rebelled against so
bitterly was that he had no sort of ambition. He was a moulder, but of
very commonplace skill. He was thirty-two years old, and hadn't saved
twenty pounds. She would have to provide the money for the home. He
didn't care. He just didn't care. He had no initiative at all. He had no
vices--no obvious ones. But he was just indifferent, spending as he went,
and not caring. Yet he did not look happy. She remembered his face in the
fire-glow: something haunted, abstracted about it. As he sat there eating
his pork pie, bulging his cheek out, she felt he was like a doom to her.
And she raged against the doom of him. It wasn't that he was gross. His
way was common, almost on purpose. But he himself wasn't really common.
For instance, his food was not particularly important to him, he was not
greedy. He had a charm, too, particularly for women, with his blondness
and his sensitiveness and his way of making a woman feel that she was a
higher being. But Fanny knew him, knew the peculiar obstinate limitedness
of him, that would nearly send her mad.
He stayed till about half past nine. She went to the door with him.
'When are you coming up?' he said, jerking his head in the direction,
presumably, of his own home.
'I'll come tomorrow afternoon,' she said brightly. Between Fanny and Mrs.
Goodall, his mother, there was naturally no love lost.
Again she gave him an awkward little kiss, and said good-night.
'You can't wonder, you know, child, if he doesn't seem so very keen,'
said her aunt. 'It's your own fault.'
'Oh, Aunt, I couldn't stand him when he was keen. I can do with him a lot
better as he is.'
The two women sat and talked far into the night. They understood each
other. The aunt, too, had married as Fanny was marrying: a man who was no
companion to her, a violent man, brother of Fanny's father. He was dead,
Fanny's father was dead.
Poor Aunt Lizzie, she cried woefully over her bright niece, when she had
gone to bed.
Fanny paid the promised visit to his people the next afternoon. Mrs.
Goodall was a large woman with smooth-parted hair, a common, obstinate
woman, who had spoiled her four lads and her one vixen of a married
daughter. She was one of those old-fashioned powerful natures that
couldn't do with looks or education or any form of showing off. She
fairly hated the sound of correct English. She _thee'd_ and _tha'd_ her
prospective daughter-in-law, and said:
'I'm none as ormin' as I look, seest ta.'
Fanny did not think her prospective mother-in-law looked at all orming,
so the speech was unnecessary.
'I towd him mysen,' said Mrs. Goodall, ''Er's held back all this long,
let 'er stop as 'er is. 'E'd none ha' had thee for _my_ tellin'--tha
hears. No, 'e's a fool, an' I know it. I says to him, 'Tha looks a man,
doesn't ter, at thy age, goin' an' openin' to her when ter hears her
scrat' at th' gate, after she's done gallivantin' round wherever she'd a
mind. That looks rare an' soft.' But it's no use o' any talking: he
answered that letter o' thine and made his own bad bargain.'
But in spite of the old woman's anger, she was also flattered at Fanny's
coming back to Harry. For Mrs. Goodall was impressed by Fanny--a woman of
her own match. And more than this, everybody knew that Fanny's Aunt Kate
had left her two hundred pounds: this apart from the girl's savings.
So there was high tea in Princes Street when Harry came home black from
work, and a rather acrid odour of cordiality, the vixen Jinny darting in
to say vulgar things. Of course Jinny lived in a house whose garden end
joined the paternal garden. They were a clan who stuck together, these
It was arranged that Fanny should come to tea again on the Sunday, and
the wedding was discussed. It should take place in a fortnight's time at
Morley Chapel. Morley was a hamlet on the edge of the real country, and
in its little Congregational Chapel Fanny and Harry had first met.
What a creature of habit he was! He was still in the choir of Morley
Chapel--not very regular. He belonged just because he had a tenor voice,
and enjoyed singing. Indeed his solos were only spoilt to local fame
because when he sang he handled his aitches so hopelessly.
'And I saw 'eaven hopened
And be'old, a wite 'orse-'
This was one of Harry's classics, only surpassed by the fine outburst of
'Hangels--hever bright an' fair-'
It was a pity, but it was inalterable. He had a good voice, and he sang
with a certain lacerating fire, but his pronunciation made it all funny.
And nothing could alter him.
So he was never heard save at cheap concerts and in the little, poorer
chapels. The others scoffed.
Now the month was September, and Sunday was Harvest Festival at Morley
Chapel, and Harry was singing solos. So that Fanny was to go to afternoon
service, and come home to a grand spread of Sunday tea with him. Poor
Fanny! One of the most wonderful afternoons had been a Sunday afternoon
service, with her cousin Luther at her side, Harvest Festival in Morley
Chapel. Harry had sung solos then--ten years ago. She remembered his pale
blue tie, and the purple asters and the great vegetable marrows in which
he was framed, and her cousin Luther at her side, young, clever, come
down from London, where he was getting on well, learning his Latin and
his French and German so brilliantly.
However, once again it was Harvest Festival at Morley Chapel, and once
again, as ten years before, a soft, exquisite September day, with the
last roses pink in the cottage gardens, the last dahlias crimson, the
last sunflowers yellow. And again the little old chapel was a bower, with
its famous sheaves of corn and corn-plaited pillars, its great bunches of
grapes, dangling like tassels from the pulpit corners, its marrows and
potatoes and pears and apples and damsons, its purple asters and yellow
Japanese sunflowers. Just as before, the red dahlias round the pillars
were dropping, weak-headed among the oats. The place was crowded and hot,
the plates of tomatoes seemed balanced perilously on the gallery front,
the Rev. Enderby was weirder than ever to look at, so long and emaciated
The Rev. Enderby, probably forewarned, came and shook hands with her and
welcomed her, in his broad northern, melancholy singsong before he
mounted the pulpit. Fanny was handsome in a gauzy dress and a beautiful
lace hat. Being a little late, she sat in a chair in the side-aisle
wedged in, right in front of the chapel. Harry was in the gallery above,
and she could only see him from the eyes upwards. She noticed again how
his eyebrows met, blond and not very marked, over his nose. He was
attractive too: physically lovable, very. If only--if only her _pride_
had not suffered! She felt he dragged her down.
'Come, ye thankful people come,
Raise the song of harvest-home.
All is safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin--'
Even the hymn was a falsehood, as the season had been wet, and half the
crops were still out, and in a poor way.
Poor Fanny! She sang little, and looked beautiful through that
inappropriate hymn. Above her stood Harry--mercifully in a dark suit and
dark tie, looking almost handsome. And his lacerating, pure tenor sounded
well, when the words were drowned in the general commotion. Brilliant she
looked, and brilliant she felt, for she was hot and angrily miserable and
inflamed with a sort of fatal despair. Because there was about him a
physical attraction which she really hated, but which she could not
escape from. He was the first man who had ever kissed her. And his
kisses, even while she rebelled from them, had lived in her blood and
sent roots down into her soul. After all this time she had come back to
them. And her soul groaned, for she felt dragged down, dragged down to
earth, as a bird which some dog has got down in the dust. She knew her
life would be unhappy. She knew that what she was doing was fatal. Yet it
was her doom. She had to come back to him.
He had to sing two solos this afternoon: one before the 'address' from
the pulpit and one after. Fanny looked at him, and wondered he was not
too shy to stand up there in front of all the people. But no, he was not
shy. He had even a kind of assurance on his face as he looked down from
the choir gallery at her: the assurance of a common man deliberately
entrenched in his commonness. Oh, such a rage went through her veins as
she saw the air of triumph, laconic, indifferent triumph which sat so
obstinately and recklessly on his eyelids as he looked down at her. Ah,
she despised him! But there he stood up in that choir gallery like
Balaam's ass in front of her, and she could not get beyond him. A certain
winsomeness also about him. A certain physical winsomeness, and as if his
flesh were new and lovely to touch. The thorn of desire rankled bitterly
in her heart.
He, it goes without saying, sang like a canary this particular afternoon,
with a certain defiant passion which pleasantly crisped the blood of the
congregation. Fanny felt the crisp flames go through her veins as she
listened. Even the curious loud-mouthed vernacular had a certain
fascination. But, oh, also, it was so repugnant. He would triumph over
her, obstinately he would drag her right back into the common people: a
doom, a vulgar doom.
The second performance was an anthem, in which Harry sang the solo parts.
It was clumsy, but beautiful, with lovely words.
'They that sow in tears shall reap in joy,
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with
'Shall doubtless come, Shall doubtless come--' softly intoned the
altos--'Bringing his she-e-eaves with him,' the trebles flourished
brightly, and then again began the half-wistful solo:
'They that sow in tears shall reap in joy--'
Yes, it was effective and moving.
But at the moment when Harry's voice sank carelessly down to his close,
and the choir, standing behind him, were opening their mouths for the
final triumphant outburst, a shouting female voice rose up from the body
of the congregation. The organ gave one startled trump, and went silent;
the choir stood transfixed.
'You look well standing there, singing in God's holy house,' came the
loud, angry female shout. Everybody turned electrified. A stoutish,
red-faced woman in a black bonnet was standing up denouncing the soloist.
Almost fainting with shock, the congregation realized it. 'You look well,
don't you, standing there singing solos in God's holy house, you,
Goodall. But I said I'd shame you. You look well, bringing your young
woman here with you, don't you? I'll let her know who she's dealing
with. A scamp as won't take the consequences of what he's done.' The
hard-faced, frenzied woman turned in the direction of Fanny. '_That's_
what Harry Goodall is, if you want to know.'
And she sat down again in her seat. Fanny, startled like all the rest,
had turned to look. She had gone white, and then a burning red, under the
attack. She knew the woman: a Mrs. Nixon, a devil of a woman, who beat
her pathetic, drunken, red-nosed second husband, Bob, and her two lanky
daughters, grown-up as they were. A notorious character. Fanny turned
round again, and sat motionless as eternity in her seat.
There was a minute of perfect silence and suspense. The audience was
open-mouthed and dumb; the choir stood like Lot's wife; and Harry, with
his music-sheet, stood there uplifted, looking down with a dumb sort of
indifference on Mrs. Nixon, his face naive and faintly mocking. Mrs.
Nixon sat defiant in her seat, braving them all.
Then a rustle, like a wood when the wind suddenly catches the leaves.
And then the tall, weird minister got to his feet, and in his strong,
bell-like, beautiful voice--the only beautiful thing about him--he said
with infinite mournful pathos:
'Let us unite in singing the last hymn on the hymn-sheet; the last hymn
on the hymn-sheet, number eleven.
'Fair waved the golden corn,
In Canaan's pleasant land.'
The organ tuned up promptly. During the hymn the offertory was taken. And
after the hymn, the prayer.
Mr. Enderby came from Northumberland. Like Harry, he had never been able
to conquer his accent, which was very broad. He was a little simple, one
of God's fools, perhaps, an odd bachelor soul, emotional, ugly, but very
'And if, O our dear Lord, beloved Jesus, there should fall a shadow of
sin upon our harvest, we leave it to Thee to judge, for Thou art judge.
We lift our spirits and our sorrow, Jesus, to Thee, and our mouths are
dumb. O, Lord, keep us from forward speech, restrain us from foolish
words and thoughts, we pray Thee, Lord Jesus, who knowest all and judgest
Thus the minister said in his sad, resonant voice, washed his hands
before the Lord. Fanny bent forward open-eyed during the prayer. She
could see the roundish head of Harry, also bent forward. His face was
inscrutable and expressionless. The shock left her bewildered. Anger
perhaps was her dominating emotion.
The audience began to rustle to its feet, to ooze slowly and excitedly
out of the chapel, looking with wildly-interested eyes at Fanny, at Mrs.
Nixon, and at Harry. Mrs. Nixon, shortish, stood defiant in her pew,
facing the aisle, as if announcing that, without rolling her sleeves up,
she was ready for anybody. Fanny sat quite still. Luckily the people did
not have to pass her. And Harry, with red ears, was making his way
sheepishly out of the gallery. The loud noise of the organ covered all
the downstairs commotion of exit.
The minister sat silent and inscrutable in his pulpit, rather like a
death's-head, while the congregation filed out. When the last lingerers
had unwillingly departed, craning their necks to stare at the still
seated Fanny, he rose, stalked in his hooked fashion down the little
country chapel and fastened the door. Then he returned and sat down by
the silent young woman.
'This is most unfortunate, most unfortunate!' he moaned. 'I am so sorry,
I am so sorry, indeed, indeed, ah, indeed!' he sighed himself to a close.
'It's a sudden surprise, that's one thing,' said Fanny brightly.
'Yes--yes--indeed. Yes, a surprise, yes. I don't know the woman, I don't
'I know her,' said Fanny. 'She's a bad one.'
'Well! Well!' said the minister. 'I don't know her. I don't understand. I
don't understand at all. But it is to be regretted, it is very much to be
regretted. I am very sorry.'
Fanny was watching the vestry door. The gallery stairs communicated with
the vestry, not with the body of the chapel. She knew the choir members
had been peeping for information.
At last Harry came--rather sheepishly--with his hat in his hand.
'Well!' said Fanny, rising to her feet.
'We've had a bit of an extra,' said Harry.
'I should think so,' said Fanny.
'A most unfortunate circumstance--a most _unfortunate_ circumstance. Do
you understand it, Harry? I don't understand it at all.'
'Ah, I understand it. The daughter's goin' to have a childt, an' 'er lays
it on to me.'
'And has she no occasion to?' asked Fanny, rather censorious.
'It's no more mine than it is some other chap's,' said Harry, looking
There was a moment of pause.
'Which girl is it?' asked Fanny.
'Annie--the young one--'
There followed another silence.
'I don't think I know them, do I?' asked the minister.
'I shouldn't think so. Their name's Nixon--mother married old Bob for her
second husband. She's a tanger--'s driven the gel to what she is. They
live in Manners Road.'
'Why, what's amiss with the girl?' asked Fanny sharply. 'She was all
right when I knew her.'
'Ay--she's all right. But she's always in an' out o' th' pubs, wi' th'
fellows,' said Harry.
'A nice thing!' said Fanny.
Harry glanced towards the door. He wanted to get out.
'Most distressing, indeed!' The minister slowly shook his head.
'What about tonight, Mr. Enderby?' asked Harry, in rather a small voice.
'Shall you want me?'
Mr. Enderby looked up painedly, and put his hand to his brow. He studied
Harry for some time, vacantly. There was the faintest sort of a
resemblance between the two men.
'Yes,' he said. 'Yes, I think. I think we must take no notice, and cause
as little remark as possible.'
Fanny hesitated. Then she said to Harry.
'But _will_ you come?'
He looked at her.
'Ay, I s'll come,' he said.
Then he turned to Mr. Enderby.
'Well, good-afternoon, Mr. Enderby,' he said.
'Good-afternoon, Harry, good-afternoon,' replied the mournful minister.
Fanny followed Harry to the door, and for some time they walked in
silence through the late afternoon.
'And it's yours as much as anybody else's?' she said.
'Ay,' he answered shortly.
And they went without another word, for the long mile or so, till they
came to the corner of the street where Harry lived. Fanny hesitated.
Should she go on to her aunt's? Should she? It would mean leaving all
this, for ever. Harry stood silent.
Some obstinacy made her turn with him along the road to his own home.
When they entered the house-place, the whole family was there, mother and
father and Jinny, with Jinny's husband and children and Harry's two
'You've been having yours ears warmed, they tell me,' said Mrs. Goodall
'Who telled thee?' asked Harry shortly.
'Maggie and Luke's both been in.'
'You look well, don't you!' said interfering Jinny.
Harry went and hung his hat up, without replying.
'Come upstairs and take your hat off,' said Mrs. Goodall to Fanny, almost
kindly. It would have annoyed her very much if Fanny had dropped her son
at this moment.
'What's 'er say, then?' asked the father secretly of Harry, jerking his
head in the direction of the stairs whence Fanny had disappeared.
'Nowt yet,' said Harry.
'Serve you right if she chucks you now,' said Jinny. 'I'll bet it's right
about Annie Nixon an' you.'
'Tha bets so much,' said Harry.
'Yi--but you can't deny it,' said Jinny.
'I can if I've a mind.'
His father looked at him inquiringly.
'It's no more mine than it is Bill Bower's, or Ted Slaney's, or six or
seven on 'em,' said Harry to his father.
And the father nodded silently.
'That'll not get you out of it, in court,' said Jinny.
Upstairs Fanny evaded all the thrusts made by his mother, and did not
declare her hand. She tidied her hair, washed her hands, and put the
tiniest bit of powder on her face, for coolness, there in front of Mrs.
Goodall's indignant gaze. It was like a declaration of independence. But
the old woman said nothing.
They came down to Sunday tea, with sardines and tinned salmon and tinned
peaches, besides tarts and cakes. The chatter was general. It concerned
the Nixon family and the scandal.
'Oh, she's a foul-mouthed woman,' said Jinny of Mrs. Nixon. 'She may well
talk about God's holy house, _she_ had. It's first time she's set foot in
it, ever since she dropped off from being converted. She's a devil and
she always was one. Can't you remember how she treated Bob's children,
mother, when we lived down in the Buildings? I can remember when I was a
little girl she used to bathe them in the yard, in the cold, so that
they shouldn't splash the house. She'd half kill them if they made a
mark on the floor, and the language she'd use! And one Saturday I can
remember Garry, that was Bob's own girl, she ran off when her stepmother
was going to bathe her--ran off without a rag of clothes on--can you
remember, mother? And she hid in Smedley's closes--it was the time of
mowing-grass--and nobody could find her. She hid out there all night,
didn't she, mother? Nobody could find her. My word, there was a talk.
They found her on Sunday morning--'
'Fred Coutts threatened to break every bone in the woman's body, if she
touched the children again,' put in the father.
'Anyhow, they frightened her,' said Jinny. 'But she was nearly as bad
with her own two. And anybody can see that she's driven old Bob till he's
'Ah, soft as mush,' said Jack Goodall. ''E'd never addle a week's wage,
nor yet a day's if th' chaps didn't make it up to him.'
'My word, if he didn't bring her a week's wage, she'd pull his head off,'
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