Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership





Title:      A Clergyman's Daughter
Author:     George Orwell
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0200011.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted: January 2002
Date most recently updated: January 2002

This etext was produced by Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title:      A Clergyman's Daughter
Author:     George Orwell





CHAPTER 1


1


As the alarm clock on the chest of drawers exploded like a horrid
little bomb of bell metal, Dorothy, wrenched from the depths of
some complex, troubling dream, awoke with a start and lay on her
back looking into the darkness in extreme exhaustion.

The alarm clock continued its nagging, feminine clamour, which
would go on for five minutes or thereabouts if you did not stop it.
Dorothy was aching from head to foot, and an insidious and
contemptible self-pity, which usually seized upon her when it was
time to get up in the morning, caused her to bury her head under
the bedclothes and try to shut the hateful noise out of her ears.
She struggled against her fatigue, however, and, according to her
custom, exhorted herself sharply in the second person plural.  Come
on, Dorothy, up you get!  No snoozing, please!  Proverbs vi, 9.
Then she remembered that if the noise went on any longer it would
wake her father, and with a hurried movement she bounded out of
bed, seized the clock from the chest of drawers, and turned off the
alarm.  It was kept on the chest of drawers precisely in order that
she should have to get out of bed to silence it.  Still in
darkness, she knelt down at her bedside and repeated the Lord's
Prayer, but rather distractedly, her feet being troubled by the
cold.

It was just half past five, and coldish for an August morning.
Dorothy (her name was Dorothy Hare, and she was the only child of
the Reverend Charles Hare, Rector of St Athelstan's, Knype Hill,
Suffolk) put on her aged flannelette dressing-gown and felt her way
downstairs.  There was a chill morning smell of dust, damp plaster,
and the fried dabs from yesterday's supper, and from either side of
the passage on the second floor she could hear the antiphonal
snoring of her father and of Ellen, the maid of all work.  With
care--for the kitchen table had a nasty trick of reaching out of
the darkness and banging you on the hip-bone--Dorothy felt her way
into the kitchen, lighted the candle on the mantelpiece, and, still
aching with fatigue, knelt down and raked the ashes out of the
range.

The kitchen fire was a 'beast' to light.  The chimney was crooked
and therefore perpetually half choked, and the fire, before it
would light, expected to be dosed with a cupful of kerosene, like a
drunkard's morning nip of gin.  Having set the kettle to boil for
her father's shaving-water, Dorothy went upstairs and turned on her
bath.  Ellen was still snoring, with heavy youthful snores.  She
was a good hard-working servant once she was awake, but she was one
of those girls whom the Devil and all his angels cannot get out of
bed before seven in the morning.

Dorothy filled the bath as slowly as possible--the splashing always
woke her father if she turned on the tap too fast--and stood for a
moment regarding the pale, unappetizing pool of water.  Her body
had gone goose-flesh all over.  She detested cold baths; it was for
that very reason that she made it a rule to take all her baths cold
from April to November.  Putting a tentative hand into the water--
and it was horribly cold--she drove herself forward with her usual
exhortations.  Come on, Dorothy!  In you go!  No funking, please!
Then she stepped resolutely into the bath, sat down and let the icy
girdle of water slide up her body and immerse her all except her
hair, which she had twisted up behind her head.  The next moment
she came to the surface gasping and wriggling, and had no sooner
got her breath back than she remembered her 'memo list', which she
had brought down in her dressing-gown pocket and intended to read.
She reached out for it, and, leaning over the side of the bath,
waist deep in icy water, read through the 'memo list' by the light
of the candle on the chair.

It ran:


7 oc.  H.C.

Mrs T baby?  Must visit.

BREAKFAST.  Bacon.  MUST ask father money.  (P)

Ask Ellen what stuff kitchen father's tonic NB. to ask about stuff
for curtains at Solepipe's.

Visiting call on Mrs P cutting from Daily M angelica tea good for
rheumatism Mrs L's cornplaster.

12 oc.  Rehearsal Charles I.  NB. to order 1/2 lb glue 1 pot
aluminium paint.

DINNER (crossed out) LUNCHEON . . . ?

Take round Parish Mag NB. Mrs F owes 3/6d.

4.30 pm Mothers' U tea don't forget 2 1/2 yards casement cloth.

Flowers for church NB. 1 tin Brasso.

SUPPER.  Scrambled eggs.

Type Father's sermon what about new ribbon typewriter?

NB. to fork between peas bindweed awful.


Dorothy got out of her bath, and as she dried herself with a towel
hardly bigger than a table napkin--they could never afford decent-
sized towels at the Rectory--her hair came unpinned and fell down
over her collar-bones in two heavy strands.  It was thick, fine,
exceedingly pale hair, and it was perhaps as well that her father
had forbidden her to bob it, for it was her only positive beauty.
For the rest, she was a girl of middle height, rather thin, but
strong and shapely, and her face was her weak point.  It was a
thin, blonde, unremarkable kind of face, with pale eyes and a nose
just a shade too long; if you looked closely you could see crow's
feet round the eyes, and the mouth, when it was in repose, looked
tired.  Not definitely a spinsterish face as yet, but it certainly
would be so in a few years' time.  Nevertheless, strangers commonly
took her to be several years younger than her real age (she was not
quite twenty-eight) because of the expression of almost childish
earnestness in her eyes.  Her left forearm was spotted with tiny
red marks like insect bites.

Dorothy put on her nightdress again and cleaned her teeth--plain
water, of course; better not to use toothpaste before H.C.  After
all, either you are fasting or you aren't.  The R.C.s are quite
right there--and, even as she did so, suddenly faltered and
stopped.  She put her toothbrush down.  A deadly pang, an actual
physical pang, had gone through her viscera.

She had remembered, with the ugly shock with which one remembers
something disagreeable for the first time in the morning, the bill
at Cargill's, the butcher's, which had been owing for seven months.
That dreadful bill--it might be nineteen pounds or even twenty, and
there was hardly the remotest hope of paying it--was one of the
chief torments of her life.  At all hours of the night or day it
was waiting just round the corner of her consciousness, ready to
spring upon her and agonize her; and with it came the memory of a
score of lesser bills, mounting up to a figure of which she dared
not even think.  Almost involuntarily she began to pray, 'Please
God, let not Cargill send in his bill again today!' but the next
moment she decided that this prayer was worldly and blasphemous,
and she asked forgiveness for it.  Then she put on her dressing-
gown and ran down to the kitchen in hopes of putting the bill out
of mind.

The fire had gone out, as usual.  Dorothy relaid it, dirtying her
hands with coal-dust, dosed it afresh with kerosene and hung about
anxiously until the kettle boiled.  Father expected his shaving-
water to be ready at a quarter past six.  Just seven minutes late,
Dorothy took the can upstairs and knocked at her father's door.

'Come in, come in!' said a muffled, irritable voice.

The room, heavily curtained, was stuffy, with a masculine smell.
The Rector had lighted the candle on his bed-table, and was lying
on his side, looking at his gold watch, which he had just drawn
from beneath his pillow.  His hair was as white and thick as
thistledown.  One dark bright eye glanced irritably over his
shoulder at Dorothy.

'Good morning, father.'

'I do wish, Dorothy,' said the Rector indistinctly--his voice
always sounded muffled and senile until he put his false teeth in--
'you would make some effort to get Ellen out of bed in the
mornings.  Or else be a little more punctual yourself.'

'I'm so sorry, Father.  The kitchen fire kept going out.'

'Very well!  Put it down on the dressing-table.  Put it down and
draw those curtains.'

It was daylight now, but a dull, clouded morning.  Dorothy hastened
up to her room and dressed herself with the lightning speed which
she found necessary six mornings out of seven.  There was only a
tiny square of mirror in the room, and even that she did not use.
She simply hung her gold cross about her neck--plain gold cross; no
crucifixes, please!--twisted her hair into a knot behind, stuck a
number of hairpins rather sketchily into it, and threw her clothes
(grey jersey, threadbare Irish tweed coat and skirt, stockings not
quite matching the coat and skirt, and much-worn brown shoes) on to
herself in the space of about three minutes.  She had got to 'do
out' the dining-room and her father's study before church, besides
saying her prayers in preparation for Holy Communion, which took
her not less than twenty minutes.

When she wheeled her bicycle out of the front gate the morning was
still overcast, and the grass sodden with heavy dew.  Through the
mist that wreathed the hillside St Athelstan's Church loomed dimly,
like a leaden sphinx, its single bell tolling funereally boom!
boom! boom!  Only one of the bells was now in active use; the other
seven had been unswung from their cage and had lain silent these
three years past, slowly splintering the floor of the belfry
beneath their weight.  In the distance, from the mists below, you
could hear the offensive clatter of the bell in the R.C. church--a
nasty, cheap, tinny little thing which the Rector of St Athelstan's
used to compare with a muffin-bell.

Dorothy mounted her bicycle and rode swiftly up the hill, leaning
over her handlebars.  The bridge of her thin nose was pink in the
morning cold.  A redshank whistled overhead, invisible against the
clouded sky.  Early in the morning my song shall rise to Thee!
Dorothy propped her bicycle against the lychgate, and, finding her
hands still grey with coal-dust, knelt down and scrubbed them clean
in the long wet grass between the graves.  Then the bell stopped
ringing, and she jumped up and hastened into church, just as
Proggett, the sexton, in ragged cassock and vast labourer's boots,
was clumping up the aisle to take his place at the side altar.

The church was very cold, with a scent of candle-wax and ancient
dust.  It was a large church, much too large for its congregation,
and ruinous and more than half empty.  The three narrow islands of
pews stretched barely half-way down the nave, and beyond them were
great wastes of bare stone floor in which a few worn inscriptions
marked the sites of ancient graves.  The roof over the chancel was
sagging visibly; beside the Church Expenses box two fragments of
riddled beam explained mutely that this was due to that mortal foe
of Christendom, the death-watch beetle.  The light filtered, pale-
coloured, through windows of anaemic glass.  Through the open south
door you could see a ragged cypress and the boughs of a lime-tree,
greyish in the sunless air and swaying faintly.

As usual, there was only one other communicant--old Miss Mayfill,
of The Grange.  The attendance at Holy Communion was so bad that
the Rector could not even get any boys to serve him, except on
Sunday mornings, when the boys liked showing off in front of the
congregation in their cassocks and surplices.  Dorothy went into
the pew behind Miss Mayfill, and, in penance for some sin of
yesterday, pushed away the hassock and knelt on the bare stones.
The service was beginning.  The Rector, in cassock and short linen
surplice, was reciting the prayers in a swift practised voice,
clear enough now that his teeth were in, and curiously ungenial.
In his fastidious, aged face, pale as a silver coin, there was an
expression of aloofness, almost of contempt.  'This is a valid
sacrament,' he seemed to be saying, 'and it is my duty to
administer it to you.  But remember that I am only your priest, not
your friend.  As a human being I dislike you and despise you.'
Proggett, the sexton, a man of forty with curly grey hair and a
red, harassed face, stood patiently by, uncomprehending but
reverent, fiddling with the little communion bell which was lost in
his huge red hands.

Dorothy pressed her fingers against her eyes.  She had not yet
succeeded in concentrating her thoughts--indeed, the memory of
Cargill's bill was still worrying her intermittently.  The prayers,
which she knew by heart, were flowing through her head unheeded.
She raised her eyes for a moment, and they began immediately to
stray.  First upwards, to the headless roof-angels on whose necks
you could still see the sawcuts of the Puritan soldiers, then back
again, to Miss Mayfill's black, quasi-pork-pie hat and tremulous
jet ear-rings.  Miss Mayfill wore a long musty black overcoat, with
a little collar of greasy-looking astrakhan, which had been the
same ever since Dorothy could remember.  It was of some very
peculiar stuff, like watered silk but coarser, with rivulets of
black piping wandering all over it in no discoverable pattern.  It
might even have been that legendary and proverbial substance, black
bombazine.  Miss Mayfill was very old, so old that no one
remembered her as anything but an old woman.  A faint scent
radiated from her--an ethereal scent, analysable as eau-de-Cologne,
mothballs, and a sub-flavour of gin.

Dorothy drew a long glass-headed pin from the lapel of her coat,
and furtively, under cover of Miss Mayfill's back, pressed the
point against her forearm.  Her flesh tingled apprehensively.  She
made it a rule, whenever she caught herself not attending to her
prayers, to prick her arm hard enough to make blood come.  It was
her chosen form of self-discipline, her guard against irreverence
and sacrilegious thoughts.

With the pin poised in readiness she managed for several moments
to pray more collectedly.  Her father had turned one dark eye
disapprovingly upon Miss Mayfill, who was crossing herself at
intervals, a practice he disliked.  A starling chattered outside.
With a shock Dorothy discovered that she was looking vaingloriously
at the pleats of her father's surplice, which she herself had sewn
two years ago.  She set her teeth and drove the pin an eighth of an
inch into her arm.

They were kneeling again.  It was the General Confession.  Dorothy
recalled her eyes--wandering, alas! yet again, this time to the
stained-glass window on her right, designed by Sir Warde Tooke,
A.R.A., in 1851 and representing St Athelstan's welcome at the gate
of heaven by Gabriel and a legion of angels all remarkably like one
another and the Prince Consort--and pressed the pinpoint against a
different part of her arm.  She began to meditate conscientiously
upon the meaning of each phrase of the prayer, and so brought her
mind back to a more attentive state.  But even so she was all but
obliged to use the pin again when Proggett tinkled the bell in the
middle of 'Therefore with Angels and Archangels'--being visited, as
always, by a dreadful temptation to begin laughing at that passage.
It was because of a story her father had told her once, of how when
he was a little boy, and serving the priest at the altar, the
communion bell had a screw-on clapper, which had come loose; and so
the priest had said:  'Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and
with all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious
name; evermore praising Thee, and saying, Screw it up, you little
fat-head, screw it up!'

As the Rector finished the consecration Miss Mayfill began to
struggle to her feet with extreme difficulty and slowness, like
some disjointed wooden creature picking itself up by sections, and
disengaging at each movement a powerful whiff of mothballs.  There
was an extraordinary creaking sound--from her stays, presumably,
but it was a noise as of bones grating against one another.  You
could have imagined that there was only a dry skeleton inside that
black overcoat.

Dorothy remained on her feet a moment longer.  Miss Mayfill was
creeping towards the altar with slow, tottering steps.  She could
barely walk, but she took bitter offence if you offered to help
her.  In her ancient, bloodless face her mouth was surprisingly
large, loose, and wet.  The underlip, pendulous with age, slobbered
forward, exposing a strip of gum and a row of false teeth as yellow
as the keys of an old piano.  On the upper lip was a fringe of
dark, dewy moustache.  It was not an appetizing mouth; not the kind
of mouth that you would like to see drinking out of your cup.
Suddenly, spontaneously, as though the Devil himself had put it
there, the prayer slipped from Dorothy'Beasts of England's lips:  O God, let me not
have to take the chalice after Miss Mayfill!

The next moment, in self-horror, she grasped the meaning of what
she had said, and wished that she had bitten her tongue in two
rather than utter that deadly blasphemy upon the altar steps.  She
drew the pin again from her lapel and drove it into her arm so hard
that it was all she could do to suppress a cry of pain.  Then she
stepped to the altar and knelt down meekly on Miss Mayfill's left,
so as to make quite sure of taking the chalice after her.

Kneeling, with head bent and hands clasped against her knees, she
set herself swiftly to pray for forgiveness before her father
should reach her with the wafer.  But the current of her thoughts
had been broken.  Suddenly it was quite useless attempting to pray;
her lips moved, but there was neither heart nor meaning in her
prayers.  She could hear Proggett's boots shuffling and her
father'Beasts of England's clear low voice murmuring 'Take and eat', she could see
the worn strip of red carpet beneath her knees, she could smell
dust and eau-de-Cologne and mothballs; but of the Body and Blood of
Christ, of the purpose for which she had come here, she was as
though deprived of the power to think.  A deadly blankness had
descended upon her mind.  It seemed to her that actually she COULD
not pray.  She struggled, collected her thoughts, uttered
mechanically the opening phrases of a prayer; but they were
useless, meaningless--nothing but the dead shells of words.  Her
father was holding the wafer before her in his shapely, aged hand.
He held it between finger and thumb, fastidiously, somehow
distastefully, as though it had been a spoon of medicine.  His eye
was upon Miss Mayfill, who was doubling herself up like a geometrid
caterpillar, with many creakings and crossing herself so
elaborately that one might have imagined that she was sketching a
series of braid frogs on the front of her coat.  For several
seconds Dorothy hesitated and did not take the wafer.  She dared
not take it.  Better, far better to step down from the altar than
to accept the sacrament with such chaos in her heart!

Then it happened that she glanced sidelong, through the open south
door.  A momentary spear of sunlight had pierced the clouds.  It
struck downwards through the leaves of the limes, and a spray of
leaves in the doorway gleamed with a transient, matchless green,
greener than jade or emerald or Atlantic waters.  It was as though
some jewel of unimaginable splendour had flashed for an instant,
filling the doorway with green light, and then faded.  A flood of
joy ran through Dorothy'Beasts of England's heart.  The flash of living colour had
brought back to her, by a process deeper than reason, her peace of
mind, her love of God, her power to worship.  Somehow, because of
the greenness of the leaves, it was again possible to pray.  O all
ye green things upon the earth, praise ye the Lord!  She began to
pray, ardently, joyfully, thankfully.  The wafer melted upon her
tongue.  She took the chalice from her father, and tasted with
repulsion, even with an added joy in this small act of self-
abasement, the wet imprint of Miss Mayfill's lips on its silver
rim.



2


St Athelstan's Church stood at the highest point of Knype Hill, and
if you chose to climb the tower you could see ten miles or so
across the surrounding country.  Not that there was anything worth
looking at--only the low, barely undulating East Anglian landscape,
intolerably dull in summer, but redeemed in winter by the recurring
patterns of the elms, naked and fanshaped against leaden skies.

Immediately below you lay the town, with the High Street running
east and west and dividing unequally.  The southern section of the
town was the ancient, agricultural, and respectable section.  On
the northern side were the buildings of the Blifil-Gordon sugar-
beet refinery, and all round and leading up to them were higgledy-
piggledly rows of vile yellow brick cottages, mostly inhabited by
the employees of the factory.  The factory employees, who made up
more than half of the town's two thousand inhabitants, were
newcomers, townfolk, and godless almost to a man.

The two pivots, or foci, about which the social life of the town
moved were Knype Hill Conservative Club (fully licensed), from
whose bow window, any time after the bar was open, the large, rosy-
gilled faces of the town's elite were to be seen gazing like chubby
goldfish from an aquarium pane; and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe, a little
farther down the High Street, the principal rendezvous of the Knype
Hill ladies.  Not to be present at Ye Olde Tea Shoppe between ten
and eleven every morning, to drink your 'morning coffee' and spend
your half-hour or so in that agreeable twitter of upper-middle-
class voices ('My dear, he had NINE spades to the ace-queen and he
went one no trump, if you please.  What, my dear, you don't mean to
say you're paying for my coffee AGAIN?  Oh, but my dear, it is
simply TOO sweet of you!  Now tomorrow I shall SIMPLY INSIST upon
paying for yours.  And just LOOK at dear little Toto sitting up and
looking such a CLEVER little man with his little black nose
wiggling, and he would, would he, the darling duck, he would, he
would, and his mother would give him a lump of sugar, she would,
she would.  THERE, Toto!'), was to be definitely out of Knype Hill
society.  The Rector in his acid way nicknamed these ladies 'the
coffee brigade'.  Close to the colony of sham-picturesque villas
inhabited by the coffee brigade, but cut off from them by its
larger grounds, was The Grange, Miss Mayfill's house.  It was a
curious, machicolated, imitation castle of dark red brick--
somebody's Folly, built about 1870--and fortunately almost hidden
among dense shrubberies.

The Rectory stood half way up the hill, with its face to the church
and its back to the High Street.  It was a house of the wrong age,
inconveniently large, and faced with chronically peeling yellow
plaster.  Some earlier Rector had added, at one side, a large
greenhouse which Dorothy used as a workroom, but which was
constantly out of repair.  The front garden was choked with ragged
fir-trees and a great spreading ash which shadowed the front rooms
and made it impossible to grow any flowers.  There was a large
vegetable garden at the back.  Proggett did the heavy digging of
the garden in the spring and autumn, and Dorothy did the sowing,
planting, and weeding in such spare time as she could command; in
spite of which the vegetable garden was usually an impenetrable
jungle of weeds.

Dorothy jumped off her bicycle at the front gate, upon which some
officious person had stuck a poster inscribed 'Vote for Blifil-
Gordon and Higher Wages!'  (There was a by-election going on, and
Mr Blifil-Gordon was standing in the Conservative interest.)  As
Dorothy opened the front door she saw two letters lying on the worn
coconut mat.  One was from the Rural Dean, and the other was a
nasty, thin-looking letter from Catkin & Palm, her father's
clerical tailors.  It was a bill undoubtedly.  The Rector had
followed his usual practice of collecting the letters that
interested him and leaving the others.  Dorothy was just bending
down to pick up the letters, when she saw, with a horrid shock of
dismay, an unstamped envelope sticking to the letter flap.

It was a bill--for certain it was a bill!  Moreover, as soon as she
set eyes on it she 'knew' that it was that horrible bill from
Cargill's, the butcher's.  A sinking feeling passed through her
entrails.  For a moment she actually began to pray that it might
not be Cargill's bill--that it might only be the bill for three
and nine from Solepipe's, the draper's, or the bill from the
International or the baker's or the dairy--anything except
Cargill's bill!  Then, mastering her panic, she took the envelope
from the letter-flap and tore it open with a convulsive movement.

'To account rendered: L21 7S. 9d.'

This was written in the innocuous handwriting of Mr Cargill's
accountant.  But underneath, in thick, accusing-looking letters,
was added and heavily underlined:  'Shd. like to bring to your
notice that this bill has been owing a VERY LONG TIME.  The
EARLIEST POSSIBLE settlement will oblige, S. Cargill.'

Dorothy had turned a shade paler, and was conscious of not wanting
any breakfast.  She thrust the bill into her pocket and went into
the dining-room.  It was a smallish, dark room, badly in need of
repapering, and, like every other room in the Rectory, it had the
air of having been furnished from the sweepings of an antique shop.
The furniture was 'good', but battered beyond repair, and the
chairs were so worm-eaten that you could only sit on them in safety
if you knew their individual foibles.  There were old, dark,
defaced steel engravings hanging on the walls, one of them--an
engraving of Van Dyck's portrait of Charles I--probably of some
value if it had not been ruined by damp.

The Rector was standing before the empty grate, warming himself at
an imaginary fire and reading a letter that came from a long blue
envelope.  He was still wearing his cassock of black watered silk,
which set off to perfection his thick white hair and his pale,
fine, none too amiable face.  As Dorothy came in he laid the letter
aside, drew out his gold watch and scrutinized it significantly.

'I'm afraid I'm a bit late, Father.'

'Yes, Dorothy, you are A BIT LATE,' said the Rector, repeating her
words with delicate but marked emphasis.  'You are twelve minutes
late, to be exact.  Don't you think, Dorothy, that when I have to
get up at a quarter past six to celebrate Holy Communion, and come
home exceedingly tired and hungry, it would be better if you could
manage to come to breakfast without being A BIT LATE?'

It was clear that the Rector was in what Dorothy called,
euphemistically, his 'uncomfortable mood'.  He had one of those
weary, cultivated voices which are never definitely angry and never
anywhere near good humour--one of those voices which seem all the
while to be saying, 'I really CANNOT see what you are making all
this fuss about!'  The impression he gave was of suffering
perpetually from other people's stupidity and tiresomeness.

'I'm so sorry, Father!  I simply had to go and ask after Mrs
Tawney.'  (Mrs Tawney was the 'Mrs T' of the 'memo list'.)  'Her
baby was born last night, and you know she promised me she'd come
and be churched after it was born.  But of course she won't if she
thinks we aren't taking any interest in her.  You know what these
women are--they seem so to hate being churched.  They'll never come
unless I coax them into it.'

The Rector did not actually grunt, but he uttered a small
dissatisfied sound as he moved towards the breakfast table.  It was
intended to mean, first, that it was Mrs Tawney's duty to come and
be churched without Dorothy's coaxing; secondly, that Dorothy had
no business to waste her time visiting all the riffraff of the
town, especially before breakfast.  Mrs Tawney was a labourer's
wife and lived in partibus infidelium, north of the High Street.
The Rector laid his hand on the back of his chair, and, without
speaking, cast Dorothy a glance which meant:  'Are we ready NOW?
Or are there to be any MORE delays?'

'I think everything's here, Father,' said Dorothy.  'Perhaps if
you'd just say grace--'

'Benedictus benedicat,' said the Rector, lifting the worn silver
coverlet off the breakfast dish.  The silver coverlet, like the
silver-gilt marmalade spoon, was a family heirloom; the knives and
forks, and most of the crockery, came from Woolworths.  'Bacon
again, I see,' the Rector added, eyeing the three minute rashers
that lay curled up on squares of fried bread.

'It's all we've got in the house, I'm afraid,' Dorothy said.

The Rector picked up his fork between finger and thumb, and with a
very delicate movement, as though playing at spillikins, turned one
of the rashers over.

'I know, of course,' he said, 'that bacon for breakfast is an
English institution almost as old as parliamentary government.  But
still, don't you think we might OCCASIONALLY have a change,
Dorothy?'

'Bacon's so cheap now,' said Dorothy regretfully.  'It seems a sin
not to buy it.  This was only fivepence a pound, and I saw some
quite decent-looking bacon as low as threepence.'

'Ah, Danish, I suppose?  What a variety of Danish invasions we have
had in this country!  First with fire and sword, and now with their
abominable cheap bacon.  Which has been responsible for the more
deaths, I wonder?'

Feeling a little better after this witticism, the Rector settled
himself in his chair and made a fairly good breakfast off the
despised bacon, while Dorothy (she was not having any bacon this
morning--a penance she had set herself yesterday for saying 'Damn'
and idling for half an hour after lunch) meditated upon a good
conversational opening.

There was an unspeakably hateful job in front of her--a demand for
money.  At the very best of times getting money out of her father
was next door to impossible, and it was obvious that this morning
he was going to be even more 'difficult' than usual.  'Difficult'
was another of her euphemisms.  He's had bad news, I suppose, she
thought despondently, looking at the blue envelope.

Probably no one who had ever spoken to the Rector for as long as
ten minutes would have denied that he was a 'difficult' kind of
man.  The secret of his almost unfailing ill humour really lay in
the fact that he was an anachronism.  He ought never to have been
born into the modern world; its whole atmosphere disgusted and
infuriated him.  A couple of centuries earlier, a happy pluralist
writing poems or collecting fossils while curates at 40 pounds a
year administered his parishes, he would have been perfectly at
home. Even now, if he had been a richer man, he might have consoled
himself by shutting the twentieth century out of his consciousness.
But to live in past ages is very expensive; you can't do it on less
than two thousand a year.  The Rector, tethered by his poverty to
the age of Lenin and the Daily Mail, was kept in a state of chronic
exasperation which it was only natural that he should work off on
the person nearest to him--usually, that is, on Dorothy.

He had been born in 1871, the younger son of the younger son of a
baronet, and had gone into the Church for the outmoded reason that
the Church is the traditional profession for younger sons.  His
first cure had been in a large, slummy parish in East London--a
nasty, hooliganish place it had been, and he looked back on it with
loathing.  Even in those days the lower class (as he made a point
of calling them) were getting decidedly out of hand.  It was a
little better when he was curate-in-charge at some remote place in
Kent (Dorothy had been born in Kent), where the decently down-
trodden villagers still touched their hats to 'parson'.  But by
that time he had married, and his marriage had been diabolically
unhappy; moreover, because clergymen must not quarrel with their
wives, its unhappiness had been secret and therefore ten times
worse.  He had come to Knype Hill in 1908, aged thirty-seven and
with a temper incurably soured--a temper which had ended by
alienating every man, woman, and child in the parish.

It was not that he was a bad priest, merely AS a priest.  In his
purely clerical duties he was scrupulously correct--perhaps a
little too correct for a Low Church East Anglian parish.  He
conducted his services with perfect taste, preached admirable
sermons, and got up at uncomfortable hours of the morning to
celebrate Holy Communion every Wednesday and Friday.  But that a
clergyman has any duties outside the four walls of the church was a
thing that had never seriously occurred to him.  Unable to afford a
curate, he left the dirty work of the parish entirely to his wife,
and after her death (she died in 1921) to Dorothy.  People used to
say, spitefully and untruly, that he would have let Dorothy preach
his sermons for him if it had been possible.  The 'lower classes'
had grasped from the first what was his attitude towards them, and
if he had been a rich man they would probably have licked his
boots, according to their custom; as it was, they merely hated him.
Not that he cared whether they hated him or not, for he was largely
unaware of their existence.  But even with the upper classes he had
got on no better.  With the County he had quarrelled one by one,
and as for the petty gentry of the town, as the grandson of a
baronet he despised them, and was at no pains to hide it.  In
twenty-three years he had succeeded in reducing the congregation of
St Athelstan's from six hundred to something under two hundred.

This was not solely due to personal reasons.  It was also because
the old-fashioned High Anglicanism to which the Rector obstinately
clung was of a kind to annoy all parties in the parish about
equally.  Nowadays, a clergyman who wants to keep his congregation
has only two courses open to him.  Either it must be Anglo-
Catholicism pure and simple--or rather, pure and not simple; or he
must be daringly modern and broad-minded and preach comforting
sermons proving that there is no Hell and all good religions are
the same.  The Rector did neither.  On the one hand, he had the
deepest contempt for the Anglo-Catholic movement.  It had passed
over his head, leaving him absolutely untouched; 'Roman Fever' was
his name for it.  On the other hand, he was too 'high' for the
older members of his congregation.  From time to time he scared
them almost out of their wits by the use of the fatal word
'Catholic', not only in its sanctified place in the Creeds, but
also from the pulpit.  Naturally the congregation dwindled year by
year, and it was the Best People who were the first to go.  Lord
Pockthorne of Pockthorne Court, who owned a fifth of the county, Mr
Leavis, the retired leather merchant, Sir Edward Huson of Crabtree
Hall, and such of the petty gentry as owned motor-cars, had all
deserted St Athelstan's.  Most of them drove over on Sunday
mornings to Millborough, five miles away.  Millborough was a town
of five thousand inhabitants, and you had your choice of two
churches, St Edmund's and St Wedekind's.  St Edmund's was
Modernist--text from Blake's 'Jerusalem' blazoned over the altar,
and communion wine out of liqueur glasses--and St Wedekind's was
Anglo-Catholic and in a state of perpetual guerrilla warfare with
the Bishop.  But Mr Cameron, the secretary of the Knype Hill
Conservative Club, was a Roman Catholic convert, and his children
were in the thick of the Roman Catholic literary movement.  They
were said to have a parrot which they were teaching to say 'Extra
ecclesiam nulla salus'.  In effect, no one of any standing remained
true to St Athelstan's, except Miss Mayfill, of The Grange.  Most
of Miss Mayfill's money was bequeathed to the Church--so she said;
meanwhile, she had never been known to put more than sixpence in
the collection bag, and she seemed likely to go on living for ever.

The first ten minutes of breakfast passed in complete silence.
Dorothy was trying to summon up courage to speak--obviously she had
got to start SOME kind of conversation before raising the money-
question--but her father was not an easy man with whom to make
small talk.  At times he would fall into such deep fits of
abstraction that you could hardly get him to listen to you; at
other times he was all too attentive, listened carefully to what
you said and then pointed out, rather wearily, that it was not
worth saying.  Polite platitudes--the weather, and so forth--
generally moved him to sarcasm.  Nevertheless, Dorothy decided to
try the weather first.

'It's a funny kind of day, isn't it?' she said--aware, even as she
made it, of the inanity of this remark.

'WHAT is funny?' inquired the Rector.

'Well, I mean, it was so cold and misty this morning, and now the
sun's come out and it's turned quite fine.'

'IS there anything particularly funny about that?'

That was no good, obviously.  He MUST have had bad news, she
thought.  She tried again.

'I do wish you'd come out and have a look at the things in the back
garden some time, Father.  The runner beans are doing so splendidly!
The pods are going to be over a foot long.  I'm going to keep all
the best of them for the Harvest Festival, of course.  I thought it
would look so nice if we decorated the pulpit with festoons of
runner beans and a few tomatoes hanging in among them.'

This was a faux pas.  The Rector looked up from his plate with an
expression of profound distaste.

'My dear Dorothy,' he said sharply, 'IS it necessary to begin
worrying me about the Harvest Festival already?'

'I'm sorry, Father!' said Dorothy, disconcerted.  'I didn't mean to
worry you.  I just thought--'

'Do you suppose', proceeded the Rector, 'it is any pleasure to me
to have to preach my sermon among festoons of runner beans?  I am
not a greengrocer.  It quite puts me off my breakfast to think of
it.  When is the wretched thing due to happen?'

'It's September the sixteenth, Father.'

'That's nearly a month hence.  For Heaven's sake let me forget it
a little longer!  I suppose we must have this ridiculous business
once a year to tickle the vanity of every amateur gardener in the
parish.  But don't let's think of it more than is absolutely
necessary.'

The Rector had, as Dorothy ought to have remembered, a perfect
abhorrence of Harvest Festivals.  He had even lost a valuable
parishioner--a Mr Toagis, a surly retired market gardener--through
his dislike, as he said, of seeing his church dressed up to imitate
a coster's stall.  Mr Toagis, anima naturaliter Nonconformistica,
had been kept 'Church' solely by the privilege, at Harvest Festival
time, of decorating the side altar with a sort of Stonehenge
composed of gigantic vegetable marrows.  The previous summer he had
succeeded in growing a perfect leviathan of a pumpkin, a fiery red
thing so enormous that it took two men to lift it.  This monstrous
object had been placed in the chancel, where it dwarfed the altar
and took all the colour out of the east window.  In no matter what
part of the church you were standing, the pumpkin, as the saying
goes, hit you in the eye.  Mr Toagis was in raptures.  He hung
about the church at all hours, unable to tear himself away from his
adored pumpkin, and even bringing relays of friends in to admire
it.  From the expression of his face you would have thought that he
was quoting Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge:


Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty!


Dorothy even had hopes, after this, of getting him to come to Holy
Communion.  But when the Rector saw the pumpkin he was seriously
angry, and ordered 'that revolting thing' to be removed at once.
Mr Toagis had instantly 'gone chapel', and he and his heirs were
lost to the Church for ever.

Dorothy decided to make one final attempt at conversation.

'We're getting on with the costumes for Charles I,' she said.  (The
Church School children were rehearsing a play entitled Charles I in
aid of the organ fund.)  'But I do wish we'd chosen something a bit
easier.  The armour is a dreadful job to make, and I'm afraid the
jackboots are going to be worse.  I think next time we must really
have a Roman or Greek play.  Something where they only have to wear
togas.'

This elicited only another muted grunt from the Rector.  School
plays, pageants, bazaars, jumble sales, and concerts in aid of were
not quite so bad in his eyes as Harvest Festivals, but he did not
pretend to be interested in them.  They were necessary evils, he
used to say.  At this moment Ellen, the maidservant, pushed open
the door and came gauchely into the room with one large, scaly hand
holding her sacking apron against her belly.  She was a tall,
round-shouldered girl with mouse-coloured hair, a plaintive voice,
and a bad complexion, and she suffered chronically from eczema.
Her eyes flitted apprehensively towards the Rector, but she
addressed herself to Dorothy, for she was too much afraid of the
Rector to speak to him directly.

'Please, Miss--' she began.

'Yes, Ellen?'

'Please, Miss,' went on Ellen plaintively, 'Mr Porter's in the
kitchen, and he says, please could the Rector come round and
baptize Mrs Porter's baby?  Because they don't think as it's going
to live the day out, and it ain't been baptized yet, Miss.'

Dorothy stood up.  'Sit down,' said the Rector promptly, with his
mouth full.

'What do they think is the matter with the baby?' said Dorothy.

'Well, Miss, it's turning quite black.  And it's had diarrhoea
something cruel.'

The Rector emptied his mouth with an effort.  'Must I have these
disgusting details while I am eating my breakfast?' he exclaimed.
He turned on Ellen:  'Send Porter about his business and tell him
I'll be round at his house at twelve o'clock.  I really cannot
think why it is that the lower classes always seem to choose
mealtimes to come pestering one,' he added, casting another
irritated glance at Dorothy as she sat down.

Mr Porter was a labouring man--a bricklayer, to be exact.  The
Rector's views on baptism were entirely sound.  If it had been
urgently necessary he would have walked twenty miles through snow
to baptize a dying baby.  But he did not like to see Dorothy
proposing to leave the breakfast table at the call of a common
bricklayer.

There was no further conversation during breakfast.  Dorothy's
heart was sinking lower and lower.  The demand for money had got to
be made, and yet it was perfectly obvious that it was foredoomed to
failure.  His breakfast finished, the Rector got up from the table
and began to fill his pipe from the tobacco-jar on the mantelpiece.
Dorothy uttered a short prayer for courage, and then pinched
herself.  Go on, Dorothy!  Out with it!  No funking, please!  With
an effort she mastered her voice and said:

'Father--'

'What is it?' said the Rector, pausing with the match in his hand.

'Father, I've something I want to ask you.  Something important.'

The expression of the Rector's face changed.  He had divined
instantly what she was going to say; and, curiously enough, he now
looked less irritable than before.  A stony calm had settled upon
his face.  He looked like a rather exceptionally aloof and
unhelpful sphinx.

'Now, my dear Dorothy, I know very well what you are going to say.
I suppose you are going to ask me for money again.  Is that it?'

'Yes, Father.  Because--'

'Well, I may as well save you the trouble.  I have no money at all--
absolutely no money at all until next quarter.  You have had your
allowance, and I can't give you a halfpenny more.  It's quite
useless to come worrying me now.'

'But, Father--'

Dorothy's heart sank yet lower.  What was worst of all when she
came to him for money was the terrible, unhelpful calmness of his
attitude.  He was never so unmoved as when you were reminding him
that he was up to his eyes in debt.  Apparently he could not
understand that tradesmen occasionally want to be paid, and that no
house can be kept going without an adequate supply of money.  He
allowed Dorothy eighteen pounds a month for all the household
expenses, including Ellen's wages, and at the same time he was
'dainty' about his food and instantly detected any falling off in
its quality.  The result was, of course, that the household was
perennially in debt.  But the Rector paid not the smallest
attention to his debts--indeed, he was hardly even aware of them.
When he lost money over an investment, he was deeply agitated; but
as for a debt to a mere tradesman--well, it was the kind of thing
that he simply could not bother his head about.

A peaceful plume of smoke floated upwards from the Rector's pipe.
He was gazing with a meditative eye at the steel engraving of
Charles I and had probably forgotten already about Dorothy's demand
for money.  Seeing him so unconcerned, a pang of desperation went
through Dorothy, and her courage came back to her.  She said more
sharply than before:

'Father, please listen to me!  I MUST have some money soon!  I
simply MUST!  We can't go on as we're doing.  We owe money to
nearly every tradesman in the town.  It's got so that some mornings
I can hardly bear to go down the street and think of all the bills
that are owing.  Do you know that we owe Cargill nearly twenty-two
pounds?'

'What of it?' said the Rector between puffs of smoke.

'But the bill's been mounting up for over seven months!  He's sent
it in over and over again.  We MUST pay it!  It's so unfair to him
to keep him waiting for his money like that!'

'Nonsense, my dear child!  These people expect to be kept waiting
for their money.  They like it.  It brings them more in the end.
Goodness knows how much I owe to Catkin & Palm--I should hardly
care to inquire.  They are dunning me by every post.  But you don't
hear ME complaining, do you?'

'But, Father, I can't look at it as you do, I can't!  It's so
dreadful to be always in debt!  Even if it isn't actually wrong,
it's so HATEFUL.  It makes me so ashamed!  When I go into Cargill's
shop to order the joint, he speaks to me so shortly and makes me
wait after the other customers, all because our bill's mounting up
the whole time.  And yet I daren't stop ordering from him.  I
believe he'd run us in if I did.'

The Rector frowned.  'What!  Do you mean to say the fellow has been
impertinent to you?'

'I didn't say he'd been impertinent, Father.  But you can't blame
him if he's angry when his bill's not paid.'

'I most certainly can blame him!  It is simply abominable how these
people take it upon themselves to behave nowadays--abominable!  But
there you are, you see.  That is the kind of thing that we are
exposed to in this delightful century.  That is democracy--
PROGRESS, as they are pleased to call it.  Don't order from the
fellow again.  Tell him at once that you are taking your account
elsewhere.  That's the only way to treat these people.'

'But, Father, that doesn't settle anything.  Really and truly,
don't you think we ought to pay him?  Surely we can get hold of the
money somehow?  Couldn't you sell out some shares, or something?'

'My dear child, don't talk to me about selling out shares!  I have
just had the most disagreeable news from my broker.  He tells me
that my Sumatra Tin shares have dropped from seven and fourpence to
six and a penny.  It means a loss of nearly sixty pounds.  I am
telling him to sell out at once before they drop any further.'

'Then if you sell out you'll have some ready money, won't you?
Don't you think it would be better to get out of debt once and for
all?'

'Nonsense, nonsense,' said the Rector more calmly, putting his pipe
back in his mouth.  'You know nothing whatever about these matters.
I shall have to reinvest at once in something more hopeful--it's
the only way of getting my money back.'

With one thumb in the belt of his cassock he frowned abstractedly
at the steel engraving.  His broker had advised United Celanese.
Here--in Sumatra Tin, United Celanese, and numberless other remote
and dimly imagined companies--was the central cause of the Rector's
money troubles.  He was an inveterate gambler.  Not, of course,
that he thought of it as gambling; it was merely a lifelong search
for a 'good investment'.  On coming of age he had inherited four
thousand pounds, which had gradually dwindled, thanks to his
'investments', to about twelve hundred.  What was worse, every year
he managed to scrape together, out of his miserable income, another
fifty pounds which vanished by the same road.  It is a curious fact
that the lure of a 'good investment' seems to haunt clergymen more
persistently than any other class of man.  Perhaps it is the modern
equivalent of the demons in female shape who used to haunt the
anchorites of the Dark Ages.

'I shall buy five hundred United Celanese,' said the Rector finally.

Dorothy began to give up hope.  Her father was now thinking of his
'investments' (she new nothing whatever about these 'investments',
except that they went wrong with phenomenal regularity), and in
another moment the question of the shop-debts would have slipped
entirely out of his mind.  She made a final effort.

'Father, let's get this settled, please.  Do you think you'll be
able to let me have some extra money fairly soon?  Not this moment,
perhaps--but in the next month or two?'

'No, my dear, I don't.  About Christmas time, possibly--it's very
unlikely even then.  But for the present, certainly not.  I haven't
a halfpenny I can spare.'

'But, Father, it's so horrible to feel we can't pay our debts!  It
disgraces us so!  Last time Mr Welwyn-Foster was here' (Mr Welwyn-
Foster was the Rural Dean) 'Mrs Welwyn-Foster was going all round
the town asking everyone the most personal questions about us--
asking how we spent our time, and how much money we had, and how
many tons of coal we used in a year, and everything.  She's always
trying to pry into our affairs.  Suppose she found out that we were
badly in debt!'

'Surely it is our own business?  I fail entirely to see what it has
to do with Mrs Welwyn-Foster or anyone else.'

'But she'd repeat it all over the place--and she'd exaggerate it
too!  You know what Mrs Welwyn-Foster is.  In every parish she goes
to she tries to find out something disgraceful about the clergyman,
and then she repeats every word of it to the Bishop.  I don't want
to be uncharitable about her, but really she--'

Realizing that she DID want to be uncharitable, Dorothy was silent.

'She is a detestable woman,' said the Rector evenly.  'What of it?
Who ever heard of a Rural Dean's wife who wasn't detestable?'

'But, Father, I don't seem to be able to get you to see how serious
things are!  We've simply nothing to live on for the next month.  I
don't even know where the meat's coming from for today's dinner.'

'Luncheon, Dorothy, luncheon!' said the Rector with a touch of
irritation.  'I do wish you would drop that abominable lower-class
habit of calling the midday meal DINNER!'

'For luncheon, then.  Where are we to get the meat from?  I daren't
ask Cargill for another joint.'

'Go to the other butcher--what's his name?  Salter--and take no
notice of Cargill.  He knows he'll be paid sooner or later.  Good
gracious, I don't know what all this fuss is about!  Doesn't
everyone owe money to his tradesmen?  I distinctly remember'--the
Rector straightened his shoulders a little, and, putting his pipe
back into his mouth, looked into the distance; his voice became
reminiscent and perceptibly more agreeable--'I distinctly remember
that when I was up at Oxford, my father had still not paid some of
his own Oxford bills of thirty years earlier.  Tom' (Tom was the
Rector's cousin, the Baronet) 'owed seven thousand before he came
into his money.  He told me so himself.'

At that, Dorothy's last hope vanished.  When her father began to
talk about his cousin Tom, and about things that had happened 'when
I was up at Oxford', there was nothing more to be done with him.
It meant that he had slipped into an imaginary golden past in which
such vulgar things as butchers' bills simply did not exist.  There
were long periods together when he seemed actually to forget that
he was only a poverty-stricken country Rector--that he was not a
young man of family with estates and reversions at his back.  The
aristocratic, the expensive attitude was the one that in all
circumstances came the most naturally to him.  And of course while
he lived, not uncomfortably, in the world of his imagination, it
was Dorothy who had to fight the tradesmen and make a leg of mutton
last from Sunday to Wednesday.  But she knew the complete
uselessness of arguing with him any longer.  It would only end in
making him angry.  She got up from the table and began to pile the
breakfast things on to the tray.

'You're absolutely certain you can't let me have any money,
Father?' she said for the last time, at the door; with the tray in
her arms.

The Rector, gazing into the middle distance, amid comfortable
wreaths of smoke, did not hear her.  He was thinking, perhaps, of
his golden Oxford days.  Dorothy went out of the room distressed
almost to the point of tears.  The miserable question of the debts
was once more shelved, as it had been shelved a thousand times
before, with no prospect of final solution.



3


On her elderly bicycle with the basketwork carrier on the handle-
bars, Dorothy free-wheeled down the hill, doing mental arithmetic
with three pounds nineteen and fourpence--her entire stock of money
until next quarter-day.

She had been through the list of things that were needed in the
kitchen.  But indeed, was there anything that was NOT needed in the
kitchen?  Tea, coffee, soap, matches, candles, sugar, lentils,
firewood, soda, lamp oil, boot polish, margarine, baking powder--
there seemed to be practically nothing that they were not running
short of.  And at every moment some fresh item that she had
forgotten popped up and dismayed her.  The laundry bill, for
example, and the fact that the coal was running short, and the
question of the fish for Friday.  The Rector was 'difficult' about
fish.  Roughly speaking, he would only eat the more expensive
kinds; cod, whiting, sprats, skate, herrings, and kippers he
refused.

Meanwhile, she had got to settle about the meat for today's dinner--
luncheon.  (Dorothy was careful to obey her father and call it
LUNCHEON, when she remembered it.  On the other hand, you could not
in honesty call the evening meal anything but 'supper'; so there
was no such meal as 'dinner' at the Rectory.)  Better make an
omelette for luncheon today, Dorothy decided.  She dared not go to
Cargill again.  Though, of course, if they had an omelette for
luncheon and then scrambled eggs for supper, her father would
probably be sarcastic about it.  Last time they had eggs twice in
one day, he had inquired coldly, 'Have you started a chicken farm,
Dorothy?'  And perhaps tomorrow she would get two pounds of
sausages at the International, and that staved off the meat-
question for one day more.

Thirty-nine further days, with only three pounds nineteen and
fourpence to provide for them, loomed up in Dorothy's imagination,
sending through her a wave of self-pity which she checked almost
instantly.  Now then, Dorothy!  No snivelling, please!  It all
comes right somehow if you trust in God.  Matthew vi, 25.  The Lord
will provide.  Will He?  Dorothy removed her right hand from the
handle-bars and felt for the glass-headed pin, but the blasphemous
thought faded.  At this moment she became aware of the gloomy red
face of Proggett, who was hailing her respectfully but urgently
from the side of the road.

Dorothy stopped and got off her bicycle.

'Beg pardon, Miss,' said Proggett.  'I been wanting to speak to
you, Miss--PARTIC'LAR.'

Dorothy sighed inwardly.  When Proggett wanted to speak to you
PARTIC'LAR, you could be perfectly certain what was coming; it was
some piece of alarming news about the condition of the church.
Proggett was a pessimistic, conscientious man, and very loyal
churchman, after his fashion.  Too dim of intellect to have any
definite religious beliefs, he showed his piety by an intense
solicitude about the state of the church buildings.  He had decided
long ago that the Church of Christ meant the actual walls, roof,
and tower of St Athelstan's, Knype Hill, and he would poke round
the church at all hours of the day, gloomily noting a cracked stone
here, a worm-eaten beam there--and afterwards, of course, coming to
harass Dorothy with demands for repairs which would cost impossible
sums of money.

'What is it, Proggett?' said Dorothy.

'Well, Miss, it's they --'--here a peculiar, imperfect sound, not a
word exactly, but the ghost of a word, all but formed itself on
Proggett's lips.  It seemed to begin with a B.  Proggett was one of
those men who are for ever on the verge of swearing, but who always
recapture the oath as it is escaping between their teeth.  'It's
they BELLS, Miss,' he said, getting rid of the B sound with an
effort.  'They bells up in the church tower.  They're a-splintering
through that there belfry floor in a way as it makes you fair
shudder to look at 'em.  We'll have 'em down atop of us before we
know where we are.  I was up the belfry 'smorning, and I tell you I
come down faster'n I went up, when I saw how that there floor's a-
busting underneath 'em.'

Proggett came to complain about the condition of the bells not less
than once a fortnight.  It was now three years that they had been
lying on the floor of the belfry, because the cost of either
reswinging or removing them was estimated at twenty-five pounds,
which might as well have been twenty-five thousand for all the
chance there was of paying for it.  They were really almost as
dangerous as Proggett made out.  It was quite certain that, if not
this year or next year, at any rate at some time in the near
future, they would fall through the belfry floor into the church
porch.  And, as Proggett was fond of pointing out, it would
probably happen on a Sunday morning just as the congregation were
coming into church.

Dorothy sighed again.  Those wretched bells were never out of mind
for long; there were times when the thought of their falling even
got into her dreams.  There was always some trouble or other at the
church.  If it was not the belfry, then it was the roof or the
walls; or it was a broken pew which the carpenter wanted ten
shillings to mend; or it was seven hymn-books needed at one and
sixpence each, or the flue of the stove choked up--and the sweep's
fee was half a crown--or a smashed window-pane or the choir-boys'
cassocks in rags.  There was never enough money for anything.  The
new organ which the rector had insisted on buying five years
earlier--the old one, he said, reminded him of a cow with the
asthma--was a burden under which the Church Expenses fund had been
staggering ever since.

'I don't know WHAT we can do,' said Dorothy finally; 'I really
don't.  We've simply no money at all.  And even if we do make
anything out of the school-children's play, it's all got to go to
the organ fund.  The organ people are really getting quite nasty
about their bill.  Have you spoken to my father?'

'Yes, Miss.  He don't make nothing of it.  "Belfry's held up five
hundred years," he says; "we can trust it to hold up a few years
longer."'

This was quite according to precedent.  The fact that the church
was visibly collapsing over his head made no impression on the
Rector; he simply ignored it, as he ignored anything else that he
did not wish to be worried about.

'Well, I don't know WHAT we can do,' Dorothy repeated.  'Of course
there's the jumble sale coming off the week after next.  I'm
counting on Miss Mayfill to give us something really NICE for the
jumble sale.  I know she could afford to.  She's got such lots of
furniture and things that she never uses.  I was in her house the
other day, and I saw a most beautiful Lowestoft china tea service
which was put away in a cupboard, and she told me it hadn't been
used for over twenty years.  Just suppose she gave us that tea
service!  It would fetch pounds and pounds.  We must just pray that
the jumble sale will be a success, Proggett.  Pray that it'll bring
us five pounds at least.  I'm sure we shall get the money somehow
if we really and truly pray for it.'

'Yes, Miss,' said Proggett respectfully, and shifted his gaze to
the far distance.

At this moment a horn hooted and a vast, gleaming blue car came
very slowly down the road, making for the High Street.  Out of one
window Mr Blifil-Gordon, the Proprietor of the sugar-beet refinery,
was thrusting a sleek black head which went remarkably ill with his
suit of sandy-coloured Harris tweed.  As he passed, instead of
ignoring Dorothy as usual, he flashed upon her a smile so warm that
it was almost amorous.  With him were his eldest son Ralph--or, as
he and the rest of the family pronounced it, Walph--an epicene
youth of twenty, given to the writing of sub-Eliot vers libre
poems, and Lord Pockthorne's two daughters.  They were all smiling,
even Lord Pockthorne's daughters.  Dorothy was astonished, for it
was several years since any of these people had deigned to
recognize her in the street.

'Mr Blifil-Gordon is very friendly this morning,' she said.

'Aye, Miss.  I'll be bound he is.  It's the election coming on next
week, that's what 'tis.  All honey and butter they are till they've
made sure as you'll vote for them; and then they've forgot your
very face the day afterwards.'

'Oh, the election!' said Dorothy vaguely.  So remote were such
things as parliamentary elections from the daily round of parish
work that she was virtually unaware of them--hardly, indeed, even
knowing the difference between Liberal and Conservative or
Socialist and Communist.  'Well, Proggett,' she said, immediately
forgetting the election in favour of something more important,
'I'll speak to Father and tell him how serious it is about the
bells.  I think perhaps the best thing we can do will be to get up
a special subscription, just for the bells alone.  There's no
knowing, we might make five pounds.  We might even make ten pounds!
Don't you think if I went to Miss Mayfill and asked her to start
the subscription with five pounds, she might give it to us?'

'You take my word, Miss, and don't you let Miss Mayfill hear
nothing about it.  It'd scare the life out of her.  If she thought
as that tower wasn't safe, we'd never get her inside that church
again.'

'Oh dear!  I suppose not.'

'No, Miss.  We shan't get nothing out of HER; the old--'

A ghostly B floated once more across Proggett's lips.  His mind a
little more at rest now that he had delivered his fortnightly
report upon the bells, he touched his cap and departed, while
Dorothy rode on into the High Street, with the twin problems of the
shop-debts and the Church Expenses pursuing one another through her
mind like the twin refrains of a villanelle.

The still watery sun, now playing hide-and-seek, April-wise, among
woolly islets of cloud, sent an oblique beam down the High Street,
gilding the house-fronts of the northern side.  It was one of those
sleepy, old-fashioned streets that look so ideally peaceful on a
casual visit and so very different when you live in them and have
an enemy or a creditor behind every window.  The only definitely
offensive buildings were Ye Olde Tea Shoppe (plaster front with
sham beams nailed on to it, bottle-glass windows and revolting
curly roof like that of a Chinese joss-house), and the new, Doric-
pillared post office.  After about two hundred yards the High
Street forked, forming a tiny market-place, adorned with a pump,
now defunct, and a worm-eaten pair of stocks.  On either side of
the pump stood the Dog and Bottle, the principal inn of the town,
and the Knype Hill Conservative Club.  At the end, commanding the
street, stood Cargill's dreaded shop.

Dorothy came round the corner to a terrific din of cheering,
mingled with the strains of 'Rule Britannia' played on the
trombone.  The normally sleepy street was black with people, and
more people were hurrying from all the sidestreets.  Evidently a
sort of triumphal procession was taking place.  Right across the
street, from the roof of the Dog and Bottle to the roof of the
Conservative Club, hung a line with innumerable blue streamers, and
in the middle a vast banner inscribed 'Blifil-Gordon and the
Empire!'  Towards this, between the lanes of people, the Blifil-
Gordon car was moving at a foot-pace, with Mr Blifil-Gordon smiling
richly, first to one side, then to the other.  In front of the car
marched a detachment of the Buffaloes, headed by an earnest-looking
little man playing the trombone, and carrying among them another
banner inscribed:


Who'll save Britain from the Reds?

BLIFIL-GORDON

Who'll put the Beer back into your Pot?

BLIFIL-GORDON

Blifil-Gordon for ever!


From the window of the Conservative Club floated an enormous Union
Jack, above which six scarlet faces were beaming enthusiastically.

Dorothy wheeled her bicycle slowly down the street, too much
agitated by the prospect of passing Cargill's shop (she had got to
pass, it, to get to Solepipe's) to take much notice of the
procession.  The Blifil-Gordon car had halted for a moment outside
Ye Olde Tea Shoppe.  Forward, the coffee brigade!  Half the ladies
of the town seemed to be hurrying forth, with lapdogs or shopping
baskets on their arms, to cluster about the car like Bacchantes
about the car of the vine-god.  After all, an election is
practically the only time when you get a chance of exchanging
smiles with the County.  There were eager feminine cries of 'Good
luck, Mr Blifil-Gordon!  DEAR Mr Blifil-Gordon!  We DO hope you'll
get in, Mr Blifil-Gordon!'  Mr Blifil-Gordon's largesse of smiles
was unceasing, but carefully graded.  To the populace he gave a
diffused, general smile, not resting on individuals; to the coffee
ladies and the six scarlet patriots of the Conservative Club he
gave one smile each; to the most favoured of all, young Walph gave
an occasional wave of the hand and a squeaky 'Cheewio!'

Dorothy's heart tightened.  She had seen that Mr Cargill, like the
rest of the shopkeepers, was standing on his doorstep.  He was a
tall, evil-looking man, in blue-striped apron, with a lean, scraped
face as purple as one of his own joints of meat that had lain a
little too long in the window.  So fascinated were Dorothy's eyes
by that ominous figure that she did not look where she was going,
and bumped into a very large, stout man who was stepping off the
pavement backwards.

The stout man turned round.  'Good Heavens!  It's Dorothy!' he
exclaimed.

'Why, Mr Warburton!  How extraordinary!  Do you know, I had a
feeling I was going to meet you today.'

'By the pricking of your thumbs, I presume?' said Mr Warburton,
beaming all over a large, pink, Micawberish face.  'And how are
you?  But by Jove!' he added, 'What need is there to ask?  You look
more bewitching than ever.'

He pinched Dorothy's bare elbow--she had changed, after breakfast,
into a sleeveless gingham frock.  Dorothy stepped hurriedly
backwards to get out of his reach--she hated being pinched or
otherwise 'mauled about'--and said rather severely:

'PLEASE don't pinch my elbow.  I don't like it.'

'My dear Dorothy, who could resist an elbow like yours?  It's the
sort of elbow one pinches automatically.  A reflex action, if you
understand me.'

'When did you get back to Knype Hill?' said Dorothy, who had put
her bicycle between Mr Warburton and herself.  It's over two months
since I've seen you.'

'I got back the day before yesterday.  But this is only a flying
visit.  I'm off again tomorrow.  I'm taking the kids to Brittany.
The BASTARDS, you know.'

Mr Warburton pronounced the word BASTARDS, at which Dorothy looked
away in discomfort, with a touch of naive pride.  He and his
'bastards' (he had three of them) were one of the chief scandals of
Knype Hill.  He was a man of independent income, calling himself a
painter--he produced about half a dozen mediocre landscapes every
year--and he had come to Knype Hill two years earlier and bought
one of the new villas behind the Rectory.  There he lived, or
rather stayed periodically, in open concubinage with a woman whom
he called his housekeeper.  Four months ago this woman--she was a
foreigner, a Spaniard it was said--had created a fresh and worse
scandal by abruptly deserting him, and his three children were now
parked with some long-suffering relative in London.  In appearance
he was a fine, imposing-looking man, though entirely bald (he was
at great pains to conceal this), and he carried himself with such a
rakish air as to give the impression that his fairly sizeable belly
was merely a kind of annexe to his chest.  His age was forty-eight,
and he owned to forty-four.  People in the town said that he was a
'proper old rascal'; young girls were afraid of him, not without
reason.

Mr Warburton had laid his hand pseudo-paternally on Dorothy's
shoulder and was shepherding her through the crowd, talking all the
while almost without a pause.  The Blifil-Gordon car, having
rounded the pump, was now wending its way back, still accompanied
by its troupe of middle-aged Bacchantes.  Mr Warburton, his
attention caught, paused to scrutinize it.

'What is the meaning of these disgusting antics?' he asked.

'Oh, they're--what is it they call it?--electioneering.  Trying to
get us to vote for them, I suppose.'

'Trying to get us to vote for them!  Good God!' murmured Mr
Warburton, as he eyed the triumphal cortege.  He raised the large,
silver-headed cane that he always carried, and pointed, rather
expressively, first at one figure in the procession and then at
another.  'Look at it!  Just look at it!  Look at those fawning
hags, and that half-witted oaf grinning at us like a monkey that
sees a bag of nuts.  Did you ever see such a disgusting spectacle?'

'Do be careful!' Dorothy murmured.  'Somebody's sure to hear you.'

'Good!' said Mr Warburton, immediately raising his voice.  'And to
think that low-born hound actually has the impertinence to think
that he's pleasing us with the sight of his false teeth!  And that
suit he's wearing is an offence in itself.  Is there a Socialist
candidate?  If so, I shall certainly vote for him.'

Several people on the pavement turned and stared.  Dorothy saw
little Mr Twiss, the ironmonger, a weazened, leather-coloured old
man, peering with veiled malevolence round the corner of the rush
baskets that hung in his doorway.  He had caught the word
Socialist, and was mentally registering Mr Warburton as a Socialist
and Dorothy as the friend of Socialists.

'I really MUST be getting on,' said Dorothy hastily, feeling that
she had better escape before Mr Warburton said something even more
tactless.  'I've got ever such a lot of shopping to do.  I'll say
good-bye for the present, then.'

'Oh, no, you won't!' said Mr Warburton cheerfully.  'Not a bit of
it!  I'll come with you.'

As she wheeled her bicycle down the street he marched at her side,
still talking, with his large chest well forward and his stick
tucked under his arm.  He was a difficult man to shake off, and
though Dorothy counted him as a friend, she did sometimes wish, he
being the town scandal and she the Rector's daughter, that he would
not always choose the most public places to talk to her in.  At
this moment, however, she was rather grateful for his company,
which made it appreciably easier to pass Cargill's shop--for
Cargill was still on his doorstep and was regarding her with a
sidelong, meaning gaze.

'It was a bit of luck my meeting you this morning,' Mr Warburton
went on.  'In fact, I was looking for you.  Who do you think I've
got coming to dinner with me tonight?  Bewley--Ronald Bewley.
You've heard of him, of course?'

'Ronald Bewley?  No, I don't think so.  Who is he?'

'Why, dash it!  Ronald Bewley, the novelist.  Author of Fishpools
and Concubines.  Surely you've read Fishpools and Concubines?'

'No, I'm afraid I haven't.  In fact, I'd never even heard of it.'

'My dear Dorothy!  You HAVE been neglecting yourself.  You
certainly ought to read Fishpools and Concubines.  It's hot stuff,
I assure you--real high-class pornography.  Just the kind of thing
you need to take the taste of the Girl Guides out of your mouth.'

'I do wish you wouldn't say such things!' said Dorothy, looking
away uncomfortably, and then immediately looking back again because
she had all but caught Cargill's eye.  'Where does this Mr Bewley
live?' she added.  'Not here, surely, does he?'

'No.  He's coming over from Ipswich for dinner, and perhaps to stay
the night.  That's why I was looking for you.  I thought you might
like to meet him.  How about your coming to dinner tonight?'

'I can't possibly come to dinner,' said Dorothy.  'I've got
Father's supper to see to, and thousands of other things.  I shan't
be free till eight o'clock or after.'

'Well, come along after dinner, then.  I'd like you to know Bewley.
He's an interesting fellow--very au fait with all the Bloomsbury
scandal, and all that.  You'll enjoy meeting him.  It'll do you
good to escape from the church hen-coop for a few hours.'

Dorothy hesitated.  She was tempted.  To tell the truth, she
enjoyed her occasional visits to Mr Warburton's house extremely.
But of course they were VERY occasional--once in three or four
months at the oftenest; it so obviously DIDN'T DO to associate too
freely with such a man.  And even when she did go to his house she
was careful to make sure beforehand that there was going to be at
least one other visitor.

Two years earlier, when Mr Warburton had first come to Knype Hill
(at that time he was posing as a widower with two children; a
little later, however, the housekeeper suddenly gave birth to a
third child in the middle of the night), Dorothy had met him at a
tea-party and afterwards called on him.  Mr Warburton had given
her a delightful tea, talked amusingly about books, and then,
immediately after tea, sat down beside her on the sofa and begun
making love to her, violently, outrageously, even brutally.  It was
practically an assault.  Dorothy was horrified almost out of her
wits, though not too horrified to resist.  She escaped from him and
took refuge on the other side of the sofa, white, shaking, and
almost in tears.  Mr Warburton, on the other hand, was quite
unashamed and even seemed rather amused.

'Oh, how could you, how could you?' she sobbed.

'But it appears that I couldn't,' said Mr Warburton.

'Oh, but how could you be such a brute?'

'Oh, THAT?  Easily, my child, easily.  You will understand that
when you get to my age.'

In spite of this bad beginning, a sort of friendship had grown up
between the two, even to the extent of Dorothy being 'talked about'
in connexion with Mr Warburton.  It did not take much to get you
'talked about' in Knype Hill.  She only saw him at long intervals
and took the greatest care never to be alone with him, but even so
he found opportunities of making casual love to her.  But it was
done in a gentlemanly fashion; the previous disagreeable incident
was not repeated.  Afterwards, when he was forgiven, Mr Warburton
had explained that he 'always tried it on' with every presentable
woman he met.

'Don't you get rather a lot of snubs?' Dorothy could not help
asking him.

'Oh, certainly.  But I get quite a number of successes as well, you
know.'

People wondered sometimes how such a girl as Dorothy could consort,
even occasionally, with such a man as Mr Warburton; but the hold
that he had over her was the hold that the blasphemer and evil-
liver always has over the pious.  It is a fact--you have only to
look about you to verify it--that the pious and the immoral drift
naturally together.  The best brothel-scenes in literature have
been written, without exception, by pious believers or pious
unbelievers.  And of course Dorothy, born into the twentieth
century, made a point of listening to Mr Warburton's blasphemies as
calmly as possible; it is fatal to flatter the wicked by letting
them see that you are shocked by them.  Besides, she was genuinely
fond of him.  He teased her and distressed her, and yet she got
from him, without being fully aware of it, a species of sympathy
and understanding which she could not get elsewhere.  For all his
vices he was distinctly likeable, and the shoddy brilliance of his
conversation--Oscar Wilde seven times watered--which she was too
inexperienced to see through, fascinated while it shocked her.
Perhaps, too, in this instance, the prospect of meeting the
celebrated Mr Bewley had its effect upon her; though certainly
Fishponds and Concubines sounded like the kind of book that she
either didn't read or else set herself heavy penances for reading.
In London, no doubt, one would hardly cross the road to see fifty
novelists; but these things appeared differently in places like
Knype Hill.

'Are you SURE Mr Bewley is coming?' she said.

'Quite sure.  And his wife's coming as well, I believe.  Full
chaperonage.  No Tarquin and Lucrece business this evening.'

'All right,' said Dorothy finally; 'thanks very much.  I'll come
round--about half past eight, I expect.'

'Good.  If you can manage to come while it is still daylight, so
much the better.  Remember that Mrs Semprill is my next-door
neighbour.  We can count on her to be on the qui vive any time
after sundown.'

Mrs Semprill was the town scandalmonger--the most eminent, that is,
of the town's many scandalmongers.  Having got what he wanted (he
was constantly pestering Dorothy to come to his house more often),
Mr Warburton said au revoir and left Dorothy to do the remainder of
her shopping.

In the semi-gloom of Solepipe's shop, she was just moving away from
the counter with her two and a half yards of casement cloth, when
she was aware of a low, mournful voice at her ear.  It was Mrs
Semprill.  She was a slender woman of forty, with a lank, sallow,
distinguished face, which, with her glossy dark hair and air of
settled melancholy, gave her something the appearance of a Van Dyck
portrait.  Entrenched behind a pile of cretonnes near the window,
she had been watching Dorothy's conversation with Mr Warburton.
Whenever you were doing something that you did not particularly
want Mrs Semprill to see you doing, you could trust her to be
somewhere in the neighbourhood.  She seemed to have the power of
materializing like an Arabian jinneeyeh at any place where she was
not wanted.  No indiscretion, however small, escaped her vigilance.
Mr Warburton used to say that she was like the four beasts of the
Apocalypse--'They are full of eyes, you remember, and they rest not
night nor day.'

'Dorothy DEAREST,' murmured Mrs Semprill in the sorrowful,
affectionate voice of someone breaking a piece of bad news as
gently as possible.  'I've been so WANTING to speak to you.  I've
something simply DREADFUL to tell you--something that will really
HORRIFY you!'

'What is it?' said Dorothy resignedly, well knowing what was
coming--for Mrs Semprill had only one subject of conversation.

They moved out of the shop and began to walk down the street,
Dorothy wheeling her bicycle, Mrs Semprill mincing at her side with
a delicate birdlike step and bringing her mouth closer and closer
to Dorothy's ear as her remarks grew more and more intimate.

'Do you happen to have noticed,' she began, 'that girl who sits at
the end of the pew nearest the organ in church?  A rather PRETTY
girl, with red hair.  I've no idea what her name is,' added Mrs
Semprill, who knew the surname and all the Christian names of every
man, woman, and child in Knype Hill.

'Molly Freeman,' said Dorothy.  'She's the niece of Freeman the
greengrocer.'

'Oh, Molly Freeman?  Is THAT her name?  I'd often wondered.  Well--'

The delicate red mouth came closer, the mournful voice sank to a
shocked whisper.  Mrs Semprill began to pour forth a stream of
purulent libel involving Molly Freeman and six young men who worked
at the sugar-beet refinery.  After a few moments the story became
so outrageous that Dorothy, who had turned very pink, hurriedly
withdrew her ear from Mrs Semprill's whispering lips.  She stopped
her bicycle.

'I won't listen to such things!' she said abruptly.  'I KNOW that
isn't true about Molly Freeman.  It CAN'T be true!  She's such a
nice quiet girl--she was one of my very best Girl Guides, and she's
always been so good about helping with the church bazaars and
everything.  I'm perfectly certain she wouldn't do such things as
you're saying.'

'But, Dorothy DEAREST!  When, as I told you, I actually saw with my
own eyes . . .'

'I don't care!  It's not fair to say such things about people.
Even if they were true it wouldn't be right to repeat them.
There's quite enough evil in the world without going about looking
for it.'

'LOOKING for it!' sighed Mrs Semprill.  'But, my dear Dorothy, as
though one ever wanted or NEEDED to look!  The trouble is that one
can't HELP seeing all the dreadful wickedness that goes on in this
town.'

Mrs Semprill was always genuinely astonished if you accused her of
LOOKING for subjects for scandal.  Nothing, she would protest,
pained her more than the spectacle of human wickedness; but it was
constantly forced upon her unwilling eyes, and only a stern sense
of duty impelled her to make it public.  Dorothy's remarks, so far
from silencing her, merely set her talking about the general
corruption of Knype Hill, of which Molly Freeman's misbehaviour was
only one example.  And so from Molly Freeman and her six young men
she proceeded to Dr Gaythorne, the town medical officer, who had
got two of the nurses at the Cottage Hospital with child, and then
to Mrs Corn, the Town Clerk's wife, found lying in a field dead
drunk on eau-de-Cologne, and then to the curate at St Wedekind's in
Millborough, who had involved himself in a grave scandal with a
choirboy; and so it went on, one thing leading to another.  For
there was hardly a soul in the town or the surrounding country
about whom Mrs Semprill could not disclose some festering secret if
you listened to her long enough.

It was noticeable that her stories were not only dirty and
libellous, but they had nearly always some monstrous tinge of
perversion about them.  Compared with the ordinary scandalmongers
of a country town, she was Freud to Boccaccio.  From hearing her
talk you would have gathered the impression that Knype Hill with
its thousand inhabitants held more of the refinements of evil than
Sodom, Gomorrah, and Buenos Aires put together.  Indeed, when you
reflected upon the lives led by the inhabitants of this latter-day
City of the Plain--from the manager of the local bank squandering
his clients' money on the children of his second and bigamous
marriage, to the barmaid of the Dog and Bottle serving drinks in
the taproom dressed only in high-heeled satin slippers, and from
old Miss Channon, the music-teacher, with her secret gin bottle and
her anonymous letters, to Maggie White, the baker's daughter, who
had borne three children to her own brother--when you considered
these people, all, young and old, rich and poor, sunken in
monstrous and Babylonian vices, you wondered that fire did not come
down from Heaven and consume the town forthwith.  But if you
listened just a little longer, the catalogue of obscenities became
first monstrous and then unbearably dull.  For in a town in which
EVERYONE is either a bigamist, a pederast, or a drug-taker, the
worst scandal loses its sting.  In fact, Mrs Semprill was something
worse than a slanderer; she was a bore.

As to the extent to which her stories were believed, it varied.  At
times the word would go round that she was a foul-mouthed old cat
and everything she said was a pack of lies; at other times one of
her accusations would take effect on some unfortunate person, who
would need months or even years to live it down.  She had certainly
been instrumental in breaking off not less than half a dozen
engagements and starting innumerable quarrels between husbands and
wives.

All this while Dorothy had been making abortive efforts to shake
Mrs Semprill off.  She had edged her way gradually across the
street until she was wheeling her bicycle along the right-hand
kerb; but Mrs Semprill had followed, whispering without cease.  It
was not until they reached the end of the High Street that Dorothy
summoned up enough firmness to escape.  She halted and put her
right foot on the pedal of her bicycle.

'I really can't stop a moment longer,' she said.  'I've got a
thousand things to do, and I'm late already.'

'Oh, but, Dorothy dear!  I've something else I simply MUST tell
you--something most IMPORTANT!'

'I'm sorry--I'm in such a terrible hurry.  Another time, perhaps.'

'It's about that DREADFUL Mr Warburton,' said Mrs Semprill hastily,
lest Dorothy should escape without hearing it.  'He's just come
back from London, and do you know--I most PARTICULARLY wanted to
tell you this--do you know, he actually--'

But here Dorothy saw that she must make off instantly, at no matter
what cost.  She could imagine nothing more uncomfortable than to
have to discuss Mr Warburton with Mrs Semprill.  She mounted her
bicycle, and with only a very brief 'Sorry--I really CAN'T stop!'
began to ride hurriedly away.

'I wanted to tell you--he's taken up with a new woman!' Mrs
Semprill cried after her, even forgetting to whisper in her
eagerness to pass on this juicy titbit.

But Dorothy rode swiftly round the corner, not looking back, and
pretending not to have heard.  An unwise thing to do, for it did
not pay to cut Mrs Semprill too short.  Any unwillingness to listen
to her scandals was taken as a sign of depravity, and led to fresh
and worse scandals being published about yourself the moment you
had left her.

As Dorothy rode homewards she had uncharitable thoughts about Mrs
Semprill, for which she duly pinched herself.  Also, there was
another, rather disturbing idea which had not occurred to her till
this moment--that Mrs Semprill would certainly learn of her visit
to Mr Warburton's house this evening, and would probably have
magnified it into something scandalous by tomorrow.  The thought
sent a vague premonition of evil through Dorothy's mind as she
jumped off her bicycle at the Rectory gate, where Silly Jack, the
town idiot, a third-grade moron with a triangular scarlet face like
a strawberry, was loitering, vacantly flogging the gatepost with a
hazel switch.



4


It was a little after eleven.  The day, which, like some overripe
but hopeful widow playing at seventeen, had been putting on
unseasonable April airs, had now remembered that it was August and
settled down to be boiling hot.

Dorothy rode into the hamlet of Fennelwick, a mile out of Knype
Hill.  She had delivered Mrs Lewin's corn-plaster, and was dropping
in to give old Mrs Pither that cutting from the Daily Mail about
angelica tea for rheumatism.  The sun, burning in the cloudless
sky, scorched her back through her gingham frock, and the dusty
road quivered in the heat, and the hot, flat meadows, over which
even at this time of year numberless larks chirruped tiresomely,
were so green that it hurt your eyes to look at them.  It was the
kind of day that is called 'glorious' by people who don't have to
work.

Dorothy leaned her bicycle against the gate of the Pithers'
cottage, and took her handkerchief out of her bag and wiped her
hands, which were sweating from the handle-bars.  In the harsh
sunlight her face looked pinched and colourless.  She looked her
age, and something over, at that hour of the morning.  Throughout
her day--and in general it was a seventeen-hour day--she had
regular, alternating periods of tiredness and energy; the middle of
the morning, when she was doing the first instalment of the day's
'visiting', was one of the tired periods.

'Visiting', because of the distances she had to bicycle from house
to house, took up nearly half of Dorothy's day.  Every day of her
life, except on Sundays, she made from half a dozen to a dozen
visits at parishioners' cottages.  She penetrated into cramped
interiors and sat on lumpy, dust-diffusing chairs gossiping with
overworked, blowsy housewives; she spent hurried half-hours giving
a hand with the mending and the ironing, and read chapters from the
Gospels, and readjusted bandages on 'bad legs', and condoled with
sufferers from morning-sickness; she played ride-a-cock-horse with
sour-smelling children who grimed the bosom of her dress with their
sticky little fingers; she gave advice about ailing aspidistras,
and suggested names for babies, and drank 'nice cups of tea'
innumerable--for the working women always wanted her to have a
'nice cup of tea', out of the teapot endlessly stewing.

Much of it was profoundly discouraging work.  Few, very few, of the
women seemed to have even a conception of the Christian life that
she was trying to help them to lead.  Some of them were shy and
suspicious, stood on the defensive, and made excuses when urged to
come to Holy Communion; some shammed piety for the sake of the tiny
sums they could wheedle out of the church alms box; those who
welcomed her coming were for the most part the talkative ones, who
wanted an audience for complaints about the 'goings on' of their
husbands, or for endless mortuary tales ('And he had to have glass
chubes let into his veins,' etc., etc.) about the revolting
diseases their relatives had died of.  Quite half the women on her
list, Dorothy knew, were at heart atheistical in a vague
unreasoning way.  She came up against it all day long--that vague,
blank disbelief so common in illiterate people, against which all
argument is powerless.  Do what she would, she could never raise
the number of regular communicants to more than a dozen or
thereabouts.  Women would promise to communicate, keep their
promise for a month or two, and then fall away.  With the younger
women it was especially hopeless.  They would not even join the
local branches of the church leagues that were run for their
benefit--Dorothy was honorary secretary of three such leagues,
besides being captain of the Girl Guides.  The Band of Hope and the
Companionship of Marriage languished almost memberless, and the
Mothers' Union only kept going because gossip and unlimited strong
tea made the weekly sewing-parties acceptable.  Yes, it was
discouraging work; so discouraging that at times it would have
seemed altogether futile if she had not known the sense of futility
for what it is--the subtlest weapon of the Devil.

Dorothy knocked at the Pithers' badly fitting door, from beneath
which a melancholy smell of boiled cabbage and dish-water was
oozing.  From long experience she knew and could taste in advance
the individual smell of every cottage on her rounds.  Some of their
smells were peculiar in the extreme.  For instance, there was the
salty, feral smell that haunted the cottage of old Mr Tombs, an
aged retired bookseller who lay in bed all day in a darkened room,
with his long, dusty nose and pebble spectacles protruding from
what appeared to be a fur rug of vast size and richness.

But if you put your hand on the fur rug it disintegrated, burst and
fled in all directions.  It was composed entirely of cats--twenty-
four cats, to be exact.  Mr Tombs 'found they kept him warm', he
used to explain.  In nearly all the cottages there was a basic
smell of old overcoats and dish-water upon which the other,
individual smells were superimposed; the cesspool smell, the
cabbage smell, the smell of children, the strong, bacon-like reek
of corduroys impregnated with the sweat of a decade.

Mrs Pither opened the door, which invariably stuck to the jamb, and
then, when you wrenched it open, shook the whole cottage.  She was
a large, stooping, grey woman with wispy grey hair, a sacking
apron, and shuffling carpet slippers.

'Why, if it isn't Miss Dorothy!' she exclaimed in a dreary,
lifeless but not unaffectionate voice.

She took Dorothy between her large, gnarled hands, whose knuckles
were as shiny as skinned onions from age and ceaseless washing up,
and gave her a wet kiss.  Then she drew her into the unclean
interior of the cottage.

'Pither's away at work, Miss,' she announced as they got inside.
'Up to Dr Gaythorne's he is, a-digging over the doctor's flower-
beds for him.'

Mr Pither was a jobbing gardener.  He and his wife, both of them
over seventy, were one of the few genuinely pious couples on
Dorothy's visiting list.  Mrs Pither led a dreary, wormlike life of
shuffling to and fro, with a perpetual crick in her neck because
the door lintels were too low for her, between the well, the sink,
the fireplace, and the tiny plot of kitchen garden.  The kitchen
was decently tidy, but oppressively hot, evil-smelling and
saturated with ancient dust.  At the end opposite the fireplace Mrs
Pither had made a kind of prie-dieu out of a greasy rag mat laid in
front of a tiny, defunct harmonium, on top of which were an
oleographed crucifixion, 'Watch and Pray' done in beadwork, and a
photograph of Mr and Mrs Pither on their wedding day in 1882.

'Poor Pither!' went on Mrs Pither in her depressing voice, 'him a-
digging at his age, with his rheumatism THAT bad!  Ain't it cruel
hard, Miss?  And he's had a kind of a pain between his legs, Miss,
as he can't seem to account for--terrible bad he's been with it,
these last few mornings.  Ain't it bitter hard, Miss, the lives us
poor working folks has to lead?'

'It's a shame,' said Dorothy.  'But I hope you've been keeping a
little better yourself, Mrs Pither?'

'Ah, Miss, there's nothing don't make ME better.  I ain't a case
for curing, not in THIS world, I ain't.  I shan't never get no
better, not in this wicked world down here.'

'Oh, you mustn't say that, Mrs Pither!  I hope we shall have you
with us for a long time yet.'

'Ah, Miss, you don't know how poorly I've been this last week!
I've had the rheumatism a-coming and a-going all down the backs of
my poor old legs, till there's some mornings when I don't feel as I
can't walk so far as to pull a handful of onions in the garden.
Ah, Miss, it's a weary world we lives in, ain't it, Miss?  A weary,
sinful world.'

'But of course we must never forget, Mrs Pither, that there's a
better world coming.  This life is only a time of trial--just to
strengthen us and teach us to be patient, so that we'll be ready
for Heaven when the time comes.'

At this a sudden and remarkable change came over Mrs Pither.  It
was produced by the word 'Heaven'.  Mrs Pither had only two
subjects of conversation; one of them was the joys of Heaven, and
the other the miseries of her present state.  Dorothy's remark
seemed to act upon her like a charm.  Her dull grey eye was not
capable of brightening, but her voice quickened with an almost
joyful enthusiasm.

'Ah, Miss, there you said it!  That's a true word, Miss!  That's
what Pither and me keeps a-saying to ourselves.  And that's just
the one thing as keeps us a-going--just the thought of Heaven and
the long, long rest we'll have there.  Whatever we've suffered, we
gets it all back in Heaven, don't we, Miss?  Every little bit of
suffering, you gets it back a hundredfold and a thousandfold.  That
IS true, ain't it, Miss?  There's rest for us all in Heaven--rest
and peace and no more rheumatism nor digging nor cooking nor
laundering nor nothing.  You DO believe that, don't you, Miss
Dorothy?'

'Of course,' said Dorothy.

'Ah, Miss, if you knew how it comforts us--just the thoughts of
Heaven!  Pither he says to me, when he comes home tired of a night
and our rheumatism's bad, "Never you mind, my dear," he says, "we
ain't far off Heaven now," he says.  "Heaven was made for the likes
of us," he says; "just for poor working folks like us, that have
been sober and godly and kept our Communions regular."  That's the
best way, ain't it, Miss Dorothy--poor in this life and rich in the
next?  Not like some of them rich folks as all their motorcars and
their beautiful houses won't save from the worm that dieth not and
the fire that's not quenched.  Such a beautiful text, that is.  Do
you think you could say a little prayer with me, Miss Dorothy?  I
been looking forward all the morning to a little prayer.

Mrs Pither was always ready for a 'little prayer' at any hour of
the night or day.  It was her equivalent to a 'nice cup of tea'.
They knelt down on the rag mat and said the Lord's Prayer and the
Collect for the week; and then Dorothy, at Mrs Pither's request,
read the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Mrs Pither coming in from
time to time with 'Amen!  That's a true word, ain't it, Miss
Dorothy?  "And he was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom."
Beautiful!  Oh, I do call that just too beautiful!  Amen, Miss
Dorothy--Amen!'

Dorothy gave Mrs Pither the cutting from the Daily Mail about
angelica tea for rheumatism, and then, finding that Mrs Pither had
been too 'poorly' to draw the day's supply of water, she drew three
bucketfuls for her from the well.  It was a very deep well, with
such a low parapet that Mrs Pither's final doom would almost
certainly be to fall into it and get drowned, and it had not even a
winch--you had to haul the bucket up hand over hand.  And then they
sat down for a few minutes, and Mrs Pither talked some more about
Heaven.  It was extraordinary how constantly Heaven reigned in her
thoughts; and more extraordinary yet was the actuality, the
vividness with which she could see it.  The golden streets and the
gates of orient pearl were as real to her as though they had been
actually before her eyes.  And her vision extended to the most
concrete, the most earthly details.  The softness of the beds up
there!  The deliciousness of the food!  The lovely silk clothes
that you would put on clean every morning!  The surcease from
everlasting to everlasting from work of any description!  In almost
every moment of her life the vision of Heaven supported and
consoled her, and her abject complaints about the lives of 'poor
working folks' were curiously tempered by a satisfaction in the
thought that, after all, it is 'poor working folks' who are the
principal inhabitants of Heaven.  It was a sort of bargain that she
had struck, setting her lifetime of dreary labour against an
eternity of bliss.  Her faith was almost TOO great, if that is
possible.  For it was a curious fact, but the certitude with which
Mrs Pither looked forward to Heaven--as to some kind of glorified
home for incurables--affected Dorothy with strange uneasiness.

Dorothy prepared to depart, while Mrs Pither thanked her, rather
too effusively, for her visit, winding up, as usual, with fresh
complaints about her rheumatism.

'I'll be sure and take the angelica tea,' she concluded, 'and thank
you kindly for telling me of it, Miss.  Not as I don't expect as
it'll do me much good.  Ah, Miss, if you knew how cruel bad my
rheumatism's been this last week!  All down the backs of my legs,
it is, like a regular shooting red-hot poker, and I don't seem to
be able to get at them to rub them properly.  Would it be asking
too much of you, Miss, to give me a bit of a rub-down before you
go?  I got a bottle of Elliman's under the sink.'

Unseen by Mrs Pither, Dorothy gave herself a severe pinch.  She had
been expecting this, and--she had done it so many times before--she
really did NOT enjoy rubbing Mrs Pither down.  She exhorted herself
angrily.  Come on, Dorothy!  No sniffishness, please!  John xiii,
14.  'Of course I will, Mrs Pither!' she said instantly.

They went up the narrow, rickety staircase, in which you had to
bend almost double at one place to avoid the overhanging ceiling.
The bedroom was lighted by a tiny square of window that was jammed
in its socket by the creeper outside, and had not been opened in
twenty years.  There was an enormous double bed that almost filled
the room, with sheets perennially damp and a flock mattress as full
of hills and valleys as a contour map of Switzerland.  With many
groans the old woman crept on to the bed and laid herself face
down.  The room reeked of urine and paregoric.  Dorothy took the
bottle of Elliman's embrocation and carefully anointed Mrs Pither's
large, grey-veined, flaccid legs.

Outside, in the swimming heat, she mounted her bicycle and began to
ride swiftly homewards.  The sun burned in her face, but the air
now seemed sweet and fresh.  She was happy, happy!  She was always
extravagantly happy when her morning's 'visiting' was over; and,
curiously enough, she was not aware of the reason for this.  In
Borlase the dairy-farmer's meadow the red cows were grazing, knee-
deep in shining seas of grass.  The scent of cows, like a
distillation of vanilla and fresh hay, floated into Dorothy's
nostrils.  Though she had still a morning's work in front of her
she could not resist the temptation to loiter for a moment,
steadying her bicycle with one hand against the gate of Borlase's
meadow, while a cow, with moist shell-pink nose, scratched its chin
upon the gatepost and dreamily regarded her.

Dorothy caught sight of a wild rose, flowerless of course, growing
beyond the hedge, and climbed over the gate with the intention of
discovering whether it were not sweetbriar.  She knelt down among
the tall weeds beneath the hedge.  It was very hot down there,
close to the ground.  The humming of many unseen insects sounded in
her ears, and the hot summery fume from the tangled swathes of
vegetation flowed up and enveloped her.  Near by, tall stalks of
fennel were growing, with trailing fronds of foliage like the tails
of sea-green horses.  Dorothy pulled a frond of the fennel against
her face and breathed in the strong sweet scent.  Its richness
overwhelmed her, almost dizzied her for a moment.  She drank it in,
filling her lungs with it.  Lovely, lovely scent--scent of summer
days, scent of childhood joys, scent of spice-drenched islands in
the warm foam of Oriental seas!

Her heart swelled with sudden joy.  It was that mystical joy in
the beauty of the earth and the very nature of things that she
recognized, perhaps mistakenly, as the love of God.  As she knelt
there in the heat, the sweet odour and the drowsy hum of insects,
it seemed to her that she could momentarily hear the mighty anthem
of praise that the earth and all created things send up
everlastingly to their maker.  All vegetation, leaves, flowers,
grass, shining, vibrating, crying out in their joy.  Larks also
chanting, choirs of larks invisible, dripping music from the sky.
All the riches of summer, the warmth of the earth, the song of
birds, the fume of cows, the droning of countless bees, mingling
and ascending like the smoke of ever-burning altars.  Therefore
with Angels and Archangels!  She began to pray, and for a moment
she prayed ardently, blissfully, forgetting herself in the joy of
her worship.  Then, less than a minute later, she discovered that
she was kissing the frond of the fennel that was still against her
face.

She checked herself instantly, and drew back.  What was she doing?
Was it God that she was worshipping, or was it only the earth?
The joy ebbed out of her heart, to be succeeded by the cold,
uncomfortable feeling that she had been betrayed into a half-pagan
ecstasy.  She admonished herself.  None of THAT, Dorothy!  No
Nature-worship, please!  Her father had warned her against Nature-
worship.  She had heard him preach more than one sermon against it;
it was, he said, mere pantheism, and, what seemed to offend him
even more, a disgusting modern fad.  Dorothy took a thorn of the
wild rose, and pricked her arm three times, to remind herself of
the Three Persons of the Trinity, before climbing over the gate and
remounting her bicycle.

A black, very dusty shovel hat was approaching round the corner of
the hedge.  It was Father McGuire, the Roman Catholic priest, also
bicycling his rounds.  He was a very large, rotund man, so large
that he dwarfed the bicycle beneath him and seemed to be balanced
on top of it like a golf-ball on a tee.  His face was rosy,
humorous, and a little sly.

Dorothy looked suddenly unhappy.  She turned pink, and her hand
moved instinctively to the neighbourhood of the gold cross beneath
her dress.  Father McGuire was riding towards her with an
untroubled, faintly amused air.  She made an endeavour to smile,
and murmured unhappily, 'Good morning.'  But he rode on without a
sign; his eyes swept easily over her face and then beyond her into
vacancy, with an admirable pretence of not having noticed her
existence.  It was the Cut Direct.  Dorothy--by nature, alas!
unequal to delivering the Cut Direct--got on to her bicycle and
rode away, struggling with the uncharitable thoughts which a
meeting with Father McGuire never failed to arouse in her.

Five or six years earlier, when Father McGuire was holding a
funeral in St Athelstan's churchyard (there was no Roman Catholic
cemetery at Knype Hill), there had been some dispute with the
Rector about the propriety of Father McGuire robing in the church,
or not robing in the church, and the two priests had wrangled
disgracefully over the open grave.  Since then they had not been on
speaking terms.  It was better so, the Rector said.

As to the other ministers of religion in Knype Hill--Mr Ward the
Congregationalist minister, Mr Foley the Wesleyan pastor, and the
braying bald-headed elder who conducted the orgies at Ebenezer
Chapel--the Rector called them a pack of vulgar Dissenters and had
forbidden Dorothy on pain of his displeasure to have anything to do
with them.



5


It was twelve o'clock.  In the large, dilapidated conservatory,
whose roof-panes, from the action of time and dirt, were dim,
green, and iridescent like old Roman glass, they were having a
hurried and noisy rehearsal of Charles I.

Dorothy was not actually taking part in the rehearsal, but was busy
making costumes.  She made the costumes, or most of them, for all
the plays the schoolchildren acted.  The production and stage
management were in the hands of Victor Stone--Victor, Dorothy
called him--the Church schoolmaster.  He was a small-boned,
excitable, black-haired youth of twenty-seven, dressed in dark sub-
clerical clothes, and at this moment he was gesturing fiercely with
a roll of manuscript at six dense-looking children.  On a long
bench against the wall four more children were alternately
practising 'noises off' by clashing fire-irons together, and
squabbling over a grimy little bag of Spearmint Bouncers, forty a
penny.

It was horribly hot in the conservatory, and there was a powerful
smell of glue and the sour sweat of children.  Dorothy was kneeling
on the floor, with her mouth full of pins and a pair of shears in
her hand, rapidly slicing sheets of brown paper into long narrow
strips.  The glue-pot was bubbling on an oil-stove beside her;
behind her, on the rickety, ink-stained work-table, were a tangle
of half-finished costumes, more sheets of brown paper, her sewing-
machine, bundles of tow, shards of dry glue, wooden swords, and
open pots of paint.  With half her mind Dorothy was meditating upon
the two pairs of seventeenth-century jackboots that had got to be
made for Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, and with the other half
listening to the angry shouts of Victor, who was working himself up
into a rage, as he invariably did at rehearsals.  He was a natural
actor, and withal thoroughly bored by the drudgery of rehearsing
half-witted children.  He strode up and down, haranguing the
children in a vehement slangy style, and every now and then
breaking off to lunge at one or other of them with a wooden sword
that he had grabbed from the table.

'Put a bit of life into it, can't you?' he cried, prodding an ox-
faced boy of eleven in the belly.  'Don't drone!  Say it as if it
meant something!  You look like a corpse that's been buried and dug
up again.  What's the good of gurgling it down in your inside like
that?  Stand up and shout at him.  Take off that second murderer
expression!'

'Come here, Percy!' cried Dorothy through her pins.  'Quick!'

She was making the armour--the worst job of the lot, except those
wretched jackboots--out of glue and brown paper.  From long
practice Dorothy could make very nearly anything out of glue and
brown paper; she could even make a passably good periwig, with a
brown paper skull-cap and dyed tow for the hair.  Taking the year
through, the amount of time she spent in struggling with glue,
brown paper, butter muslin, and all the other paraphernalia of
amateur theatricals was enormous.  So chronic was the need of money
for all the church funds that hardly a month ever passed when there
was not a school play or a pageant or an exhibition of tableaux
vivants on hand--not to mention the bazaars and jumble sales.

As Percy--Percy Jowett, the blacksmith's son, a small curly-headed
boy--got down from the bench and stood wriggling unhappily before
her, Dorothy seized a sheet of brown paper, measured it against
him, snipped out the neckhole and armholes, draped it round his
middle and rapidly pinned it into the shape of a rough breastplate.
There was a confused din of voices.


VICTOR:  Come on, now, come on!  Enter Oliver Cromwell--that's you!
NO, not like that!  Do you think Oliver Cromwell would come
slinking on like a dog that's just had a hiding?  Stand up.  Stick
your chest out.  Scowl.  That's better.  Now go on, CROMWELL:
'Halt!  I hold a pistol in my hand!'  Go on.

A GIRL:  Please, Miss, Mother said as I was to tell you, Miss--

DOROTHY:  Keep still, Percy!  For goodness' SAKE keep still!

CROMWELL:  'Alt!  I 'old a pistol in my 'and!

A SMALL GIRL ON THE BENCH:  Mister!  I've dropped my sweetie!
[Snivelling]  I've dropped by swee-e-e-etie!

VICTOR:  No, no, NO, Tommie!  No, no, NO!

THE GIRL:  Please, Miss, Mother said as I was to tell you as she
couldn't make my knickers like she promised, Miss, because--

DOROTHY:  You'll make me swallow a pin if you do that again.

CROMWELL:  Halt!  I Hold a pistol--

THE SMALL GIRL [in tears]:  My swee-e-e-e-eetie!


Dorothy seized the glue-brush, and with feverish speed pasted
strips of brown paper all over Percy's thorax, up and down,
backwards and forwards, one on top of another, pausing only when
the paper stuck to her fingers.  In five minutes she had made a
cuirass of glue and brown paper stout enough, when it was dry, to
have defied a real sword-blade.  Percy, 'locked up in complete
steel' and with the sharp paper edge cutting his chin, looked down
at himself with the miserable resigned expression of a dog having
its bath.  Dorothy took the shears, slit the breastplate up one
side, set it on end to dry and started immediately on another
child.  A fearful clatter broke out as the 'noises off' began
practising the sound of pistol-shots and horses galloping.
Dorothy's fingers were getting stickier and stickier, but from time
to time she washed some of the glue off them in a bucket of hot
water that was kept in readiness.  In twenty minutes she had
partially completed three breastplates.  Later on they would have
to be finished off, painted over with aluminium paint and laced up
the sides; and after that there was the job of making the thigh-
pieces, and, worst of all, the helmets to go with them.  Victor,
gesticulating with his sword and shouting to overcome the din of
galloping horses, was personating in turn Oliver Cromwell, Charles
I, Roundheads, Cavaliers, peasants, and Court ladies.  The children
were now growing restive and beginning to yawn, whine, and exchange
furtive kicks and pinches.  The breastplates finished for the
moment, Dorothy swept some of the litter off the table, pulled her
sewing-machine into position and set to work on a Cavalier's green
velvet doublet--it was butter muslin Twinked green, but it looked
all right at a distance.

There was another ten minutes of feverish work.  Dorothy broke her
thread, all but said 'Damn!' checked herself and hurriedly re-
threaded the needle.  She was working against time.  The play was
now a fortnight distant, and there was such a multitude of things
yet to be made--helmets, doublets, swords, jackboots (those
miserable jackboots had been haunting her like a nightmare for days
past), scabbards, ruffles, wigs, spurs, scenery--that her heart
sank when she thought of them.  The children's parents never helped
with the costumes for the school plays; more exactly, they always
promised to help and then backed out afterwards.  Dorothy's head
was aching diabolically, partly from the heat of the conservatory,
partly from the strain of simultaneously sewing and trying to
visualize patterns for brown paper jackboots.  For the moment she
had even forgotten the bill for twenty-one pounds seven and
ninepence at Cargill's.  She could think of nothing save that
fearful mountain of unmade clothes that lay ahead of her.  It was
so throughout the day.  One thing loomed up after another--whether
it was the costumes for the school play or the collapsing floor of
the belfry, or the shop-debts or the bindweed in the peas--and each
in its turn so urgent and so harassing that it blotted all the
others out of existence.

Victor threw down his wooden sword, took out his watch and looked
at it.

'That'll do!' he said in the abrupt, ruthless tone from which he
never departed when he was dealing with children.  'We'll go on on
Friday.  Clear out, the lot of you!  I'm sick of the sight of you.'

He watched the children out, and then, having forgotten their
existence as soon as they were out of his sight, produced a page of
music from his pocket and began to fidget up and down, cocking his
eye at two forlorn plants in the corner which trailed their dead
brown tendrils over the edges of their pots.  Dorothy was still
bending over her machine, stitching up the seams of the green
velvet doublet.

Victor was a restless, intelligent little creature, and only happy
when he was quarrelling with somebody or something.  His pale,
fine-featured face wore an expression that appeared to be
discontent and was really boyish eagerness.  People meeting him for
the first time usually said that he was wasting his talents in his
obscure job as a village schoolmaster; but the truth was that
Victor had no very marketable talents except a slight gift for
music and a much more pronounced gift for dealing with children.
Ineffectual in other ways, he was excellent with children; he had
the proper, ruthless attitude towards them.  But of course, like
everyone else, he despised his own especial talent.  His interests
were almost purely ecclesiastical.  He was what people call a
CHURCHY young man.  It had always been his ambition to enter the
Church, and he would actually have done so if he had possessed the
kind of brain that is capable of learning Greek and Hebrew.
Debarred from the priesthood, he had drifted quite naturally into
his position as a Church schoolmaster and organist.  It kept him,
so to speak, within the Church precincts.  Needless to say, he was
an Anglo-Catholic of the most truculent Church Times breed--more
clerical than the clerics, knowledgeable about Church history,
expert on vestments, and ready at any moment with a furious tirade
against Modernists, Protestants, scientists, Bolshevists, and
atheists.

'I was thinking,' said Dorothy as she stopped her machine and
snipped off the thread, 'we might make those helmets out of old
bowler hats, if we can get hold of enough of them.  Cut the brims
off, put on paper brims of the right shape and silver them over.'

'Oh Lord, why worry your head about such things?' said Victor, who
had lost interest in the play the moment the rehearsal was over.

'It's those wretched jackboots that are worrying me the most,' said
Dorothy, taking the doublet on to her knee and looking at it.

'Oh, bother the jackboots!  Let's stop thinking about the play for
a moment.  Look here,' said Victor, unrolling his page of music, 'I
want you to speak to your father for me.  I wish you'd ask him
whether we can't have a procession some time next month.'

'Another procession?  What for?'

'Oh, I don't know.  You can always find an excuse for a procession.
There's the Nativity of the B.V.M. coming off on the eighth--that's
good enough for a procession, I should think.  We'll do it in
style.  I've got hold of a splendid rousing hymn that they can all
bellow, and perhaps we could borrow their blue banner with the
Virgin Mary on it from St Wedekind's in Millborough.  If he'll say
the word I'll start practising the choir at once.'

'You know he'll only say no,' said Dorothy, threading a needle to
sew buttons on the doublet.  'He doesn't really approve of
processions.  It's much better not to ask him and make him angry.'

'Oh, but dash it all!' protested Victor.  'It's simply months since
we've had a procession.  I never saw such dead-alive services as we
have here.  You'd think we were a Baptist chapel or something, from
the way we go on.'

Victor chafed ceaselessly against the dull correctness of the
Rector's services.  His ideal was what he called 'the real Catholic
worship'--meaning unlimited incense, gilded images, and more Roman
vestments.  In his capacity of organist he was for ever pressing
for more processions, more voluptuous music, more elaborate
chanting in the liturgy, so that it was a continuous pull devil,
pull baker between him and the Rector.  And on this point Dorothy
sided with her father.  Having been brought up in the peculiar,
frigid via media of Anglicanism, she was by nature averse to and
half-afraid of anything 'ritualistic'.

'But dash it all!' went on Victor, 'a procession is such fun!  Down
the aisle, out through the west door and back through the south
door, with the choir carrying candles behind and the Boy Scouts in
front with the banner.  It would look fine.'  He sang a stave in a
thin but tuneful tenor:

'Hail thee, Festival Day, blest day that art hallowed for ever!'

'If I had MY way,' he added, 'I'd have a couple of boys swinging
jolly good censers of incense at the same time.'

'Yes, but you know how much Father dislikes that kind of thing.
Especially when it's anything to do with the Virgin Mary.  He says
it's all Roman Fever and leads to people crossing themselves and
genuflecting at the wrong times and goodness knows what.  You
remember what happened at Advent.'

The previous year, on his own responsibility, Victor had chosen as
one of the hymns for Advent, Number 642, with the refrain 'Hail
Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary full of grace!'  This piece of
popishness had annoyed the Rector extremely.  At the close of the
first verse he had pointedly laid down his hymn book, turned round
in his stall and stood regarding the congregation with an air so
stony that some of the choirboys faltered and almost broke down.
Afterwards he had said that to hear the rustics bawling ''Ail Mary!
'Ail Mary!' made him think he was in the four-ale bar of the Dog
and Bottle.

'But dash it!' said Victor in his aggrieved way, 'your father
always puts his foot down when I try and get a bit of life into the
service.  He won't allow us incense, or decent music, or proper
vestments, or anything.  And what's the result?  We can't get
enough people to fill the church a quarter full, even on Easter
Sunday.  You look round the church on Sunday morning, and it's
nothing but the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides and a few old
women.'

'I know.  It's dreadful,' admitted Dorothy, sewing on her button.
'It doesn't seem to make any difference what we do--we simply CAN'T
get the people to come to church.  Still,' she added, 'they do come
to us to be married and buried.  And I don't think the congregation's
actually gone down this year.  There were nearly two hundred people
at Easter Communion.'

'Two hundred!  It ought to be two thousand.  That's the population
of this town.  The fact is that three quarters of the people in
this place never go near a church in their lives.  The Church has
absolutely lost its hold over them.  They don't know that it
exists.  And why?  That's what I'm getting at.  Why?'

'I suppose it's all this Science and Free Thought and all that,'
said Dorothy rather sententiously, quoting her father.

This remark deflected Victor from what he had been about to say.
He had been on the very point of saying that St Athelstan's
congregation had dwindled because of the dullness of the services;
but the hated words of Science and Free Thought set him off in
another and even more familiar channel.

'Of course it's this so-called Free Thought!' he exclaimed,
immediately beginning to fidget up and down again.  'It's these
swine of atheists like Bertrand Russell and Julian Huxley and all
that crowd.  And what's ruined the Church is that instead of jolly
well answering them and showing them up for the fools and liars
they are, we just sit tight and let them spread their beastly
atheist propaganda wherever they choose.  It's all the fault of the
bishops, of course.'  (Like every Anglo-Catholic, Victor had an
abysmal contempt for bishops.)  'They're all Modernists and time-
servers.  By Jove!' he added more cheerfully, halting, 'did you see
my letter in the Church Times last week?'

'No, I'm afraid I didn't,' said Dorothy, holding another button in
position with her thumb.  'What was it about?'

'Oh, Modernist bishops and all that.  I got in a good swipe at old
Barnes.'

It was very rarely that a week passed when Victor did not write a
letter to the Church Times.  He was in the thick of every
controversy and in the forefront of every assault upon Modernists
and atheists.  He had twice been in combat with Dr Major, had
written letters of withering irony about Dean Inge and the Bishop
of Birmingham, and had not hesitated to attack even the fiendish
Russell himself--but Russell, of course, had not dared to reply.
Dorothy, to tell the truth, very seldom read the Church Times, and
the Rector grew angry if he so much as saw a copy of it in the
house.  The weekly paper they took in the Rectory was the High
Churchman's Gazette--a fine old High Tory anachronism with a small
and select circulation.

'That swine Russell!' said Victor reminiscently, with his hands
deep in his pockets.  'How he does make my blood boil!'

'Isn't that the man who's such a clever mathematician, or
something?' said Dorothy, biting off her thread.

'Oh, I dare say he's clever enough in his own line, of course,'
admitted Victor grudgingly.  'But what's that got to do with it?
Just because a man's clever at figures it doesn't mean to say
that-- well, anyway!  Let's come back to what I was saying.  Why is
it that we can't get people to come to church in this place?  It's
because our services are so dreary and godless, that's what it is.
People want worship that IS worship--they want the real Catholic
worship of the real Catholic Church we belong to.  And they don't
get if from us.  All they get is the old Protestant mumbo-jumbo,
and Protestantism's as dead as a doornail, and everyone knows it.'

'That's not true!' said Dorothy rather sharply as she pressed the
third button into place.  'You know we're not Protestants.
Father's always saying that the Church of England is the Catholic
Church--he's preached I don't know how many sermons about the
Apostolic Succession.  That's why Lord Pockthorne and the others
won't come to church here.  Only he won't join in the Anglo-
Catholic movement because he thinks they're too fond of ritualism
for its own sake.  And so do I.'

'Oh, I don't say your father isn't absolutely sound on doctrine--
absolutely sound.  But if he thinks we're the Catholic Church, why
doesn't he hold the service in a proper Catholic way?  It's a shame
we can't have incense OCCASIONALLY.  And his ideas about vestments--
if you don't mind my saying it--are simply awful.  On Easter
Sunday he was wearing a Gothic cope with a modern Italian lace alb.
Dash it, it's like wearing a top hat with brown boots.'

'Well, I don't think vestments are so important as you do,' said
Dorothy.  'I think it's the spirit of the priest that matters, not
the clothes he wears.'

'That's the kind of thing a Primitive Methodist would say!'
exclaimed Victor disgustedly.  'Of course vestments are important!
Where's the sense of worshipping at all if we can't make a proper
job of it?  Now, if you want to see what real Catholic worship CAN
be like, look at St Wedekind's in Millborough!  By Jove, they do
things in style there!  Images of the Virgin, reservation of the
Sacrament--everything.  They've had the Kensitites on to them three
times, and they simply defy the Bishop.'

'Oh, I hate the way they go on at St Wedekind's!' said Dorothy.
'They're absolutely spiky.  You can hardly see what's happening at
the altar, there are such clouds of incense.  I think people like
that ought to turn Roman Catholic and have done with it.'

'My dear Dorothy, you ought to have been a Nonconformist.  You
really ought.  A Plymouth Brother--or a Plymouth Sister or whatever
it's called.  I think your favourite hymn must be Number 567, "O my
God I fear Thee, Thou art very High!"'

'Yours is Number 231, "I nightly pitch my moving tent a day's march
nearer Rome!"' retorted Dorothy, winding the thread round the last
button.

The argument continued for several minutes while Dorothy adorned a
Cavalier's beaver hat (it was an old black felt school hat of her
own) with plume and ribbons.  She and Victor were never long
together without being involved in an argument upon the question of
'ritualism'.  In Dorothy's opinion Victor was a kind to 'go over to
Rome' if not prevented, and she was very likely right.  But Victor
was not yet aware of his probable destiny.  At present the fevers
of the Anglo-Catholic movement, with its ceaseless exciting warfare
on three fronts at once--Protestants to right of you, Modernists to
the left of you, and, unfortunately, Roman Catholics to rear of you
and always ready for a sly kick in the pants--filled his mental
horizon.  Scoring off Dr Major in the Church Times meant more to
him than any of the serious business of life.  But for all his
churchiness he had not an atom of real piety in his constitution.
It was essentially as a game that religious controversy appealed to
him--the most absorbing game ever invented, because it goes on for
ever and because just a little cheating is allowed.

'Thank goodness, that's done!' said Dorothy, twiddling the
Cavalier's beaver hat round on her hand and then putting it down.
'Oh dear, what piles of things there are still to do, though!  I
wish I could get those wretched jackboots off my mind.  What's the
time, Victor?'

'It's nearly five to one.'

'Oh, good gracious!  I must run.  I've got three omelettes to make.
I daren't trust them to Ellen.  And, oh, Victor!  Have you got
anything you can give us for the jumble sale?  If you had an old
pair of trousers you could give us, that would be best of all,
because we can always sell trousers.'

'Trousers?  No.  But I tell you what I have got, though.  I've got
a copy of The Pilgrim's Progress and another of Foxe's Book of
Martyrs that I've been wanting to get rid of for years.  Beastly
Protestant trash!  An old Dissenting aunt of mine gave them to me.--
Doesn't it make you sick, all this cadging for pennies?  Now, if
we only held our services in a proper Catholic way, so that we
could get up a proper congregation, don't you see, we shouldn't
need--'

'That'll be splendid,' said Dorothy.  'We always have a stall for
books--we charge a penny for each book, and nearly all of them get
sold.  We simply MUST make that jumble sale a success, Victor!  I'm
counting on Miss Mayfill to give us something really NICE.  What
I'm specially hoping is that she might give us that beautiful old
Lowestoft china tea service of hers, and we could sell it for five
pounds at least.  I've been making special prayers all the morning
that she'll give it to us.'

'Oh?' said Victor, less enthusiastically than usual.  Like Proggett
earlier in the morning, he was embarrassed by the word 'prayer'.
He was ready to talk all day long about a point of ritual; but the
mention of private devotions struck him as slightly indecent.
'Don't forget to ask your father about the procession,' he said,
getting back to a more congenial topic.

'All right, I'll ask him.  But you know how it'll be.  He'll only
get annoyed and say it's Roman Fever.'

'Oh, damn Roman Fever!' said Victor, who, unlike Dorothy, did not
set himself penances for swearing.

Dorothy hurried to the kitchen, discovered that there were only
five eggs to make the omelettes for three people, and decided to
make one large omelette and swell it out a bit with the cold boiled
potatoes left over from yesterday.  With a short prayer for the
success of the omelette (for omelettes are so dreadfully apt to get
broken when you take them out of the pan), she whipped up the eggs,
while Victor made off down the drive, half wistfully and half
sulkily humming 'Hail thee, Festival Day', and passing on his way a
disgusted-looking manservant carrying the two handleless chamber-
pots which were Miss Mayfill's contribution to the jumble sale.



6


It was a little after ten o'clock.  Various things had happened--
nothing, however, of any particular importance; only the usual
round of parish jobs that filled up Dorothy's afternoon and
evening.  Now, as she had arranged earlier in the day, she was at
Mr Warburton's house, and was trying to hold her own in one of
those meandering arguments in which he delighted to entangle her.

They were talking--but indeed, Mr Warburton never failed to
manoeuvre the conversation towards this subject--about the question
of religious belief.

'My dear Dorothy,' he was saying argumentatively, as he walked up
and down with one hand in his coat pocket and the other manipulating
a Brazilian cigar.  'My dear Dorothy, you don't seriously mean to
tell me that at your age--twenty-seven, I believe--and with your
intelligence, you will retain your religious beliefs more or less
in toto?'

'Of course I do.  You know I do.'

'Oh, come, now!  The whole bag of tricks?  All that nonsense that
you learned at your mother's knee--surely you're not going to
pretend to me that you still believe in it?  But of course you
don't!  You can't!  You're afraid to own up, that's all it is.  No
need to worry about that here, you know.  The Rural Dean's wife
isn't listening, and _I_ won't give the show away.'

'I don't know what you mean by "all that NONSENSE",' began Dorothy,
sitting up straighter in her chair, a little offended.

'Well, let's take an instance.  Something particularly hard to
swallow--Hell, for instance.  Do you believe in Hell?  When I say
BELIEVE, mind you, I'm not asking whether you believe it in some
milk and water metaphorical way like these Modernist bishops young
Victor Stone gets so excited about.  I mean do you believe in it
literally?  Do you believe in Hell as you believe in Australia?'

'Yes, of course I do,' said Dorothy, and she endeavoured to explain
to him that the existence of Hell is much more real and permanent
than the existence of Australia.

'Hm,' said Mr Warburton, unimpressed.  'Very sound in its way, of
course.  But what always makes me so suspicious of you religious
people is that you're so deucedly cold-blooded about your beliefs.
It shows a very poor imagination, to say the least of it.  Here am
I an infidel and blasphemer and neck deep in at least six out of
the Seven Deadly, and obviously doomed to eternal torment.  There's
no knowing that in an hour's time I mayn't be roasting in the
hottest part of Hell.  And yet you can sit there talking to me as
calmly as though I'd nothing the matter with me.  Now, if I'd
merely got cancer or leprosy or some other bodily ailment, you'd be
quite distressed about it--at least, I like to flatter myself that
you would.  Whereas, when I'm going to sizzle on the grid
throughout eternity, you seem positively unconcerned about it.'

'I never said YOU were going to Hell,' said Dorothy somewhat
uncomfortably, and wishing that the conversation would take a
different turn.  For the truth was, though she was not going to
tell him so, that the point Mr Warburton had raised was one with
which she herself had had certain difficulties.  She did indeed
believe in Hell, but she had never been able to persuade herself
that anyone actually WENT there.  She believed that Hell existed,
but that it was empty.  Uncertain of the orthodoxy of this belief,
she preferred to keep it to herself.  'It's never certain that
ANYONE is going to Hell,' she said more firmly, feeling that here
at least she was on sure ground.

'What!' said Mr Warburton, halting in mock surprise.  'Surely you
don't mean to say that there's hope for me yet?'

'Of course there is.  It's only those horrid Predestination people
who pretend that you go to Hell whether you repent or not.  You
don't think the Church of England are Calvinists, do you?'

'I suppose there's always the chance of getting off on a plea of
Invincible Ignorance,' said Mr Warburton reflectively; and then,
more confidently:  'Do you know, Dorothy, I've a sort of feeling
that even now, after knowing me two years, you've still half an
idea you can make a convert of me.  A lost sheep--brand plucked
from the burning, and all that.  I believe you still hope against
hope that one of these days my eyes will be opened and you'll meet
me at Holy Communion at seven o'clock on some damned cold winter
morning.  Don't you?'

'Well--' said Dorothy, again uncomfortably.  She did, in fact,
entertain some such hope about Mr Warburton, though he was not
exactly a promising case for conversion.  It was not in her nature
to see a fellow being in a state of unbelief without making some
effort to reclaim him.  What hours she had spent, at different
times, earnestly debating with vague village atheists who could not
produce a single intelligible reason for their unbelief!  'Yes,'
she admitted finally, not particularly wanting to make the
admission, but not wanting to prevaricate.

Mr Warburton laughed delightedly.

'You've a hopeful nature,' he said.  'But you aren't afraid, by any
chance, that I might convert YOU?  "The dog it was that died", you
may remember.'

At this Dorothy merely smiled.  'Don't let him see he's shocking
you'--that was always her maxim when she was talking to Mr
Warburton.  They had been arguing in this manner, without coming to
any kind of conclusion, for the past hour, and might have gone on
for the rest of the night if Dorothy had been willing to stay; for
Mr Warburton delighted in teasing her about her religious beliefs.
He had that fatal cleverness that so often goes with unbelief, and
in their arguments, though Dorothy was always RIGHT, she was not
always victorious.  They were sitting, or rather Dorothy was
sitting and Mr Warburton was standing, in a large agreeable room,
giving on a moonlit lawn, that Mr Warburton called his 'studio'--
not that there was any sign of work ever having been done in it.
To Dorothy's great disappointment, the celebrated Mr Bewley had not
turned up.  (As a matter of fact, neither Mr Bewley, nor his wife,
nor his novel entitled Fishpools and Concubines, actually existed.
Mr Warburton had invented all three of them on the spur of the
moment, as a pretext for inviting Dorothy to his house, well
knowing that she would never come unchaperoned.)  Dorothy had felt
rather uneasy on finding that Mr Warburton was alone.  It had
occurred to her, indeed she had felt perfectly certain, that it
would be wiser to go home at once; but she had stayed, chiefly
because she was horribly tired and the leather armchair into which
Mr Warburton had thrust her the moment she entered the house was
too comfortable to leave.  Now, however, her conscience was
pricking her.  It DIDN'T DO to stay too late at his house--people
would talk if they heard of it.  Besides, there was a multitude of
jobs that she ought to be doing and that she had neglected in order
to come here.  She was so little used to idleness that even an hour
spent in mere talking seemed to her vaguely sinful.

She made an effort, and straightened herself in the too-comfortable
chair.  'I think, if you don't mind, it's really time I was getting
home,' she said.

'Talking of Invincible Ignorance,' went on Mr Warburton, taking no
notice of Dorothy's remark, 'I forget whether I ever told you that
once when I was standing outside the World's End pub in Chelsea,
waiting for a taxi, a damned ugly little Salvation Army lassie came
up to me and said--without any kind of introduction, you know--
"What will you say at the Judgement Seat?" I said, "I am reserving
my defence."  Rather neat, I think, don't you?'

Dorothy did not answer.  Her conscience had given her another and
harder jab--she had remembered those wretched, unmade jackboots,
and the fact that at least one of them had got to be made tonight.
She was, however, unbearably tired.  She had had an exhausting
afternoon, starting off with ten miles or so bicycling to and fro
in the sun, delivering the parish magazine, and continuing with the
Mothers' Union tea in the hot little wooden-walled room behind the
parish hall.  The Mothers met every Wednesday afternoon to have tea
and do some charitable sewing while Dorothy read aloud to them.
(At present she was reading Gene Stratton Porter's A Girl of the
Limberlost.)  It was nearly always upon Dorothy that jobs of that
kind devolved, because the phalanx of devoted women (the church
fowls, they are called) who do the dirty work of most parishes had
dwindled at Knype Hill to four or five at most.  The only helper on
whom Dorothy could count at all regularly was Miss Foote, a tall,
rabbit-faced, dithering virgin of thirty-five, who meant well but
made a mess of everything and was in a perpetual state of flurry.
Mr Warburton used to say that she reminded him of a comet--'a
ridiculous blunt-nosed creature rushing round on an eccentric orbit
and always a little behind time'.  You could trust Miss Foote with
the church decorations, but not with the Mothers or the Sunday
School, because, though a regular churchgoer, her orthodoxy was
suspect.  She had confided to Dorothy that she could worship God
best under the blue dome of the sky.  After tea Dorothy had dashed
up to the church to put fresh flowers on the altar, and then she
had typed out her father's sermon--her typewriter was a rickety
pre-Boer War 'invisible', on which you couldn't average eight
hundred words an hour--and after supper she had weeded the pea rows
until the light failed and her back seemed to be breaking.  With
one thing and another, she was even more tired than usual.

'I really MUST be getting home,' she repeated more firmly.  'I'm
sure it's getting fearfully late.'

'Home?' said Mr Warburton.  'Nonsense!  The evening's hardly begun.'

He was walking up and down the room again, with his hands in his
coat pockets, having thrown away his cigar.  The spectre of the
unmade jackboots stalked back into Dorothy's mind.  She would, she
suddenly decided, make two jackboots tonight instead of only one,
as a penance for the hour she had wasted.  She was just beginning
to make a mental sketch of the way she would cut out the pieces of
brown paper for the insteps, when she noticed that Mr Warburton had
halted behind her chair.

'What time is it, do you know?' she said.

'I dare say it might be half past ten.  But people like you and me
don't talk of such vulgar subjects as the time.'

'If it's half past ten, then I really must be going,' said Dorothy.
I've got a whole lot of work to do before I go to bed.'

'Work!  At this time of night?  Impossible!'

'Yes, I have.  I've got to make a pair of jackboots.'

'You've got to make a pair of WHAT?' said Mr Warburton.

'Of jackboots.  For the play the schoolchildren are acting.  We
make them out of glue and brown paper.'

'Glue and brown paper!  Good God!' murmured Mr Warburton.  He went
on, chiefly to cover the fact that he was drawing nearer to
Dorothy's chair:  'What a life you lead!  Messing about with glue
and brown paper in the middle of the night!  I must say, there are
times when I feel just a little glad that I'm not a clergyman's
daughter.'

'I think--' began Dorothy.

But at the same moment Mr Warburton, invisible behind her chair,
had lowered his hands and taken her gently by the shoulders.
Dorothy immediately wriggled herself in an effort to get free of
him; but Mr Warburton pressed her back into her place.

'Keep still,' he said peaceably.

'Let me go!' exclaimed Dorothy.

Mr Warburton ran his right hand caressingly down her upper arm.
There was something very revealing, very characteristic in the way
he did it; it was the lingering, appraising touch of a man to whom
a woman's body is valuable precisely in the same way as though it
were something to eat.

'You really have extraordinary nice arms,' he said.  'How on earth
have you managed to remain unmarried all these years?'

'Let me go at once!' repeated Dorothy, beginning to struggle again.

'But I don't particularly want to let you go,' objected Mr
Warburton.

'PLEASE don't stroke my arm like that!  I don't like it!'

'What a curious child you are!  Why don't you like it?'

'I tell you I don't like it!'

'Now don't go and turn round,' said Mr Warburton mildly.  'You
don't seem to realize how tactful it was on my part to approach you
from behind your back.  If you turn round you'll see that I'm old
enough to be your father, and hideously bald into the bargain.  But
if you'll only keep still and not look at me you can imagine I'm
Ivor Novello.'

Dorothy caught sight of the hand that was caressing her--a large,
pink, very masculine hand, with thick fingers and a fleece of gold
hairs upon the back.  She turned very pale; the expression of her
face altered from mere annoyance to aversion and dread.  She made a
violent effort, wrenched herself free, and stood up, facing him.

'I DO wish you wouldn't do that!' she said, half in anger and half
in distress.

'What is the matter with you?' said Mr Warburton.

He had stood upright, in his normal pose, entirely unconcerned, and
he looked at her with a touch of curiosity.  Her face had changed.
It was not only that she had turned pale; there was a withdrawn,
half-frightened look in her eyes--almost as though, for the moment,
she were looking at him with the eyes of a stranger.  He perceived
that he had wounded her in some way which he did not understand,
and which perhaps she did not want him to understand.

'What is the matter with you?' he repeated.

'WHY must you do that every time you meet me?'

'"Every time I meet you" is an exaggeration,' said Mr Warburton.
'It's really very seldom that I get the opportunity.  But if you
really and truly don't like it--'

'Of course I don't like it!  You know I don't like it!'

'Well, well!  Then let's say no more about it,' said Mr Warburton
generously.  'Sit down, and we'll change the subject.'

He was totally devoid of shame.  It was perhaps his most outstanding
characteristic.  Having attempted to seduce her, and failed, he was
quite willing to go on with the conversation as though nothing
whatever had happened.

'I'm going home at once,' said Dorothy.  'I can't stay here any
longer.'

'Oh nonsense!  Sit down and forget about it.  We'll talk of moral
theology, or cathedral architecture, or the Girl Guides' cooking
classes, or anything you choose.  Think how bored I shall be all
alone if you go home at this hour.'

But Dorothy persisted, and there was an argument.  Even if it had
not been his intention to make love to her--and whatever he might
promise he would certainly begin again in a few minutes if she did
not go--Mr Warburton would have pressed her to stay, for, like all
thoroughly idle people, he had a horror of going to bed and no
conception of the value of time.  He would, if you let him, keep
you talking till three or four in the morning.  Even when Dorothy
finally escaped, he walked beside her down the moonlit drive, still
talking voluminously and with such perfect good humour that she
found it impossible to be angry with him any longer.

'I'm leaving first thing tomorrow,' he told her as they reached the
gate.  'I'm going to take the car to town and pick up the kids--the
BASTARDS, you know--and we're leaving for France the next day.  I'm
not certain where we shall go after that; eastern Europe, perhaps.
Prague, Vienna, Bucharest.'

'How nice,' said Dorothy.

Mr Warburton, with an adroitness surprising in so large and stout a
man, had manoeuvred himself between Dorothy and the gate.

'I shall be away six months or more,' he said.  'And of course I
needn't ask, before so long a parting, whether you want to kiss me
good-bye?'

Before she knew what he was doing he had put his arm about her and
drawn her against him.  She drew back--too late; he kissed her on
the cheek--would have kissed her on the mouth if she had not turned
her head away in time.  She struggled in his arms, violently and
for a moment helplessly.

'Oh, let me go!' she cried.  'DO let me go!'

'I believe I pointed out before,' said Mr Warburton, holding her
easily against him, 'that I don't want to let you go.'

'But we're standing right in front of Mrs Semprill's window!
She'll see us absolutely for certain!'

'Oh, good God!  So she will!' said Mr Warburton.  'I was forgetting.'

Impressed by this argument, as he would not have been by any other,
he let Dorothy go.  She promptly put the gate between Mr Warburton
and herself.  He, meanwhile, was scrutinizing Mrs Semprill's
windows.

'I can't see a light anywhere,' he said finally.  'With any luck
the blasted hag hasn't seen us.'

'Good-bye,' said Dorothy briefly.  'This time I really MUST go.
Remember me to the children.'

With this she made off as fast as she could go without actually
running, to get out of his reach before he should attempt to kiss
her again.

Even as she did so a sound checked her for an instant--the
unmistakable bang of a window shutting, somewhere in Mrs Semprill's
house.  Could Mrs Semprill have been watching them after all?  But
(reflected Dorothy) of COURSE she had been watching them!  What
else could you expect?  You could hardly imagine Mrs Semprill
missing such a scene as that.  And if she HAD been watching them,
undoubtedly the story would be all over the town tomorrow morning,
and it would lose nothing in the telling.  But this thought,
sinister though it was, did no more than flight momentarily through
Dorothy's mind as she hurried down the road.

When she was well out of sight of Mr Warburton's house she stopped,
took out her handkerchief and scrubbed the place on her cheek where
he had kissed her.  She scrubbed it vigorously enough to bring the
blood into her cheek.  It was not until she had quite rubbed out
the imaginary stain which his lips had left there that she walked
on again.

What he had done had upset her.  Even now her heart was knocking
and fluttering uncomfortably.  I can't BEAR that kind of thing! she
repeated to herself several times over.  And unfortunately this was
no more than the literal truth; she really could not bear it.  To
be kissed or fondled by a man--to feel heavy male arms about her
and thick male lips bearing down upon her own--was terrifying and
repulsive to her.  Even in memory or imagination it made her wince.
It was her especial secret, the especial, incurable disability that
she carried through life.

If only they would leave you ALONE! she thought as she walked
onwards a little more slowly.  That was how she put it to herself
habitually--'If only they would leave you ALONE!'  For it was not
that in other ways she disliked men.  On the contrary, she liked
them better than women.  Part of Mr Warburton's hold over her was
in the fact that he was a man and had the careless good humour and
the intellectual largeness that women so seldom have.  But why
couldn't they leave you ALONE?  Why did they always have to kiss
you and maul you about?  They were dreadful when they kissed you--
dreadful and a little disgusting, like some large, furry beast that
rubs itself against you, all too friendly and yet liable to turn
dangerous at any moment.  And beyond their kissing and mauling
there lay always the suggestion of those other, monstrous things
('ALL THAT' was her name for them) of which she could hardly even
bear to think.

Of course, she had had her share, and rather more than her share,
of casual attention from men.  She was just pretty enough, and just
plain enough, to be the kind of girl that men habitually pester.
For when a man wants a little casual amusement, he usually picks
out a girl who is not TOO pretty.  Pretty girls (so he reasons) are
spoilt and therefore capricious; but plain girls are easy game.
And even if you are a clergyman's daughter, even if you live in a
town like Knype Hill and spend almost your entire life in parish
work, you don't altogether escape pursuit.  Dorothy was all too
used to it--all too used to the fattish middle-aged men, with their
fishily hopeful eyes, who slowed down their cars when you passed
them on the road, or who manoeuvred an introduction and then began
pinching your elbow about ten minutes afterwards.  Men of all
descriptions.  Even a clergyman, on one occasion--a bishop's
chaplain, he was. . . .

But the trouble was that it was not better, but oh! infinitely
worse when they were the right kind of man and the advances they
made you were honourable.  Her mind slipped backwards five years,
to Francis Moon, curate in those days at St Wedekind's in
Millborough.  Dear Francis!  How gladly would she have married him
if only it had not been for ALL THAT!  Over and over again he had
asked her to marry him, and of course she had had to say No; and,
equally of course, he had never known why.  Impossible to tell him
why.  And then he had gone away, and only a year later had died so
irrelevantly of pneumonia.  She whispered a prayer for his soul,
momentarily forgetting that her father did not really approve of
prayers for the dead, and then, with an effort, pushed the memory
aside.  Ah, better not to think of it again!  It hurt her in her
breast to think of it.

She could never marry, she had decided long ago upon that.  Even
when she was a child she had known it.  Nothing would ever overcome
her horror of ALL THAT--at the very thought of it something within
her seemed to shrink and freeze.  And of course, in a sense she did
not want to overcome it.  For, like all abnormal people, she was
not fully aware that she was abnormal.

And yet, though her sexual coldness seemed to her natural and
inevitable, she knew well enough how it was that it had begun.  She
could remember, as clearly as though it were yesterday, certain
dreadful scenes between her father and her mother--scenes that she
had witnessed when she was no more than nine years old.  They had
left a deep, secret wound in her mind.  And then a little later she
had been frightened by some old steel engravings of nymphs pursued
by satyrs.  To her childish mind there was something inexplicably,
horribly sinister in those horned, semi-human creatures that lurked
in thickets and behind large trees, ready to come bounding forth in
sudden swift pursuit.  For a whole year of her childhood she had
actually been afraid to walk through woods alone, for fear of
satyrs.  She had grown out of the fear, of course, but not out of
the feeling that was associated with it.  The satyr had remained
with her as a symbol.  Perhaps she would never grow out of it, that
special feeling of dread, of hopeless flight from something more
than rationally dreadful--the stamp of hooves in the lonely wood,
the lean, furry thighs of the satyr.  It was a thing not to be
altered, not to be argued away.  It is, moreover, a thing too
common nowadays, among educated women, to occasion any kind of
surprise.

Most of Dorothy's agitation had disappeared by the time she reached
the rectory.  The thoughts of satyrs and Mr Warburton, of Francis
Moon and her foredoomed sterility, which had been going to and fro
in her mind, faded out of it and were replaced by the accusing
image of a jackboot.  She remembered that she had the best part of
two hours' work to do before going to bed tonight.  The house was
in darkness.  She went round to the back and slipped in on tiptoe
by the scullery door, for fear of waking her father, who was
probably asleep already.

As she felt her way through the dark passage to the conservatory,
she suddenly decided that she had gone wrong in going to Mr
Warburton's house tonight.  She would, she resolved, never go there
again, even when she was certain that somebody else would be there
as well.  Moreover, she would do penance tomorrow for having gone
there tonight.  Having lighted the lamp, before doing anything else
she found her 'memo list', which was already written out for
tomorrow, and pencilled a capital P against 'breakfast', P stood
for penance--no bacon again for breakfast tomorrow.  Then she
lighted the oilstove under the glue-pot.

The light of the lamp fell yellow upon her sewing-machine and upon
the pile of half-finished clothes on the table, reminding her of
the yet greater pile of clothes that were not even begun; reminding
her, also, that she was dreadfully, overwhelmingly tired.  She had
forgotten her tiredness at the moment when Mr Warburton laid his
hands on her shoulders, but now it had come back upon her with
double force.  Moreover, there was a somehow exceptional quality
about her tiredness tonight.  She felt, in an almost literal sense
of the words, washed out.  As she stood beside the table she had a
sudden, very strange feeling as though her mind had been entirely
emptied, so that for several seconds she actually forgot what it
was that she had come into the conservatory to do.

Then she remembered--the jackboots, of course!  Some contemptible
little demon whispered in her ear, 'Why not go straight to bed and
leave the jackboots till tomorrow?'  She uttered a prayer for
strength, and pinched herself.  Come on, Dorothy!  No slacking
please!  Luke ix, 62.  Then, clearing some of the litter off the
table, she got out her scissors, a pencil, and four sheets of brown
paper, and sat down to cut out those troublesome insteps for the
jackboots while the glue was boiling.

When the grandfather clock in her father's study struck midnight
she was still at work.  She had shaped both jackboots by this time,
and was reinforcing them by pasting narrow strips of paper all over
them--a long, messy job.  Every bone in her body was aching, and
her eyes were sticky with sleep.  Indeed, it was only rather dimly
that she remembered what she was doing.  But she worked on,
mechanically pasting strip after strip of paper into place, and
pinching herself every two minutes to counteract the hypnotic sound
of the oilstove singing beneath the glue-pot.




CHAPTER 2



1


Out of a black, dreamless sleep, with the sense of being drawn
upwards through enormous and gradually lightening abysses, Dorothy
awoke to a species of consciousness.

Her eyes were still closed.  By degrees, however, their lids became
less opaque to the light, and then flickered open of their own
accord.  She was looking out upon a street--a shabby, lively street
of small shops and narrow-faced houses, with streams of men, trams,
and cars passing in either direction.

But as yet it could not properly be said that she was LOOKING.  For
the things she saw were not apprehended as men, trams, and cars,
nor as anything in particular; they were not even apprehended as
things moving; not even as THINGS.  She merely SAW, as an animal
sees, without speculation and almost without consciousness.  The
noises of the street--the confused din of voices, the hooting of
horns and the scream of the trams grinding on their gritty rails--
flowed through her head provoking purely physical responses.  She
had no words, nor any conception of the purpose of such things as
words, nor any consciousness of time or place, or of her own body
or even of her own existence.

Nevertheless, by degrees her perceptions became sharper.  The
stream of moving things began to penetrate beyond her eyes and sort
themselves out into separate images in her brain.  She began, still
wordlessly, to observe the shapes of things.  A long-shaped thing
swam past, supported on four other, narrower long-shaped things,
and drawing after it a square-shaped thing balanced on two circles.
Dorothy watched it pass; and suddenly, as though spontaneously, a
word flashed into her mind.  The word was 'horse'.  It faded, but
returned presently in the more complex form:  'THAT IS A HORSE.'
Other words followed--'house', 'street', 'tram', 'car', 'bicycle'--
until in a few minutes she had found a name for almost everything
within sight.  She discovered the words 'man' and 'woman', and,
speculating upon these words, discovered that she knew the
difference between living and inanimate things, and between human
beings and horses, and between men and women.

It was only now, after becoming aware of most of the things about
her, that she became aware of HERSELF.  Hitherto she had been as it
were a pair of eyes with a receptive but purely impersonal brain
behind them.  But now, with a curious little shock, she discovered
her separate and unique existence; she could FEEL herself existing;
it was as though something within her were exclaiming 'I am I!'
Also, in some way she knew that this 'I' had existed and been the
same from remote periods in the past, though it was a past of which
she had no remembrance.

But it was only for a moment that this discovery occupied her.
From the first there was a sense of incompleteness in it, of
something vaguely unsatisfactory.  And it was this: the 'I am I'
which had seemed an answer had itself become a question.  It was no
longer 'I am I', but 'WHO am I'?

WHO WAS SHE?  She turned the question over in her mind, and found
that she had not the dimmest notion of who she was; except that,
watching the people and horses passing, she grasped that she was a
human being and not a horse.  And that the question altered itself
and took this form:  'Am I a man or a woman?'  Again neither
feeling nor memory gave any clue to the answer.  But at that
moment, by accident possibly, her finger-tips brushed against her
body.  She realized more clearly than before that her body existed,
and that it was her own--that it was, in fact, herself.  She began
to explore it with her hands, and her hands encountered breasts.
She was a woman, therefore.  Only women had breasts.  In some way
she knew, without knowing how she knew, that all those women who
passed had breasts beneath their clothes, though she could not see
them.

She now grasped that in order to identify herself she must examine
her own body, beginning with her face; and for some moments she
actually attempted to look at her own face, before realizing that
this was impossible.  She looked down, and saw a shabby black satin
dress, rather long, a pair of flesh-coloured artificial silk
stockings, laddered and dirty, and a pair of very shabby black
satin shoes with high heels.  None of them was in the least
familiar to her.  She examined her hands, and they were both
strange and unstrange.  They were smallish hands, with hard palms,
and very dirty.  After a moment she realized that it was their
dirtiness that made them strange to her.  The hands themselves
seemed natural and appropriate, though she did not recognize them.

After hesitating a few moments longer, she turned to her left and
began to walk slowly along the pavement.  A fragment of knowledge
had come to her, mysteriously, out of the blank past: the existence
of mirrors, their purpose, and the fact that there are often
mirrors in shop windows.  After a moment she came to a cheap little
jeweller's shop in which a strip of mirror, set at an angle,
reflected the faces of people passing.  Dorothy picked her
reflection out from among a dozen others, immediately realizing it
to be her own.  Yet it could not be said that she had recognized
it; she had no memory of ever having seen it till this moment.  It
showed her a woman's youngish face, thin, very blonde, with crow's-
feet round the eyes, and faintly smudged with dirt.  A vulgar black
cloche hat was stuck carelessly on the head, concealing most of the
hair.  The face was quite unfamiliar to her, and yet not strange.
She had not known till this moment what face to expect, but now
that she had seen it she realized that it was the face she might
have expected.  It was appropriate.  It corresponded to something
within her.

As she turned away from the jeweller's mirror, she caught sight of
the words 'Fry's Chocolate' on a shop window opposite, and
discovered that she understood the purpose of writing, and also,
after a momentary effort, that she was able to read.  Her eyes
flitted across the street, taking in and deciphering odd scraps of
print; the names of shops, advertisements, newspaper posters.  She
spelled out the letters of two red and white posters outside a
tobacconist's shop.  One of them read, 'Fresh Rumours about
Rector's Daughter', and the other, 'Rector's Daughter.  Now
believed in Paris'.  Then she looked upwards, and saw in white
lettering on the corner of a house:  'New Kent Road'.  The words
arrested her.  She grasped that she was standing in the New Kent
Road, and--another fragment of her mysterious knowledge--the New
Kent Road was somewhere in London.  So she was in London.

As she made this discovery a peculiar tremor ran through her.  Her
mind was now fully awakened; she grasped, as she had not grasped
before, the strangeness of her situation, and it bewildered and
frightened her.  What could it all MEAN?  What was she doing here?
How had she got here?  What had happened to her?

The answer was not long in coming.  She thought--and it seemed to
her that she understood perfectly well what the words meant:  'Of
course!  I've lost my memory!'

At this moment two youths and a girl who were trudging past, the
youths with clumsy sacking bundles on their backs, stopped and
looked curiously at Dorothy.  They hesitated for a moment, then
walked on, but halted again by a lamp-post five yards away.
Dorothy saw them looking back at her and talking among themselves.
One of the youths was about twenty, narrow-chested, black-haired,
ruddy-cheeked, good-looking in a nosy cockney way, and dressed in
the wreck of a raffishly smart blue suit and a check cap.  The
other was about twenty-six, squat, nimble, and powerful, with a
snub nose, a clear pink skin and huge lips as coarse as sausages,
exposing strong yellow teeth.  He was frankly ragged, and he had a
mat of orange-coloured hair cropped short and growing low on his
head, which gave him a startling resemblance to an orang-outang.
The girl was a silly-looking, plump creature, dressed in clothes
very like Dorothy's own.  Dorothy could hear some of what they were
saying:

'That tart looks ill,' said the girl.

The orange-headed one, who was singing 'Sonny Boy' in a good
baritone voice, stopped singing to answer.  'She ain't ill,' he
said.  'She's on the beach all right, though.  Same as us.'

'She'd do jest nicely for Nobby, wouldn't she?' said the dark-
haired one.

'Oh, YOU!' exclaimed the girl with a shocked-amorous air, pretending
to smack the dark one over the head.

The youths had lowered their bundles and leaned them against the
lamp-post.  All three of them now came rather hesitantly towards
Dorothy, the orange-headed one, whose name seemed to be Nobby,
leading the way as their ambassador.  He moved with a gambolling,
apelike gait, and his grin was so frank and wide that it was
impossible not to smile back at him.  He addressed Dorothy in a
friendly way.

'Hullo, kid!'

'Hullo!'

'You on the beach, kid?'

'On the beach?'

'Well, on the bum?'

'On the bum?'

'Christ! she's batty,' murmured the girl, twitching at the black-
haired one's arm as though to pull him away.

'Well, what I mean to say, kid--have you got any money?'

'I don't know.'

At this all three looked at one another in stupefaction.  For a
moment they probably thought that Dorothy really WAS batty.  But
simultaneously Dorothy, who had earlier discovered a small pocket
in the side of her dress, put her hand into it and felt the outline
of a large coin.

'I believe I've got a penny,' she said.

'A penny!' said the dark youth disgustedly, '--lot of good that is
to us!'

Dorothy drew it out.  It was a half-crown.  An astonishing change
came over the faces of the three others.  Nobby's mouth split open
with delight, he gambolled several steps to and fro like some great
jubilant ape, and then, halting, took Dorothy confidentially by the
arm.

'That's the mulligatawny!' he said.  'We've struck it lucky--and
so've you, kid, believe me.  You're going to bless the day you set
eyes on us lot.  We're going to make your fortune for you, we are.
Now, see here, kid--are you on to go into cahoots with us three?'

'What?' said Dorothy.

'What I mean to say--how about you chumming in with Flo and Charlie
and me?  Partners, see?  Comrades all, shoulder to shoulder.
United we stand, divided we fall.  We put up the brains, you put up
the money.  How about it, kid?  Are you on, or are you off?'

'Shut up, Nobby!' interrupted the girl.  'She don't understand a
word of what you're saying.  Talk to her proper, can't you?'

'That'll do, Flo,' said Nobby equably.  'You keep it shut and leave
the talking to me.  I got a way with the tarts, I have.  Now, you
listen to me, kid--what might your name happen to be, kid?'

Dorothy was within an ace of saying 'I don't know,' but she was
sufficiently on the alert to stop herself in time.  Choosing a
feminine name from the half-dozen that sprang immediately into her
mind, she answered, 'Ellen.'

'Ellen.  That's the mulligatawny.  No surnames when you're on the
bum.  Well now, Ellen dear, you listen to me.  Us three are going
down hopping, see--'

'Hopping?'

''Opping!' put in the dark youth impatiently, as though disgusted
by Dorothy's ignorance.  His voice and manner were rather sullen,
and his accent much baser than Nobby's.  'Pickin' 'ops--dahn in
Kent!  C'n understand that, can't yer?'

'Oh, HOPS!  For beer?'

'That's the mulligatawny!  Coming on fine, she is.  Well, kid, 'z I
was saying, here's us three going down hopping, and got a job
promised us and all--Blessington's farm, Lower Molesworth.  Only
we're just a bit in the mulligatawny, see?  Because we ain't got a
brown between us, and we got to do it on the toby--thirty-five
miles it is--and got to tap for our tommy and skipper at night as
well.  And that's a bit of a mulligatawny, with ladies in the
party.  But now s'pose f'rinstance you was to come along with us,
see?  We c'd take the twopenny tram far as Bromley, and that's
fifteen miles done, and we won't need skipper more'n one night on
the way.  And you can chum in at our bin--four to a bin's the best
picking--and if Blessington's paying twopence a bushel you'll turn
your ten bob a week easy.  What do you say to it, kid?  Your two
and a tanner won't do you much good here in Smoke.  But you go into
partnership with us, and you'll get your kip for a month and
something over--and WE'LL get a lift to Bromley and a bit of scran
as well.'

About a quarter of his speech was intelligible to Dorothy.  She
asked rather at random:

'What is SCRAN?'

'Scran?  Tommy--food.  I can see YOU ain't been long on the beach,
kid.'

'Oh. . . .  Well, you want me to come down hop-picking with you, is
that it?'

'That's it, Ellen my dear.  Are you on, or are you off?'

'All right,' said Dorothy promptly.  'I'll come.'

She made this decision without any misgiving whatever.  It is true
that if she had had time to think over her position, she would
probably have acted differently; in all probability she would have
gone to a police station and asked for assistance.  That would have
been the sensible course to take.  But Nobby and the others had
appeared just at the critical moment, and, helpless as she was, it
seemed quite natural to throw in her lot with the first human being
who presented himself.  Moreover, for some reason which she did not
understand, it reassured her to hear that they were making for
Kent.  Kent, it seemed to her, was the very place to which she
wanted to go.  The others showed no further curiosity, and asked no
uncomfortable questions.  Nobby simply said, 'O.K.  That's the
mulligatawny!' and then gently took Dorothy's half-crown out of her
hand and slid it into his pocket--in case she should lose it, he
explained.  The dark youth--apparently his name was Charlie--said
in his surly, disagreeable way:

'Come on, less get movin'!  It's 'ar-parse two already.  We don't
want to miss that there ---- tram.  Where d'they start from,
Nobby?'

'The Elephant,' said Nobby: 'and we got to catch it before four
o'clock, because they don't give no free rides after four.'

'Come on, then, don't less waste no more time.  Nice job we'll 'ave
of it if we got to 'ike it down to Bromley AND look for a place to
skipper in the ---- dark.  C'm on, Flo.'

'Quick march!' said Nobby, swinging his bundle on to his shoulder.

They set out, without more words said, Dorothy, still bewildered
but feeling much better than she had felt half an hour ago, walked
beside Flo and Charlie, who talked to one another and took no
further notice of her.  From the very first they seemed to hold
themselves a little aloof from Dorothy--willing enough to share her
half-crown, but with no friendly feelings towards her.  Nobby
marched in front, stepping out briskly in spite of his burden, and
singing, with spirited imitations of military music, the well-known
military song of which the only recorded words seem to be:


'"----!" was all the band could play;
"----! ----!"  And the same to you!'



2


This was the twenty-ninth of August.  It was on the night of the
twenty-first that Dorothy had fallen asleep in the conservatory; so
that there had been an interregnum in her life of not quite eight
days.

The thing that had happened to her was commonplace enough--almost
every week one reads in the newspapers of a similar case.  A man
disappears from home, is lost sight of for days or weeks, and
presently fetches up at a police station or in a hospital, with no
notion of who he is or where he has come from.  As a rule it is
impossible to tell how he has spent the intervening time; he has
been wandering, presumably, in some hypnotic or somnambulistic
state in which he has nevertheless been able to pass for normal.
In Dorothy's case only one thing is certain, and that is that she
had been robbed at some time during her travels; for the clothes
she was wearing were not her own, and her gold cross was missing.

At the moment when Nobby accosted her, she was already on the road
to recovery; and if she had been properly cared for, her memory
might have come back to her within a few days or even hours.  A
very small thing would have been enough to accomplish it; a chance
meeting with a friend, a photograph of her home, a few questions
skilfully put.  But as it was, the slight mental stimulus that she
needed was never given.  She was left in the peculiar state in
which she had first found herself--a state in which her mind was
potentially normal, but not quite strung up to the effort of
puzzling out her own identity.

For of course, once she had thrown in her lot with Nobby and the
others, all chance of reflection was gone.  There was no time to
sit down and think the matter over--no time to come to grips with
her difficulty and reason her way to its solution.  In the strange,
dirty sub-world into which she was instantly plunged, even five
minutes of consecutive thought would have been impossible.  The
days passed in ceaseless nightmarish activity.  Indeed, it was very
like a nightmare; a nightmare not of urgent terrors, but of hunger,
squalor, and fatigue, and of alternating heat and cold.  Afterwards,
when she looked back upon that time, days and nights merged
themselves together so that she could never remember with perfect
certainty how many of them there had been.  She only knew that for
some indefinite period she had been perpetually footsore and almost
perpetually hungry.  Hunger and the soreness of her feet were her
clearest memories of that time; and also the cold of the nights, and
a peculiar, blowsy, witless feeling that came of sleeplessness and
constant exposure to the air.

After getting to Bromley they had 'drummed up' on a horrible,
paper-littered rubbish dump, reeking with the refuse of several
slaughter-houses, and then passed a shuddering night, with only
sacks for cover, in long wet grass on the edge of a recreation
ground.  In the morning they had started out, on foot, for the
hopfields.  Even at this early date Dorothy had discovered that the
tale Nobby had told her, about the promise of a job, was totally
untrue.  He had invented it--he confessed this quite light-
heartedly--to induce her to come with them.  Their only chance of
getting a job was to march down into the hop country and apply at
every farm till they found one where pickers were still needed.

They had perhaps thirty-five miles to go, as the crow flies, and
yet at the end of three days they had barely reached the fringe of
the hopfields.  The need of getting food, of course, was what
slowed their progress.  They could have marched the whole distance
in two days or even in a day if they had not been obliged to feed
themselves.  As it was, they had hardly even time to think of
whether they were going in the direction of the hopfields or not;
it was food that dictated all their movements.  Dorothy's half-
crown had melted within a few hours, and after that there was
nothing for it except to beg.  But there came the difficulty.  One
person can beg his food easily enough on the road, and even two can
manage it, but it is a very different matter when there are four
people together.  In such circumstances one can only keep alive if
one hunts for food as persistently and single-mindedly as a wild
beast.  Food--that was their sole preoccupation during those three
days--just food, and the endless difficulty of getting it.

From morning to night they were begging.  They wandered enormous
distances, zigzagging right across the country, trailing from
village to village and from house to house, 'tapping' at every
butcher's and every baker's and every likely looking cottage, and
hanging hopefully round picnic parties, and waving--always vainly--
at passing cars, and accosting old gentlemen with the right kind of
face and pitching hard-up stories.  Often they went five miles out
of their way to get a crust of bread or a handful of scraps of
bacon.  All of them begged, Dorothy with the others; she had no
remembered past, no standards of comparison to make her ashamed of
it.  And yet with all their efforts they would have gone empty-
bellied half the time if they had not stolen as well as begged.
At dusk and in the early mornings they pillaged the orchards and
the fields, stealing apples, damsons, pears, cobnuts, autumn
raspberries, and, above all, potatoes; Nobby counted it a sin to
pass a potato field without getting at least a pocketful.  It was
Nobby who did most of the stealing, while the others kept guard.
He was a bold thief; it was his peculiar boast that he would steal
anything that was not tied down, and he would have landed them all
in prison if they had not restrained him sometimes.  Once he even
laid hands on a goose, but the goose set up a fearful clamour, and
Charlie and Dorothy dragged Nobby off just as the owner came out of
doors to see what was the matter.

Each of those first days they walked between twenty and twenty-five
miles.  They trailed across commons and through buried villages
with incredible names, and lost themselves in lanes that led
nowhere, and sprawled exhausted in dry ditches smelling of fennel
and tansies, and sneaked into private woods and 'drummed up' in
thickets where firewood and water were handy, and cooked strange,
squalid meals in the two two-pound snuff-tins that were their only
cooking pots.  Sometimes, when their luck was in, they had
excellent stews of cadged bacon and stolen cauliflowers, sometimes
great insipid gorges of potatoes roasted in the ashes, sometimes
jam made of stolen autumn raspberries which they boiled in one of
the snuff-tins and devoured while it was still scalding hot.  Tea
was the one thing they never ran short of.  Even when there was no
food at all there was always tea, stewed, dark brown and reviving.
It is a thing that can be begged more easily than most.  'Please,
ma'am, could you spare me a pinch of tea?' is a plea that seldom
fails, even with the case-hardened Kentish housewives.

The days were burning hot, the white roads glared and the passing
cars sent stinging dust into their faces.  Often families of hop-
pickers drove past, cheering, in lorries piled sky-high with
furniture, children, dogs, and birdcages.  The nights were always
cold.  There is hardly such a thing as a night in England when it
is really warm after midnight.  Two large sacks were all the
bedding they had between them.  Flo and Charlie had one sack,
Dorothy had the other, and Nobby slept on the bare ground.  The
discomfort was almost as bad as the cold.  If you lay on your back,
your head, with no pillow, lolled backwards so that your neck
seemed to be breaking; if you lay on your side, your hip-bone
pressing against the earth caused you torments.  Even when, towards
the small hours, you managed to fall asleep by fits and starts, the
cold penetrated into your deepest dreams.  Nobby was the only one
who could really stand it.  He could sleep as peacefully in a nest
of sodden grass as in a bed, and his coarse, simian face, with
barely a dozen red-gold hairs glittering on the chin like snippings
of copper wire, never lost its warm, pink colour.  He was one of
those red-haired people who seem to glow with an inner radiance
that warms not only themselves but the surrounding air.

All this strange, comfortless life Dorothy took utterly for
granted--only dimly aware, if at all, that the other, unremembered
life that lay behind her had been in some way different from this.
After only a couple of days she had ceased to wonder any longer
about her queer predicament.  She accepted everything--accepted the
dirt and hunger and fatigue, the endless trailing to and fro, the
hot, dusty days and the sleepless, shivering nights.  She was, in
any case, far too tired to think.  By the afternoon of the second
day they were all desperately, overwhelmingly tired, except Nobby,
whom nothing could tire.  Even the fact that soon after they set
out a nail began to work its way through the sole of his boot
hardly seemed to trouble him.  There were periods of an hour at a
time when Dorothy seemed almost to be sleeping as she walked.  She
had a burden to carry now, for as the two men were already loaded
and Flo steadfastly refused to carry anything, Dorothy had
volunteered to carry the sack that held the stolen potatoes.  They
generally had ten pounds or so of potatoes in reserve.  Dorothy
slung the sack over her shoulder as Nobby and Charlie did with
their bundles, but the string cut into her like a saw and the sack
bumped against her hip and chafed it so that finally it began to
bleed.  Her wretched, flimsy shoes had begun to go to pieces from
the very beginning.  On the second day the heel of her right shoe
came off and left her hobbling; but Nobby, expert in such matters,
advised her to tear the heel off the other shoe and walk
flatfooted.  The result was a fiery pain down her shins when she
walked uphill, and a feeling as though the soles of her feet had
been hammered with an iron bar.

But Flo and Charlie were in a much worse case than she.  They were
not so much exhausted as amazed and scandalized by the distances
they were expected to walk.  Walking twenty miles in a day was a
thing they had never heard of till now.  They were cockneys born
and bred, and though they had had several months of destitution in
London, neither of them had ever been on the road before.  Charlie,
till fairly recently, had been in good employment, and Flo, too,
had had a good home until she had been seduced and turned out of
doors to live on the streets.  They had fallen in with Nobby in
Trafalgar Square and agreed to come hop-picking with him, imagining
that it would be a bit of a lark.  Of course, having been 'on the
beach' a comparatively short time, they looked down on Nobby and
Dorothy.  They valued Nobby's knowledge of the road and his
boldness in thieving, but he was their social inferior--that was
their attitude.  And as for Dorothy, they scarcely even deigned to
look at her after her half-crown came to an end.

Even on the second day their courage was failing.  They lagged
behind, grumbled incessantly, and demanded more than their fair
share of food.  By the third day it was almost impossible to keep
them on the road at all.  They were pining to be back in London,
and had long ceased to care whether they ever got to the hopfields
or not; all they wanted to do was to sprawl in any comfortable
halting place they could find, and, when there was any food left,
devour endless snacks.  After every halt there was a tedious
argument before they could be got to their feet again.

'Come on, blokes!' Nobby would say.  'Pack your peter up, Charlie.
Time we was getting off.'

'Oh, ---- getting off!' Charlie would answer morosely.

'Well, we can't skipper here, can we?  We said we was going to hike
as far as Sevenoaks tonight, didn't we?'

'Oh, ---- Sevenoaks!  Sevenoaks or any other bleeding place--it
don't make any bleeding difference to me.'

'But ---- it!  We want to get a job tomorrow, don't we?  And we got
to get down among the farms 'fore we can start looking for one.'

'Oh, ---- the farms!  I wish I'd never 'eard of a ---- 'op!  I
wasn't brought up to this ---- 'iking and skippering like you was.
I'm fed up; that's what I am ---- fed up.'

'If this is bloody 'opping,' Flo would chime in, 'I've 'ad my
bloody bellyful of it already.'

Nobby gave Dorothy his private opinion that Flo and Charlie would
probably 'jack off' if they got the chance of a lift back to
London.  But as for Nobby, nothing disheartened him or ruffled his
good temper, not even when the nail in his boot was at its worst
and his filthy remnant of a sock was dark with blood.  By the third
day the nail had worn a permanent hole in his foot, and Nobby had
to halt once in a mile to hammer it down.

''Scuse me, kid,' he would say; 'got to attend to my bloody hoof
again.  This nail's a mulligatawny.'

He would search for a round stone, squat in the ditch and carefully
hammer the nail down.

'There!' he would say optimistically, feeling the place with his
thumb.  'THAT b--'s in his grave!'

The epitaph should have been Resurgam, however.  The nail
invariably worked its way up again within a quarter of an hour.

Nobby had tried to make love to Dorothy, of course, and, when she
repulsed him, bore her no grudge.  He had that happy temperament
that is incapable of taking its own reverses very seriously.  He
was always debonair, always singing in a lusty baritone voice--his
three favourite songs were:  'Sonny Boy', ''Twas Christmas Day in
the Workhouse' (to the tune of 'The Church's One Foundation'), and
'"----!" was all the band could play', given with lively renderings
of military music.  He was twenty-six years old and was a widower,
and had been successively a seller of newspapers, a petty thief,
a Borstal boy, a soldier, a burglar, and a tramp.  These facts,
however, you had to piece together for yourself, for he was not
equal to giving a consecutive account of his life.  His conversation
was studded with casual picturesque memories--the six months he had
served in a line regiment before he was invalided out with a damaged
eye, the loathsomeness of the skilly in Holloway, his childhood in
the Deptford gutters, the death of his wife, aged eighteen, in
childbirth, when he was twenty, the horrible suppleness of the
Borstal canes, the dull boom of the nitro- glycerine, blowing in the
safe door at Woodward's boot and shoe factory, where Nobby had
cleared a hundred and twenty-five pounds and spent it in three
weeks.

On the afternoon of the third day they reached the fringe of the
hop country, and began to meet discouraged people, mostly tramps,
trailing back to London with the news that there was nothing doing--
hops were bad and the price was low, and the gypsies and 'home
pickers' had collared all the jobs.  At this Flo and Charlie gave
up hope altogether, but by an adroit mixture of bullying and
persuasion Nobby managed to drive them a few miles farther.  In a
little village called Wale they fell in with an old Irishwoman--
Mrs McElligot was her name--who had just been given a job at a
neighbouring hopfield, and they swapped some of their stolen apples
for a piece of meat she had 'bummed' earlier in the day.  She gave
them some useful hints about hop-picking and about what farms to
try.  They were all sprawling on the village green, tired out,
opposite a little general shop with some newspaper posters outside.

'You'd best go down'n have a try at Chalmers's,' Mrs McElligot
advised them in her base Dublin accent.  'Dat's a bit above five
mile from here.  I've heard tell as Chalmers wants a dozen pickers
still.  I daresay he'd give y'a job if you gets dere early enough.'

'Five miles!  Cripes!  Ain't there none nearer'n that?' grumbled
Charlie.

'Well, dere's Norman's.  I got a job at Norman's meself--I'm
startin' tomorrow mornin'.  But 'twouldn't be no use for you to try
at Norman's.  He ain't takin' on none but home pickers, an' dey say
as he's goin' to let half his hops blow.'

'What's home pickers?' said Nobby.

'Why, dem as has got homes o' deir own.  Eider you got to live in
de neighbourhood, or else de farmer's got to give y'a hut to sleep
in.  Dat's de law nowadays.  In de ole days when you come down
hoppin', you kipped in a stable an' dere was no questions asked.
But dem bloody interferin' gets of a Labour Government brought in a
law to say as no pickers was to be taken on widout de farmer had
proper accommodation for 'em.  So Norman only takes on folks as has
got homes o' deir own.'

'Well, you ain't got a home of your own, have you?'

'No bloody fear!  But Norman t'inks I have.  I kidded'm I was
stayin' in a cottage near by.  Between you an' me, I'm skipperin'
in a cow byre.  'Tain't so bad except for de stink o' de muck, but
you got to be out be five in de mornin', else de cowmen 'ud catch
you.'

'We ain't got no experience of hopping,' Nobby said.  'I wouldn't
know a bloody hop if I saw one.  Best to let on you're an old hand
when you go up for a job, eh?'

'Hell!  Hops don't need no experience.  Tear 'em off an' fling 'em
into de bin.  Dat's all der is to it, wid hops.'

Dorothy was nearly asleep.  She heard the others talking desultorily,
first about hop-picking, then about some story in the newspapers of
a girl who had disappeared from home.  Flo and Charlie had been
reading the posters on the shop-front opposite; and this had revived
them somewhat, because the posters reminded them of London and its
joys.  The missing girl, in whose fate they seemed to be rather
interested, was spoken of as 'The Rector's Daughter'.

'J'a see that one, Flo?' said Charlie, reading a poster aloud with
intense relish:  '"Secret Love Life of Rector's Daughter.
Startling Revelations."  Coo!  Wish I 'ad a penny to 'ave a read of
that!'

'Oh?  What's 't all about, then?'

'What?  Didn't j'a read about it?  Papers 'as bin full of it.
Rector's Daughter this and Rector's Daughter that--wasn't 'alf
smutty, some of it, too.'

'She's bit of hot stuff, the ole Rector's Daughter,' said Nobby
reflectively, lying on his back.  'Wish she was here now!  I'd know
what to do with her, all right, I would.'

''Twas a kid run away from home,' put in Mrs McElligot.  'She was
carryin' on wid a man twenty year older'n herself, an' now she's
disappeared an' dey're searchin' for her high an' low.'

'Jacked off in the middle of the night in a motor-car with no
clo'es on 'cep' 'er nightdress,' said Charlie appreciatively.  'The
'ole village sore 'em go.'

'Dere's some t'ink as he's took her abroad an' sold her to one o'
dem flash cat-houses in Parrus,' added Mrs McElligot.

'No clo'es on 'cep' 'er nightdress?  Dirty tart she must 'a been!'

The conversation might have proceeded to further details, but at
this moment Dorothy interrupted it.  What they were saying had
roused a faint curiosity in her.  She realized that she did not
know the meaning of the word 'Rector'.  She sat up and asked Nobby:

'What is a Rector?'

'Rector?  Why, a sky-pilot--parson bloke.  Bloke that preaches and
gives out the hymns and that in church.  We passed one of 'em
yesterday--riding a green bicycle and had his collar on back to
front.  A priest--clergyman.  YOU know.'

'Oh. . . .  Yes, I think so.'

'Priests!  Bloody ole getsies dey are too, some o' dem,' said Mrs
McElligot reminiscently.

Dorothy was left not much the wiser.  What Nobby had said did
enlighten her a little, but only a very little.  The whole train of
thought connected with 'church' and 'clergyman' was strangely vague
and blurred in her mind.  It was one of the gaps--there was a
number of such gaps--in the mysterious knowledge that she had
brought with her out of the past.

That was their third night on the road.  When it was dark they
slipped into a spinney as usual to 'skipper', and a little after
midnight it began to pelt with rain.  They spent a miserable hour
stumbling to and fro in the darkness, trying to find a place to
shelter, and finally found a hay-stack, where they huddled
themselves on the lee side till it was light enough to see.  Flo
blubbered throughout the night in the most intolerable manner, and
by the morning she was in a state of semi-collapse.  Her silly fat
face, washed clean by rain and tears, looked like a bladder of
lard, if one can imagine a bladder of lard contorted with self-
pity.  Nobby rooted about under the hedge until he had collected an
armful of partially dry sticks, and then managed to get a fire
going and boil some tea as usual.  There was no weather so bad that
Nobby could not produce a can of tea.  He carried, among other
things, some pieces of old motor tyre that would make a flare when
the wood was wet, and he even possessed the art, known only to a
few cognoscenti among tramps, of getting water to boil over a
candle.

Everyone's limbs had stiffened after the horrible night, and Flo
declared herself unable to walk a step farther.  Charlie backed her
up.  So, as the other two refused to move, Dorothy and Nobby went
on to Chalmers's farm, arranging a rendezvous where they should
meet when they had tried their luck.  They got to Chalmers's, five
miles away, found their way through vast orchards to the hop-
fields, and were told that the overseer 'would be along presently'.
So they waited four hours on the edge of the plantation, with the
sun drying their clothes on their backs, watching the hop-pickers
at work.  It was a scene somehow peaceful and alluring.  The hop
bines, tall climbing plants like runner beans enormously magnified,
grew in green leafy lanes, with the hops dangling from them in pale
green bunches like gigantic grapes.  When the wind stirred them
they shook forth a fresh, bitter scent of sulphur and cool beer.
In each lane of bines a family of sunburnt people were shredding
the hops into sacking bins, and singing as they worked; and
presently a hooter sounded and they knocked off to boil cans of tea
over crackling fires of hop bines.  Dorothy envied them greatly.
How happy they looked, sitting round the fires with their cans of
tea and their hunks of bread and bacon, in the smell of hops and
wood smoke!  She pined for such a job--however, for the present
there was nothing doing.  At about one o'clock the overseer arrived
and told them that he had no jobs for them, so they trailed back to
the road, only avenging themselves on Chalmers's farm by stealing a
dozen apples as they went.

When they reached their rendezvous, Flo and Charlie had vanished.
Of course they searched for them, but, equally of course, they knew
very well what had happened.  Indeed, it was perfectly obvious.
Flo had made eyes at some passing lorry driver, who had given the
two of them a lift back to London for the chance of a good cuddle
on the way.  Worse yet, they had stolen both bundles.  Dorothy and
Nobby had not a scrap of food left, not a crust of bread nor a
potato nor a pinch of tea, no bedding, and not even a snuff-tin in
which to cook anything they could cadge or steal--nothing, in fact,
except the clothes they stood up in.

The next thirty-six hours were a bad time--a very bad time.  How
they pined for a job, in their hunger and exhaustion!  But the
chances of getting one seemed to grow smaller and smaller as they
got farther into the hop country.  They made interminable marches
from farm to farm, getting the same answer everywhere--no pickers
needed--and they were so busy marching to and fro that they had not
even time to beg, so that they had nothing to eat except stolen
apples and damsons that tormented their stomachs with their acid
juice and yet left them ravenously hungry.  It did not rain that
night, but it was much colder than before.  Dorothy did not even
attempt to sleep, but spent the night in crouching over the fire
and keeping it alight.  They were hiding in a beech wood, under a
squat, ancient tree that kept the wind away but also wetted them
periodically with sprinklings of chilly dew.  Nobby, stretched on
his back, mouth open, one broad cheek faintly illumined by the
feeble rays of the fire, slept as peacefully as a child.  All night
long a vague wonder, born of sleeplessness and intolerable
discomfort, kept stirring in Dorothy's mind.  Was this the life to
which she had been bred--this life of wandering empty-bellied all
day and shivering at night under dripping trees?  Had it been like
this even in the blank past?  Where had she come from?  Who was
she?  No answer came, and they were on the road at dawn.  By the
evening they had tried at eleven farms in all, and Dorothy's legs
were giving out, and she was so dizzy with fatigue that she found
difficulty in walking straight.

But late in the evening, quite unexpectedly, their luck turned.
They tried at a farm named Cairns's, in the village of Clintock,
and were taken on immediately, with no questions asked.  The
overseer merely looked them up and down, said briefly, 'Right you
are--you'll do.  Start in the morning; bin number 7, set 19,' and
did not even bother to ask their names.  Hop-picking, it seemed,
needed neither character nor experience.

They found their way to the meadow where the pickers' camp was
situated.  In a dreamlike state, between exhaustion and the joy of
having got a job at last, Dorothy found herself walking through a
maze of tin-roofed huts and gypsies' caravans with many-coloured
washing hanging from the windows.  Hordes of children swarmed in
the narrow grass alleys between the huts, and ragged, agreeable-
looking people were cooking meals over innumerable faggot fires.
At the bottom of the field there were some round tin huts, much
inferior to the others, set apart for unmarried people.  An old man
who was toasting cheese at a fire directed Dorothy to one of the
women's huts.

Dorothy pushed open the door of the hut.  It was about twelve feet
across, with unglazed windows which had been boarded up, and it had
no furniture whatever.  There seemed to be nothing in it but an
enormous pile of straw reaching to the roof--in fact, the hut was
almost entirely filled with straw.  To Dorothy's eyes, already
sticky with sleep, the straw looked paradisically comfortable.  She
began to push her way into it, and was checked by a sharp yelp from
beneath her.

"Ere!  What yer doin' of?  Get off of it!  'Oo asked YOU to walk
about on my belly, stoopid?'

Seemingly there were women down among the straw.  Dorothy burrowed
forward more circumspectly, tripped over something, sank into the
straw and in the same instant began to fall asleep.  A rough-
looking woman, partially undressed, popped up like a mermaid from
the strawy sea.

''Ullo, mate!' she said.  'Jest about all in, ain't you, mate?'

'Yes, I'm tired--very tired.'

'Well, you'll bloody freeze in this straw with no bed-clo'es on
you.  Ain't you got a blanket?'

'No.'

''Alf a mo, then.  I got a poke 'ere.'

She dived down into the straw and re-emerged with a hop-poke seven
feet long.  Dorothy was asleep already.  She allowed herself to be
woken up, and inserted herself somehow into the sack, which was so
long that she could get into it head and all; and then she was half
wriggling, half sinking down, deep down, into a nest of straw
warmer and drier than she had conceived possible.  The straw
tickled her nostrils and got into her hair and pricked her even
through the sack, but at that moment no imaginable sleeping place--
not Cleopatra's couch of swan's-down nor the floating bed of Haroun
al Raschid--could have caressed her more voluptuously.



3


It was remarkable how easily, once you had got a job, you settled
down to the routine of hop-picking.  After only a week of it you
ranked as an expert picker, and felt as though you had been picking
hops all your life.

It was exceedingly easy work.  Physically, no doubt, it was
exhausting--it kept you on your feet ten or twelve hours a day, and
you were dropping with sleep by six in the evening--but it needed
no kind of skill.  Quite a third of the pickers in the camp were as
new to the job as Dorothy herself.  Some of them had come down from
London with not the dimmest idea of what hops were like, or how you
picked them, or why.  One man, it was said, on his first morning on
the way to the fields, had asked, 'Where are the spades?'  He
imagined that hops were dug up out of the ground.

Except for Sundays, one day at the hop camp was very like another.
At half past five, at a tap on the wall of your hut, you crawled
out of your sleeping nest and began searching for your shoes, amid
sleepy curses from the women (there were six or seven or possibly
even eight of them) who were buried here and there in the straw.
In that vast pile of straw any clothes that you were so unwise as
to take off always lost themselves immediately.  You grabbed an
armful of straw and another of dried hop bines, and a faggot from
the pile outside, and got the fire going for breakfast.  Dorothy
always cooked Nobby's breakfast as well as her own, and tapped on
the wall of his hut when it was ready, she being better at waking
up in the morning than he.  It was very cold on those September
mornings, the eastern sky was fading slowly from black to cobalt,
and the grass was silvery white with dew.  Your breakfast was
always the same--bacon, tea, and bread fried in the grease of the
bacon.  While you ate it you cooked another exactly similar meal,
to serve for dinner, and then, carrying your dinner-pail, you set
out for the fields, a mile-and-a-half walk through the blue, windy
dawn, with your nose running so in the cold that you had to stop
occasionally and wipe it on your sacking apron.

The hops were divided up into plantations of about an acre, and
each set--forty pickers or thereabouts, under a foreman who was
often a gypsy--picked one plantation at a time.  The bines grew
twelve feet high or more, and they were trained up strings and
slung over horizontal wires, in rows a yard or two apart; in each
row there was a sacking bin like a very deep hammock slung on a
heavy wooden frame.  As soon as you arrived you swung your bin into
position, slit the strings from the next two bines, and tore them
down--huge, tapering strands of foliage, like the plaits of
Rapunzel's hair, that came tumbling down on top of you, showering
you with dew.  You dragged them into place over the bin, and then,
starting at the thick end of the bine, began tearing off the heavy
bunches of hops.  At that hour of the morning you could only pick
slowly and awkwardly.  Your hands were still stiff and the coldness
of the dew numbed them, and the hops were wet and slippery.  The
great difficulty was to pick the hops without picking the leaves
and stalks as well; for the measurer was liable to refuse your hops
if they had too many leaves among them.

The stems of the bines were covered with minute thorns which within
two or three days had torn the skin of your hands to pieces.  In
the morning it was a torment to begin picking when your fingers
were almost too stiff to bend and bleeding in a dozen places; but
the pain wore off when the cuts had reopened and the blood was
flowing freely.  If the hops were good and you picked well, you
could strip a bine in ten minutes, and the best bines yielded half
a bushel of hops.  But the hops varied greatly from one plantation
to another.  In some they were as large as walnuts, and hung in
great leafless bunches which you could rip off with a single twist;
in others they were miserable things no bigger than peas, and grew
so thinly that you had to pick them one at a time.  Some hops were
so bad that you could not pick a bushel of them in an hour.

It was slow work in the early morning, before the hops were dry
enough to handle.  But presently the sun came out, and the lovely,
bitter odour began to stream from the warming hops, and people's
early-morning surliness wore off, and the work got into its stride.
From eight till midday you were picking, picking, picking, in a
sort of passion of work--a passionate eagerness, which grew
stronger and stronger as the morning advanced, to get each bine
done and shift your bin a little farther along the row.  At the
beginning of each plantation all the bins started abreast, but by
degrees the better pickers forged ahead, and some of them had
finished their lane of hops when the others were barely halfway
along; whereupon, if you were far behind, they were allowed to turn
back and finish your row for you, which was called 'stealing your
hops'.  Dorothy and Nobby were always among the last, there being
only two of them--there were four people at most of the bins.  And
Nobby was a clumsy picker, with his great coarse hands; on the
whole, the women picked better than the men.

It was always a neck and neck race between the two bins on either
side of Dorothy and Nobby, bin number 6 and bin number 8.  Bin
number 6 was a family of gypsies--a curly-headed, ear-ringed
father, an old dried-up leather-coloured mother, and two strapping
sons--and bin number 8 was an old East End costerwoman who wore a
broad hat and long black cloak and took snuff out of a papiermache
box with a steamer painted on the lid.  She was always helped by
relays of daughters and granddaughters who came down from London
for two days at a time.  There was quite a troop of children
working with the set, following the bins with baskets and gathering
up the fallen hops while the adults picked.  And the old
costerwoman's tiny, pale granddaughter Rose, and a little gypsy
girl, dark as an Indian, were perpetually slipping off to steal
autumn raspberries and make swings out of hop bines; and the
constant singing round the bins was pierced by shrill cries from
the costerwoman of, 'Go on, Rose, you lazy little cat!  Pick them
'ops up!  I'll warm your a-- for you!' etc., etc.

Quite half the pickers in the set were gypsies--there were not less
than two hundred of them in the camp.  Diddykies, the other pickers
called them.  They were not a bad sort of people, friendly enough,
and they flattered you grossly when they wanted to get anything out
of you; yet they were sly, with the impenetrable slyness of
savages.  In their oafish, Oriental faces there was a look as of
some wild but sluggish animal--a look of dense stupidity existing
side by side with untameable cunning.  Their talk consisted of
about half a dozen remarks which they repeated over and over again
without ever growing tired of them.  The two young gypsies at bin
number 6 would ask Nobby and Dorothy as many as a dozen times a day
the same conundrum:

'What is it the cleverest man in England couldn't do?'

'I don't know.  What?'

'Tickle a gnat's a-- with a telegraph pole.'

At this, never-failing bellows of laughter.  They were all
abysmally ignorant; they informed you with pride that not one of
them could read a single word.  The old curly-headed father, who
had conceived some dim notion that Dorothy was a 'scholard', once
seriously asked her whether he could drive his caravan to New York.

At twelve o'clock a hooter down at the farm signalled to the
pickers to knock off work for an hour, and it was generally a
little before this that the measurer came round to collect the
hops.  At a warning shout from the foreman of ''Ops ready, number
nineteen!' everyone would hasten to pick up the fallen hops, finish
off the tendrils that had been left unpicked here and there, and
clear the leaves out of the bin.  There was an art in that.  It did
not pay to pick too 'clean', for leaves and hops alike all went to
swell the tally.  The old hands, such as the gypsies, were adepts
at knowing just how 'dirty' it was safe to pick.

The measurer would come round, carrying a wicker basket which held
a bushel, and accompanied by the 'bookie,' who entered the pickings
of each bin in a ledger.  The 'bookies' were young men, clerks and
chartered accountants and the like, who took this job as a paying
holiday.  The measurer would scoop the hops out of the bin a bushel
at a time, intoning as he did so, 'One!  Two!  Three!  Four!' and
the pickers would enter the number in their tally books.  Each
bushel they picked earned them twopence, and naturally there were
endless quarrels and accusations of unfairness over the measuring.
Hops are spongy things--you can crush a bushel of them into a quart
pot if you choose; so after each scoop one of the pickers would
lean over into the bin and stir the hops up to make them lie
looser, and then the measurer would hoist the end of the bin and
shake the hops together again.  Some mornings he had orders to
'take them heavy', and would shovel them in so that he got a couple
of bushels at each scoop, whereat there were angry yells of, 'Look
how the b--'s ramming them down!  Why don't you bloody well stamp
on them?' etc.; and the old hands would say darkly that they had
known measurers to be ducked in cowponds on the last day of
picking.  From the bins the hops were put into pokes which
theoretically held a hundredweight; but it took two men to hoist a
full poke when the measurer had been 'taking them heavy'.  You had
an hour for dinner, and you made a fire of hop bines--this was
forbidden, but everyone did it--and heated up your tea and ate your
bacon sandwiches.  After dinner you were picking again till five or
six in the evening, when the measurer came once more to take your
hops, after which you were free to go back to the camp.

Looking back, afterwards, upon her interlude of hop-picking, it was
always the afternoons that Dorothy remembered.  Those long,
laborious hours in the strong sunlight, in the sound of forty
voices singing, in the smell of hops and wood smoke, had a quality
peculiar and unforgettable.  As the afternoon wore on you grew
almost too tired to stand, and the small green hop lice got into
your hair and into your ears and worried you, and your hands, from
the sulphurous juice, were as black as a Negro's except where they
were bleeding.  Yet you were happy, with an unreasonable happiness.
The work took hold of you and absorbed you.  It was stupid work,
mechanical, exhausting, and every day more painful to the hands,
and yet you never wearied of it; when the weather was fine and the
hops were good you had the feeling that you could go on picking for
ever and for ever.  It gave you a physical joy, a warm satisfied
feeling inside you, to stand there hour after hour, tearing off the
heavy clusters and watching the pale green pile grow higher and
higher in your bin, every bushel another twopence in your pocket.
The sun burned down upon you, baking you brown, and the bitter,
never-palling scent, like a wind from oceans of cool beer, flowed
into your nostrils and refreshed you.  When the sun was shining
everybody sang as they worked; the plantations rang with singing.
For some reason all the songs were sad that autumn--songs about
rejected love and fidelity unrewarded, like gutter versions of
Carmen and Manon Lescaut.  There was:


THERE they GO--IN their joy--
'APPY girl--LUCKY boy--
But 'ere am _I-I-I_--
Broken--'A-A-Arted!


And there was:


But I'm dan--cing with tears--in my eyes--
'Cos the girl--in my arms--isn't you-o-ou!


And:


The bells--are ringing--for Sally--
But no-o-ot--for Sally--and me!


The little gypsy girl used to sing over and over again:


We're so misable, all so misable,
Down on Misable Farm!


And though everyone told her that the name of it was Misery Farm,
she persisted in calling it Misable Farm.  The old costerwoman and
her granddaughter Rose had a hop-picking song which went:


'Our lousy 'ops!
Our lousy 'ops!
When the measurer 'e comes round,
Pick 'em up, pick 'em up off the ground!
When 'e comes to measure,
'E never knows where to stop;
Ay, ay, get in the bin
And take the bloody lot!'


'There they go in their joy', and 'The bells are ringing for
Sally', were the especial favourites.  The pickers never grew tired
of singing them; they must have sung both of them several hundred
times over before the season came to an end.  As much a part of the
atmosphere of the hopfields as the bitter scent and the blowsy
sunlight were the tunes of those two songs, ringing through the
leafy lanes of the bines.

When you got back to the camp, at half past six or thereabouts, you
squatted down by the stream that ran past the huts, and washed your
face, probably for the first time that day.  It took you twenty
minutes or so to get the coal-black filth off your hands.  Water
and even soap made no impression on it; only two things would
remove it--one of them was mud, and the other, curiously enough,
was hop juice.  Then you cooked your supper, which was usually
bread and tea and bacon again, unless Nobby had been along to the
village and bought two pennyworth of pieces from the butcher.  It
was always Nobby who did the shopping.  He was the sort of man who
knows how to get four pennyworth of meat from the butcher for
twopence, and, besides, he was expert in tiny economies.  For
instance, he always bought a cottage loaf in preference to any of
the other shapes, because, as he used to point out, a cottage loaf
seems like two loaves when you tear it in half.

Even before you had eaten your supper you were dropping with sleep,
but the huge fires that people used to build between the huts were
too agreeable to leave.  The farm allowed two faggots a day for
each hut, but the pickers plundered as many more as they wanted,
and also great lumps of elm root which kept smouldering till
morning.  On some nights the fires were so enormous that twenty
people could sit round them in comfort, and there was singing far
into the night, and telling of stories and roasting of stolen
apples.  Youths and girls slipped off to the dark lanes together,
and a few bold spirits like Nobby set out with sacks and robbed the
neighbouring orchards, and the children played hide-and-seek in the
dusk and harried the nightjars which haunted the camp and which, in
their cockney ignorance, they imagined to be pheasants.  On
Saturday nights fifty or sixty of the pickers used to get drunk in
the pub and then march down the village street roaring bawdy songs,
to the scandal of the inhabitants, who looked on the hopping season
as decent provincials in Roman Gaul might have looked on the yearly
incursion of the Goths.

When finally you managed to drag yourself away to your nest in the
straw, it was none too warm or comfortable.  After that first
blissful night, Dorothy discovered that straw is wretched stuff to
sleep in.  It is not only prickly, but, unlike hay, it lets in the
draught from every possible direction.  However, you had the chance
to steal an almost unlimited number of hop-pokes from the fields,
and by making herself a sort of cocoon of four hop-pokes, one on
top of the other, she managed to keep warm enough to sleep at any
rate five hours a night.



4


As to what you earned by hop-picking, it was just enough to keep
body and soul together, and no more.

The rate of pay at Cairns's was twopence a bushel, and given good
hops a practised picker can average three bushels an hour.  In
theory, therefore, it would have been possible to earn thirty
shillings by a sixty-hour week.  Actually, no one in the camp came
anywhere near this figure.  The best pickers of all earned thirteen
or fourteen shillings a week, and the worst hardly as much as six
shillings.  Nobby and Dorothy, pooling their hops and dividing the
proceeds, made round about ten shillings a week each.

There were various reasons for this.  To begin with, there was the
badness of the hops in some of the fields.  Again, there were the
delays which wasted an hour or two of every day.  When one
plantation was finished you had to carry your bin to the next,
which might be a mile distant; and then perhaps it would turn out
that there was some mistake, and the set, struggling under their
bins (they weighed a hundredweight), would have to waste another
half-hour in traipsing elsewhere.  Worst of all, there was the
rain.  It was a bad September that year, raining one day in three.
Sometimes for a whole morning or afternoon you shivered miserably
in the shelter of the unstripped bines, with a dripping hop-poke
round your shoulders, waiting for the rain to stop.  It was
impossible to pick when it was raining.  The hops were too slippery
to handle, and if you did pick them it was worse than useless, for
when sodden with water they shrank all to nothing in the bin.
Sometimes you were in the fields all day to earn a shilling or
less.

This did not matter to the majority of the pickers, for quite half
of them were gypsies and accustomed to starvation wages, and most
of the others were respectable East Enders, costermongers and small
shopkeepers and the like, who came hop-picking for a holiday and
were satisfied if they earned enough for their fare both ways and a
bit of fun on Saturday nights.  The farmers knew this and traded on
it.  Indeed, were it not that hop-picking is regarded as a holiday,
the industry would collapse forthwith, for the price of hops is now
so low that no farmer could afford to pay his pickers a living
wage.

Twice a week you could 'sub' up to the amount of half your
earnings.  If you left before the picking was finished (an
inconvenient thing for the farmers) they had the right to pay you
off at the rate of a penny a bushel instead of twopence--that is,
to pocket half of what they owed you.  It was also common knowledge
that towards the end of the season, when all the pickers had a fair
sum owing to them and would not want to sacrifice it by throwing up
their jobs, the farmer would reduce the rate of payment from
twopence a bushel to a penny halfpenny.  Strikes were practically
impossible.  The pickers had no union, and the foremen of the sets,
instead of being paid twopence a bushel like the others, were paid
a weekly wage which stopped automatically if there was a strike;
so naturally they would raise Heaven and earth to prevent one.
Altogether, the farmers had the pickers in a cleft stick; but it
was not the farmers who were to blame--the low price of hops was
the root of the trouble.  Also as Dorothy observed later, very few
of the pickers had more than a dim idea of the amount they earned.
The system of piecework disguised the low rate of payment.

For the first few days, before they could 'sub', Dorothy and Nobby
very nearly starved, and would have starved altogether if the other
pickers had not fed them.  But everyone was extraordinarily kind.
There was a party of people who shared one of the larger huts a
little farther up the row, a flower-seller named Jim Burrows and a
man named Jim Turle who was vermin man at a large London restaurant,
who had married sisters and were close friends, and these people had
taken a liking to Dorothy.  They saw to it that she and Nobby should
not starve.  Every evening during the first few days May Turle, aged
fifteen, would arrive with a saucepan full of stew, which was
presented with studied casualness, lest there should be any hint of
charity about it.  The formula was always the same:

'Please, Ellen, mother says as she was just going to throw this
stew away, and then she thought as p'raps you might like it.  She
ain't got no use for it, she says, and so you'd be doing her a
kindness if you was to take it.'

It was extraordinary what a lot of things the Turles and the
Burrowses were 'just going to throw away' during those first few
days.  On one occasion they even gave Nobby and Dorothy half a
pig's head ready stewed; and besides food they gave them several
cooking pots and a tin plate which could be used as a frying-pan.
Best of all, they asked no uncomfortable questions.  They knew well
enough that there was some mystery in Dorothy's life--'You could
see,' they said, 'as Ellen had COME DOWN IN THE WORLD'--but they
made it a point of honour not to embarrass her by asking questions
about it.  It was not until she had been more than a fortnight at
the camp that Dorothy was even obliged to put herself to the
trouble of inventing a surname.

As soon as Dorothy and Nobby could 'sub', their money troubles were
at an end.  They lived with surprising ease at the rate of one and
sixpence a day for the two of them.  Fourpence of this went on
tobacco for Nobby, and fourpence-halfpenny on a loaf of bread; and
they spent about sevenpence a day on tea, sugar, milk (you could
get milk at the farm at a halfpenny a half-pint), and margarine and
'pieces' of bacon.  But, of course, you never got through the day
without squandering another penny or two.  You were everlastingly
hungry, everlastingly doing sums in farthings to see whether you
could afford a kipper or a doughnut or a pennyworth of potato
chips, and, wretched as the pickers' earnings were, half the
population of Kent seemed to be in conspiracy to tickle their money
out of their pockets.  The local shopkeepers, with four hundred
hop-pickers quartered upon them, made more during the hop season
than all the rest of the year put together, which did not prevent
them from looking down on the pickers as cockney dirt.  In the
afternoon the farm hands would come round the bins selling apples
and pears at seven a penny, and London hawkers would come with
baskets of doughnuts or water ices or 'halfpenny lollies'.  At
night the camp was thronged by hawkers who drove down from London
with vans of horrifyingly cheap groceries, fish and chips, jellied
eels, shrimps, shop-soiled cakes, and gaunt, glassy-eyed rabbits
which had lain two years on the ice and were being sold off at
ninepence a time.

For the most part it was a filthy diet upon which the hop-pickers
lived--inevitably so, for even if you had the money to buy proper
food, there was no time to cook it except on Sundays.  Probably it
was only the abundance of stolen apples that prevented the camp
from being ravaged by scurvy.  There was constant, systematic
thieving of apples; practically everyone in the camp either stole
them or shared them.  There were even parties of young men
(employed, so it was said, by London fruit-costers) who bicycled
down from London every week-end for the purpose of raiding the
orchards.  As for Nobby, he had reduced fruit-stealing to a
science.  Within a week he had collected a gang of youths who
looked up to him as a hero because he was a real burglar and had
been in jail four times, and every night they would set out at dusk
with sacks and come back with as much as two hundredweight of
fruit.  There were vast orchards near the hopfields, and the
apples, especially the beautiful little Golden Russets, were lying
in piles under the trees, rotting, because the farmers could not
sell them.  It was a sin not to rake them, Nobby said.  On two
occasions he and his gang even stole a chicken.  How they managed
to do it without waking the neighbourhood was a mystery; but it
appeared that Nobby knew some dodge of slipping a sack over a
chicken's head, so that it 'ceas'd upon the midnight with no
pain'--or at any rate, with no noise.

In this manner a week and then a fortnight went by, and Dorothy was
no nearer to solving the problem of her own identity.  Indeed, she
was further from it than ever, for except at odd moments the
subject had almost vanished from her mind.  More and more she had
come to take her curious situation for granted, to abandon all
thoughts of either yesterday or tomorrow.  That was the natural
effect of life in the hopfields; it narrowed the range of your
consciousness to the passing minute.  You could not struggle with
nebulous mental problems when you were everlastingly sleepy and
everlastingly occupied--for when you were not at work in the fields
you were either cooking, or fetching things from the village, or
coaxing a fire out of wet sticks, or trudging to and fro with cans
of water.  (There was only one water tap in the camp, and that was
two hundred yards from Dorothy's hut, and the unspeakable earth
latrine was at the same distance.)  It was a life that wore you
out, used up every ounce of your energy, and kept you profoundly,
unquestionably happy.  In the literal sense of the word, it
stupefied you.  The long days in the fields, the coarse food and
insufficient sleep, the smell of hops and wood smoke, lulled you
into an almost beastlike heaviness.  Your wits seemed to thicken,
just as your skin did, in the rain and sunshine and perpetual fresh
air.

On Sundays, of course, there was no work in the fields; but Sunday
morning was a busy time, for it was then that people cooked their
principal meal of the week, and did their laundering and mending.
All over the camp, while the jangle of bells from the village
church came down the wind, mingling with the thin strains of 'O God
our Help' from the ill-attended open-air service held by St
Somebody's Mission to Hop-pickers, huge faggot fires were blazing,
and water boiling in buckets and tin cans and saucepans and
anything else that people could lay their hands on, and ragged
washing fluttering from the roofs of all the huts.  On the first
Sunday Dorothy borrowed a basin from the Turles and washed first
her hair, then her underclothes and Nobby's shirt.  Her underclothes
were in a shocking state.  How long she had worn them she did not
know, but certainly not less than ten days, and they had been slept
in all that while.  Her stockings had hardly any feet left to them,
and as for her shoes, they only held together because of the mud
that caked them.

After she had set the washing to dry she cooked the dinner, and
they dined opulently off half a stewed chicken (stolen), boiled
potatoes (stolen), stewed apples (stolen), and tea out of real tea-
cups with handles on them, borrowed from Mrs Burrows.  And after
dinner, the whole afternoon, Dorothy sat against the sunny side of
the hut, with a dry hop-poke across her knees to hold her dress
down, alternately dozing and reawakening.  Two-thirds of the people
in the camp were doing exactly the same thing; just dozing in the
sun, and waking to gaze at nothing, like cows.  It was all you felt
equal to, after a week of heavy work.

About three o'clock, as she sat there on the verge of sleep, Nobby
sauntered by, bare to the waist--his shirt was drying--with a copy
of a Sunday newspaper that he had succeeded in borrowing.  It was
Pippin's Weekly, the dirtiest of the five dirty Sunday newspapers.
He dropped it in Dorothy's lap as he passed.

'Have a read of that, kid,' he said generously.

Dorothy took Pippin's Weekly and laid it across her knees, feeling
herself far too sleepy to read.  A huge headline stared her in the
face:  'PASSION DRAMA IN COUNTRY RECTORY.'  And then there were
some more headlines, and something in leaded type, and an inset
photograph of a girl's face.  For the space of five seconds or
thereabouts Dorothy was actually gazing at a blackish, smudgy, but
quite recognizable portrait of herself.

There was a column or so of print beneath the photograph.  As a
matter of fact, most of the newspapers had dropped the 'Rector's
Daughter' mystery by this time, for it was more than a fortnight
old and stale news.  But Pippin's Weekly cared little whether its
news was new so long as it was spicy, and that week's crop of rapes
and murders had been a poor one.  They were giving the 'Rector's
Daughter' one final boost--giving her, in fact, the place of honour
at the top left-hand corner of the front page.

Dorothy gazed inertly at the photograph.  A girl's face, looking
out at her from beds of black unappetizing print--it conveyed
absolutely nothing to her mind.  She re-read mechanically the
words, 'PASSION DRAMA IN COUNTRY RECTORY', without either
understanding them or feeling the slightest interest in them.  She
was, she discovered, totally unequal to the effort of reading; even
the effort of looking at the photographs was too much for her.
Heavy sleep was weighing down her head.  Her eyes, in the act of
closing, flitted across the page to a photograph that was either of
Lord Snowden or of the man who wouldn't wear a truss, and then, in
the same instant, she fell asleep, with Pippin's Weekly across her
knees.

It was not uncomfortable against the corrugated iron wall of the
hut, and she hardly stirred till six o'clock, when Nobby woke her
up to tell her that he had got tea ready; whereat Dorothy put
Pippin's Weekly thriftily away (it would come in for lighting the
fire), without looking at it again.  So for the moment the chance
of solving her problem passed by.  And the problem might have
remained unsolved even for months longer, had not a disagreeable
accident, a week later, frightened her out of the contented and
unreflecting state in which she was living.



5


The following Sunday night two policemen suddenly descended upon
the camp and arrested Nobby and two others for theft.

It happened all in a moment, and Nobby could not have escaped
even if he had been warned beforehand, for the countryside was
pullulating with special constables.  There are vast numbers of
special constables in Kent.  They are sworn in every autumn--a sort
of militia to deal with the marauding tribes of hop-pickers.  The
farmers had been growing tired of the orchard-robbing, and had
decided to make an example, in terrorem.

Of course there was a tremendous uproar in the camp.  Dorothy came
out of her hut to discover what was the matter, and saw a firelit
ring of people towards which everyone was running.  She ran after
them, and a horrid chill went through her, because it seemed to her
that she knew already what it was that had happened.  She managed
to wriggle her way to the front of the crowd, and saw the very
thing that she had been fearing.

There stood Nobby, in the grip of an enormous policeman, and
another policeman was holding two frightened youths by the arms.
One of them, a wretched child hardly sixteen years old, was crying
bitterly.  Mr Cairns, a stiff-built man with grey whiskers, and two
farm hands, were keeping guard over the stolen property that had
been dug out of the straw of Nobby's hut.  Exhibit A, a pile of
apples; Exhibit B, some blood-stained chicken feathers.  Nobby
caught sight of Dorothy among the crowd, grinned at her with a
flash of large teeth, and winked.  There was a confused din of
shouting:

'Look at the pore little b-- crying!  Let 'im go!  Bloody shame,
pore little kid like that!  Serve the young bastard right, getting
us all into trouble!  Let 'im go!  Always got to put the blame on
us bloody hop-pickers!  Can't lose a bloody apple without it's us
that's took it.  Let 'im go!  Shut up, can't you?  S'pose they was
YOUR bloody apples?  Wouldn't YOU bloodiwell--' etc., etc., etc.
And then:  'Stand back mate!  'Ere comes the kid's mother.'

A huge Toby jug of a woman, with monstrous breasts and her hair
coming down her back, forced her way through the ring of people and
began roaring first at the policeman and Mr Cairns, then at Nobby,
who had led her son astray.  Finally the farm hands managed to drag
her away.  Through the woman's yells Dorothy could hear Mr Cairns
gruffly interrogating Nobby:

'Now then, young man, just you own up and tell us who you shared
them apples with!  We're going to put a stop to this thieving game,
once and for all.  You own up, and I dessay we'll take it into
consideration.'

Nobby answered, as blithely as ever, 'Consideration, your a--!'

'Don't you get giving me any of your lip, young man!  Or else
you'll catch it all the hotter when you go up before the
magistrate.'

'Catch it hotter, your a--!'

Nobby grinned.  His own wit filled him with delight.  He caught
Dorothy's eye and winked at her once again before being led away.
And that was the last she ever saw of him.

There was further shouting, and when the prisoners were removed a
few dozen men followed them, booing at the policemen and Mr Cairns,
but nobody dared to interfere.  Dorothy meanwhile had crept away;
she did not even stop to find out whether there would be an
opportunity of saying goodbye to Nobby--she was too frightened, too
anxious to escape.  Her knees were trembling uncontrollably.  When
she got back to the hut, the other women were sitting up, talking
excitedly about Nobby's arrest.  She burrowed deep into the straw
and hid herself, to be out of the sound of their voices.  They
continued talking half the night, and of course, because Dorothy
had supposedly been Nobby's 'tart', they kept condoling with her
and plying her with questions.  She did not answer them--pretended
to be asleep.  But there would be, she knew well enough, no sleep
for her that night.

The whole thing had frightened and upset her--but it had frightened
her more than was reasonable or understandable.  For she was in no
kind of danger.  The farm hands did not know that she had shared
the stolen apples--for that matter, nearly everyone in the camp had
shared them--and Nobby would never betray her.  It was not even
that she was greatly concerned for Nobby, who was frankly not
troubled by the prospect of a month in jail.  It was something that
was happening inside her--some change that was taking place in the
atmosphere of her mind.

It seemed to her that she was no longer the same person that she
had been an hour ago.  Within her and without, everything was
changed.  It was as though a bubble in her brain had burst, setting
free thoughts, feelings, fears of which she had forgotten the
existence.  All the dreamlike apathy of the past three weeks was
shattered.  For it was precisely as in a dream that she had been
living--it is the especial condition of a dream that one accepts
everything, questions nothing.  Dirt, rags, vagabondage, begging,
stealing--all had seemed natural to her.  Even the loss of her
memory had seemed natural; at least, she had hardly given it a
thought till this moment.  The question 'WHO AM I?' had faded out
of her mind till sometimes she had forgotten it for hours together.
It was only now that it returned with any real urgency.

For nearly the whole of a miserable night that question went to and
fro in her brain.  But it was not so much the question itself that
troubled her as the knowledge that it was about to be answered.
Her memory was coming back to her, that was certain, and some ugly
shock was coming with it.  She actually feared the moment when she
should discover her own identity.  Something that she did not want
to face was waiting just below the surface of her consciousness.

At half past five she got up and groped for her shoes as usual.
She went outside, got the fire going, and stuck the can of water
among the hot embers to boil.  Just as she did so a memory, seeming
irrelevant, flashed across her mind.  It was of that halt on the
village green at Wale, a fortnight ago--the time when they had met
the old Irishwoman, Mrs McElligot.  Very vividly she remembered the
scene.  Herself lying exhausted on the grass, with her arm over her
face; and Nobby and Mrs McElligot talking across her supine body;
and Charlie, with succulent relish, reading out the poster, 'Secret
Love Life of Rector's Daughter'; and herself, mystified but not
deeply interested, sitting up and asking, 'What is a Rector?'

At that a deadly chill, like a hand of ice, fastened about her
heart.  She got up and hurried, almost ran back to the hut, then
burrowed down to the place where her sacks lay and felt in the
straw beneath them.  In that vast mound of straw all your loose
possessions got lost and gradually worked their way to the bottom.
But after searching for some minutes, and getting herself well
cursed by several women who were still half asleep, Dorothy found
what she was looking for.  It was the copy of Pippin's Weekly which
Nobby had given her a week ago.  She took it outside, knelt down,
and spread it out in the light of the fire.

It was on the front page--a photograph, and three big headlines.
Yes!  There it was!


PASSION DRAMA IN COUNTRY RECTORY

PARSON'S DAUGHTER AND ELDERLY SEDUCER

WHITE-HAIRED FATHER PROSTRATE WITH GRIEF

(Pippin's Weekly Special)

'I would sooner have seen her in her grave!' was the heartbroken
cry of the Rev. Charles Hare, Rector of Knype Hill, Suffolk, on
learning of his twenty-eight-year-old daughter's elopement with an
elderly bachelor named Warburton, described as an artist.

Miss Hare, who left the town on the night of the twenty-first of
August, is still missing, and all attempts to trace her have
failed.  [In leaded type] Rumour, as yet unconfirmed, states that
she was recently seen with a male companion in a hotel of evil
repute in Vienna.


Readers of Pippin's Weekly will recall that the elopement took
place in dramatic circumstances.  A little before midnight on the
twenty-first of August, Mrs Evelina Semprill, a widowed lady who
inhabits the house next door to Mr Warburton's, happened by chance
to look out of her bedroom window and saw Mr Warburton standing at
his front gate in conversation with a young woman.  As it was a
clear moonlight night, Mrs Semprill was able to distinguish this
young woman as Miss Hare, the Rector's daughter.  The pair remained
at the gate for several minutes, and before going indoors they
exchanged embraces which Mrs Semprill describes as being of a
passionate nature.  About half an hour later they reappeared in Mr
Warburton's car, which was backed out of the front gate, and drove
off in the direction of the Ipswich road.  Miss Hare was dressed in
scanty attire, and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.

It is now learned that for some time past Miss Hare had been in the
habit of making clandestine visits to Mr Warburton's house.  Mrs
Semprill, who could only with great difficulty be persuaded to
speak upon so painful a subject, has further revealed--


Dorothy crumpled Pippin's Weekly violently between her hands and
thrust it into the fire, upsetting the can of water.  There was a
cloud of ashes and sulphurous smoke, and almost in the same instant
Dorothy pulled the paper out of the fire unburnt.  No use funking
it--better to learn the worst.  She read on, with a horrible
fascination.  It was not a nice kind of story to read about
yourself.  For it was strange, but she had no longer any shadow of
doubt that this girl of whom she was reading was herself.  She
examined the photograph.  It was a blurred, nebulous thing, but
quite unmistakable.  Besides, she had no need of the photograph to
remind her.  She could remember everything--every circumstance of
her life, up to that evening when she had come home tired out from
Mr Warburton's house, and, presumably, fallen asleep in the
conservatory.  It was all so clear in her mind that it was almost
incredible that she had ever forgotten it.

She ate no breakfast that day, and did not think to prepare
anything for the midday meal; but when the time came, from force of
habit, she set out for the hopfields with the other pickers.  With
difficulty, being alone, she dragged the heavy bin into position,
pulled the next bine down and began picking.  But after a few
minutes she found that it was quite impossible; even the mechanical
labour of picking was beyond her.  That horrible, lying story in
Pippin's Weekly had so unstrung her that it was impossible even for
an instant to focus her mind upon anything else.  Its lickerish
phrases were going over and over in her head.  'Embraces of a
passionate nature'--'in scanty attire'--'under the influence of
alcohol'--as each one came back into her memory it brought with it
such a pang that she wanted to cry out as though in physical pain.

After a while she stopped even pretending to pick, let the bine
fall across her bin, and sat down against one of the posts that
supported the wires.  The other pickers observed her plight, and
were sympathetic.  Ellen was a bit cut up, they said.  What else
could you expect, after her bloke had been knocked off?  (Everyone
in the camp, of course, had taken it for granted that Nobby was
Dorothy's lover.)  They advised her to go down to the farm and
report sick.  And towards twelve o'clock, when the measurer was
due, everyone in the set came across with a hatful of hops and
dropped it into her bin.

When the measurer arrived he found Dorothy still sitting on the
ground.  Beneath her dirt and sunburn she was very pale; her face
looked haggard, and much older than before.  Her bin was twenty
yards behind the rest of the set, and there were less than three
bushels of hops in it.

'What's the game?' he demanded.  'You ill?'

'No.'

'Well, why ain't you bin pickin', then?  What you think this is--
toff's picnic?  You don't come up 'ere to sit about on the ground,
you know.'

'You cheese it and don't get nagging of 'er!' shouted the old
cockney costerwoman suddenly.  'Can't the pore girl 'ave a bit of
rest and peace if she wants it?  Ain't 'er bloke in the clink
thanks to you and your bloody nosing pals of coppers?  She's got
enough to worry 'er 'thout being ---- about by every bloody
copper's nark in Kent!'

'That'll be enough from you, Ma!' said the measurer gruffly, but he
looked more sympathetic on hearing that it was Dorothy's lover who
had been arrested on the previous night.  When the costerwoman had
got her kettle boiling she called Dorothy to her bin and gave her a
cup of strong tea and a hunk of bread and cheese; and after the
dinner interval another picker who had no partner was sent up to
share Dorothy's bin.  He was a small, weazened old tramp named
Deafie.  Dorothy felt somewhat better after the tea.  Encouraged by
Deafie's example--for he was an excellent picker--she managed to do
her fair share of work during the afternoon.

She had thought things over, and was less distracted than before.
The phrases in Pippin's Weekly still made her wince with shame, but
she was equal now to facing the situation.  She understood well
enough what had happened to her, and what had led to Mrs Semprill's
libel.  Mrs Semprill had seen them together at the gate and had
seen Mr Warburton kissing her; and after that, when they were both
missing from Knype Hill, it was only too natural--natural for Mrs
Semprill, that is--to infer that they had eloped together.  As for
the picturesque details, she had invented them later.  Or HAD she
invented them?  That was the one thing you could never be certain
of with Mrs Semprill--whether she told her lies consciously and
deliberately AS lies, or whether, in her strange and disgusting
mind, she somehow succeeded in believing them.

Well, anyway, the harm was done--no use worrying about it any
longer.  Meanwhile, there was the question of getting back to Knype
Hill.  She would have to send for some clothes, and she would need
two pounds for her train fare home.  Home!  The word sent a pang
through her heart.  Home, after weeks of dirt and hunger!  How she
longed for it, now that she remembered it!

But--!

A chilly little doubt raised its head.  There was one aspect of the
matter that she had not thought of till this moment.  COULD she,
after all, go home?  Dared she?

Could she face Knype Hill after everything that had happened?  That
was the question.  When you have figured on the front page of
Pippin's Weekly--'in scanty attire'--'under the influence of
alcohol'--ah, don't let's think of it again!  But when you have
been plastered all over with horrible, dishonouring libels, can you
go back to a town of two thousand inhabitants where everybody knows
everybody else's private history and talks about it all day long?

She did not know--could not decide.  At one moment it seemed to her
that the story of her elopement was so palpably absurd that no one
could possibly have believed it.  Mr Warburton, for instance, could
contradict it--most certainly would contradict it, for every
possible reason.  But the next moment she remembered that Mr
Warburton had gone abroad, and unless this affair had got into the
continental newspapers, he might not even have heard of it; and
then she quailed again.  She knew what it means to have to live
down a scandal in a small country town.  The glances and furtive
nudges when you passed!  The prying eyes following you down the
street from behind curtained windows!  The knots of youths on the
corners round Blifil-Gordon's factory, lewdly discussing you!

'George!  Say, George!  J'a see that bit of stuff over there?  With
fair 'air?'

'What, the skinny one?  Yes.  'Oo's she?'

'Rector's daughter, she is.  Miss 'Are.  But, say!  What you think
she done two years ago?  Done a bunk with a bloke old enough to bin
'er father.  Regular properly went on the razzle with 'im in Paris!
Never think it to look at 'er, would you?'

'GO on!'

'She did!  Straight, she did.  It was in the papers and all.  Only
'e give 'er the chuck three weeks afterwards, and she come back
'ome again as bold as brass.  Nerve, eh?'

Yes, it would take some living down.  For years, for a decade it
might be, they would be talking about her like that.  And the worst
of it was that the story in Pippin's Weekly was probably a mere
bowdlerized vestige of what Mrs Semprill had been saying in the
town.  Naturally, Pippin's Weekly had not wanted to commit itself
too far.  But was there anything that would ever restrain Mrs
Semprill?  Only the limits of her imagination--and they were almost
as wide as the sky.

One thing, however, reassured Dorothy, and that was the thought
that her father, at any rate, would do his best to shield her.  Of
course, there would be others as well.  It was not as though she
were friendless.  The church congregation, at least, knew her and
trusted her, and the Mothers' Union and the Girl Guides and the
women on her visiting list would never believe such stories about
her.  But it was her father who mattered most.  Almost any
situation is bearable if you have a home to go back to and a family
who will stand by you.  With courage, and her father's support, she
might face things out.  By the evening she had decided that it
would be perfectly all right to go back to Knype Hill, though no
doubt it would be disagreeable at first, and when work was over for
the day she 'subbed' a shilling, and went down to the general shop
in the village and bought a penny packet of notepaper.  Back in the
camp, sitting on the grass by the fire--no tables or chairs in the
camp, of course--she began to write with a stump of pencil:


Dearest Father,--I can't tell you how glad I am, after everything
that has happened, to be able to write to you again.  And I do hope
you have not been too anxious about me or too worried by those
horrible stories in the newspapers.  I don't know what you must
have thought when I suddenly disappeared like that and you didn't
hear from me for nearly a month.  But you see--'


How strange the pencil felt in her torn and stiffened fingers!  She
could only write a large, sprawling hand like that of a child.  But
she wrote a long letter, explaining everything, and asking him to
send her some clothes and two pounds for her fare home.  Also, she
asked him to write to her under an assumed name she gave him--Ellen
Millborough, after Millborough in Suffolk.  It seemed a queer thing
to have to do, to use a false name; dishonest--criminal, almost.
But she dared not risk its being known in the village, and perhaps
in the camp as well, that she was Dorothy Hare, the notorious
'Rector's Daughter'.



6


Once her mind was made up, Dorothy was pining to escape from the
hop camp.  On the following day she could hardly bring herself to
go on with the stupid work of picking, and the discomforts and bad
food were intolerable now that she had memories to compare them
with.  She would have taken to flight immediately if only she had
had enough money to get her home.  The instant her father's letter
with the two pounds arrived, she would say good-bye to the Turles
and take the train for home, and breathe a sigh of relief to get
there, in spite of the ugly scandals that had got to be faced.

On the third day after writing she went down the village post
office and asked for her letter.  The postmistress, a woman with
the face of a dachshund and a bitter contempt for all hop-pickers,
told her frostily that no letter had come.  Dorothy was
disappointed.  A pity--it must have been held up in the post.
However, it didn't matter; tomorrow would be soon enough--only
another day to wait.

The next evening she went again, quite certain that it would have
arrived this time.  Still no letter.  This time a misgiving
assailed her; and on the fifth evening, when there was yet again no
letter, the misgiving changed into a horrible panic.  She bought
another packet of notepaper and wrote an enormous letter, using up
the whole four sheets, explaining over and over again what had
happened and imploring her father not to leave her in such
suspense.  Having posted it, she made up her mind that she would
let a whole week go by before calling at the post office again.

This was Saturday.  By Wednesday her resolve had broken down.  When
the hooter sounded for the midday interval she left her bin and
hurried down to the post office--it was a mile and a half away, and
it meant missing her dinner.  Having got there she went shame-
facedly up to the counter, almost afraid to speak.  The dog-faced
postmistress was sitting in her brass-barred cage at the end of the
counter, ticking figures in a long shaped account book.  She gave
Dorothy a brief nosy glance and went on with her work, taking no
notice of her.

Something painful was happening in Dorothy's diaphragm.  She was
finding it difficult to breathe, 'Are there any letters for me?'
she managed to say at last.

'Name?' said the postmistress, ticking away.

'Ellen Millborough.'

The postmistress turned her long dachshund nose over her shoulder
for an instant and glanced at the M partition of the Poste Restante
letter-box.

'No,' she said, turning back to her account book.

In some manner Dorothy got herself outside and began to walk back
towards the hopfields, then halted.  A deadly feeling of emptiness
at the pit of her stomach, caused partly by hunger, made her too
weak to walk.

Her father's silence could mean only one thing.  He believed Mrs
Semprill's story--believed that she, Dorothy, had run away from
home in disgraceful circumstances and then told lies to excuse
herself.  He was too angry and too disgusted to write to her.  All
he wanted was to get rid of her, drop all communication with her;
get her out of sight and out of mind, as a mere scandal to be
covered up and forgotten.

She could not go home after this.  She dared not.  Now that she had
seen what her father's attitude was, it had opened her eyes to the
rashness of the thing she had been contemplating.  Of COURSE she
could not go home!  To slink back in disgrace, to bring shame on
her father's house by coming there--ah, impossible, utterly
impossible!  How could she even have thought of it?

What then?  There was nothing for it but to go right away--right
away to some place that was big enough to hide in.  London,
perhaps.  Somewhere where nobody knew her and the mere sight of her
face or mention of her name would not drag into the light a string
of dirty memories.

As she stood there the sound of bells floated towards her, from the
village church round the bend of the road, where the ringers were
amusing themselves by ringing 'Abide with Me', as one picks out a
tune with one finger on the piano.  But presently 'Abide with Me'
gave way to the familiar Sunday-morning jangle.  'Oh do leave my
wife alone!  She is so drunk she can't get home!'--the same peal
that the bells of St Athelstan's had been used to ring three years
ago before they were unswung.  The sound planted a spear of
homesickness in Dorothy's heart, bringing back to her with
momentary vividness a medley of remembered things--the smell of the
glue-pot in the conservatory when she was making costumes for the
school play, and the chatter of starlings outside her bedroom
window, interrupting her prayers before Holy Communion, and Mrs
Pither's doleful voice chronicling the pains in the backs of her
legs, and the worries of the collapsing belfry and the shop-debts
and the bindweed in the peas--all the multitudinous, urgent details
of a life that had alternated between work and prayer.

Prayer!  For a very short time, a minute perhaps, the thought
arrested her.  Prayer--in those days it had been the very source
and centre of her life.  In trouble or in happiness, it was to
prayer that she had turned.  And she realized--the first time that
it had crossed her mind--that she had not uttered a prayer since
leaving home, not even since her memory had come back to her.
Moreover, she was aware that she had no longer the smallest impulse
to pray.  Mechanically, she began a whispered prayer, and stopped
almost instantly; the words were empty and futile.  Prayer, which
had been the mainstay of her life, had no meaning for her any
longer.  She recorded this fact as she walked slowly up the road,
and she recorded it briefly, almost casually, as though it had been
something seen in passing--a flower in the ditch or a bird crossing
the road--something noticed and then dismissed.  She had not even
the time to reflect upon what it might mean.  It was shouldered out
of her mind by more momentous things.

It was of the future that she had got to be thinking now.  She was
already fairly clear in her mind as to what she must do.  When the
hop-picking was at an end she must go up to London, write to her
father for money and her clothes--for however angry he might be,
she could not believe that he intended to leave her utterly in the
lurch--and then start looking for a job.  It was the measure of her
ignorance that those dreaded words 'looking for a job' sounded
hardly at all dreadful in her ears.  She knew herself strong and
willing--knew that there were plenty of jobs that she was capable
of doing.  She could be a nursery governess, for instance--no,
better, a housemaid or a parlourmaid.  There were not many things
in a house that she could not do better than most servants;
besides, the more menial her job, the easier it would be to keep
her past history secret.

At any rate, her father's house was closed to her, that was
certain.  From now on she had got to fend for herself.  On this
decision, with only a very dim idea of what it meant, she quickened
her pace and got back to the fields in time for the afternoon
shift.

The hop-picking season had not much longer to run.  In a week or
thereabouts Cairns's would be closing down, and the cockneys would
take the hoppers' train to London, and the gypsies would catch
their horses, pack their caravans, and march northward to
Lincolnshire, to scramble for jobs in the potato fields.  As for
the cockneys, they had had their bellyful of hop-picking by this
time.  They were pining to be back in dear old London, with
Woolworths and the fried-fish shop round the corner, and no more
sleeping in straw and frying bacon in tin lids with your eyes
weeping from wood smoke.  Hopping was a holiday, but the kind of
holiday that you were glad to see the last of.  You came down
cheering, but you went home cheering louder still and swearing that
you would never go hopping again--until next August, when you had
forgotten the cold nights and the bad pay and the damage to your
hands, and remembered only the blowsy afternoons in the sun and the
boozing of stone pots of beer round the red camp fires at night.

The mornings were growing bleak and Novemberish; grey skies, the
first leaves falling, and finches and starlings already flocking
for the winter.  Dorothy had written yet again to her father,
asking for money and some clothes; he had left her letter
unanswered, nor had anybody else written to her.  Indeed, there was
no one except her father who knew her present address; but somehow
she had hoped that Mr Warburton might write.  Her courage almost
failed her now, especially at nights in the wretched straw, when
she lay awake thinking of the vague and menacing future.  She
picked her hops with a sort of desperation, a sort of frenzy of
energy, more aware each day that every handful of hops meant
another fraction of a farthing between herself and starvation.
Deafie, her bin-mate, like herself, was picking against time, for
it was the last money he would earn till next year's hopping season
came round.  The figure they aimed at was five shillings a day--
thirty bushels--between the two of them, but there was no day when
they quite attained it.

Deafie was a queer old man and a poor companion after Nobby, but
not a bad sort.  He was a ship's steward by profession, but a tramp
of many years' standing, as deaf as a post and therefore something
of a Mr F.'s aunt in conversation.  He was also an exhibitionist,
but quite harmless.  For hours together he used to sing a little
song that went 'With my willy willy--WITH my willy willy', and
though he could not hear what he was singing it seemed to cause him
some kind of pleasure.  He had the hairiest ears Dorothy had ever
seen.  There were tufts like miniature Dundreary whiskers growing
out of each of his ears.  Every year Deafie came hop-picking at
Cairns's farm, saved up a pound, and then spent a paradisiac week
in a lodging-house in Newington Butts before going back to the
road.  This was the only week in the year when he slept in what
could be called, except by courtesy, a bed.

The picking came to an end on 28 September.  There were several
fields still unpicked, but they were poor hops and at the last
moment Mr Cairns decided to 'let them blow'.  Set number 19
finished their last field at two in the afternoon, and the little
gypsy foreman swarmed up the poles and retrieved the derelict
bunches, and the measurer carted the last hops away.  As he
disappeared there was a sudden shout of 'Put 'em in the bins!' and
Dorothy saw six men bearing down upon her with a fiendish
expression on their faces, and all the women in the set scattering
and running.  Before she could collect her wits to escape the men
had seized her, laid her at full length in a bin and swung her
violently from side to side.  Then she was dragged out and kissed
by a young gypsy smelling of onions.  She struggled at first, but
she saw the same thing being done to the other women in the set, so
she submitted.  It appeared that putting the women in the bins was
an invariable custom on the last day of picking.  There were great
doings in the camp that night, and not much sleep for anybody.
Long after midnight Dorothy found herself moving with a ring of
people about a mighty fire, one hand clasped by a rosy butcher-boy
and the other by a very drunk old woman in a Scotch bonnet out of a
cracker, to the tune of 'Auld Lang Syne'.

In the morning they went up to the farm to draw their money, and
Dorothy drew one pound and fourpence, and earned another fivepence
by adding up their tally books for people who could not read or
write.  The cockney pickers paid you a penny for this job; the
gypsies paid you only in flattery.  Then Dorothy set out for West
Ackworth station, four miles away, together with the Turles, Mr
Turle carrying the tin trunk, Mrs Turle carrying the baby, the
other children carrying various odds and ends, and Dorothy wheeling
the perambulator which held the Turles' entire stock of crockery,
and which had two circular wheels and two elliptical.

They got to the station about midday, the hoppers' train was due to
start at one, and it arrived at two and started at a quarter past
three.  After a journey of incredible slowness, zigzagging all over
Kent to pick up a dozen hop-pickers here and half a dozen there,
going back on its tracks over and over again and backing into
sidings to let other trains pass--taking, in fact, six hours to do
thirty-five miles--it landed them in London a little after nine at
night.



7


Dorothy slept that night with the Turles.  They had grown so fond
of her that they would have given her shelter for a week or a
fortnight if she had been willing to impose on their hospitality.
Their two rooms (they lived in a tenement house not far from Tower
Bridge Road) were a tight fit for seven people including children,
but they made her a bed of sorts on the floor out of two rag mats,
an old cushion and an overcoat.

In the morning she said good-bye to the Turles and thanked them
for all their kindness towards her, and then went straight to
Bermondsey public baths and washed off the accumulated dirt of five
weeks.  After that she set out to look for a lodging, having in her
possession sixteen and eightpence in cash, and the clothes she
stood up in.  She had darned and cleaned her clothes as best she
could, and being black they did not show the dirt quite as badly as
they might have done.  From the knees down she was now passably
respectable.  On the last day of picking a 'home picker' in the
next set, named Mrs Killfrew, had presented her with a good pair
of shoes that had been her daughter's, and a pair of woollen
stockings.

It was not until the evening that Dorothy managed to find herself a
room.  For something like ten hours she was wandering up and down,
from Bermondsey into Southwark, from Southwark into Lambeth,
through labyrinthine streets where snotty-nosed children played at
hop-scotch on pavements horrible with banana skins and decaying
cabbage leaves.  At every house she tried it was the same story--
the landlady refused point-blank to take her in.  One after another
a succession of hostile women, standing in their doorways as
defensively as though she had been a motor bandit or a government
inspector, looked her up and down, said briefly, 'We don't TAKE
single girls,' and shut the door in her face.  She did not know it,
of course, but the very look of her was enough to rouse any
respectable landlady's suspicions.  Her stained and ragged clothes
they might possibly have put up with; but the fact that she had no
luggage damned her from the start.  A single girl with no luggage
is invariably a bad lot--this is the first and greatest of the
apophthegms of the London landlady.

At about seven o'clock, too tired to stand on her feet any longer,
she ventured into a filthy, flyblown little cafe near the Old Vic
theatre and asked for a cup of tea.  The proprietress, getting into
conversation with her and learning that she wanted a room, advised
her to 'try at Mary's, in Wellings Court, jest orff the Cut'.
'Mary', it appeared, was not particular and would let a room to
anybody who could pay.  Her proper name was Mrs Sawyer, but the
boys all called her Mary.

Dorothy found Wellings Court with some difficulty.  You went along
Lambeth Cut till you got to a Jew clothes-shop called Knockout
Trousers Ltd, then you turned up a narrow alley, and then turned to
your left again up another alley so narrow that its grimy plaster
walls almost brushed you as you went.  In the plaster, persevering
boys had cut the word ---- innumerable times and too deeply to be
erased.  At the far end of the alley you found yourself in a small
court where four tall narrow houses with iron staircases stood
facing one another.

Dorothy made inquiries and found 'Mary' in a subterranean den
beneath one of the houses.  She was a drabby old creature with
remarkably thin hair and face so emaciated that it looked like a
rouged and powdered skull.  Her voice was cracked, shrewish, and
nevertheless ineffably dreary.  She asked Dorothy no questions, and
indeed scarcely even looked at her, but simply demanded ten
shillings and then said in her ugly voice:

'Twenty-nine.  Third floor.  Go up be the back stairs.'

Apparently the back stairs were those inside the house.  Dorothy
went up the dark, spiral staircase, between sweating walls, in a
smell of old overcoats, dishwater and slops.  As she reached the
second floor there was a loud squeal of laughter, and two rowdy-
looking girls came out of one of the rooms and stared at her for a
moment.  They looked young, their faces being quite hidden under
rouge and pink powder, and their lips painted scarlet as geranium
petals.  But amid the pink powder their china-blue eyes were tired
and old; and that was somehow horrible, because it reminded you of
a girl's mask with an old woman's face behind it.  The taller of
the two greeted Dorothy.

''Ullo, dearie!'

'Hullo!'

'You new 'ere?  Which room you kipping in?'

'Number twenty-nine.'

'God, ain't that a bloody dungeon to put you in!  You going out
tonight?'

'No, I don't think so,' said Dorothy, privately a little astonished
at the question.  'I'm too tired.'

'Thought you wasn't, when I saw you 'adn't dolled up.  But, say!
dearie, you ain't on the beach, are you?  Not spoiling the ship for
a 'aporth of tar?  Because f'rinstance if you want the lend of a
lipstick, you only got to say the word.  We're all chums 'ere, you
know.'

'Oh. . . .  No, thank you,' said Dorothy, taken aback.

'Oh, well!  Time Doris and me was moving.  Got a 'portant business
engagement in Leicester Square.'  Here she nudged the other girl
with her hip, and both of them sniggered in a silly mirthless
manner.  'But, say!' added the taller girl confidentially, 'ain't
it a bloody treat to 'ave a good night's kip all alone once in a
way?  Wish _I_ could.  All on your Jack Jones with no bloody great
man's feet shoving you about.  'S all right when you can afford it,
eh?'

'Yes,' said Dorothy, feeling that this answer was expected of her,
and with only a very vague notion of what the other was talking
about.

'Well, ta ta, dearie!  Sleep tight.  And jes' look out for the
smash and grab raiders 'bout 'ar-parse one!'

When the two girls had skipped downstairs with another of their
meaningless squeals of laughter, Dorothy found her way to room
number 29 and opened the door.  A cold, evil smell met her.  The
room measured about eight feet each way, and was very dark.  The
furniture was simple.  In the middle of the room, a narrow iron
bedstead with a ragged coverlet and greyish sheets; against the
wall, a packing case with a tin basin and an empty whisky bottle
intended for water; tacked over the bed, a photograph of Bebe
Daniels torn out of Film Fun.

The sheets were not only dirty, but damp.  Dorothy got into the
bed, but she had only undressed to her chemise, or what was left of
her chemise, her underclothes by this time being almost entirely in
ruins; she could not bring herself to lay her bare body between
those nauseous sheets.  And once in bed, though she was aching from
head to foot with fatigue, she could not sleep.  She was unnerved
and full of forebodings.  The atmosphere of this vile place brought
home to her more vividly than before the fact that she was helpless
and friendless and had only six shillings between herself and the
streets.  Moreover, as the night wore on the house grew noisier and
noisier.  The walls were so thin that you could hear everything
that was happening.  There were bursts of shrill idiotic laughter,
hoarse male voices singing, a gramophone drawling out limericks,
noisy kisses, strange deathlike groans, and once or twice the
violent rattling of an iron bed.  Towards midnight the noises began
to form themselves into a rhythm in Dorothy's brain, and she fell
lightly and unrestfully asleep.  She was woken about a minute
later, as it seemed, by her door being flung open, and two dimly
seen female shapes rushed in, tore every scrap of clothing from her
bed except the sheets, and rushed out again.  There was a chronic
shortage of blankets at 'Mary's', and the only way of getting
enough of them was to rob somebody else's bed.  Hence the term
'smash and grab raiders'.

In the morning, half an hour before opening time, Dorothy went to
the nearest public library to look at the advertisements in the
newspapers.  Already a score of vaguely mangy-looking people were
prowling up and down, and the number swelled by ones and twos till
there were no less than sixty.  Presently the doors of the library
opened, and in they all surged, racing for a board at the other end
of the reading-room where the 'Situations Vacant' columns from
various newspapers had been cut out and pinned up.  And in the wake
of the job-hunters came poor old bundles of rags, men and women
both, who had spent the night in the streets and came to the
library to sleep.  They came shambling in behind the others,
flopped down with grunts of relief at the nearest table, and pulled
the nearest periodical towards them; it might be the Free Church
Messenger, it might be the Vegetarian Sentinel--it didn't matter
what it was, but you couldn't stay in the library unless you
pretended to be reading.  They opened their papers, and in the same
instant fell asleep, with their chins on their breasts.  And the
attendant walked round prodding them in turn like a stoker poking a
succession of fires, and they grunted and woke up as he prodded
them, and then fell asleep again the instant he had passed.

Meanwhile a battle was raging round the advertisement board,
everybody struggling to get to the front.  Two young men in blue
overalls came running up behind the others, and one of them put his
head down and fought his way through the crowd as though it had
been a football scrum.  In a moment he was at the board.  He turned
to his companion: ''Ere we are, Joe--I got it!  "Mechanics wanted--
Locke's Garage, Camden Town."  C'm on out of it!'  He fought his
way out again, and both of them scooted for the door.  They were
going to Camden Town as fast as their legs would carry them.  And
at this moment, in every public library in London, mechanics out of
work were reading that identical notice and starting on the race
for the job, which in all probability had already been given to
someone who could afford to buy a paper for himself and had seen
the notice at six in the morning.

Dorothy managed to get to the board at last, and made a note of
some of the addresses where 'cook generals' were wanted.  There
were plenty to choose from--indeed, half the ladies in London
seemed to be crying out for strong capable general servants.  With
a list of twenty addresses in her pocket, and having had a
breakfast of bread and margarine and tea which cost her threepence,
Dorothy set out to look for a job, not unhopefully.

She was too ignorant as yet to know that her chances of finding
work unaided were practically nil; but the next four days gradually
enlightened her.  During those four days she applied for eighteen
jobs, and sent written applications for four others.  She trudged
enormous distances all through the southern suburbs: Clapham,
Brixton, Dulwich, Penge, Sydenham, Beckenham, Norwood--even as far
as Croydon on one occasion.  She was haled into neat suburban
drawing-rooms and interviewed by women of every conceivable type--
large, chubby, bullying women, thin, acid, catty women, alert
frigid women in gold pince-nez, vague rambling women who looked as
though they practised vegetarianism or attended spiritualist
seances.  And one and all, fat or thin, chilly or motherly, they
reacted to her in precisely the same way.  They simply looked her
over, heard her speak, stared inquisitively, asked her a dozen
embarrassing and impertinent questions, and then turned her down.

Any experienced person could have told her how it would be.  In her
circumstances it was not to be expected that anyone would take the
risk of employing her.  Her ragged clothes and her lack of
references were against her, and her educated accent, which she did
not know how to disguise, wrecked whatever chances she might have
had.  The tramps and cockney hop-pickers had not noticed her
accent, but the suburban housewives noticed it quickly enough, and
it scared them in just the same way as the fact that she had no
luggage had scared the landladies.  The moment they had heard her
speak, and spotted her for a gentlewoman, the game was up.  She
grew quite used to the startled, mystified look that came over
their faces as soon as she opened her mouth--the prying, feminine
glance from her face to her damaged hands, and from those to the
darns in her skirt.  Some of the women asked her outright what a
girl of her class was doing seeking work as a servant.  They
sniffed, no doubt, that she had 'been in trouble'--that is, had an
illegitimate baby--and after probing her with their questions they
got rid of her as quickly as possible.

As soon as she had an address to give Dorothy had written to her
father, and when on the third day no answer came, she wrote again,
despairingly this time--it was her fifth letter, and four had gone
unanswered--telling him that she must starve if he did not send her
money at once.  There was just time for her to get an answer before
her week at 'Mary's' was up and she was thrown out for not paying
her rent.

Meanwhile, she continued the useless search for work, while her
money dwindled at the rate of a shilling a day--a sum just
sufficient to keep her alive while leaving her chronically hungry.
She had almost given up the hope that her father would do anything
to help her.  And strangely enough her first panic had died down,
as she grew hungrier and the chances of getting a job grew remoter,
into a species of miserable apathy.  She suffered, but she was not
greatly afraid.  The sub-world into which she was descending seemed
less terrible now that it was nearer.

The autumn weather, though fine, was growing colder.  Each day the
sun, fighting his losing battle against the winter, struggled a
little later through the mist to dye the house-fronts with pale
aquarelle colours.  Dorothy was in the streets all day, or in the
public library, only going back to 'Mary's' to sleep, and then
taking the precaution of dragging her bed across the door.  She had
grasped by this time that 'Mary's' was--not actually a brothel, for
there is hardly such a thing in London, but a well-known refuge of
prostitutes.  It was for that reason that you paid ten shillings a
week for a kennel not worth five.  Old 'Mary' (she was not the
proprietress of the house, merely the manageress) had been a
prostitute herself in her day, and looked it.  Living in such a
place damned you even in the eyes of Lambeth Cut.  Women sniffed
when you passed them, men took an offensive interest in you.  The
Jew on the corner, the owner of Knockout Trousers Ltd, was the
worst of all.  He was a solid young man of about thirty, with
bulging red cheeks and curly black hair like astrakhan.  For twelve
hours a day he stood on the pavement roaring with brazen lungs that
you couldn't get a cheaper pair of trousers in London, and
obstructing the passers-by.  You had only to halt for a fraction of
a second, and he seized you by the arm and bundled you inside the
shop by main force.  Once he got you there his manner became
positively threatening.  If you said anything disparaging about his
trousers he offered to fight, and weak-minded people bought pairs
of trousers in sheer physical terror.  But busy though he was, he
kept a sharp eye open for the 'birds', as he called them; and
Dorothy appeared to fascinate him beyond all other 'birds'.  He had
grasped that she was not a prostitute, but living at 'Mary's', she
must--so he reasoned--be on the very verge of becoming one.  The
thought made his mouth water.  When he saw her coming down the
alley he would post himself at the corner, with his massive chest
well displayed and one black lecherous eye turned inquiringly upon
her ('Are you ready to begin yet?' his eye seemed to be saying),
and, as she passed, give her a discreet pinch on the backside.

On the last morning of her week at 'Mary's', Dorothy went downstairs
and looked, with only a faint flicker of hope, at the slate in the
hallway where the names of people for whom there were letters were
chalked up.  There was no letter for 'Ellen Millborough'.  That
settled it; there was nothing left to do except to walk out into the
street.  It did not occur to her to do as every other woman in the
house would have done--that is, pitch a hard-up tale and try to
cadge another night's lodging rent free.  She simply walked out of
the house, and had not even the nerve to tell 'Mary' that she was
going.

She had no plan, absolutely no plan whatever.  Except for half an
hour at noon when she went out to spend threepence out of her last
fourpence on bread and margarine and tea, she passed the entire day
in the public library, reading weekly papers.  In the morning she
read the Barber's Record, and in the afternoon Cage Birds.  They
were the only papers she could get hold of, for there were always
so many idlers in the library that you had to scramble to get hold
of a paper at all.  She read them from cover to cover, even the
advertisements.  She pored for hours together over such
technicalities as How to strop French Razors, Why the Electric
Hairbrush is Unhygienic, Do Budgies thrive on Rapeseed?  It was the
only occupation that she felt equal to.  She was in a strange
lethargic state in which it was easier to interest herself in How
to strop French Razors than in her own desperate plight.  All fear
had left her.  Of the future she was utterly unable to think; even
so far ahead as tonight she could barely see.  There was a night in
the streets ahead of her, that was all she knew, and even about
that she only vaguely cared.  Meanwhile there were Cage Birds and
the Barber's Record; and they were, strangely, absorbingly
interesting.

At nine o'clock the attendant came round with a long hooked pole
and turned out the gaslights, the library was closed.  Dorothy
turned to the left, up the Waterloo Road, towards the river.  On
the iron footbridge she halted for a moment.  The night wind was
blowing.  Deep banks of mist, like dunes, were rising from the
river, and, as the wind caught them, swirling north-eastward across
the town.  A swirl of mist enveloped Dorothy, penetrating her thin
clothes and making her shudder with a sudden foretaste of the
night's cold.  She walked on and arrived, by the process of
gravitation that draws all roofless people to the same spot, at
Trafalgar Square.




CHAPTER 3



1


[SCENE:  Trafalgar Square.  Dimly visible through the mist, a dozen
people, Dorothy among them, are grouped about one of the benches
near the north parapet.]

CHARLIE [singing]:  'Ail Mary, 'ail Mary, 'a-il Ma-ary--[Big Ben
strikes ten.]

SNOUTER [mimicking the noise]:  Ding dong, ding dong!  Shut your
---- noise, can't you?  Seven more hours of it on this ---- square
before we get the chance of a setdown and a bit of sleep!  Cripes!

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  Non sum qualis eram boni sub regno
Edwardi!  In the days of my innocence, before the Devil carried me
up into a high place and dropped me into the Sunday newspapers--
that is to say when I was Rector of Little Fawley-cum-Dewsbury. . . .

DEAFIE [singing]:  With my willy willy, WITH my willy willy--

MRS WAYNE:  Ah, dearie, as soon as I set eyes on you I knew as you
was a lady born and bred.  You and me've known what it is to come
down in the world, haven't we, dearie?  It ain't the same for us as
what it is for some of these others here.

CHARLIE [singing]:  'Ail Mary, 'ail Mary, 'a-il Ma-ary, full of
grace!

MRS BENDIGO:  Calls himself a bloody husband, does he?  Four pound
a week in Covent Garden and 'is wife doing a starry in the bloody
Square!  Husband!

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  Happy days, happy days!  My ivied church
under the sheltering hillside--my red-tiled Rectory slumbering
among Elizabethan yews!  My library, my vinery, my cook, house-
parlourmaid and groom-gardener!  My cash in the bank, my name in
Crockford!  My black suit of irreproachable cut, my collar back to
front, my watered silk cassock in the church precincts. . . .

MRS WAYNE:  Of course the one thing I DO thank God for, dearie, is
that my poor dear mother never lived to see this day.  Because if
she ever HAD of lived to see the day when her eldest daughter--as
was brought up, mind you, with no expense spared and milk straight
from the cow. . . .

MRS BENDIGO:  HUSBAND!

GINGER:  Come on, less 'ave a drum of tea while we got the chance.
Last we'll get tonight--coffee shop shuts at 'ar-parse ten.

THE KIKE:  Oh Jesus!  This bloody cold's gonna kill me!  I ain't
got nothing on under my trousers.  Oh Je-e-e-EEZE!

CHARLIE [singing]:  'Ail Mary, 'ail Mary--

SNOUTER:  Fourpence!  Fourpence for six ---- hours on the bum!  And
that there nosing sod with the wooden leg queering our pitch at
every boozer between Aldgate and the Mile End Road.  With 'is ----
wooden leg and 'is war medals as 'e bought in Lambeth Cut!
Bastard!

DEAFIE [singing]:  With my willy willy, WITH my willy willy--

MRS BENDIGO:  Well, I told the bastard what I thought of 'im,
anyway.  'Call yourself a man?' I says.  'I've seen things like you
kep' in a bottle at the 'orspital,' I says. . . .

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  Happy days, happy days!  Roast beef and
bobbing villagers, and the peace of God that passeth all
understanding!  Sunday mornings in my oaken stall, cool flower
scent and frou-frou of surplices mingling in the sweet corpse-laden
air!  Summer evenings when the late sun slanted through my study
window--I pensive, boozed with tea, in fragrant wreaths of
Cavendish, thumbing drowsily some half-calf volume--Poetical Works
of William Shenstone, Esq., Percy's Reliques of Ancient English
Poetry, J. Lempriere, D.D., professor of immoral theology . . .

GINGER:  Come on, 'oo's for that drum of riddleme-ree?  We got the
milk and we got the tea.  Question is, 'oo's got any bleeding
sugar?

DOROTHY:  This cold, this cold!  It seems to go right through you!
Surely it won't be like this all night?

MRS BENDIGO:  Oh, cheese it!  I 'ate these snivelling tarts.

CHARLIE:  Ain't it going to be a proper perisher, too?  Look at the
perishing river mist creeping up that there column.  Freeze the
fish-hooks off of ole Nelson before morning.

MRS WAYNE:  Of course, at the time that I'm speaking of we still
had our little tobacco and sweetstuff business on the corner,
you'll understand. . . .

THE KIKE:  Oh Je-e-e-EEZE!  Lend's that overcoat of yours, Ginger.
I'm bloody freezing!

SNOUTER:  ---- double-crossing bastard!  P'raps I won't bash 'is
navel in when I get a 'old of 'im!

CHARLIE:  Fortunes o' war, boy, fortunes o' war.  Perishing Square
tonight--rumpsteak and kip on feathers tomorrow.  What else d'you
expect on perishing Thursday?

MRS BENDIGO:  Shove up, Daddy, shove up!  Think I want your lousy
old 'ed on my shoulder--me a married woman?

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  For preaching, chanting, and intoning I
was unrivalled.  My Lift up your Hearts' was renowned throughout
the diocese.  All styles I could do you, High Church, Low Church,
Broad Church and No Church.  Throaty Anglo-Cat Warblings, straight
from the shoulder muscular Anglican, or the adenoidal Low Church
whine in which still lurk the Houyhnhnm-notes of neighing chapel
elders. . . .

DEAFIE [singing]:  WITH my willy willy--

GINGER:  Take your 'ands off that bleeding overcoat, Kikie.  You
don't get no clo'es of mine while you got the chats on you.

CHARLIE [singing]:

As pants the 'art for cooling streams,
When 'eated in the chase--

MRS MCELLIGOT [in her sleep]:  Was 'at you, Michael dear?

MRS BENDIGO:  It's my belief as the sneaking bastard 'ad another
wife living when 'e married me.

MR TALLBOYS [from the roof of his mouth, stage curate-wise,
reminiscently]:  If any of you know cause of just impediment
why these two persons should not be joined together in holy
matrimony . . .

THE KIKE:  A pal!  A bloody pal!  And won't lend his bloody
overcoat!

MRS WAYNE:  Well, now as you've mentioned it, I must admit as I
never WAS one to refuse a nice cup of tea.  I know that when our
poor dear mother was alive, pot after pot we used to . . .

NOSY WATSON [to himself, angrily]:  Sod! . . .  Gee'd into it
and then a stretch all round. . . .  Never even done the bloody
job. . . .  Sod!

DEAFIE [singing]:  WITH my willy willy--

MRS MCELLIGOT [half asleep]:  DEAR Michael. . . .  He was real
loving, Michael was.  Tender an' true. . . .  Never looked at
another man since dat evenin' when I met'm outside Kronk's
slaughter-house an' he gimme de two pound o' sausage as he'd
bummed off de International Stores for his own supper. . . .

MRS BENDIGO:  Well, I suppose we'll get that bloody tea this time
tomorrow.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting, reminiscently]:  By the waters of Babylon we
sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion! . . .

DOROTHY:  Oh, this cold, this cold!

SNOUTER:  Well, I don't do no more ---- starries this side of
Christmas.  I'll 'ave my kip tomorrow if I 'ave to cut it out of
their bowels.

NOSY WATSON:  Detective, is he?  Smith of the Flying Squad!  Flying
Judas more likely!  All they can bloody do--copping the old
offenders what no beak won't give a fair chance.

GINGER:  Well, I'm off for the fiddlede-dee.  'Oo's got a couple of
clods for the water?

MRS MCELLIGOT [waking]:  Oh dear, oh dear!  If my back ain't fair
broke!  Oh holy Jesus, if dis bench don't catch you across de
kidneys!  An' dere was me dreamin' I was warm in kip wid a nice cup
a' tea an' two o' buttered toast waitin' by me bedside.  Well, dere
goes me last wink o' sleep till I gets into Lambeth public lib'ry
tomorrow.

DADDY [his head emerging from within his overcoat like a tortoise's
from within its shell]:  Wassat you said, boy?  Paying money for
water!  How long've you bin on the road, you ignorant young scut?
Money for bloody water?  Bum it, boy, bum it!  Don't buy what you
can bum and don't bum what you can steal.  That's my word--fifty
year on the road, man and boy.  [Retires within his coat.]

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  O all ye works of the Lord--

DEAFIE [singing]:  WITH my willy willy--

CHARLIE:  'Oo was it copped you, Nosy?

THE KIKE:  Oh Je-e-e-EEZE!

MRS BENDIGO:  Shove up, shove up!  Seems to me some folks think
they've took a mortgage on this bloody seat.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  O all ye works of the Lord, curse ye the
Lord, curse Him and vilify Him for ever!

MRS MCELLIGOT:  What I always says is, it's always us poor bloody
Catholics dat's down in de bloody dumps.

NOSY WATSON:  Smithy.  Flying Squad--flying sod!  Give us the plans
of the house and everything, and then had a van full of coppers
waiting and nipped the lot of us.  I wrote it up in the Black
Maria:

'Detective Smith knows how to gee;
Tell him he's a ---- from me.'

SNOUTER:  'Ere, what about our ---- tea?  Go on, Kikie, you're a
young 'un; shut that ---- noise and take the drums.  Don't you pay
nothing.  Worm it out of the old tart.  Snivel.  Do the doleful.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  O all ye children of men, curse ye the
Lord, curse Him and vilify Him for ever!

CHARLIE:  What, is Smithy crooked too?

MRS BENDIGO:  I tell you what, girls, I tell you what gets ME down,
and that's to think of my bloody husband snoring under four
blankets and me freezing in this bloody Square.  That's what _I_
can't stomach.  The unnatural sod!

GINGER [singing]:  THERE they go--IN their joy--Don't take that
there drum with the cold sausage in it, Kikie.

NOSY WATSON:  Crooked?  CROOKED?  Why, a corkscrew 'ud look like a
bloody bradawl beside of him!  There isn't one of them double ----
sons of whores in the Flying Squad but 'ud sell his grandmother to
the knackers for two pound ten and then sit on her gravestone
eating potato crisps.  The geeing, narking toe rag!

CHARLIE:  Perishing tough.  'Ow many convictions you got?

GINGER [singing]:

THERE they go--IN their joy--
'APpy girl--LUcky boy--

NOSY WATSON:  Fourteen.  You don't stand no chance with that lot
against you.

MRS WAYNE:  What, don't he keep you, then?

MRS BENDIGO:  No, I'm married to this one, sod 'im!

CHARLIE:  I got perishing nine myself.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  O Ananias, Azarias and Misael, curse ye
the Lord, curse Him and vilify Him for ever!

GINGER [singing]:

THERE they go--IN their joy--
'APpy girl--LUcky boy--
But 'ere am _I-I-I_--
Broken--'A-A-AARted!

God, I ain't 'ad a dig in the grave for three days.  'Ow long since
you washed your face, Snouter?

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Oh dear, oh dear!  If dat boy don't come soon wid
de tea me insides'll dry up like a bloody kippered herring.

CHARLIE:  YOU can't sing, none of you.  Ought to 'ear Snouter and
me 'long towards Christmas time when we pipe up 'Good King
Wenceslas' outside the boozers.  'Ymns, too.  Blokes in the bar
weep their perishing eyes out to 'ear us.  'Member when we tapped
twice at the same 'ouse by mistake, Snouter?  Old tart fair tore
the innards out of us.

MR TALLBOYS [marching up and down behind an imaginary drum and
singing]:

All things vile and damnable,
All creatures great and small--

[Big Ben strikes half past ten.]

SNOUTER [mimicking the clock]:  Ding dong, ding dong!  Six and a
---- half hours of it!  Cripes!

GINGER:  Kikie and me knocked off four of them safety-razor blades
in Woolworth's 's afternoon.  I'll 'ave a dig in the bleeding
fountains tomorrow if I can bum a bit of soap.

DEAFIE:  When I was a stooard in the P. & O., we used to meet them
black Indians two days out at sea, in them there great canoes as
they call catamarans, catching sea-turtles the size of dinner
tables.

MRS WAYNE:  Did yoo used to be a clergyman, then, sir?

MR TALLBOYS [halting]:  After the order of Melchizedec.  There is
no question of 'used to be', Madam.  Once a priest always a priest.
Hoc est corpus hocus-pocus.  Even though unfrocked--un-Crocked, we
call it--and dog-collar publicly torn off by the bishop of the
diocese.

GINGER [singing]:  THERE they go--IN their joy--Thank Christ!  'Ere
comes Kikie.  Now for the consultation-free!

MRS BENDIGO:  Not before it's bloody needed.

CHARLIE:  'Ow come they give you the sack, mate?  Usual story?
Choirgirls in the family way?

MRS MCELLIGOT:  You've took your time, ain't you, young man?  But
come on, let's have a sup of it before me tongue falls out o' me
bloody mouth.

MRS BENDIGO:  Shove up, Daddy!  You're sitting on my packet of
bloody sugar.

MR TALLBOYS:  Girls is a euphemism.  Only the usual flannel-
bloomered hunters of the unmarried clergy.  Church hens--altar-
dressers and brass-polishers--spinsters growing bony and desperate.
There is a demon that enters into them at thirty-five.

THE KIKE:  The old bitch wouldn't give me the hot water.  Had to
tap a toff in the street and pay a penny for it.

SNOUTER:  ---- likely story!  Bin swigging it on the way more
likely.

DADDY [emerging from his overcoat]:  Drum o' tea, eh?  I could sup
a drum o' tea.  [Belches slightly.]

CHARLIE:  When their bubs get like perishing razor stops?  _I_
know.

NOSY WATSON:  Tea--bloody catlap.  Better'n that cocoa in the stir,
though.  Lend's your cup, matie.

GINGER:  Jest wait'll I knock a 'ole in this tin of milk.  Shy us a
money or your life, someone.

MRS BENDIGO:  Easy with that bloody sugar!  'Oo paid for it, I sh'd
like to know?

MR TALLBOYS:  When their bubs get like razor stops.  I thank thee
for that humour.  Pippin's Weekly made quite a feature of the case.
'Missing Canon's Sub Rosa Romance.  Intimate Revelations.'  And
also an Open Letter in John Bull:  'To a Skunk in Shepherd's
Clothing'.  A pity--I was marked out for preferment.  [To Dorothy]
Gaiters in the family, if you understand me.  You would not think,
would you, that the time has been when this unworthy backside
dented the plush cushions of a cathedral stall?

CHARLIE:  'Ere comes Florry.  Thought she'd be along soon as we got
the tea going.  Got a nose like a perishing vulture for tea, that
girl 'as.

SNOUTER:  Ay, always on the tap.  [Singing]

Tap, tap, tappety tap,
I'm a perfec' devil at that--

MRS MCELLIGOT:  De poor kid, she ain't got no sense.  Why don't she
go up to Piccadilly Circus where she'd get her five bob reg'lar?
She won't do herself no good bummin' round de Square wid a set of
miserable ole Tobies.

DOROTHY:  Is that milk all right?

GINGER:  All right?  [Applies his mouth to one of the holes in the
tin and blows.  A sticky greyish stream dribbles from the other.]

CHARLIE:  What luck, Florry?  'Ow 'bout that perishing toff as I
see you get off with just now?

DOROTHY:  It's got 'Not fit for babies' on it.

MRS BENDIGO:  Well, you ain't a bloody baby, are you?  You can drop
your Buckingham Palace manners, 'ere, dearie.

FLORRY:  Stood me a coffee and a fag--mingy bastard!  That tea you
got there, Ginger?  You always WAS my favourite, Ginger dear.

MRS WAYNE:  There's jest thirteen of us.

MR TALLBOYS:  As we are not going to have any dinner you need not
disturb yourself.

GINGER:  What-o, ladies and gents!  Tea is served.  Cups forward,
please!

THE KIKE:  Oh Jeez!  You ain't filled my bloody cup half full!

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Well, here's luck to us all, an' a better bloody
kip tomorrow.  I'd ha' took shelter in one o' dem dere churches
meself, only de b--s won't let you in if so be as dey t'ink you got
de chats on you.  [Drinks.]

MRS WAYNE:  Well, I can't say as this is exactly the way as I've
been ACCUSTOMED to drinking a cup of tea--but still--[Drinks.]

CHARLIE:  Perishing good cup of tea.  [Drinks.]

DEAFIE:  And there was flocks of them there green parakeets in the
coco-nut palms, too.  [Drinks.]

MR TALLBOYS:

What potions have I drunk of siren tears,
Distilled from limbecs foul as Hell within!

[Drinks.]

SNOUTER:  Last we'll get till five in the ---- morning.  [Drinks.]

[Florry produces a broken shop-made cigarette from her stocking,
and cadges a match.  The men, except Daddy, Deafie, and Mr
Tallboys, roll cigarettes from picked-up fag-ends.  The red ends
glow through the misty twilight, like a crooked constellation, as
the smokers sprawl on the bench, the ground, or the slope of the
parapet.]

MRS WAYNE:  Well, there now!  A nice cup of tea do seem to warm you
up, don't it, now?  Not but what I don't feel it a bit different,
as you might say, not having no nice clean table-cloth like I've
been accustomed to, and the beautiful china tea service as our
mother used to have; and always, of course, the very best tea as
money could buy--real Pekoe Points at two and nine a pound. . . .

GINGER [singing]:

THERE they go--IN their joy--
'APPY girl--LUCKY boy--

MR TALLBOYS [singing, to the tune of 'Deutschland, Deutschland uber
alles']:  Keep the aspidistra flying--

CHARLIE:  'Ow long you two kids been in Smoke?

SNOUTER:  I'm going to give them boozers such a doing tomorrow as
they won't know if theyr'e on their 'eads or their ---- 'eels.
I'll 'ave my 'alf dollar if I 'ave to 'old them upside down and
---- shake 'em.

GINGER:  Three days.  We come down from York--skippering 'alf the
way.  God, wasn't it jest about bleeding nine carat gold, too!

FLORRY:  Got any more tea there, Ginger dear?  Well, so long,
folks.  See you all at Wilkins's tomorrow morning.

MRS BENDIGO:  Thieving little tart!  Swallers 'er tea and then
jacks off without so much as a thank you.  Can't waste a bloody
moment.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Cold?  Ay, I b'lieve you.  Skipperin' in de long
grass wid no blanket an' de bloody dew fit to drown you, an' den
can't get your bloody fire going' in de mornin', an' got to tap de
milkman 'fore you can make yourself a drum o' tea.  I've had some'v
it when me and Michael was on de toby.

MRS BENDIGO:  Even go with blackies and Chinamen she will, the
dirty little cow.

DOROTHY:  How much does she get each time?

SNOUTER:  Tanner.

DOROTHY:  SIXPENCE?

CHARLIE:  Bet your life.  Do it for a perishing fag along towards
morning.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  I never took less'n a shilling, never.

GINGER:  Kikie and me skippered in a boneyard one night.  Woke up
in the morning and found I was lying on a bleeding gravestone.

THE KIKE:  She ain't half got the crabs on her, too.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Michael an' me skippered in a pigsty once.  We was
just a-creepin' in, when, 'Holy Mary!' says Michael, 'dere's a pig
in here!'  'Pig be ----!' I says, 'he'll keep us warm anyway.'  So
in we goes, an' dere was an old sow lay on her side snorin' like a
traction engine.  I creeps up agen her an' puts me arms round her,
an' begod she kept me warm all night.  I've skippered worse.

DEAFIE [singing]:  WITH my willy willy--

CHARLIE:  Don't ole Deafie keep it up?  Sets up a kind of a 'umming
inside of 'im, 'e says.

DADDY:  When I was a boy we didn't live on this 'ere bread and marg
and tea and suchlike trash.  Good solid tommy we 'ad in them days.
Beef stoo.  Black pudden.  Bacon dumpling.  Pig's 'ead.  Fed like a
fighting-cock on a tanner a day.  And now fifty year I've 'ad of it
on the toby.  Spud-grabbing, pea-picking, lambing, turnip-topping--
everythink.  And sleeping in wet straw and not once in a year you
don't fill your guts right full.  Well--!  [Retires within his coat.]

MRS MCELLIGOT:  But he was real bold, Michael was.  He'd go in
anywhere.  Many's de time we've broke into an empty house an kipped
in de best bed.  'Other people got homes,' he'd say.  'Why shouln't
we have'm too!'

GINGER [singing]:  But I'm dan--cing with tears--in my eyes--

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  Absumet haeres Caecuba dignior!  To
think that there were twenty-one bottles of Clos St Jacques 1911 in
my cellar still, that night when the baby was born and I left for
London on the milk train! . . .

MRS WAYNE:  And as for the WREATHS we 'as sent us when our mother
died--well, you wouldn't believe!  'Uge, they was. . . .

MRS BENDIGO:  If I 'ad my time over again I'd marry for bloody
money.

GINGER [singing]:

But I'm dan--cing with tears--in my eyes--
'Cos the girl--in my arms--isn't you-o-ou!

NOSY WATSON:  Some of you lot think you got a bloody lot to howl
about, don't you?  What about a poor sod like me?  You wasn't
narked into the stir when you was eighteen year old, was you?

THE KIKE:  Oh Je-e-eEEZE!

CHARLIE:  Ginger, you can't sing no more'n a perishing tomcat with
the guts-ache.  Just you listen to me.  I'll give y'a treat.
[Singing]:  Jesu, lover OF my soul--

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  Et ego in Crockford. . . .  With Bishops
and Archbishops and with all the Company of Heaven. . . .

NOSY WATSON:  D'you know how I got in the stir the first time?
Narked by my own sister--yes, my own bloody sister!  My sister's a
cow if ever there was one.  She got married to a religious maniac--
he's so bloody religious that she's got fifteen kids now--well, it
was him put her up to narking me.  But I got back on 'em, _I_ can
tell you.  First thing, I done when I come out of the stir, I buys
a hammer and goes round to my sister's house, and smashed her piano
to bloody matchwood.  'There!' I says, 'that's what you get for
narking ME!  You nosing mare!' I says.

DOROTHY:  This cold, this cold!  I don't know whether my feet are
there or not.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Bloody tea don't warm you for long, do it?  I'm
fair froze myself.

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  My curate days, my curate days!  My
fancywork bazaars and morris-dancers in aid of on the village
green, my lectures to the Mothers' Union-missionary work in Western
China with fourteen magic lantern slides!  My Boys' Cricket Club,
teetotallers only, my Confirmation classes--purity lecture once
monthly in the Parish Hall--my Boy Scout orgies!  The Wolf Cubs
will deliver the Grand Howl.  Household Hints for the Parish
Magazine, 'Discarded fountain-pen fillers can be used as enemas for
canaries. . . .'

CHARLIE [singing]:  Jesu, lover OF my soul--

GINGER:  'Ere comes the bleeding flattie!  Get up off the ground,
all of you.  [Daddy emerges from his overcoat.]

THE POLICEMAN [shaking the sleepers on the next bench]:  Now then,
wake up, wake up!  Rouse up, you!  Got to go home if you want to
sleep.  This isn't a common lodging house.  Get up, there!  [etc.,
etc.]

MRS BENDIGO:  It's that nosy young sod as wants promotion.
Wouldn't let you bloody breathe if 'e 'ad 'is way.

CHARLIE [singing]:

Jesu, lover of my soul,
Let me TO Thy bosom fly--

THE POLICEMAN:  Now then, YOU!  What you think THIS is?  Baptist
prayer meeting?  [To the Kike]  Up you get, and look sharp about
it!

CHARLIE:  I can't 'elp it, sergeant.  It's my toonful nature.  It
comes out of me natural-like.

THE POLICEMAN [shaking Mrs Bendigo]:  Wake up, mother, wake up!

MRS BENDIGO:  Mother?  MOTHER, is it?  Well, if I am a mother,
thank God I ain't got a bloody son like you!  And I'll tell you
another little secret, constable.  Next time I want a man's fat
'ands feeling round the back of my neck, I won't ask YOU to do it.
I'll 'ave someone with a bit more sex-appeal.

THE POLICEMAN:  Now then, now then!  No call to get abusive, you
know.  We got our orders to carry out.  [Exit majestically.]

SNOUTER [sotto voce]:  ---- off, you ---- son of a ----!

CHARLIE [singing]:

While the gathering waters roll,
While the tempest still is 'igh!

Sung bass in the choir my last two years in Dartmoor, I did.

MRS BENDIGO:  I'll bloody mother 'im!  [Shouting after the
policeman]  'I!  Why don't you get after them bloody cat burglars
'stead of coming nosing round a respectable married woman?

GINGER:  Kip down, blokes.  'E's jacked.  [Daddy retires within his
coat.]

NOSY WATSON:  Wassit like in Dartmoor now?  D'they give you jam
now?

MRS WAYNE:  Of course, you can see as they couldn't reely allow
people to sleep in the streets--I mean, it wouldn't be quite nice--
and then you've got to remember as it'd be encouraging of all the
people as haven't got homes of their own--the kind of riff-raff, if
you take my meaning. . . .

MR TALLBOYS [to himself]:  Happy days, happy days!  Outings with
the Girl Guides in Epping Forest--hired brake and sleek roan
horses, and I on the box in my grey flannel suit, speckled straw
hat, and discreet layman's necktie.  Buns and ginger pop under the
green elms.  Twenty Girl Guides pious yet susceptible frisking in
the breast-high bracken, and I a happy curate sporting among them,
in loco parentis pinching the girls' backsides. . . .

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Well, you may talk about kippin' down, but begod
dere won't be much sleep for my poor ole bloody bones tonight.  I
can't skipper it now de way me and Michael used to.

CHARLIE:  Not jam.  Gets cheese, though, twice a week.

THE KIKE:  Oh Jeez!  I can't stand it no longer.  I going down to
the M.A.B.

[Dorothy stands up, and then, her knees having stiffened with the
cold, almost falls.]

GINGER:  Only send you to the bleeding Labour Home.  What you say
we all go up to Covent Garden tomorrow morning?  Bum a few pears if
we get there early enough.

CHARLIE:  I've 'ad my perishing bellyful of Dartmoor, b'lieve me.
Forty on us went through 'ell for getting off with the ole women
down on the allotments.  Ole trots seventy years old they was--
spud-grabbers.  Didn't we cop it just!  Bread and water, chained to
the wall--perishing near murdered us.

MRS BENDIGO:  No fear!  Not while my bloody husband's there.  One
black eye in a week's enough for me, thank you.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting, reminiscently]:  As for our harps, we hanged
them up, upon the willow trees of Babylon! . . .

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Hold up, kiddie!  Stamp your feet an' get de blood
back into 'm.  I'll take y'a walk up to Paul's in a coupla minutes.

DEAFIE [singing]:  WITH my willy willy--

[Big Ben strikes eleven.]

SNOUTER:  Six more--hours!  Cripes!

[An hour passes.  Big Ben stops striking.  The mist thins and the
cold increases.  A grubby-faced moon is seen sneaking among the
clouds of the southern sky.  A dozen hardened old men remain on the
benches, and still contrive to sleep, doubled up and hidden in
their greatcoats.  Occasionally they groan in their sleep.  The
others set out in all directions, intending to walk all night and
so keep their blood flowing, but nearly all of them have drifted
back to the Square by midnight.  A new policeman comes on duty.
He strolls through the Square at intervals of half an hour,
scrutinizing the faces of the sleepers but letting them alone when
he has made sure that they are only asleep and not dead.  Round
each bench revolves a knot of people who take it in turns to sit
down and are driven to their feet by the cold after a few minutes.
Ginger and Charlie fill two drums at the fountains and set out in
the desperate hope of boiling some tea over the navvies' clinker
fire in Chandos Street; but a policeman is warming himself at the
fire, and orders them away.  The Kike suddenly vanishes, probably
to beg a bed at the M.A.B.  Towards one o'clock a rumour goes round
that a lady is distributing hot coffee, ham sandwiches, and packets
of cigarettes under Charing Cross Bridge; there is a rush to the
spot, but the rumour turns out to be unfounded.  As the Square
fills again the ceaseless changing of places upon the benches
quickens until it is a game of musical chairs.  Sitting down, with
one's hands under one's armpits, it is possible to get into a kind
of sleep, or doze, for two or three minutes on end.  In this state,
enormous ages seem to pass.  One sinks into a complex, troubling
dreams which leave one conscious of one's surroundings and of the
bitter cold.  The night is growing clearer and colder every minute.
There is a chorus of varying sound--groans, curses, bursts of
laughter, and singing, and through them all the uncontrollable
chattering of teeth.]

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  I am poured out like water, and all my
bones are out of joint! . . .

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Ellen an' me bin wanderin' round de City dis two
hours.  Begod it's like a bloody tomb wid dem great lamps glarin'
down on you an' not a soul stirren' excep' de flatties strollin'
two an' two.

SNOUTER:  Five past ---- one and I ain't 'ad a bite since dinner!
Course it 'ad to 'appen to us on a ---- night like this!

MR TALLBOYS:  A drinking night I should have called it.  But every
man to his taste.  [Chanting]  'My strength is dried like a
potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my gums!' . . .

CHARLIE:  Say, what you think?  Nosy and me done a smash jest now.
Nosy sees a tobacconist's show-case full of them fancy boxes of
Gold Flake, and 'e says, 'By cripes I'm going to 'ave some of them
fags if they give me a perishing stretch for it!' 'e says.  So 'e
wraps 'is scarf round 'is 'and, and we waits till there's a
perishing great van passing as'll drown the noise, and then Nosy
lets fly--biff!  We nipped a dozen packets of fags, and then I bet
you didn't see our a--s for dust.  And when we gets round the
corner and opens them, there wasn't no perishing fags inside!
Perishing dummy boxes.  I 'ad to laugh.

DOROTHY:  My knees are giving way.  I can't stand up much longer.

MRS BENDIGO:  Oh, the sod, the sod!  To turn a woman out of doors
on a night like bloody this!  You wait'll I get 'im drunk o'
Saturday night and 'e can't 'it back.  I'll mash 'im to bloody shin
of beef, I will.  'E'll look like two pennorth of pieces after I've
swiped 'im with the bloody flat-iron.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Here, make room'n let de kid sit down.  Press up
agen ole Daddy, dear.  Put his arm round you.  He's chatty, but
he'll keep you warm.

GINGER [double marking time]:  Stamp your feet on the ground--only
bleeding thing to do.  Strike up a song, someone, and less all
stamp our bleeding feet in time to it.

DADDY [waking and emerging]:  Wassat?  [Still half asleep, he lets
his head fall back, with mouth open and Adam's apple protruding
from his withered throat like the blade of a tomahawk.]

MRS BENDIGO:  There's women what if they'd stood what I'VE stood,
they'd ave put spirits of salts in 'is cup of bloody tea.

MR TALLBOYS [beating an imaginary drum and singing]:  Onward,
heathen so-oldiers--

MRS WAYNE:  Well, reely now!  If any of us'd ever of thought, in
the dear old days when we used to sit round our own Silkstone coal
fire, with the kettle on the hob and a nice dish of toasted
crumpets from the baker's over the way. . . .

[The chattering of her teeth silences her.]

CHARLIE:  No perishing church trap now, matie.  I'll give y'a bit
of smut--something as we can perishing dance to.  You listen t'me.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Don't you get talkin' about crumpets, Missis.  Me
bloody belly's rubbin' agen me backbone already.

[Charlie draws himself up, clears his throat, and in an enormous
voice roars out a song entitled 'Rollicking Bill the Sailor'.  A
laugh that is partly a shudder bursts from the people on the bench.
They sing the song through again, with increasing volume of noise,
stamping and clapping in time.  Those sitting down, packed elbow to
elbow, sway grotesquely from side to side, working their feet as
though stamping on the pedals of a harmonium.  Even Mrs Wayne joins
in after a moment, laughing in spite of herself.  They are all
laughing, though with chattering teeth.  Mr Tallboys marches up and
down behind his vast swag belly, pretending to carry a banner or
crozier in front of him.  The night is now quite clear, and an icy
wind comes shuddering at intervals through the Square.  The
stamping and clapping rise to a kind of frenzy as the people feel
the deadly cold penetrate to their bones.  Then the policeman is
seen wandering into the Square from the eastern end, and the
singing ceases abruptly.]

CHARLIE:  There!  You can't say as a bit of music don't warm you
up.

MRS BENDIGO:  This bloody wind!  And I ain't even got any drawers
on, the bastard kicked me out in such a 'urry.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Well, glory be to Jesus, 'twon't be long before dat
dere church in de Gray's Inn Road opens up for de winter.  Dey
gives you a roof over your head of a night, 't any rate.

THE POLICEMAN:  Now then, now THEN!  D'you think this is the time
of night to begin singing like a blooming bear garden?  I shall
have to send you back to your homes if you can't keep quiet.

SNOUTER [sotto voce]:  You ---- son of a ----!

GINGER:  Yes--they lets you kip on the bleeding stone floor with
three newspaper posters 'stead of blankets.  Might as well be in
the Square and 'ave done with it.  God, I wish I was in the
bleeding spike.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Still, you gets a cup of Horlicks an' two slices.
I bin glad to kip dere often enough.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  I was glad when they said unto me, We will
go into the house of the Lord! . . .

DOROTHY [starting up]:  Oh, this cold, this cold!  I don't know
whether it's worse when you're sitting down or when you're standing
up.  Oh, how can you all stand it?  Surely you don't have to do
this every night of your lives?

MRS WAYNE:  You mustn't think, dearie, as there isn't SOME of us
wasn't brought up respectable.

CHARLIE [singing]:  Cheer up, cully, you'll soon be dead!  Brrh!
Perishing Jesus!  Ain't my fish-hooks blue!  [Double marks time and
beats his arms against his sides.]

DOROTHY:  Oh, but how can you stand it?  How can you go on like
this, night after night, year after year?  It's not possible that
people can live so!  It's so absurd that one wouldn't believe it if
one didn't know it was true.  It's impossible!

SNOUTER:  ---- possible if you ask me.

MR TALLBOYS [stage curate-wise]:  With God, all things are possible.

[Dorothy sinks back on to the bench, her knees still being
unsteady.]

CHARLIE:  Well, it's jest on 'ar-parse one.  Either we got to get
moving, or else make a pyramid on that perishing bench.  Unless we
want to perishing turn up our toes.  'Oo's for a little
constitootional up to the Tower of London?

MRS MCELLIGOT:  'Twon't be me dat'll walk another step tonight.  Me
bloody legs've given out on me.

GINGER:  What-o for the pyramid!  This is a bit too bleeding nine-
day-old for me.  Less scrum into that bench--beg pardon, Ma!

DADDY [sleepily]:  Wassa game?  Can't a man get a bit of kip but
what you must come worriting 'in and shaking of 'im?

CHARLIE:  That's the stuff!  Shove in!  Shift yourself, Daddy, and
make room for my little sit-me-down.  Get one atop of each other.
That's right.  Never mind the chats.  Jam all together like
pilchards in a perishing tin.

MRS WAYNE:  Here!  I didn't ask you to sit on my lap, young man!

GINGER:  Sir on mine, then, mother--'sall the same.  What-o!  First
bit of stuff I've 'ad my arm round since Easter.

[They pile themselves in a monstrous shapeless clot, men and women
clinging indiscriminately together, like a bunch of toads at
spawning time.  There is a writhing movement as the heap settles
down, and a sour stench of clothes diffuses itself.  Only Mr
Tallboys remains marching up and down.]

MR TALLBOYS [declaiming]:  O ye nights and days, ye light and
darkness, ye lightnings and clouds, curse ye the Lord!

[Deafie, someone having sat on his diaphragm, utters a strange,
unreproducible sound.]

MRS BENDIGO:  Get off my bad leg, can't you?  What you think I am?
Bloody drawing-room sofa?

CHARLIE:  Don't ole Daddy stink when you get up agen 'im?

GINGER:  Bleeding Bank 'oliday for the chats this'll be.

DOROTHY:  Oh, God, God!

MR TALLBOYS [halting]:  Why call on God, you puling deathbed
penitent?  Stick to your guns and call on the Devil as I do.
Hail to thee, Lucifer, Prince of the Air!  [Singing to the tune
of 'Holy, holy holy']:  Incubi and Succubi, falling down before
Thee! . . .

MRS BENDIGO:  Oh, shut up, you blarsphemous old sod!  'E's too
bloody fat to feel the cold, that's what's wrong with 'im.

CHARLIE:  Nice soft be'ind you got, Ma.  Keep an eye out for the
perishing flattie, Ginger.

MR TALLBOYS:  Malecidite, omnia opera!  The Black Mass!  Why not?
Once a priest always a priest.  Hand me a chunk of toke and I will
work the miracle.  Sulphur candles, Lord's Prayer backwards,
crucifix upside down.  [To Dorothy]  If we had a black he-goat you
would come in useful.

[The animal heat of the piled bodies had already made itself felt.
A drowsiness is descending upon everyone.]

MRS WAYNE:  You mustn't think as I'm ACCUSTOMED to sitting on a
gentleman's knee, you know . . .

MRS MCELLIGOT [drowsily]:  It took my sacraments reg'lar till de
bloody priest wouldn't give me absolution along o' my Michael.  De
ole get, de ole getsie! . . .

MR TALLBOYS [striking an attitude]:  Per aquam sacratam quam nunc
spargo, signumque crucis quod nunc facio. . . .

GINGER:  'Oo's got a fill of 'ard-up?  I've smoked by last bleeding
fag-end.

MR TALLBOYS [as at the altar]:  Dearly beloved brethren we are
gathered together in the sight of God for the solemnization of
unholy blasphemy.  He has afflicted us with dirt and cold, with
hunger and solitude, with the pox and the itch, with the headlouse
and the crablouse.  Our food is damp crusts and slimy meat-scraps
handed out in packets from hotel doorways.  Our pleasure is stewed
tea and sawdust cakes bolted in reeking cellars, bar-rinsing sand
spittle of common ale, the embrace of toothless hags.  Our destiny
is the pauper's grave, twenty-feet deep in deal coffins, the kip-
house of underground.  It is very meet, right and our bounden duty
at all times and in all places to curse Him and revile Him.
Therefore with Demons and Archdemons [etc., etc., etc.].

MRS MCELLIGOT [drowsily]:  By holy Jesus, I'm half asleep right
now, only some b--'s lyin' across my legs and crushin' 'em.

MR TALLBOYS:  Amen.  Evil from us deliver, but temptation into not
us lead [etc., etc., etc.].

[As he reaches the first word of the prayer he tears the
consecrated bread across.  The blood runs out of it.  There is a
rolling sound, as of thunder, and the landscape changes.  Dorothy's
feet are very cold.  Monstrous winged shapes of Demons and
Archdemons are dimly visible, moving to and fro.  Something, beak
or claw, closes upon Dorothy's shoulder, reminding her that her
feet and hands are aching with cold.]

THE POLICEMAN [shaking Dorothy by the shoulder]:  Wake up, now,
wake up, wake up!  Haven't you got an overcoat?  You're as white as
death.  Don't you know better than to let yourself sprawl about in
the cold like that?

[Dorothy finds that she is stiff with cold.  The sky is now quite
clear, with gritty little stars twinkling like electric lamps
enormously remote.  The pyramid has unrolled itself.]

MRS MCELLIGOT:  De poor kid, she ain't used to roughin' it de way
us others are.

GINGER [beating his arms]:  Brr!  Woo!  'Taters in the bleeding
mould!

MRS WAYNE:  She's a lady born and bred.

THE POLICEMAN:  Is that so?--See here, Miss, you best come down to
the M.A.B. with me.  They'll give you a bed all right.  Anyone can
see with half an eye as you're a cut above these others here.

MRS BENDIGO:  Thank you, constable, THANK you!  'Ear that, girls?
'A cut above us,' 'e says.  Nice, ain't it?  [To the policeman]
Proper bloody Ascot swell yourself, ain't you?

DOROTHY:  No, no!  Leave me, I'd rather stay here.

THE POLICEMAN:  Well, please yourself.  You looked real bad just
now.  I'll be along later and take a look at you.  [Moves off
doubtfully.]

CHARLIE:  Wait'll the perisher's round the corner and then pile up
agen.  Only perishing way we'll keep warm.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Come on, kid.  Get underneath an' let'm warm you.

SNOUTER:  Ten minutes to ---- two.  Can't last for ever, I s'pose.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  I am poured out like water, and all my
bones are out of joint.  My heart also in the midst of my body is
like unto melting wax! . . .

[Once more the people pile themselves on the bench.  But the
temperature is now not many degrees above freezing-point, and the
wind is blowing more cuttingly.  The people wriggle their wind-
nipped faces into the heap like sucking pigs struggling for their
mother's teats.  One's interludes of sleep shrink to a few seconds,
and one's dreams grow more monstrous, troubling, and undreamlike.
There are times when the nine people are talking almost normally,
times when they can even laugh at their situation, and times when
they press themselves together in a kind of frenzy, with deep
groans of pain.  Mr Tallboys suddenly becomes exhausted and his
monologue degenerates into a stream of nonsense.  He drops his vast
bulk on top of the others, almost suffocating them.  The heap rolls
apart.  Some remain on the bench, some slide to the ground and
collapse against the parapet or against the others' knees.  The
policeman enters the Square and orders those on the ground to their
feet.  They get up, and collapse again the moment he is gone.
There is no sound from the ten people save of snores that are
partly groans.  Their heads nod like those of joined porcelain
Chinamen as they fall asleep and reawake as rhythmically as the
ticking of a clock.  Three strikes somewhere.  A voice yells like a
trumpet from the eastern end of the Square:  'Boys!  Up you get!
The noospapers is come!']

CHARLIE [starting from his sleep]:  The perishing papers!  C'm on,
Ginger!  Run like Hell!

[They run, or shamble, as fast as they can to the corner of the
Square, where three youths are distributing surplus posters given
away in charity by the morning newspapers.  Charlie and Ginger come
back with a thick wad of posters.  The five largest men now jam
themselves together on the bench, Deafie and the four women sitting
across their knees; then, with infinite difficulty (as it has to be
done from the inside), they wrap themselves in a monstrous cocoon
of paper, several sheets thick, tucking the loose ends into their
necks or breasts or between their shoulders and the back of the
bench.  Finally nothing is uncovered save their heads and the lower
part of their legs.  For their heads they fashion hoods of paper.
The paper constantly comes loose and lets in cold shafts of wind,
but it is now possible to sleep for as much as five minutes
consecutively.  At this time--between three and five in the
morning--it is customary with the police not to disturb the Square
sleepers.  A measure of warmth steals through everyone and extends
even to their feet.  There is some furtive fondling of the women
under cover of the paper.  Dorothy is too far gone to care.

By a quarter past four the paper is all crumpled and torn to
nothing, and it is far too cold to remain sitting down.  The people
get up, swear, find their legs somewhat rested, and begin to slouch
to and fro in couples, frequently halting from mere lassitude.
Every belly is now contorted with hunger.  Ginger's tin of
condensed milk is torn open and the contents devoured, everyone
dipping their fingers into it and licking them.  Those who have no
money at all leave the Square for the Green Park, where they will
be undisturbed till seven.  Those who can command even a halfpenny
make for Wilkins's cafe not far from the Charing Cross Road.  It is
known that the cafe will not open till five o'clock; nevertheless,
a crowd is waiting outside the door by twenty to five.]

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Got your halfpenny, dearie?  Dey won't let more'n
four of us in on one cup o'tea, de stingy ole gets!

MR TALLBOYS [singing]:  The roseate hu-ues of early da-awn--

GINGER:  God, that bit of sleep we 'ad under the newspapers done me
some good.  [Singing]  But I'm dan-cing with tears--in my eyes--

CHARLIE:  Oh, boys, boys!  Look through that perishing window, will
you?  Look at the 'eat steaming down the window pane!  Look at the
tea-urns jest on the boil, and them great piles of 'ot toast and
'am sandwiches, and them there sausages sizzling in the pan!  Don't
it make your belly turn perishing summersaults to see 'em?

DOROTHY:  I've got a penny.  I can't get a cup of tea for that,
can I?

SNOUTER:  ---- lot of sausages we'll get this morning with
fourpence between us.  'Alf a cup of tea and a ---- doughnut more
likely.  There's a breakfus' for you!

MRS MCELLIGOT:  You don't need buy a cup o' tea all to yourself.
I got a halfpenny an' so's Daddy, an' we'll put'm to your penny an'
have a cup between de t'ree of us.  He's got sores on his lip, but
Hell! who cares?  Drink near de handle an' dere's no harm done.

[A quarter to five strikes.]

MRS BENDIGO:  I'd bet a dollar my ole man's got a bit of 'addock to
'is breakfast.  I 'ope it bloody chokes 'im.

GINGER [singing]:  But I'm dan-cing with tears--in my eyes--

MR TALLBOYS [singing]:  Early in the morning my song shall rise to
Thee!

MRS MCELLIGOT:  You gets a bit o' kip in dis place, dat's one
comfort.  Dey lets you sleep wid your head on de table till seven
o'clock.  It's a bloody godsend to us Square Tobies.

CHARLIE [slavering like a dog]:  Sausages!  Perishing sausages!
Welsh rabbit!  'Ot dripping toast!  And a rump-steak two inches
thick with chips and a pint of Ole Burton!  Oh, perishing Jesus!

[He bounds forward, pushes his way through the crowd and rattles
the handle of the glass door.  The whole crowd of people, about
forty strong, surge forward and attempt to storm the door, which is
stoutly held within by Mr Wilkins, the proprietor of the cafe.  He
menaces them through the glass.  Some press their breasts and faces
against the window as though warming themselves.  With a whoop and
a rush Florry and four other girls, comparatively fresh from having
spent part of the night in bed, debouch from a neighbouring alley,
accompanied by a gang of youths in blue suits.  They hurl
themselves upon the rear of the crowd with such momentum that the
door is almost broken.  Mr Wilkins pulls it furiously open and
shoves the leaders back.  A fume of sausages, kippers, coffee, and
hot bread streams into the outer cold.]

YOUTHS VOICES FROM THE REAR:  Why can't he ---- open before five?
We're starving for our ---- tea!  Ram the ---- door in!  [etc.,
etc.]

MR WILKINS:  Get out!  Get out, the lot of you!  Or by God not one
of you comes in this morning!

GIRLS' VOICES FROM THE REAR:  Mis-ter Wil-kins!  Mis-ter Wil-kins!
BE a sport and let us in!  I'll give y'a kiss all free for nothing.
BE a sport now!  [etc., etc.]

MR WILKINS:  Get on out of it!  We don't open before five, and you
know it.  [Slams the door.]

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Oh, holy Jesus, if dis ain't de longest ten minutes
o' de whole bloody night!  Well, I'll give me poor ole legs a rest,
anyway.  [Squats on her heels coal-miner-fashion.  Many others do
the same.]

GINGER:  'Oo's got a 'alfpenny?  I'm ripe to go fifty-fifty on a
doughnut.

YOUTHS' VOICES [imitating military music, then singing]:

'----!' was all the band could play;
'----! ----'  And the same to you!

DOROTHY [to Mrs McElligot]:  Look at us all!  Just look at us!
What clothes!  What faces!

MRS BENDIGO:  You're no Greta Garbo yourself, if you don't mind my
mentioning it.

MRS WAYNE:  Well, now, the time DO seem to pass slowly when you're
waiting for a nice cup of tea, don't it now?

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  For our soul is brought low, even unto the
dust: our belly cleaveth unto the ground!

CHARLIE:  Kippers!  Perishing piles of 'em!  I can smell 'em
through the perishing glass.

GINGER [singing]:

But I'm dan-cing with tears--in my eyes--
'Cos the girl--in my arms--isn't you-o-ou!

[Much time passes.  Five strikes.  Intolerable ages seem to pass.
Then the door is suddenly wrenched open and the people stampede in
to fight for the corner seats.  Almost swooning in the hot air,
they fling themselves down and sprawl across the tables, drinking
in the heat and the smell of food through all their pores.]

MR WILKINS:  Now then, all!  You know the rules, I s'pose.  No
hokey-pokey this morning!  Sleep till seven if you like, but if I
see any man asleep after that, out he goes on his neck.  Get busy
with that tea, girls!

A DEAFENING CHORUS Of YELLS:  Two teas 'ere!  Large tea and a
doughnut between us four!  Kippers!  Mis-ter Wil-kins!  'Ow much
them sausages?  Two slices!  Mis-ter Wil-kins!  Got any fag papers?
Kipp-ers!  [etc., etc.]

MR WILKINS:  Shut up, shut up!  Stop that hollering or I don't
serve any of you.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  D'you feel de blood runnin' back into your toes,
dearie?

MRS WAYNE:  He do speak rough to you, don't he?  Not what I'd call
a reely gentlemanly kind of man.

SNOUTER:  This is ---- starvation Corner, this is.  Cripes!
Couldn't I do a couple of them sausages!

THE TARTS [in chorus]:  Kippers 'ere!  'Urry up with them kippers!
Mis-ter Wilkins!  Kippers all round!  AND a doughnut!

CHARLIE:  Not 'alf!  Got to fill up on the smell of 'em this
morning.  Sooner be 'ere than on the perishing Square, ALL the
same.

GINGER:  'Ere, Deafie!  You've 'ad your 'alf!  Gimme me that
bleeding cup.

MR TALLBOYS [chanting]:  Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
and our tongue with joy! . . .

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Begod I'm half asleep already.  It's de heat o' de
room as does it.

MR WILKINS:  Stop that singing there!  You know the rules.

THE TARTS [in chorus]:  Kipp-ers!

SNOUTER:  ---- doughnuts!  Cold prog!  It turns my belly sick.

DADDY:  Even the tea they give you ain't no more than water with a
bit of dust in it.  [Belches.]

CHARLIE:  Bes' thing--'ave a bit of shut-eye and forget about it.
Dream about perishing cut off the joint and two veg.  Less get our
'eads on the table and pack up comfortable.

MRS MCELLIGOT:  Lean up agen me shoulder, dearie.  I've got more
flesh on me bones'n what you have.

GINGER:  I'd give a tanner for a bleeding fag, if I 'ad a bleeding
tanner.

CHARLIE:  Pack up.  Get your 'ead agenst mine, Snouter.  That's
right.  Jesus, won't I perishing sleep!

[A dish of smoking kippers is borne past to the tarts' table.]

SNOUTER [drowsily]:  More ---- kippers.  Wonder 'ow many times
she's bin on 'er back to pay for that lot.

MRS MCELLIGOT [half-asleep]:  'Twas a pity, 'twas a real pity, when
Michael went off on his jack an' left me wid de bloody baby an'
all. . . .

MRS BENDIGO [furiously, following the dish of kippers with accusing
finger]:  Look at that, girls!  Look at that!  Kippers!  Don't it
make you bloody wild?  We don't get kippers for breakfast, do we,
girls?  Bloody tarts swallering down kippers as fast as they can
turn 'em out of the pan, and us 'ere with a cup of tea between four
of us and lucky to get that!  Kippers!

MR TALLBOYS [stage curate-wise]:  The wages of sin is kippers.

GINGER:  Don't breathe in my face, Deafie.  I can't bleeding stand
it.

CHARLIE [in his sleep]:  Charles-Wisdom-drunk-and-incapable-drunk?-
yes-six-shillings-move-on-NEXT!

DOROTHY [on Mrs McElligot's bosom]:  Oh, joy, joy!

[They are asleep.]



2


And so it goes on.

Dorothy endured this life for ten days--to be exact, nine days and
ten nights.  It was hard to see what else she could do.  Her
father, seemingly, had abandoned her altogether, and though she had
friends in London who would readily have helped her, she did not
feel that she could face them after what had happened, or what was
supposed to have happened.  And she dared not apply to organized
charity because it would almost certainly lead to the discovery of
her name, and hence, perhaps, to a fresh hullabaloo about the
'Rector's Daughter'.

So she stayed in London, and became one of that curious tribe, rare
but never quite extinct--the tribe of women who are penniless and
homeless, but who make such desperate efforts to hide it that they
very nearly succeed; women who wash their faces at drinking
fountains in the cold of the dawn, and carefully uncrumple their
clothes after sleepless nights, and carry themselves with an air
of reserve and decency, so that only their faces, pale beneath
sunburn, tell you for certain that they are destitute.  It was not
in her to become a hardened beggar like most of the people about
her.  Her first twenty-four hours on the Square she spent without
any food whatever, except for the cup of tea that she had had
overnight and a third of a cup more that she had had at Wilkins's
cafe in the morning.  But in the evening, made desperate by hunger
and the others' example, she walked up to a strange woman, mastered
her voice with an effort, and said:  'Please, Madam, could you give
me twopence?  I have had nothing to eat since yesterday.'  The
woman stared, but she opened her purse and gave Dorothy threepence.
Dorothy did not know it, but her educated accent, which had made it
impossible to get work as a servant, was an invaluable asset to her
as a beggar.

After that she found that it was really very easy to beg the daily
shilling or so that was needed to keep her alive.  And yet she
never begged--it seemed to her that actually she could not do it--
except when hunger was past bearing or when she had got to lay in
the precious penny that was the passport to Wilkins's cafe in the
morning.  With Nobby, on the way to the hopfields, she had begged
without fear or scruple.  But it had been different then; she had
not known what she was doing.  Now, it was only under the spur of
actual hunger that she could screw her courage to the point, and
ask for a few coppers from some woman whose face looked friendly.
It was always women that she begged from, of course.  She did once
try begging from a man--but only once.

For the rest, she grew used to the life that she was leading--used
to the enormous sleepless nights, the cold, the dirt, the boredom,
and the horrible communism of the Square.  After a day or two she
had ceased to feel even a flicker of surprise at her situation.
She had come, like everyone about her, to accept this monstrous
existence almost as though it were normal.  The dazed, witless
feeling that she had known on the way to the hopfields had come
back upon her more strongly than before.  It is the common effect
of sleeplessness and still more of exposure.  To live continuously
in the open air, never going under a roof for more than an hour or
two, blurs your perceptions like a strong light glaring in your
eyes or a noise drumming in your ears.  You act and plan and
suffer, and yet all the while it is as though everything were a
little out of focus, a little unreal.  The world, inner and outer,
grows dimmer till it reaches almost the vagueness of a dream.

Meanwhile, the police were getting to know her by sight.  On the
Square people are perpetually coming and going, more or less
unnoticed.  They arrive from nowhere with their drums and their
bundles, camp for a few days and nights, and then disappear as
mysteriously as they come.  If you stay for more than a week or
thereabouts, the police will mark you down as an habitual beggar,
and they will arrest you sooner or later.  It is impossible for
them to enforce the begging laws at all regularly, but from time to
time they make a sudden raid and capture two or three of the people
they have had their eye on.  And so it happened in Dorothy's case.

One evening she was 'knocked off', in company with Mrs McElligot
and another woman whose name she did not know.  They had been
careless and begged off a nasty old lady with a face like a horse,
who had promptly walked up to the nearest policeman and given them
in charge.

Dorothy did not mind very much.  Everything was dreamlike now--the
face of the nasty old lady, eagerly accusing them, and the walk to
the station with a young policeman's gentle, almost deferential
hand on her arm; and then the white-tiled cell, with the fatherly
sergeant handing her a cup of tea through the grille and telling
her that the magistrate wouldn't be too hard on her if she pleaded
guilty.  In the cell next door Mrs McElligot stormed at the
sergeant, called him a bloody get, and then spent half the night in
bewailing her fate.  But Dorothy had no feeling save vague relief
at being in so clean and warm a place.  She crept immediately on to
the plank bed that was fixed like a shelf to the wall, too tired
even to pull the blankets about her, and slept for ten hours
without stirring.  It was only on the following morning that she
began to grasp the reality of her situation, as the Black Maria
rolled briskly up to Old Street Police Court, to the tune of
'Adeste fideles' shouted by five drunks inside.




CHAPTER 4



1


Dorothy had wronged her father in supposing that he was willing to
let her starve to death in the street.  He had, as a matter of
fact, made efforts to get in touch with her, though in a roundabout
and not very helpful way.

His first emotion on learning of Dorothy's disappearance had been
rage pure and simple.  At about eight in the morning, when he was
beginning to wonder what had become of his shaving water, Ellen had
come into his bedroom and announced in a vaguely panic-stricken
tone:

'Please, Sir, Miss Dorothy ain't in the house, Sir.  I can't find
her nowhere!'

'What?' said the Rector.

'She ain't in the house, Sir!  And her bed don't look as if it
hadn't been slept in, neither.  It's my belief as she's GORN, Sir!'

'Gone!' exclaimed the Rector, partly sitting up in bed.  'What do
you mean--GONE?'

'Well, Sir, I believe she's run away from 'ome, Sir!'

'Run away from home!  At THIS hour of the morning?  And what about
my breakfast, pray?'

By the time the Rector got downstairs--unshaven, no hot water
having appeared--Ellen had gone down into the town to make
fruitless inquiries for Dorothy.  An hour passed, and she did not
return.  Whereupon there occurred a frightful, unprecedented thing--
a thing never to be forgotten this side of the grave; the Rector
was obliged to prepare his own breakfast--yes, actually to mess
about with a vulgar black kettle and rashers of Danish bacon--with
his own sacerdotal hands.

After that, of course, his heart was hardened against Dorothy for
ever.  For the rest of the day he was far too busy raging over
unpunctual meals to ask himself WHY she had disappeared and whether
any harm had befallen her.  The point was that the confounded girl
(he said several times 'confounded girl', and came near to saying
something stronger) HAD disappeared, and had upset the whole
household by doing so.  Next day, however, the question became more
urgent, because Mrs Semprill was now publishing the story of the
elopement far and wide.  Of course, the Rector denied it violently,
but in his heart he had a sneaking suspicion that it might be true.
It was the kind of thing, he now decided, that Dorothy WOULD do.  A
girl who would suddenly walk out of the house without even taking
thought for her father's breakfast was capable of anything.

Two days later the newspapers got hold of the story, and a nosy
young reporter came down to Knype Hill and began asking questions.
The Rector made matters worse by angrily refusing to interview the
reporter, so that Mrs Semprill's version was the only one that got
into print.  For about a week, until the papers got tired of
Dorothy's case and dropped her in favour of a plesiosaurus that had
been seen at the mouth of the Thames, the Rector enjoyed a horrible
notoriety.  He could hardly open a newspaper without seeing some
flaming headline about 'Rector's Daughter.  Further Revelations',
or 'Rector's Daughter.  Is she in Vienna?  Reported seen in Low-
class Cabaret'.  Finally there came an article in the Sunday
Spyhole, which began, 'Down in a Suffolk Rectory a broken old man
sits staring at the wall', and which was so absolutely unbearable
that the Rector consulted his solicitor about an action for libel.
However, the solicitor was against it; it might lead to a verdict,
he said, but it would certainly lead to further publicity.  So the
Rector did nothing, and his anger against Dorothy, who had brought
this disgrace upon him, hardened beyond possibility of forgiveness.

After this there came three letters from Dorothy, explaining what
had happened.  Of course the Rector never really believed that
Dorothy had lost her memory.  It was too thin a story altogether.
He believed that she either HAD eloped with Mr Warburton, or had
gone off on some similar escapade and had landed herself penniless
in Kent; at any rate--this he had settled once and for all, and no
argument would ever move him from it--whatever had happened to her
was entirely her own fault.  The first letter he wrote was not to
Dorothy herself but to his cousin Tom, the baronet.  For a man of
the Rector's upbringing it was second nature, in any serious
trouble, to turn to a rich relative for help.  He had not exchanged
a word with his cousin for the last fifteen years, since they had
quarrelled over a little matter of a borrowed fifty pounds; still,
he wrote fairly confidently, asking Sir Thomas to get in touch with
Dorothy if it could be done, and to find her some kind of job in
London.  For of course, after what had happened, there could be no
question of letting her come back to Knype Hill.

Shortly after this there came two despairing letters from Dorothy,
telling him that she was in danger of starvation and imploring him
to send her some money.  The Rector was disturbed.  It occurred to
him--it was the first time in his life that he had seriously
considered such a thing--that it IS possible to starve if you have
no money.  So, after thinking it over for the best part of a week,
he sold out ten pounds' worth of shares and sent a cheque for ten
pounds to his cousin, to be kept for Dorothy till she appeared.  At
the same time he sent a cold letter to Dorothy herself, telling her
that she had better apply to Sir Thomas Hare.  But several more
days passed before this letter was posted, because the Rector had
qualms about addressing a letter to 'Ellen Millborough'--he dimly
imagined that it was against the law to use false names--and, of
course, he had delayed far too long.  Dorothy was already in the
streets when the letter reached 'Mary's'.

Sir Thomas Hare was a widower, a good-hearted, chuckle-headed man
of about sixty-five, with an obtuse rosy face and curling
moustaches.  He dressed by preference in checked overcoats and
curly brimmed bowler hats that were at once dashingly smart and
four decades out of date.  At a first glance he gave the impression
of having carefully disguised himself as a cavalry major of the
'nineties, so that you could hardly look at him without thinking of
devilled bones with a b and s, and the tinkle of hansom bells, and
the Pink 'Un in its great 'Pitcher' days, and Lottie Collins and
'Tarara-BOOM-deay'.  But his chief characteristic was an abysmal
mental vagueness.  He was one of those people who say 'Don't you
know?' and 'What!  What!' and lose themselves in the middle of their
sentences.  When he was puzzled or in difficulties, his moustaches
seemed to bristle forward, giving him the appearance of a well-
meaning but exceptionally brainless prawn.

So far as his own inclinations went Sir Thomas was not in the least
anxious to help his cousins, for Dorothy herself he had never seen,
and the Rector he looked on as a cadging poor relation of the worst
possible type.  But the fact was that he had had just about as much
of this 'Rector's Daughter' business as he could stand.  The
accursed chance that Dorothy's surname was the same as his own had
made his life a misery for the past fortnight, and he foresaw
further and worse scandals if she were left at large any longer.
So, just before leaving London for the pheasant shooting, he sent
for his butler, who was also his confidant and intellectual guide,
and held a council of war.

'Look here, Blyth, dammit,' said Sir Thomas prawnishly (Blyth was
the butler's name), 'I suppose you've seen all this damn' stuff in
the newspapers, hey?  This "Rector's Daughter" stuff?  About this
damned niece of mine.'

Blyth was a small sharp-featured man with a voice that never rose
above a whisper.  It was as nearly silent as a voice can be while
still remaining a voice.  Only by watching his lips as well as
listening closely could you catch the whole of what he said.  In
this case his lips signalled something to the effect that Dorothy
was Sir Thomas's cousin, not his niece.

'What, my cousin, is she?' said Sir Thomas.  'So she is, by Jove!
Well, look here, Blyth, what I mean to say--it's about time we got
hold of the damn' girl and locked her up somewhere.  See what I
mean?  Get hold of her before there's any MORE trouble.  She's
knocking about somewhere in London, I believe.  What's the best way
of getting on her track?  Police?  Private detectives and all that?
D'you think we could manage it?'

Blyth's lips registered disapproval.  It would, he seemed to be
saying, be possible to trace Dorothy without calling in the police
and having a lot of disagreeable publicity.

'Good man!' said Sir Thomas.  'Get to it, then.  Never mind what it
costs.  I'd give fifty quid not to have that "Rector's Daughter"
business over again.  And for God's sake, Blyth,' he added
confidentially, 'once you've got hold of the damn' girl, don't let
her out of your sight.  Bring her back to the house and damn' well
keep her here.  See what I mean?  Keep her under lock and key till
I get back.  Or else God knows what she'll be up to next.'

Sir Thomas, of course, had never seen Dorothy, and it was therefore
excusable that he should have formed his conception of her from the
newspaper reports.

It took Blyth about a week to track Dorothy down.  On the morning
after she came out of the police-court cells (they had fined her
six shillings, and, in default of payment, detained her for twelve
hours: Mrs McElligot, as an old offender, got seven days), Blyth
came up to her, lifted his bowler hat a quarter of an inch from his
head, and inquired noiselessly whether she were not Miss Dorothy
Hare.  At the second attempt Dorothy understood what he was saying,
and admitted that she WAS Miss Dorothy Hare; whereupon Blyth
explained that he was sent by her cousin, who was anxious to help
her, and that she was to come home with him immediately.

Dorothy followed him without more words said.  It seemed queer that
her cousin should take this sudden interest in her, but it was no
queerer than the other things that had been happening lately.  They
took the bus to Hyde Park Corner, Blyth paying the fares, and then
walked to a large, expensive-looking house with shuttered windows,
on the borderland between Knightsbridge and Mayfair.  They went
down some steps, and Blyth produced a key and they went in.  So,
after an absence of something over six weeks, Dorothy returned to
respectable society, by the area door.

She spent three days in the empty house before her cousin came
home.  It was a queer, lonely time.  There were several servants in
the house, but she saw nobody except Blyth, who brought her her
meals and talked to her, noiselessly, with a mixture of deference
and disapproval.  He could not quite make up his mind whether she
was a young lady of family or a rescued Magdalen, and so treated
her as something between the two.  The house had that hushed,
corpselike air peculiar to houses whose master is away, so that you
instinctively went about on tiptoe and kept the blinds over the
windows.  Dorothy did not even dare to enter any of the main rooms.
She spent all the daytime lurking in a dusty, forlorn room at the
top of the house which was a sort of museum of bric-a-brac dating
from 1880 onwards.  Lady Hare, dead these five years, had been an
industrious collector of rubbish, and most of it had been stowed
away in this room when she died.  It was a doubtful point whether
the queerest object in the room was a yellowed photograph of
Dorothy's father, aged eighteen but with respectable side-whiskers,
standing self-consciously beside an 'ordinary' bicycle--this was in
1888; or whether it was a little sandalwood box labelled 'Piece of
Bread touched by Cecil Rhodes at the City and South Africa Banquet,
June 1897'.  The sole books in the room were some grisly school
prizes that had been won by Sir Thomas's children--he had three,
the youngest being the same age as Dorothy.

It was obvious that the servants had orders not to let her go out
of doors.  However, her father's cheque for ten pounds had arrived,
and with some difficulty she induced Blyth to get it cashed, and,
on the third day, went out and bought herself some clothes.  She
bought herself a ready-made tweed coat and skirt and a jersey to go
with them, a hat, and a very cheap frock of artificial printed
silk; also a pair of passable brown shoes, three pairs of lisle
stockings, a nasty, cheap little handbag, and a pair of grey cotton
gloves that would pass for suede at a little distance.  That came
to eight pounds ten, and she dared not spend more.  As for
underclothes, nightdresses, and handkerchiefs, they would have to
wait.  After all, it is the clothes that show that matter.

Sir Thomas arrived on the following day, and never really got over
the surprise that Dorothy's appearance gave him.  He had been
expecting to see some rouged and powdered siren who would plague
him with temptations to which alas! he was no longer capable of
succumbing; and this countrified, spinsterish girl upset all his
calculations.  Certain vague ideas that had been floating about his
mind, of finding her a job as a manicurist or perhaps as a private
secretary to a bookie, floated out of it again.  From time to time
Dorothy caught him studying her with a puzzled, prawnish eye,
obviously wondering how on earth such a girl could ever have
figured in an elopement.  It was very little use, of course,
telling him that she had NOT eloped.  She had given him her version
of the story, and he had accepted it with a chivalrous 'Of course,
m'dear, of course!' and thereafter, in every other sentence,
betrayed the fact that he disbelieved her.

So for a couple of days nothing definite was done.  Dorothy
continued her solitary life in the room upstairs, and Sir Thomas
went to his club for most of his meals, and in the evening there
were discussions of the most unutterable vagueness.  Sir Thomas was
genuinely anxious to find Dorothy a job, but he had great
difficulty in remembering what he was talking about for more than a
few minutes at a time.  'Well, m'dear,' he would start off, 'you'll
understand, of course, that I'm very keen to do what I can for you.
Naturally, being your uncle and all that--what?  What's that?  Not
your uncle?  No, I suppose I'm not, by Jove!  Cousin--that's it;
cousin.  Well, now, m'dear, being your cousin--now, what was I
saying?'  Then, when Dorothy had guided him back to the subject, he
would throw out some such suggestion as, 'Well, now, for instance,
m'dear, how would you like to be companion to an old lady?  Some
dear old girl, don't you know--black mittens and rheumatoid
arthritis.  Die and leave you ten thousand quid and care of the
parrot.  What, what?' which did not get them very much further.
Dorothy repeated a number of times that she would rather be a
housemaid or a parlourmaid, but Sir Thomas would not hear of it.
The very idea awakened in him a class-instinct which he was usually
too vague-minded to remember.  'What!' he would say.  'A dashed
skivvy?  Girl of your upbringing?  No, m'dear--no, no!  Can't do
THAT kind of thing, dash it!'

But in the end everything was arranged, and with surprising ease;
not by Sir Thomas, who was incapable of arranging anything, but by
his solicitor, whom he had suddenly thought of consulting.  And the
solicitor, without even seeing Dorothy, was able to suggest a job
for her.  She could, he said, almost certainly find a job as a
schoolmistress.  Of all jobs, that was the easiest to get.

Sir Thomas came home very pleased with this suggestion, which
struck him as highly suitable.  (Privately, he thought that Dorothy
had just the kind of face that a schoolmistress ought to have.)
But Dorothy was momentarily aghast when she heard of it.

'A schoolmistress!' she said.  'But I couldn't possibly!  I'm sure
no school would give me a job.  There isn't a single subject I can
teach.'

'What?  What's that?  Can't teach?  Oh, dash it!  Of course you
can!  Where's the difficulty?'

'But I don't know enough!  I've never taught anybody anything,
except cooking to the Girl Guides.  You have to be properly
qualified to be a teacher.'

'Oh, nonsense!  Teaching's the easiest job in the world.  Good
thick ruler--rap 'em over the knuckles.  They'll be glad enough
to get hold of a decently brought up young woman to teach the
youngsters their ABC.  That's the line for you, m'dear--
schoolmistress.  You're just cut out for it.'

And sure enough, a schoolmistress Dorothy became.  The invisible
solicitor had made all the arrangements in less than three days.
It appeared that a certain Mrs Creevy, who kept a girls' day school
in the suburb of Southbridge, was in need of an assistant, and was
quite willing to give Dorothy the job.  How it had all been settled
so quickly, and what kind of school it could be that would take on
a total stranger, and unqualified at that, in the middle of the
term, Dorothy could hardly imagine.  She did not know, of course,
that a bribe of five pounds, miscalled a premium, had changed
hands.

So, just ten days after her arrest for begging, Dorothy set out for
Ringwood House Academy, Brough Road, Southbridge, with a small
trunk decently full of clothes and four pounds ten in her purse--
for Sir Thomas had made her a present of ten pounds.  When she
thought of the ease with which this job had been found for her, and
then of the miserable struggles of three weeks ago, the contrast
amazed her.  It brought home to her, as never before, the
mysterious power of money.  In fact, it reminded her of a favourite
saying of Mr Warburton's, that if you took 1 Corinthians, chapter
thirteen, and in every verse wrote 'money' instead of 'charity',
the chapter had ten times as much meaning as before.



2


Southbridge was a repellent suburb ten or a dozen miles from
London.  Brough Road lay somewhere at the heart of it, amid
labyrinths of meanly decent streets, all so indistinguishably
alike, with their ranks of semi-detached houses, their privet and
laurel hedges and plots of ailing shrubs at the crossroads, that
you could lose yourself there almost as easily as in a Brazilian
forest.  Not only the houses themselves, but even their names were
the same over and over again.  Reading the names on the gates as
you came up Brough Road, you were conscious of being haunted by
some half-remembered passage of poetry; and when you paused to
identify it, you realized that it was the first two lines of
Lycidas.

Ringwood House was a dark-looking, semi-detached house of yellow
brick, three storeys high, and its lower windows were hidden from
the road by ragged and dusty laurels.  Above the laurels, on the
front of the house, was a board inscribed in faded gold letters:


RINGWOOD HOUSE ACADEMY FOR GIRLS

Ages 5 to 18

Music and Dancing Taught

Apply within for Prospectus


Edge to edge with this board, on the other half of the house, was
another board which read:


RUSHINGTON GRANGE HIGH SCHOOL FOR BOYS

Ages 6 to 16

Book-keeping and Commercial Arithmetic a Speciality

Apply within for Prospectus


The district pullulated with small private schools; there were four
of them in Brough Road alone.  Mrs Creevy, the Principal of
Ringwood House, and Mr Boulger, the Principal of Rushington Grange,
were in a state of warfare, though their interests in no way
clashed with one another.  Nobody knew what the feud was about, not
even Mrs Creevy or Mr Boulger themselves; it was a feud that they
had inherited from earlier proprietors of the two schools.  In the
mornings after breakfast they would stalk up and down their
respective back gardens, beside the very low wall that separated
them, pretending not to see one another and grinning with hatred.

Dorothy's heart sank at the sight of Ringwood House.  She had not
been expecting anything very magnificent or attractive, but she had
expected something a little better than this mean, gloomy house,
not one of whose windows was lighted, though it was after 8 o'clock
in the evening.  She knocked at the door, and it was opened by a
woman, tall and gaunt-looking in the dark hallway, whom Dorothy
took for a servant, but who was actually Mrs Creevy herself.
Without a word, except to inquire Dorothy's name, the woman led the
way up some dark stairs to a twilit, fireless drawing-room, where
she turned up a pinpoint of gas, revealing a black piano, stuffed
horsehair chairs, and a few yellowed, ghostly photos on the walls.

Mrs Creevy was a woman somewhere in her forties, lean, hard, and
angular, with abrupt decided movements that indicated a strong will
and probably a vicious temper.  Though she was not in the least
dirty or untidy there was something discoloured about her whole
appearance, as though she lived all her life in a bad light; and
the expression of her mouth, sullen and ill-shaped with the lower
lip turned down, recalled that of a toad.  She spoke in a sharp,
commanding voice, with a bad accent and occasional vulgar turns of
speech.  You could tell her at a glance for a person who knew
exactly what she wanted, and would grasp it as ruthlessly as any
machine; not a bully exactly--you could somehow infer from her
appearance that she would not take enough interest in you to want
to bully you--but a person who would make use of you and then throw
you aside with no more compunction than if you had been a worn-out
scrubbing-brush.

Mrs Creevy did not waste any words on greetings.  She motioned
Dorothy to a chair, with the air rather of commanding than of
inviting her to sir down, and then sat down herself, with her hands
clasped on her skinny forearms.

'I hope you and me are going to get on well together, Miss
Millborough,' she began in her penetrating, subhectoring voice.
(On the advice of Sir Thomas's everwise solicitor, Dorothy had
stuck to the name of Ellen Millborough.)  'And I hope I'm not going
to have the same nasty business with you as I had with my last two
assistants.  You say you haven't had an experience of teaching
before this?'

'Not in a school,' said Dorothy--there had been a tarradiddle in
her letter of introduction, to the effect that she had had
experience of 'private teaching'.

Mrs Creevy looked Dorothy over as though wondering whether to
induct her into the inner secrets of school-teaching, and then
appeared to decide against it.

'Well, we shall see,' she said.  'I must say,' she added
complainingly, 'it's not easy to get hold of good hardworking
assistants nowadays.  You give them good wages and good treatment,
and you get no thanks for it.  The last one I had--the one I've
just had to get rid of--Miss Strong, wasn't so bad so far as the
teaching part went; in fact, she was a B.A., and I don't know what
you could have better than a B.A., unless it's an M.A.  You don't
happen to be a B.A. or an M.A., do you, Miss Millborough?'

'No, I'm afraid not,' said Dorothy.

'Well, that's a pity.  It looks so much better on the prospectus if
you've got a few letters after your name.  Well!  Perhaps it
doesn't matter.  I don't suppose many of OUR parents'd know what
B.A.  stands for; and they aren't so keen on showing their
ignorance.  I suppose you can talk French, of course?'

'Well--I've learnt French.'

'Oh, that's all right, then.  Just so as we can put it on the
prospectus.  Well, now, to come back to what I was saying, Miss
Strong was all right as a teacher, but she didn't come up to my
ideas on what I call the MORAL SIDE.  We're very strong on the
moral side at Ringwood House.  It's what counts most with the
parents, you'll find.  And the one before Miss Strong, Miss Brewer--
well, she had what I call a weak nature.  You don't get on with
girls if you've got a weak nature.  The end of it all was that one
morning one little girl crept up to the desk with a box of matches
and set fire to Miss Brewer's skirt.  Of course I wasn't going to
keep her after that.  In fact I had her out of the house the same
afternoon--and I didn't give her any refs either, I can tell you!'

'You mean you expelled the girl who did it?' said Dorothy,
mystified.

'What?  The GIRL?  Not likely!  You don't suppose I'd go and turn
fees away from my door, do you?  I mean I got rid of Miss Brewer,
not the GIRL.  It's no good having teachers who let the girls get
saucy with them.  We've got twenty-one in the class just at
present, and you'll find they need a strong hand to keep them down.'

'You don't teach yourself?' said Dorothy.

'Oh dear, no!' said Mrs Creevy almost contemptuously.  'I've got a
lot too much on my hands to waste my time TEACHING.  There's the
house to look after, and seven of the children stay to dinner--I've
only a daily woman at present.  Besides, it takes me all my time
getting the fees out of the parents.  After all, the fees ARE what
matter, aren't they?'

'Yes.  I suppose so,' said Dorothy.

'Well, we'd better settle about your wages,' continued Mrs Creevy.
'In term time I'll give you your board and lodging and ten
shillings a week; in the holidays it'll just be your board and
lodging.  You can have the use of the copper in the kitchen for
your laundering, and I light the geyser for hot baths every
Saturday night; or at least MOST Saturday nights.  You can't have
the use of this room we're in now, because it's my reception-room,
and I don't want you to go wasting the gas in your bedroom.  But
you can have the use of the morning-room whenever you want it.'

'Thank you,' said Dorothy.

'Well, I should think that'll be about all.  I expect you're
feeling ready for bed.  You'll have had your supper long ago, of
course?'

This was clearly intended to mean that Dorothy was not going to get
any food tonight, so she answered Yes, untruthfully, and the
conversation was at an end.  That was always Mrs Creevy's way--she
never kept you talking an instant longer than was necessary.  Her
conversation was so very definite, so exactly to the point, that it
was not really conversation at all.  Rather, it was the skeleton of
conversation; like the dialogue in a badly written novel where
everyone talks a little too much in character.  But indeed, in the
proper sense of the word she did not TALK; she merely said, in her
brief shrewish way, whatever it was necessary to say, and then got
rid of you as promptly as possible.  She now showed Dorothy along
the passage to her bedroom, and lighted a gas-jet no bigger than an
acorn, revealing a gaunt bedroom with a narrow white-quilted bed, a
rickety wardrobe, one chair and a wash-hand-stand with a frigid
white china basin and ewer.  It was very like the bedrooms in
seaside lodging houses, but it lacked the one thing that gives such
rooms their air of homeliness and decency--the text over the bed.

'This is your room,' Mrs Creevy said; 'and I just hope you'll keep
it a bit tidier than what Miss Strong used to.  And don't go
burning the gas half the night, please, because I can tell what
time you turn it off by the crack under the door.'

With this parting salutation she left Dorothy to herself.  The room
was dismally cold; indeed, the whole house had a damp, chilly
feeling, as though fires were rarely lighted in it.  Dorothy got
into bed as quickly as possible, feeling bed to be the warmest
place.  On top of the wardrobe, when she was putting her clothes
away, she found a cardboard box containing no less than nine empty
whisky bottles--relics, presumably, of Miss Strong's weakness on
the MORAL SIDE.

At eight in the morning Dorothy went downstairs and found Mrs
Creevy already at breakfast in what she called the 'morning-room'.
This was a smallish room adjoining the kitchen, and it had started
life as the scullery; but Mrs Creevy had converted it into the
'morning-room' by the simple process of removing the sink and
copper into the kitchen.  The breakfast table, covered with a cloth
of harsh texture, was very large and forbiddingly bare.  Up at Mrs
Creevy's end were a tray with a very small teapot and two cups, a
plate on which were two leathery fried eggs, and a dish of
marmalade; in the middle, just within Dorothy's reach if she
stretched, was a plate of bread and butter; and beside her plate--
as though it were the only thing she could be trusted with--a cruet
stand with some dried-up, clotted stuff inside the bottles.

'Good morning, Miss Millborough,' said Mrs Creevy.  'It doesn't
matter this morning, as this is the first day, but just remember
another time that I want you down here in time to help me get
breakfast ready.'

'I'm so sorry,' said Dorothy.

'I hope you're fond of fried eggs for your breakfast?' went on Mrs
Creevy.

Dorothy hastened to assure her that she was very fond of fried
eggs.

'Well, that's a good thing, because you'll always have to have the
same as what I have.  So I hope you're not going to be what I call
DAINTY about your food.  I always think,' she added, picking up her
knife and fork, 'that a fried egg tastes a lot better if you cut it
well up before you eat it.'

She sliced the two eggs into thin strips, and then served them in
such a way that Dorothy received about two-thirds of an egg.  With
some difficulty Dorothy spun out her fraction of egg so as to make
half a dozen mouthfuls of it, and then, when she had taken a slice
of bread and butter, she could not help glancing hopefully in the
direction of the dish of marmalade.  But Mrs Creevy was sitting
with her lean left arm--not exactly ROUND the marmalade, but in a
protective position on its left flank, as though she suspected that
Dorothy was going to make an attack upon it.  Dorothy's nerve
failed her, and she had no marmalade that morning--nor, indeed,
for many mornings to come.

Mrs Creevy did not speak again during breakfast, but presently the
sound of feet on the gravel outside, and of squeaky voices in the
schoolroom, announced that the girls were beginning to arrive.
They came in by a side-door that was left open for them.  Mrs
Creevy got up from the table and banged the breakfast things
together on the tray.  She was one of those women who can never
move anything without banging it about; she was as full of thumps
and raps as a poltergeist.  Dorothy carried the tray into the
kitchen, and when she returned Mrs Creevy produced a penny notebook
from a drawer in the dresser and laid it open on the table.

'Just take a look at this,' she said.  'Here's a list of the girls'
names that I've got ready for you.  I shall want you to know the
whole lot of them by this evening.'  She wetted her thumb and
turned over three pages:  'Now, do you see these three lists here?'

'Yes,' said Dorothy.

'Well, you'll just have to learn those three lists by heart, and
make sure you know what girls are on which.  Because I don't want
you to go thinking that all the girls are to be treated alike.
They aren't--not by a long way, they aren't.  Different girls,
different treatment--that's my system.  Now, do you see this lot on
the first page?'

'Yes,' said Dorothy again.

'Well, the parents of that lot are what I call the good payers.
You know what I mean by that?  They're the ones that pay cash on
the nail and no jibbing at an extra half-guinea or so now and
again.  You're not to smack any of that lot, not on ANY account.
This lot over here are the MEDIUM payers.  Their parents do pay up
sooner or later, but you don't get the money out of them without
you worry them for it night and day.  You can smack that lot if
they get saucy, but don't go and leave a mark their parents can
see.  If you'll take MY advice, the best thing with children is to
twist their ears.  Have you ever tried that?'

'No,' said Dorothy.

'Well, I find it answers better than anything.  It doesn't leave a
mark, and the children can't bear it.  Now these three over here
are the BAD payers.  Their fathers are two terms behind already,
and I'm thinking of a solicitor's letter.  I don't care WHAT you do
to that lot--well, short of a police-court case, naturally.  Now,
shall I take you in and start you with the girls?  You'd better
bring that book along with you, and just keep your eye on it all
the time so as there'll be no mistakes.'

They went into the schoolroom.  It was a largish room, with grey-
papered walls that were made yet greyer by the dullness of the
light, for the heavy laurel bushes outside choked the windows, and
no direct ray of the sun ever penetrated into the room.  There was
a teacher's desk by the empty fireplace, and there were a dozen
small double desks, a light blackboard, and, on the mantelpiece, a
black clock that looked like a miniature mausoleum; but there were
no maps, no pictures, nor even, as far as Dorothy could see, any
books.  The sole objects in the room that could be called
ornamental were two sheets of black paper pinned to the walls, with
writing on them in chalk in beautiful copperplate.  On one was
'Speech is Silver.  Silence is Golden', and on the other
'Punctuality is the Politeness of Princes'.

The girls, twenty-one of them, were already sitting at their desks.
They had grown very silent when they heard footsteps approaching,
and as Mrs Creevy came in they seemed to shrink down in their places
like partridge chicks when a hawk is soaring.  For the most part
they were dull-looking, lethargic children with bad complexions, and
adenoids seemed to be remarkably common among them.  The eldest of
them might have been fifteen years old, the youngest was hardly more
than a baby.  The school had no uniform, and one or two of the
children were verging on raggedness.

'Stand up, girls,' said Mrs Creevy as she reached the teacher's
desk.  'We'll start off with the morning prayer.'

The girls stood up, clasped their hands in front of them, and shut
their eyes.  They repeated the prayer in unison, in weak piping
voices, Mrs Creevy leading them, her sharp eyes darting over them
all the while to see that they were attending.

'Almighty and everlasting Father,' they piped, 'we beseech Thee
that our studies this day may be graced by Thy divine guidance.
Make us to conduct ourselves quietly and obediently; look down upon
our school and make it to prosper, so that it may grow in numbers
and be a good example to the neighbourhood and not a disgrace like
some schools of which Thou knowest, O Lord.  Make us, we beseech
Thee, O Lord, industrious, punctual, and ladylike, and worthy in
all possible respects to walk in Thy ways: for Jesus Christ's sake,
our Lord, Amen.'

This prayer was of Mrs Creevy's own composition.  When they had
finished it, the girls repeated the Lord's Prayer, and then sat
down.

'Now, girls,' said Mrs Creevy, 'this is your new teacher, Miss
Millborough.  As you know, Miss Strong had to leave us all of a
sudden after she was taken so bad in the middle of the arithmetic
lesson; and I can tell you I've had a hard week of it looking for a
new teacher.  I had seventy-three applications before I took on
Miss Millborough, and I had to refuse them all because their
qualifications weren't high enough.  Just you remember and tell
your parents that, all of you--seventy-three applications!  Well,
Miss Millborough is going to take you in Latin, French, history,
geography, mathematics, English literature and composition,
spelling, grammar, handwriting, and freehand drawing; and Mr Booth
will take you in chemistry as usual on Thursday afternoons.  Now,
what's the first lesson on your time-table this morning?'

'History, Ma'am,' piped one or two voices.

'Very well.  I expect Miss Millborough'll start off by asking you a
few questions about the history you've been learning.  So just you
do your best, all of you, and let her see that all the trouble
we've taken over you hasn't been wasted.  You'll find they can be
quite a sharp lot of girls when they try, Miss Millborough.'

'I'm sure they are,' said Dorothy.

'Well, I'll be leaving you, then.  And just you behave yourselves,
girls!  Don't you get trying it on with Miss Millborough like you
did with Miss Brewer, because I warn you she won't stand it.  If I
hear any noise coming from this room, there'll be trouble for
somebody.'

She gave a glance round which included Dorothy and indeed suggested
that Dorothy would probably be the 'somebody' referred to, and
departed.

Dorothy faced the class.  She was not afraid of them--she was too
used to dealing with children ever to be afraid of them--but she
did feel a momentary qualm.  The sense of being an impostor (what
teacher has not felt it at times?) was heavy upon her.  It suddenly
occurred to her, what she had only been dimly aware of before, that
she had taken this teaching job under flagrantly false pretences,
without having any kind of qualification for it.  The subject she
was now supposed to be teaching was history, and, like most
'educated' people, she knew virtually no history.  How awful, she
thought, if it turned out that these girls knew more history than
she did!  She said tentatively:

'What period exactly were you doing with Miss Strong?'

Nobody answered.  Dorothy saw the older girls exchanging glances,
as though asking one another whether it was safe to say anything,
and finally deciding not to commit themselves.

'Well, whereabouts had you got to?' she said, wondering whether
perhaps the word 'period' was too much for them.

Again no answer.

'Well, now, surely you remember SOMETHING about it?  Tell me the
names of some of the people you were learning about in your last
history lesson.'

More glances were exchanged, and a very plain little girl in the
front row, in a brown jumper and skirt, with her hair screwed into
two tight pigtails, remarked cloudily, 'It was about the Ancient
Britons.'  At this two other girls took courage, and answered
simultaneously.  One of them said, 'Columbus', and the other
'Napoleon'.

Somehow, after that, Dorothy seemed to see her way more clearly.
It was obvious that instead of being uncomfortably knowledgeable as
she had feared, the class knew as nearly as possible no history at
all.  With this discovery her stage-fright vanished.  She grasped
that before she could do anything else with them it was necessary
to find out what, if anything, these children knew.  So, instead of
following the time-table, she spent the rest of the morning in
questioning the entire class on each subject in turn; when she had
finished with history (and it took about five minutes to get to the
bottom of their historical knowledge) she tried them with geography,
with English grammar, with French, with arithmetic--with everything,
in fact, that they were supposed to have learned.  By twelve o'clock
she had plumbed, though not actually explored, the frightful abysses
of their ignorance.

For they knew nothing, absolutely nothing--nothing, nothing,
nothing, like the Dadaists.  It was appalling that even children
could be so ignorant.  There were only two girls in the class who
knew whether the earth went round the sun or the sun round the
earth, and not a single one of them could tell Dorothy who was the
last king before George V, or who wrote Hamlet, or what was meant
by a vulgar fraction, or which ocean you crossed to get to America,
the Atlantic or the Pacific.  And the big girls of fifteen were not
much better than the tiny infants of eight, except that the former
could at least read consecutively and write neat copperplate.  That
was the one thing that nearly all of the older girls could do--they
could write neatly.  Mrs Creevy had seen to that.  And of course,
here and there in the midst of their ignorance, there were small,
disconnected islets of knowledge; for example, some odd stanzas
from 'pieces of poetry' that they had learned by heart, and a few
Ollendorffian French sentences such as 'Passez-moi le beurre, s'il
vous plait' and 'Le fils du jardinier a perdu son chapeau', which
they appeared to have learned as a parrot learns 'Pretty Poll'.  As
for their arithmetic, it was a little better than the other
subjects.  Most of them knew how to add and subtract, about half of
them had some notion of how to multiply, and there were even three
or four who had struggled as far as long division.  But that was
the utmost limit of their knowledge; and beyond, in every direction,
lay utter, impenetrable night.

Moreover, not only did they know nothing, but they were so unused
to being questioned that it was often difficult to get answers out
of them at all.  It was obvious that whatever they knew they had
learned in an entirely mechanical manner, and they could only gape
in a sort of dull bewilderment when asked to think for themselves.
However, they did not seem unwilling, and evidently they had made
up their minds to be 'good'--children are always 'good' with a new
teacher; and Dorothy persisted, and by degrees the children grew,
or seemed to grow, a shade less lumpish.  She began to pick up,
from the answers they gave her, a fairly accurate notion of what
Miss Strong's regime had been like.

It appeared that, though theoretically they had learned all the
usual school subjects, the only ones that had been at all seriously
taught were handwriting and arithmetic.  Mrs Creevy was particularly
keen on handwriting.  And besides this they had spent great
quantities of time--an hour or two out of every day, it seemed--in
drudging through a dreadful routine called 'copies.'  'Copies' meant
copying things out of textbooks or off the blackboard.  Miss Strong
would write up, for example, some sententious little 'essay' (there
was an essay entitled 'Spring' which recurred in all the older
girls' books, and which began, 'Now, when girlish April is tripping
through the land, when the birds are chanting gaily on the boughs
and the dainty flowerets bursting from their buds', etc., etc.), and
the girls would make fair copies of it in their copybooks; and the
parents, to whom the copybooks were shown from time to time, were no
doubt suitably impressed.  Dorothy began to grasp that everything
that the girls had been taught was in reality aimed at the parents.
Hence the 'copies', the insistence on handwriting, and the parroting
of ready-made French phrases; they were cheap and easy ways of
creating an impression.  Meanwhile, the little girls at the bottom
of the class seemed barely able to read and write, and one of them--
her name was Mavis Williams, and she was a rather sinister-looking
child of eleven, with eyes too far apart--could not even count.  This
child seemed to have done nothing at all during the past term and a
half except to write pothooks.  She had quite a pile of books filled
with pothooks--page after page of pothooks, looping on and on like
the mangrove roots in some tropical swamp.

Dorothy tried not to hurt the children's feelings by exclaiming at
their ignorance, but in her heart she was amazed and horrified.
She had not known that schools of this description still existed in
the civilized world.  The whole atmosphere of the place was so
curiously antiquated--so reminiscent of those dreary little private
schools that you read about in Victorian novels.  As for the few
textbooks that the class possessed, you could hardly look at them
without feeling as though you had stepped back into the mid
nineteenth century.  There were only three textbooks of which each
child had a copy.  One was a shilling arithmetic, pre Great War but
fairly serviceable, and another was a horrid little book called The
Hundred Page History of Britain--a nasty little duodecimo book with
a gritty brown cover, and, for frontispiece, a portrait of Boadicea
with a Union Jack draped over the front of her chariot.  Dorothy
opened this book at random, came to page 91, and read:


After the French Revolution was over, the self-styled Emperor
Napoleon Buonaparte attempted to set up his sway, but though he won
a few victories against continental troops, he soon found that in
the 'thin red line' he had more than met his match.  Conclusions
were tried upon the field of Waterloo, where 50,000 Britons put to
flight 70,000 Frenchmen--for the Prussians, our allies, arrived too
late for the battle.  With a ringing British cheer our men charged
down the slope and the enemy broke and fled.  We now come on to the
great Reform Bill of 1832, the first of those beneficent reforms
which have made British liberty what it is and marked us off from
the less fortunate nations [etc., etc.]. . . .


The date of the book was 1888.  Dorothy, who had never seen a
history book of this description before, examined it with a feeling
approaching horror.  There was also an extraordinary little
'reader', dated 1863.  It consisted mostly of bits out of Fenimore
Cooper, Dr Watts, and Lord Tennyson, and at the end there were the
queerest little 'Nature Notes' with woodcut illustrations.  There
would be a woodcut of an elephant, and underneath in small print:
'The elephant is a sagacious beast.  He rejoices in the shade of
the Palm Trees, and though stronger than six horses he will allow a
little child to lead him.  His food is Bananas.'  And so on to the
Whale, the Zebra, and Porcupine, and the Spotted Camelopard.  There
were also, in the teacher's desk, a copy of Beautiful Joe, a
forlorn book called Peeps at Distant Lands, and a French phrase-
book dated 1891.  It was called All you will need on your Parisian
Trip, and the first phrase given was 'Lace my stays, but not too
tightly'.  In the whole room there was not such a thing as an atlas
or a set of geometrical instruments.

At eleven there was a break of ten minutes, and some of the girls
played dull little games at noughts and crosses or quarrelled over
pencil-cases, and a few who had got over their first shyness
clustered round Dorothy's desk and talked to her.  They told her
some more about Miss Strong and her methods of teaching, and how
she used to twist their ears when they made blots on their
copybooks.  It appeared that Miss Strong had been a very strict
teacher except when she was 'taken bad', which happened about twice
a week.  And when she was taken bad she used to drink some medicine
out of a little brown bottle, and after drinking it she would grow
quite jolly for a while and talk to them about her brother in
Canada.  But on her last day--the time when she was taken so bad
during the arithmetic lesson--the medicine seemed to make her worse
than ever, because she had no sooner drunk it than she began
sinking and fell across a desk, and Mrs Creevy had to carry her out
of the room.

After the break there was another period of three quarters of an
hour, and then school ended for the morning.  Dorothy felt stiff
and tired after three hours in the chilly but stuffy room, and she
would have liked to go out of doors for a breath of fresh air, but
Mrs Creevy had told her beforehand that she must come and help get
dinner ready.  The girls who lived near the school mostly went home
for dinner, but there were seven who had dinner in the 'morning-
room' at tenpence a time.  It was an uncomfortable meal, and passed
in almost complete silence, for the girls were frightened to talk
under Mrs Creevy's eye.  The dinner was stewed scrag end of mutton,
and Mrs Creevy showed extraordinary dexterity in serving the pieces
of lean to the 'good payers' and the pieces of fat to the 'medium
payers'.  As for the three 'bad payers', they ate a shamefaced
lunch out of paper bags in the school-room.

School began again at two o'clock.  Already, after only one
morning's teaching, Dorothy went back to her work with secret
shrinking and dread.  She was beginning to realize what her life
would be like, day after day and week after week, in that sunless
room, trying to drive the rudiments of knowledge into unwilling
brats.  But when she had assembled the girls and called their names
over, one of them, a little peaky child with mouse-coloured hair,
called Laura Firth, came up to her desk and presented her with a
pathetic bunch of browny-yellow chrysanthemums, 'from all of us'.
The girls had taken a liking to Dorothy, and had subscribed
fourpence among themselves, to buy her a bunch of flowers.

Something stirred in Dorothy's heart as she took the ugly flowers.
She looked with more seeing eyes than before at the anaemic faces
and shabby clothes of the children, and was all of a sudden
horribly ashamed to think that in the morning she had looked at
them with indifference, almost with dislike.  Now, a profound pity
took possession of her.  The poor children, the poor children!  How
they had been stunted and maltreated!  And with it all they had
retained the childish gentleness that could make them squander
their few pennies on flowers for their teacher.

She felt quite differently towards her job from that moment
onwards.  A feeling of loyalty and affection had sprung up in her
heart.  This school was HER school; she would work for it and be
proud of it, and make every effort to turn it from a place of
bondage into a place human and decent.  Probably it was very little
that she could do.  She was so inexperienced and unfitted for her
job that she must educate herself before she could even begin to
educate anybody else.  Still, she would do her best; she would do
whatever willingness and energy could do to rescue these children
from the horrible darkness in which they had been kept.



3


During the next few weeks there were two things that occupied
Dorothy to the exclusion of all others.  One, getting her class
into some kind of order; the other, establishing a concordat with
Mrs Creevy.

The second of the two was by a great deal the more difficult.  Mrs
Creevy's house was as vile a house to live in as one could possibly
imagine.  It was always more or less cold, there was not a
comfortable chair in it from top to bottom, and the food was
disgusting.  Teaching is harder work than it looks, and a teacher
needs good food to keep him going.  It was horribly dispiriting to
have to work on a diet of tasteless mutton stews, damp boiled
potatoes full of little black eyeholes, watery rice puddings, bread
and scrape, and weak tea--and never enough even of these.  Mrs
Creevy, who was mean enough to take a pleasure in skimping even her
own food, ate much the same meals as Dorothy, but she always had
the lion's share of them.  Every morning at breakfast the two fried
eggs were sliced up and unequally partitioned, and the dish of
marmalade remained for ever sacrosanct.  Dorothy grew hungrier and
hungrier as the term went on.  On the two evenings a week when she
managed to get out of doors she dipped into her dwindling store of
money and bought slabs of plain chocolate, which she ate in the
deepest secrecy--for Mrs Creevy, though she starved Dorothy more or
less intentionally, would have been mortally offended if she had
known that she bought food for herself.

The worst thing about Dorothy's position was that she had no
privacy and very little time that she could call her own.  Once
school was over for the day her only refuge was the 'morning-room',
where she was under Mrs Creevy's eye, and Mrs Creevy's leading idea
was that Dorothy must never be left in peace for ten minutes
together.  She had taken it into her head, or pretended to do so,
that Dorothy was an idle person who needed keeping up to the mark.
And so it was always, 'Well, Miss Millborough, you don't seem to
have very much to do this evening, do you?  Aren't there some
exercise books that want correcting?  Or why don't you get your
needle and do a bit of sewing?  I'm sure _I_ couldn't bear to just
sit in my chair doing nothing like you do!'  She was for ever
finding household jobs for Dorothy to do, even making her scrub the
schoolroom floor on Saturday mornings when the girls did not come
to school; but this was done out of pure ill nature, for she did
not trust Dorothy to do the work properly, and generally did it
again after her.  One evening Dorothy was unwise enough to bring
back a novel from the public library.  Mrs Creevy flared up at the
very sight of it.  'Well, really, Miss Millborough!  I shouldn't
have thought you'd have had time to READ!' she said bitterly.  She
herself had never read a book right through in her life, and was
proud of it.

Moreover, even when Dorothy was not actually under her eye, Mrs
Creevy had ways of making her presence felt.  She was for ever
prowling in the neighbourhood of the schoolroom, so that Dorothy
never felt quite safe from her intrusion; and when she thought
there was too much noise she would suddenly rap on the wall with
her broom-handle in a way that made the children jump and put them
off their work.  At all hours of the day she was restlessly,
noisily active.  When she was not cooking meals she was banging
about with broom and dustpan, or harrying the charwoman, or
pouncing down upon the schoolroom to 'have a look round' in hopes
of catching Dorothy or the children up to mischief, or 'doing a bit
of gardening'--that is, mutilating with a pair of shears the
unhappy little shrubs that grew amid wastes of gravel in the back
garden.  On only two evenings a week was Dorothy free of her, and
that was when Mrs Creevy sallied forth on forays which she called
'going after the girls'; that is to say, canvassing likely parents.
These evenings Dorothy usually spent in the public library, for
when Mrs Creevy was not at home she expected Dorothy to keep out of
the house, to save fire and gaslight.  On other evenings Mrs Creevy
was busy writing dunning letters to the parents, or letters to the
editor of the local paper, haggling over the price of a dozen
advertisements, or poking about the girls' desks to see that their
exercise books had been properly corrected, or 'doing a bit of
sewing'.  Whenever occupation failed her for even five minutes she
got out her workbox and 'did a bit of sewing'--generally
restitching some bloomers of harsh white linen of which she had
pairs beyond number.  They were the most chilly looking garments
that one could possibly imagine; they seemed to carry upon them, as
no nun's coif or anchorite's hair shirt could ever have done, the
impress of a frozen and awful chastity.  The sight of them set you
wondering about the late Mr Creevy, even to the point of wondering
whether he had ever existed.

Looking with an outsider's eye at Mrs Creevy's manner of life, you
would have said that she had no PLEASURES whatever.  She never did
any of the things that ordinary people do to amuse themselves--
never went to the pictures, never looked at a book, never ate
sweets, never cooked a special dish for dinner or dressed herself
in any kind of finery.  Social life meant absolutely nothing to
her.  She had no friends, was probably incapable of imagining such
a thing as friendship, and hardly ever exchanged a word with a
fellow being except on business.  Of religious belief she had not
the smallest vestige.  Her attitude towards religion, though she
went to the Baptist Chapel every Sunday to impress the parents with
her piety, was a mean anti-clericalism founded on the notion that
the clergy are 'only after your money'.  She seemed a creature
utterly joyless, utterly submerged by the dullness of her
existence.  But in reality it was not so.  There were several
things from which she derived acute and inexhaustible pleasure.

For instance, there was her avarice over money.  It was the leading
interest of her life.  There are two kinds of avaricious person--
the bold, grasping type who will ruin you if he can, but who never
looks twice at twopence, and the petty miser who has not the
enterprise actually to MAKE money, but who will always, as the
saying goes, take a farthing from a dunghill with his teeth.  Mrs
Creevy belonged to the second type.  By ceaseless canvassing and
impudent bluff she had worked her school up to twenty-one pupils,
but she would never get it much further, because she was too mean
to spend money on the necessary equipment and to pay proper wages
to her assistant.  The fees the girls paid, or didn't pay, were
five guineas a term with certain extras, so that, starve and sweat
her assistant as she might, she could hardly hope to make more than
a hundred and fifty pounds a year clear profit.  But she was fairly
satisfied with that.  It meant more to her to save sixpence than to
earn a pound.  So long as she could think of a way of docking
Dorothy's dinner of another potato, or getting her exercise books a
halfpenny a dozen cheaper, or shoving an unauthorized half guinea
on to one of the 'good payers'' bills, she was happy after her
fashion.

And again, in pure, purposeless malignity--in petty acts of spite,
even when there was nothing to be gained by them--she had a hobby
of which she never wearied.  She was one of those people who
experience a kind of spiritual orgasm when they manage to do
somebody else a bad turn.  Her feud with Mr Boulger next door--a
one-sided affair, really, for poor Mr Boulger was not up to Mrs
Creevy's fighting weight--was conducted ruthlessly, with no quarter
given or expected.  So keen was Mrs Creevy's pleasure in scoring
off Mr Boulger that she was even willing to spend money on it
occasionally.  A year ago Mr Boulger had written to the landlord
(each of them was for ever writing to the landlord, complaining
about the other's behaviour), to say that Mrs Creevy's kitchen
chimney smoked into his back windows, and would she please have it
heightened two feet.  The very day the landlord's letter reached
her, Mrs Creevy called in the bricklayers and had the chimney
lowered two feet.  It cost her thirty shillings, but it was worth
it.  After that there had been the long guerrilla campaign of
throwing things over the garden wall during the night, and Mrs
Creevy had finally won with a dustbinful of wet ashes thrown on to
Mr Boulger's bed of tulips.  As it happened, Mrs Creevy won a neat
and bloodless victory soon after Dorothy's arrival.  Discovering by
chance that the roots of Mr Boulger's plum tree had grown under the
wall into her own garden, she promptly injected a whole tin of
weed-killer into them and killed the tree.  This was remarkable as
being the only occasion when Dorothy ever heard Mrs Creevy laugh.

But Dorothy was too busy, at first, to pay much attention to Mrs
Creevy and her nasty characteristics.  She saw quite clearly that
Mrs Creevy was an odious woman and that her own position was
virtually that of a slave; but it did not greatly worry her.  Her
work was too absorbing, too all-important.  In comparison with it,
her own comfort and even her future hardly seemed to matter.

It did not take her more than a couple of days to get her class
into running order.  It was curious, but though she had no
experience of teaching and no preconceived theories about it, yet
from the very first day she found herself, as though by instinct,
rearranging, scheming, innovating.  There was so much that was
crying out to be done.  The first thing, obviously, was to get rid
of the grisly routine of 'copies', and after Dorothy's second day
no more 'copies' were done in the class, in spite of a sniff or two
from Mrs Creevy.  The handwriting lessons, also, were cut down.
Dorothy would have liked to do away with handwriting lessons
altogether so far as the older girls were concerned--it seemed to
her ridiculous that girls of fifteen should waste time in practising
copperplate--but Mrs Creevy would not hear of it.  She seemed to
attach an almost superstitious value to handwriting lessons.  And
the next thing, of course, was to scrap the repulsive Hundred Page
History and the preposterous little 'readers'.  It would have been
worse than useless to ask Mrs Creevy to buy new books for the
children, but on her first Saturday afternoon Dorothy begged leave
to go up to London, was grudgingly given it, and spent two pounds
three shillings out of her precious four pounds ten on a dozen
secondhand copies of a cheap school edition of Shakespeare, a big
second-hand atlas, some volumes of Hans Andersen's stories for the
younger children, a set of geometrical instruments, and two pounds
of plasticine.  With these, and history books out of the public
library, she felt that she could make a start.

She had seen at a glance that what the children most needed, and
what they had never had, was individual attention.  So she began by
dividing them up into three separate classes, and so arranging
things that two lots could be working by themselves while she 'went
through' something with the third.  It was difficult at first,
especially with the younger girls, whose attention wandered as soon
as they were left to themselves, so that you could never really
take your eyes off them.  And yet how wonderfully, how unexpectedly,
nearly all of them improved during those first few weeks!  For the
most part they were not really stupid, only dazed by a dull,
mechanical rigmarole.  For a week, perhaps, they continued
unteachable; and then, quite suddenly, their warped little minds
seemed to spring up and expand like daisies when you move the
garden roller off them.

Quite quickly and easily Dorothy broke them in to the habit of
thinking for themselves.  She got them to make up essays out of
their own heads instead of copying out drivel about the birds
chanting on the boughs and the flowerets bursting from their buds.
She attacked their arithmetic at the foundations and started the
little girls on multiplication and piloted the older ones through
long division to fractions; she even got three of them to the point
where there was talk of starting on decimals.  She taught them the
first rudiments of French grammar in place of 'Passez-moi le
beurre, s'il vous plait' and 'Le fils du jardinier a perdu son
chapeau'.  Finding that not a girl in the class knew what any of
the countries of the world looked like (though several of them knew
that Quito was the capital of Ecuador), she set them to making a
large contour-map of Europe in plasticine, on a piece of three-ply
wood, copying it in scale from the atlas.  The children adored
making the map; they were always clamouring to be allowed to go on
with it.  And she started the whole class, except the six youngest
girls and Mavis Williams, the pothook specialist, on reading
Macbeth.  Not a child among them had ever voluntarily read anything
in her life before, except perhaps the Girl's Own Paper; but they
took readily to Shakespeare, as all children do when he is not made
horrible with parsing and analysing.

History was the hardest thing to teach them.  Dorothy had not
realized till now how hard it is for children who come from poor
homes to have even a conception of what history means.  Every
upper-class person, however ill-informed, grows up with some notion
of history; he can visualize a Roman centurion, a medieval knight,
an eighteenth-century nobleman; the terms Antiquity, Middle Ages,
Renaissance, Industrial Revolution evoke some meaning, even if a
confused one, in his mind.  But these children came from bookless
homes and from parents who would have laughed at the notion that
the past has any meaning for the present.  They had never heard of
Robin Hood, never played at being Cavaliers and Roundheads, never
wondered who built the English churches or what Fid. Def. on a
penny stands for.  There were just two historical characters of
whom all of them, almost without exception, had heard, and those
were Columbus and Napoleon.  Heaven knows why--perhaps Columbus and
Napoleon get into the newspapers a little oftener than most
historical characters.  They seemed to have swelled up in the
children's minds, like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, till they blocked
out the whole landscape of the past.  Asked when motor-cars were
invented, one child, aged ten, vaguely hazarded, 'About a thousand
years ago, by Columbus.'

Some of the older girls, Dorothy discovered, had been through the
Hundred Page History as many as four times, from Boadicea to the
first Jubilee, and forgotten practically every word of it.  Not
that that mattered greatly, for most of it was lies.  She started
the whole class over again at Julius Caesar's invasion, and at
first she tried taking history books out of the public library and
reading them aloud to the children; but that method failed, because
they could understand nothing that was not explained to them in
words of one or two syllables.  So she did what she could in her
own words and with her own inadequate knowledge, making a sort of
paraphrase of what she read and delivering it to the children;
striving all the while to drive into their dull little minds some
picture of the past, and what was always more difficult, some
interest in it.  But one day a brilliant idea struck her.  She
bought a roll of cheap plain wallpaper at an upholsterer's shop,
and set the children to making an historical chart.  They marked
the roll of paper into centuries and years, and stuck scraps that
they cut out of illustrated papers--pictures of knights in armour
and Spanish galleons and printing-presses and railway trains--at
the appropriate places.  Pinned round the walls of the room, the
chart presented, as the scraps grew in number, a sort of panorama
of English history.  The children were even fonder of the chart
than of the contour map.  They always, Dorothy found, showed more
intelligence when it was a question of MAKING something instead of
merely learning.  There was even talk of making a contour map of
the world, four feet by four, in papiermache, if Dorothy could 'get
round' Mrs Creevy to allow the preparation of the papiermache--a
messy process needing buckets of water.

Mrs Creevy watched Dorothy's innovations with a jealous eye, but
she did not interfere actively at first.  She was not going to show
it, of course, but she was secretly amazed and delighted to find
that she had got hold of an assistant who was actually willing to
work.  When she saw Dorothy spending her own money on textbooks for
the children, it gave her the same delicious sensation that she
would have had in bringing off a successful swindle.  She did,
however, sniff and grumble at everything that Dorothy did, and she
wasted a great deal of time by insisting on what she called
'thorough correction' of the girls' exercise books.  But her system
of correction, like everything else in the school curriculum, was
arranged with one eye on the parents.  Periodically the children
took their books home for their parents' inspection, and Mrs Creevy
would never allow anything disparaging to be written in them.
Nothing was to be marked 'bad' or crossed out or too heavily
underlined; instead, in the evenings, Dorothy decorated the books,
under Mrs Creevy's dictation, with more or less applauding comments
in red ink.  'A very creditable performance', and 'Excellent!  You
are making great strides.  Keep it up!' were Mrs Creevy's favourites.
All the children in the school, apparently, were for ever 'making
great strides'; in what direction they were striding was not stated.
The parents, however, seemed willing to swallow an almost unlimited
amount of this kind of thing.

There were times, of course, when Dorothy had trouble with the
girls themselves.  The fact that they were all of different ages
made them difficult to deal with, and though they were fond of her
and were very 'good' with her at first, they would not have been
children at all if they had been invariably 'good'.  Sometimes they
were lazy and sometimes they succumbed to that most damnable vice
of schoolgirls--giggling.  For the first few days Dorothy was
greatly exercised over little Mavis Williams, who was stupider than
one would have believed it possible for any child of eleven to be.
Dorothy could do nothing with her at all.  At the first attempt to
get her to do anything beyond pothooks a look of almost subhuman
blankness would come into her wide-set eyes.  Sometimes, however,
she had talkative fits in which she would ask the most amazing and
unanswerable questions.  For instance, she would open her 'reader',
find one of the illustrations--the sagacious Elephant, perhaps--and
ask Dorothy:

'Please, Miss, wass 'at thing there?'  (She mispronounced her words
in a curious manner.)

'That's an elephant, Mavis.'

'Wass a elephant?'

'An elephant's a kind of wild animal.'

'Wass a animal?'

'Well--a dog's an animal.'

'Wass a dog?'

And so on, more or less indefinitely.  About half-way through the
fourth morning Mavis held up her hand and said with a sly
politeness that ought to have put Dorothy on her guard:

'Please, Miss, may I be 'scused?'

'Yes,' said Dorothy.

One of the bigger girls put up her hand, blushed, and put her hand
down again as though too bashful to speak.  On being prompted by
Dorothy, she said shamefacedly:

'Please, Miss, Miss Strong didn't used to let Mavis go to the
lavatory alone.  She locks herself in and won't come out, and then
Mrs Creevy gets angry, Miss.'

Dorothy dispatched a messenger, but it was too late.  Mavis
remained in latebra pudenda till twelve o'clock.  Afterwards, Mrs
Creevy explained privately to Dorothy that Mavis was a congenital
idiot--or, as she put it, 'not right in the head'.  It was totally
impossible to teach her anything.  Of course, Mrs Creevy didn't
'let on' to Mavis's parents, who believed that their child was only
'backward' and paid their fees regularly.  Mavis was quite easy to
deal with.  You just had to give her a book and a pencil and tell
her to draw pictures and be quiet.  But Mavis, a child of habit,
drew nothing but pothooks--remaining quiet and apparently happy for
hours together, with her tongue hanging out, amid festoons of
pothooks.

But in spite of these minor difficulties, how well everything went
during those first few weeks!  How ominously well, indeed!  About
the tenth of November, after much grumbling about the price of
coal, Mrs Creevy started to allow a fire in the schoolroom.  The
children's wits brightened noticeably when the room was decently
warm.  And there were happy hours, sometimes, when the fire
crackled in the grate, and Mrs Creevy was out of the house, and the
children were working quietly and absorbedly at one of the lessons
that were their favourites.  Best of all was when the two top
classes were reading Macbeth, the girls squeaking breathlessly
through the scenes, and Dorothy pulling them up to make them
pronounce the words properly and to tell them who Bellona's
bridegroom was and how witches rode on broomsticks; and the girls
wanting to know, almost as excitedly as though it had been a
detective story, how Birnam Wood could possible come to Dunsinane
and Macbeth be killed by a man who was not of woman born.  Those
are the times that make teaching worth while--the times when the
children's enthusiasm leaps up, like an answering flame, to meet
your own, and sudden unlooked-for gleams of intelligence reward
your earlier drudgery.  No job is more fascinating than teaching if
you have a free hand at it.  Nor did Dorothy know, as yet, that
that 'if' is one of the biggest 'ifs' in the world.

Her job suited her, and she was happy in it.  She knew the minds
of the children intimately by this time, knew their individual
peculiarities and the special stimulants that were needed before
you could get them to think.  She was more fond of them, more
interested in their development, more anxious to do her best for
them, than she would have conceived possible a short while ago.
The complex, never-ended labour of teaching filled her life just as
the round of parish jobs had filled it at home.  She thought and
dreamed of teaching; she took books out of the public library and
studied theories of education.  She felt that quite willingly she
would go on teaching all her life, even at ten shillings a week and
her keep, if it could always be like this.  It was her vocation,
she thought.

Almost any job that fully occupied her would have been a relief
after the horrible futility of the time of her destitution.  But
this was more than a mere job; it was--so it seemed to her--a
mission, a life-purpose.  Trying to awaken the dulled minds of
these children, trying to undo the swindle that had been worked
upon them in the name of education--that, surely, was something to
which she could give herself heart and soul?  So for the time
being, in the interest of her work, she disregarded the beastliness
of living in Mrs Creevy's house, and quite forgot her strange,
anomalous position and the uncertainty of her future.



4


But of course, it could not last.

Not many weeks had gone by before the parents began interfering
with Dorothy's programme of work.  That--trouble with the parents--
is part of the regular routine of life in a private school.  All
parents are tiresome from a teacher's point of view, and the
parents of children at fourth-rate private schools are utterly
impossible.  On the one hand, they have only the dimmest idea of
what is meant by education; on the other hand, they look on
'schooling' exactly as they look on a butcher's bill or a grocer's
bill, and are perpetually suspicious that they are being cheated.
They bombard the teacher with ill-written notes making impossible
demands, which they send by hand and which the child reads on the
way to school.  At the end of the first fortnight Mabel Briggs,
one of the most promising girls in the class, brought Dorothy the
following note:


Dear Miss,--Would you please give Mabel a bit more ARITHMETIC?  I
feel that what your giving her is not practacle enough.  All these
maps and that.  She wants practacle work, not all this fancy stuff.
So more ARITHMETIC, please.  And remain,

Yours Faithfully,

Geo. Briggs

P.S.  Mabel says your talking of starting her on something called
decimals.  I don't want her taught decimals, I want her taught
ARITHMETIC.


So Dorothy stopped Mabel's geography and gave her extra arithmetic
instead, whereat Mabel wept.  More letters followed.  One lady was
disturbed to hear that her child was being given Shakespeare to
read.  'She had heard', she wrote, 'that this Mr Shakespeare was a
writer of stage-plays, and was Miss Millborough quite certain that
he wasn't a very IMMORAL writer?  For her own part she had never so
much as been to the pictures in her life, let alone to a stage-
play, and she felt that even in READING stage-plays there was a
very grave danger,' etc., etc.  She gave way, however, on being
informed that Mr Shakespeare was dead.  This seemed to reassure
her.  Another parent wanted more attention to his child's
handwriting, and another thought French was a waste of time; and
so it went on, until Dorothy's carefully arranged time-table was
almost in ruins.  Mrs Creevy gave her clearly to understand that
whatever the parents demanded she must do, or pretend to do.  In
many cases it was next door to impossible, for it disorganized
everything to have one child studying, for instance, arithmetic
while the rest of the class were doing history or geography.  But
in private schools the parents' word is law.  Such schools exist,
like shops, by flattering their customers, and if a parent wanted
his child taught nothing but cat's-cradle and the cuneiform
alphabet, the teacher would have to agree rather than lose a pupil.

The fact was that the parents were growing perturbed by the tales
their children brought home about Dorothy's methods.  They saw no
sense whatever in these new-fangled ideas of making plasticine maps
and reading poetry, and the old mechanical routine which had so
horrified Dorothy struck them as eminently sensible.  They became
more and more restive, and their letters were peppered with the
word 'practical', meaning in effect more handwriting lessons and
more arithmetic.  And even their notion of arithmetic was limited
to addition, subtraction, multiplication and 'practice', with long
division thrown in as a spectacular tour de force of no real value.
Very few of them could have worked out a sum in decimals themselves,
and they were not particularly anxious for their children to be able
to do so either.

However, if this had been all, there would probably never have been
any serious trouble.  The parents would have nagged at Dorothy, as
all parents do; but Dorothy would finally have learned--as, again,
all teachers finally learn--that if one showed a certain amount of
tact one could safely ignore them.  But there was one fact that was
absolutely certain to lead to trouble, and that was the fact that
the parents of all except three children were Nonconformists,
whereas Dorothy was an Anglican.  It was true that Dorothy had lost
her faith--indeed, for two months past, in the press of varying
adventures, had hardly thought either of her faith or of its loss.
But that made very little difference; Roman or Anglican, Dissenter,
Jew, Turk or infidel, you retain the habits of thought that you
have been brought up with.  Dorothy, born and bred in the precincts
of the Church, had no understanding of the Nonconformist mind.
With the best will in the world, she could not help doing things
that would cause offence to some of the parents.

Almost at the beginning there was a skirmish over the Scripture
lessons--twice a week the children used to read a couple of
chapters from the Bible.  Old Testament and New Testament
alternately--several of the parents writing to say, would Miss
Millborough please NOT answer the children when they asked
questions about the Virgin Mary; texts about the Virgin Mary were
to be passed over in silence, or, if possible, missed out
altogether.  But it was Shakespeare, that immoral writer, who
brought things to a head.  The girls had worked their way through
Macbeth, pining to know how the witches' prophecy was to be
fulfilled.  They reached the closing scenes.  Birnam Wood had come
to Dunsinane--that part was settled, anyway; now what about the man
who was not of woman born?  They came to the fatal passage:


MACBETH:  Thou losest labour;
As easy may'st thou the intrenchant air
With thy keen sword impress, as make me bleed:
Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests,
I bear a charmed life, which must not yield
To one of woman born.

MACDUFF:  Despair thy charm,
And let the Angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb
Untimely ripp'd.


The girls looked puzzled.  There was a momentary silence, and then
a chorus of voices round the room:

'Please, Miss, what does that mean?'

Dorothy explained.  She explained haltingly and incompletely, with
a sudden horrid misgiving--a premonition that this was going to
lead to trouble--but still, she did explain.  And after that, of
course, the fun began.

About half the children in the class went home and asked their
parents the meaning of the word 'womb'.  There was a sudden
commotion, a flying to and fro of messages, an electric thrill of
horror through fifteen decent Nonconformist homes.  That night the
parents must have held some kind of conclave, for the following
evening, about the time when school ended, a deputation called upon
Mrs Creevy.  Dorothy heard them arriving by ones and twos, and
guessed what was going to happen.  As soon as she had dismissed the
children, she heard Mrs Creevy call sharply down the stairs:

'Come up here a minute, Miss Millborough!'

Dorothy went up, trying to control the trembling of her knees.  In
the gaunt drawing-room Mrs Creevy was standing grimly beside the
piano, and six parents were sitting round on horsehair chairs like
a circle of inquisitors.  There was the Mr Geo. Briggs who had
written the letter about Mabel's arithmetic--he was an alert-
looking greengrocer with a dried-up, shrewish wife--and there was a
large, buffalo-like man with drooping moustaches and a colourless,
peculiarly FLAT wife who looked as though she had been flattened
out by the pressure of some heavy object--her husband, perhaps.
The names of these two Dorothy did not catch.  There was also Mrs
Williams, the mother of the congenital idiot, a small, dark, very
obtuse woman who always agreed with the last speaker, and there was
a Mr Poynder, a commercial traveller.  He was a youngish to middle-
aged man with a grey face, mobile lips, and a bald scalp across
which some strips of rather nasty-looking damp hair were carefully
plastered.  In honour of the parents' visit, a fire composed of
three large coals was sulking in the grate.

'Sit down there, Miss Millborough,' said Mrs Creevy, pointing to a
hard chair which stood like a stool of repentance in the middle of
the ring of parents.

Dorothy sat down.

'And now,' said Mrs Creevy, 'just you listen to what Mr Poynder's
got to say to you.'

Mr Poynder had a great deal to say.  The other parents had
evidently chosen him as their spokesman, and he talked till flecks
of yellowish foam appeared at the corners of his mouth.  And what
was remarkable, he managed to do it all--so nice was his regard for
the decencies--without ever once repeating the word that had caused
all the trouble.

'I feel that I'm voicing the opinion of all of us,' he said with
his facile bagman's eloquence, 'in saying that if Miss Millborough
knew that this play--Macduff, or whatever its name is--contained
such words as--well, such words as we're speaking about, she never
ought to have given it to the children to read at all.  To my mind
it's a disgrace that schoolbooks can be printed with such words in
them.  I'm sure if any of us had ever known that Shakespeare was
that kind of stuff, we'd have put our foot down at the start.  It
surprises me, I must say.  Only the other morning I was reading a
piece in my News Chronicle about Shakespeare being the father of
English Literature; well, if that's Literature, let's have a bit
LESS Literature, say I!  I think everyone'll agree with me there.
And on the other hand, if Miss Millborough didn't know that the
word--well, the word I'm referring to--was coming, she just ought
to have gone straight on and taken no notice when it did come.
There wasn't the slightest need to go explaining it to them.  Just
tell them to keep quiet and not get asking questions--that's the
proper way with children.'

'But the children wouldn't have understood the play if I hadn't
explained!' protested Dorothy for the third or fourth time.

'Of course they wouldn't!  You don't seem to get my point, Miss
Millborough!  We don't want them to understand.  Do you think we
want them to go picking up dirty ideas out of books?  Quite enough
of that already with all these dirty films and these twopenny
girls' papers that they get hold of--all these filthy, dirty love-
stories with pictures of--well, I won't go into it.  We don't send
our children to school to have ideas put into their heads.  I'm
speaking for all the parents in saying this.  We're all of decent
God-fearing folk--some of us are Baptists and some of us are
Methodists, and there's even one or two Church of England among us;
but we can sink our differences when it comes to a case like this--
and we try to bring our children up decent and save them from
knowing anything about the Facts of Life.  If I had my way, no
child--at any rate, no girl--would know anything about the Facts of
Life till she was twenty-one.'

There was a general nod from the parents, and the buffalo-like man
added, 'Yer, yer!  I'm with you there, Mr Poynder.  Yer, yer!' deep
down in his inside.

After dealing with the subject of Shakespeare, Mr Poynder added
some remarks about Dorothy's new-fangled methods of teaching, which
gave Mr Geo. Briggs the opportunity to rap out from time to time,
'That's it!  Practical work--that's what we want--practical work!
Not all this messy stuff like po'try and making maps and sticking
scraps of paper and such like.  Give 'em a good bit of figuring and
handwriting and bother the rest.  Practical work!  You've said it!'

This went on for about twenty minutes.  At first Dorothy attempted
to argue, but she saw Mrs Creevy angrily shaking her head at her
over the buffalo-like man's shoulder, which she rightly took as a
signal to be quiet.  By the time the parents had finished they had
reduced Dorothy very nearly to tears, and after this they made
ready to go.  But Mrs Creevy stopped them.

'JUST a minute, ladies and gentlemen,' she said.  'Now that you've
all had your say--and I'm sure I'm most glad to give you the
opportunity--I'd just like to say a little something on my own
account.  Just to make things clear, in case any of you might think
_I_ was to blame for this nasty business that's happened.  And YOU
stay here too, Miss Millborough!' she added.

She turned on Dorothy, and, in front of the parents, gave her a
venomous 'talking to' which lasted upwards of ten minutes.  The
burden of it all was that Dorothy had brought these dirty books
into the house behind her back; that it was monstrous treachery and
ingratitude; and that if anything like it happened again, out
Dorothy would go with a week's wages in her pocket.  She rubbed it
in and in and in.  Phrases like 'girl that I've taken into my
house', 'eating my bread', and even 'living on my charity',
recurred over and over again.  The parents sat round watching, and
in their crass faces--faces not harsh or evil, only blunted by
ignorance and mean virtues--you could see a solemn approval, a
solemn pleasure in the spectacle of sin rebuked.  Dorothy
understood this; she understood that it was necessary that Mrs
Creevy should give her her 'talking to' in front of the parents, so
that they might feel that they were getting their money's worth and
be satisfied.  But still, as the stream of mean, cruel reprimand
went on and on, such anger rose in her heart that she could with
pleasure have stood up and struck Mrs Creevy across the face.
Again and again she thought, 'I won't stand it, I won't stand it
any longer!  I'll tell her what I think of her and then walk
straight out of the house!'  But she did nothing of the kind.  She
saw with dreadful clarity the helplessness of her position.
Whatever happened, whatever insults it meant swallowing, she had
got to keep her job.  So she sat still, with pink humiliated face,
amid the circle of parents, and presently her anger turned to
misery, and she realized that she was going to begin crying if she
did not struggle to prevent it.  But she realized, too, that if she
began crying it would be the last straw and the parents would
demand her dismissal.  To stop herself, she dug her nails so hard
into the palms that afterwards she found that she had drawn a few
drops of blood.

Presently the 'talking to' wore itself out in assurances from Mrs
Creevy that this should never happen again and that the offending
Shakespeares should be burnt immediately.  The parents were now
satisfied.  Dorothy had had her lesson and would doubtless profit
by it; they did not bear her any malice and were not conscious of
having humiliated her.  They said good-bye to Mrs Creevy, said
good-bye rather more coldly to Dorothy, and departed.  Dorothy also
rose to go, but Mrs Creevy signed to her to stay where she was.

'Just you wait a minute,' she said ominously as the parents left
the room.  'I haven't finished yet, not by a long way I haven't.'

Dorothy sat down again.  She felt very weak at the knees, and
nearer to tears than ever.  Mrs Creevy, having shown the parents
out by the front door, came back with a bowl of water and threw it
over the fire--for where was the sense of burning good coals after
the parents had gone?  Dorothy supposed that the 'talking to' was
going to begin afresh.  However, Mrs Creevy's wrath seemed to have
cooled--at any rate, she had laid aside the air of outraged virtue
that it had been necessary to put on in front of the parents.

'I just want to have a bit of a talk with you, Miss Millborough,'
she said.  'It's about time we got it settled once and for all how
this school's going to be run and how it's not going to be run.'

'Yes,' said Dorothy.

'Well, I'll be straight with you.  When you came here I could see
with half an eye that you didn't know the first thing about school-
teaching; but I wouldn't have minded that if you'd just had a bit
of common sense like any other girl would have had.  Only it seems
you hadn't.  I let you have your own way for a week or two, and the
first thing you do is to go and get all the parents' backs up.
Well, I'm not going to have THAT over again.  From now on I'm going
to have things done MY way, not YOUR way.  Do you understand that?'

'Yes,' said Dorothy again.

'You're not to think as I can't do without you, mind,' proceeded
Mrs Creevy.  'I can pick up teachers at two a penny any day of the
week, M.A.s and B.A.s and all.  Only the M.A.s and B.A.s mostly
take to drink, or else they--well, no matter what--and I will say
for you you don't seem to be given to the drink or anything of that
kind.  I dare say you and me can get on all right if you'll drop
these new-fangled ideas of yours and understand what's meant by
practical school-teaching.  So just you listen to me.'

Dorothy listened.  With admirable clarity, and with a cynicism that
was all the more disgusting because it was utterly unconscious, Mrs
Creevy explained the technique of the dirty swindle that she called
practical school-teaching.

'What you've got to get hold of once and for all,' she began, 'is
that there's only one thing that matters in a school, and that's
the fees.  As for all this stuff about "developing the children's
minds", as you call it, it's neither here nor there.  It's the fees
I'm after, not DEVELOPING THE CHILDREN'S MINDS.  After all, it's no
more than common sense.  It's not to be supposed as anyone'd go to
all the trouble of keeping school and having the house turned
upside down by a pack of brats, if it wasn't that there's a bit of
money to be made out of it.  The fees come first, and everything
else comes afterwards.  Didn't I tell you that the very first day
you came here?'

'Yes,' admitted Dorothy humbly.

'Well, then, it's the parents that pay the fees, and it's the
parents you've got to think about.  Do what the parents want--
that's our rule here.  I dare say all this messing about with
plasticine and paper-scraps that you go in for doesn't do the
children any particular harm; but the parents don't want it, and
there's an end of it.  Well, there's just two subjects that they DO
want their children taught, and that's handwriting and arithmetic.
Especially handwriting.  That's something they CAN see the sense
of.  And so handwriting's the thing you've got to keep on and on
at.  Plenty of nice neat copies that the girls can take home, and
that the parents'll show off to the neighbours and give us a bit of
a free advert.  I want you to give the children two hours a day
just at handwriting and nothing else.'

'Two hours a day just at handwriting,' repeated Dorothy obediently.

'Yes.  And plenty of arithmetic as well.  The parents are very keen
on arithmetic: especially money-sums.  Keep your eye on the parents
all the time.  If you meet one of them in the street, get hold of
them and start talking to them about their own girl.  Make out that
she's the best girl in the class and that if she stays just three
terms longer she'll be working wonders.  You see what I mean?
Don't go and tell them there's no room for improvement; because if
you tell them THAT, they generally take their girls away.  Just
three terms longer--that's the thing to tell them.  And when you
make out the end of term reports, just you bring them to me and let
me have a good look at them.  I like to do the marking myself.'

Mrs Creevy's eye met Dorothy's.  She had perhaps been about to say
that she always arranged the marks so that every girl came out
somewhere near the top of the class; but she refrained.  Dorothy
could not answer for a moment.  Outwardly she was subdued, and very
pale, but in her heart were anger and deadly repulsion against
which she had to struggle before she could speak.  She had no
thought, however, of contradicting Mrs Creevy.  The 'talking to'
had quite broken her spirit.  She mastered her voice, and said:

'I'm to teach nothing but handwriting and arithmetic--is that it?'

'Well, I didn't say that exactly.  There's plenty of other subjects
that look well on the prospectus.  French, for instance--French
looks VERY well on the prospectus.  But it's not a subject you want
to waste much time over.  Don't go filling them up with a lot of
grammar and syntax and verbs and all that.  That kind of stuff
doesn't get them anywhere so far as _I_ can see.  Give them a bit
of "Parley vous Francey", and "Passey moi le beurre", and so forth;
that's a lot more use than grammar.  And then there's Latin--I
always put Latin on the prospectus.  But I don't suppose you're
very great on Latin, are you?'

'No,' admitted Dorothy.

'Well, it doesn't matter.  You won't have to teach it.  None of OUR
parents'd want their children to waste time over Latin.  But they
like to see it on the prospectus.  It looks classy.  Of course
there's a whole lot of subjects that we can't actually teach, but
we have to advertise them all the same.  Book-keeping and typing
and shorthand, for instance; besides music and dancing.  It all
looks well on the prospectus.'

'Arithmetic, handwriting, French--is there anything else?' Dorothy
said.

'Oh, well, history and geography and English Literature, of course.
But just drop that map-making business at once--it's nothing but
waste of time.  The best geography to teach is lists of capitals.
Get them so that they can rattle off the capitals of all the
English counties as if it was the multiplication table.  Then
they've got something to show for what they've learnt, anyway.  And
as for history, keep on with the Hundred Page History of Britain.
I won't have them taught out of those big history books you keep
bringing home from the library.  I opened one of those books the
other day, and the first thing I saw was a piece where it said the
English had been beaten in some battle or other.  There's a nice
thing to go teaching children!  The parents won't stand for THAT
kind of thing, I can tell you!'

'And Literature?' said Dorothy.

'Well, of course they've got to do a bit of reading, and I can't
think why you wanted to turn up your nose at those nice little
readers of ours.  Keep on with the readers.  They're a bit old, but
they're quite good enough for a pack of children, I should have
thought.  And I suppose they might as well learn a few pieces of
poetry by heart.  Some of the parents like to hear their children
say a piece of poetry.  "The Boy stood on the Burning Deck"--that's
a very good piece--and then there's "The Wreck of the Steamer"--
now, what was that ship called?  "The Wreck of the Steamer
Hesperus".  A little poetry doesn't hurt now and again.  But don't
let's have any more SHAKESPEARE, please!'

Dorothy got no tea that day.  It was now long past tea-time, but
when Mrs Creevy had finished her harangue she sent Dorothy away
without saying anything about tea.  Perhaps this was a little extra
punishment for l'affaire Macbeth.

Dorothy had not asked permission to go out, but she did not feel
that she could stay in the house any longer.  She got her hat and
coat and set out down the ill-lit road, for the public library.  It
was late into November.  Though the day had been damp the night
wind blew sharply, like a threat, through the almost naked trees,
making the gas-lamps flicker in spite of their glass chimneys, and
stirring the sodden plane leaves that littered the pavement.
Dorothy shivered slightly.  The raw wind sent through her a bone-
deep memory of the cold of Trafalgar Square.  And though she did
not actually think that if she lost her job it would mean going
back to the sub-world from which she had come--indeed, it was not
so desperate as that; at the worst her cousin or somebody else
would help her--still, Mrs Creevy's 'talking to' had made Trafalgar
Square seem suddenly very much nearer.  It had driven into her a
far deeper understanding than she had had before of the great
modern commandment--the eleventh commandment which has wiped out
all the others:  'Thou shalt not lose thy job.'

But as to what Mrs Creevy had said about 'practical school-
teaching', it had been no more than a realistic facing of the
facts.  She had merely said aloud what most people in her position
think but never say.  Her oft-repeated phrase, 'It's the fees I'm
after', was a motto that might be--indeed, ought to be--written
over the doors of every private school in England.

There are, by the way, vast numbers of private schools in England.
Second-rate, third-rate, and fourth-rate (Ringwood House was a
specimen of the fourth-rate school), they exist by the dozen and
the score in every London suburb and every provincial town.  At
any given moment there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of ten
thousand of them, of which less than a thousand are subject to
Government inspection.  And though some of them are better than
others, and a certain number, probably, are better than the council
schools with which they compete, there is the same fundamental evil
in all of them; that is, that they have ultimately no purpose
except to make money.  Often, except that there is nothing illegal
about them, they are started in exactly the same spirit as one
would start a brothel or a bucket shop.  Some snuffy little man of
business (it is quite usual for these schools to be owned by people
who don't teach themselves) says one morning to his wife:

'Emma, I got a notion!  What you say to us two keeping school, eh?
There's plenty of cash in a school, you know, and there ain't the
same work in it as what there is in a shop or a pub.  Besides, you
don't risk nothing; no over'ead to worry about, 'cept jest your
rent and few desks and a blackboard.  But we'll do it in style.
Get in one of these Oxford and Cambridge chaps as is out of a job
and'll come cheap, and dress 'im up in a gown and--what do they
call them little square 'ats with tassels on top?  That 'ud fetch
the parents, eh?  You jest keep your eyes open and see if you can't
pick on a good district where there's not too many on the same game
already.'

He chooses a situation in one of those middle-class districts where
the people are too poor to afford the fees of a decent school and
too proud to send their children to the council schools, and 'sets
up'.  By degrees he works up a connexion in very much the same
manner as a milkman or a greengrocer, and if he is astute and
tactful and has not too many competitors, he makes his few hundreds
a year out of it.

Of course, these schools are not all alike.  Not every principal is
a grasping low-minded shrew like Mrs Creevy, and there are plenty
of schools where the atmosphere is kindly and decent and the
teaching is as good as one could reasonably expect for fees of five
pounds a term.  On the other hand, some of them are crying
scandals.  Later on, when Dorothy got to know one of the teachers
at another private school in Southbridge, she heard tales of
schools that were worse by far than Ringwood House.  She heard of a
cheap boarding-school where travelling actors dumped their children
as one dumps luggage in a railway cloakroom, and where the children
simply vegetated, doing absolutely nothing, reaching the age of
sixteen without learning to read; and another school where the days
passed in a perpetual riot, with a broken-down old hack of a master
chasing the boys up and down and slashing at them with a cane, and
then suddenly collapsing and weeping with his head on a desk, while
the boys laughed at him.  So long as schools are run primarily for
money, things like this will happen.  The expensive private schools
to which the rich send their children are not, on the surface, so
bad as the others, because they can afford a proper staff, and the
Public School examination system keeps them up to the mark; but
they have the same essential taint.

It was only later, and by degrees, that Dorothy discovered these
facts about private schools.  At first, she used to suffer from an
absurd fear that one day the school inspectors would descend upon
Ringwood House, find out what a sham and a swindle it all was, and
raise the dust accordingly.  Later on, however, she learned that
this could never happen.  Ringwood House was not 'recognized', and
therefore was not liable to be inspected.  One day a Government
inspector did, indeed, visit the school, but beyond measuring the
dimensions of the schoolroom to see whether each girl had her right
number of cubic feet of air, he did nothing; he had no power to do
more.  Only the tiny minority of 'recognized' schools--less than
one in ten--are officially tested to decide whether they keep up a
reasonable educational standard.  As for the others, they are free
to teach or not teach exactly as they choose.  No one controls or
inspects them except the children's parents--the blind leading the
blind.



5


Next day Dorothy began altering her programme in accordance with
Mrs Creevy's orders.  The first lesson of the day was handwriting,
and the second was geography.

'That'll do, girls,' said Dorothy as the funereal clock struck ten.
'We'll start our geography lesson now.'

The girls flung their desks open and put their hated copybooks away
with audible sighs of relief.  There were murmurs of 'Oo, jography!
Good!'  It was one of their favourite lessons.  The two girls who
were 'monitors' for the week, and whose job it was to clean the
blackboard, collect exercise books and so forth (children will
fight for the privilege of doing jobs of that kind), leapt from
their places to fetch the half-finished contour map that stood
against the wall.  But Dorothy stopped them.

'Wait a moment.  Sit down, you two.  We aren't going to go on with
the map this morning.'

There was a cry of dismay.  'Oh, Miss!  Why can't we, Miss?  PLEASE
let's go on with it!'

'No.  I'm afraid we've been wasting a little too much time over the
map lately.  We're going to start learning some of the capitals of
the English counties.  I want every girl in the class to know the
whole lot of them by the end of the term.'

The children's faces fell.  Dorothy saw it, and added with an
attempt at brightness--that hollow, undeceiving brightness of a
teacher trying to palm off a boring subject as an interesting one:

'Just think how pleased your parents will be when they can ask you
the capital of any county in England and you can tell it them!'

The children were not in the least taken in.  They writhed at the
nauseous prospect.

'Oh, CAPITALS!  Learning CAPITALS!  That's just what we used to do
with Miss Strong.  Please, Miss, WHY can't we go on with the map?'

'Now don't argue.  Get your notebooks out and take them down as I
give them to you.  And afterwards we'll say them all together.'

Reluctantly, the children fished out their notebooks, still
groaning.  'Please, Miss, can we go on with the map NEXT time?'

'I don't know.  We'll see.'

That afternoon the map was removed from the schoolroom, and Mrs
Creevy scraped the plasticine off the board and threw it away.  It
was the same with all the other subjects, one after another.  All
the changes that Dorothy had made were undone.  They went back to
the routine of interminable 'copies' and interminable 'practice'
sums, to the learning parrot-fashion of 'Passez-moi le beurre' and
'Le fils du jardinier a perdu son chapeau', to the Hundred Page
History and the insufferable little 'reader'.  (Mrs Creevy had
impounded the Shakespeares, ostensibly to burn them.  The
probability was that she had sold them.)  Two hours a day were set
apart for handwriting lessons.  The two depressing pieces of black
paper, which Dorothy had taken down from the wall, were replaced,
and their proverbs written upon them afresh in neat copperplate.
As for the historical chart, Mrs Creevy took it away and burnt it.

When the children saw the hated lessons, from which they had
thought to have escaped for ever, coming back upon them one by one,
they were first astonished, then miserable, then sulky.  But it was
far worse for Dorothy than for the children.  After only a couple
of days the rigmarole through which she was obliged to drive them
so nauseated her that she began to doubt whether she could go on
with it any longer.  Again and again she toyed with the idea of
disobeying Mrs Creevy.  Why not, she would think, as the children
whined and groaned and sweated under their miserable bondage--why
not stop it and go back to proper lessons, even if it was only for
an hour or two a day?  Why not drop the whole pretence of lessons
and simply let the children play?  It would be so much better for
them than this.  Let them draw pictures or make something out of
plasticine or begin making up a fairy tale--anything REAL, anything
that would interest them, instead of this dreadful nonsense.  But
she dared not.  At any moment Mrs Creevy was liable to come in, and
if she found the children 'messing about' instead of getting on
with their routine work, there would be fearful trouble.  So
Dorothy hardened her heart, and obeyed Mrs Creevy's instructions to
the letter, and things were very much as they had been before Miss
Strong was 'taken bad'.

The lessons reached such a pitch of boredom that the brightest spot
in the week was Mr Booth's so-called chemistry lecture on Thursday
afternoons.  Mr Booth was a seedy, tremulous man of about fifty,
with long, wet, cowdung-coloured moustaches.  He had been a Public
School master once upon a time, but nowadays he made just enough
for a life of chronic sub-drunkenness by delivering lectures at two
and sixpence a time.  The lectures were unrelieved drivel.  Even in
his palmiest days Mr Booth had not been a particularly brilliant
lecturer, and now, when he had had his first go of delirium tremens
and lived in a daily dread of his second, what chemical knowledge
he had ever had was fast deserting him.  He would stand dithering
in front of the class, saying the same thing over and over again
and trying vainly to remember what he was talking about.  'Remember,
girls,' he would say in his husky, would-be fatherly voice, 'the
number of the elements is ninety-three--ninety-three elements,
girls--you all of you know what an element is, don't you?--there are
just ninety-three of them--remember that number, girls--ninety-
three,' until Dorothy (she had to stay in the schoolroom during the
chemistry lectures, because Mrs Creevy considered that it DIDN'T DO
to leave the girls alone with a man) was miserable with vicarious
shame.  All the lectures started with the ninety-three elements, and
never got very much further.  There was also talk of 'a very
interesting little experiment that I'm going to perform for you next
week, girls--very interesting you'll find it--we'll have it next
week without fail--a very interesting little experiment', which,
needless to say, was never performed.  Mr Booth possessed no chemical
apparatus, and his hands were far too shaky to have used it even if
he had had any.  The girls sat through his lectures in a suety
stupor of boredom, but even he was a welcome change from handwriting
lessons.

The children were never quite the same with Dorothy after the
parents' visit.  They did not change all in a day, of course.  They
had grown to be fond of 'old Millie', and they expected that after
a day or two of tormenting them with handwriting and 'commercial
arithmetic' she would go back to something interesting.  But the
handwriting and arithmetic went on, and the popularity Dorothy had
enjoyed, as a teacher whose lessons weren't boring and who didn't
slap you, pinch you, or twist your ears, gradually vanished.
Moreover, the story of the row there had been over Macbeth was not
long in leaking out.  The children grasped that old Millie had done
something wrong--they didn't exactly know what--and had been given
a 'talking to'.  It lowered her in their eyes.  There is no dealing
with children, even with children who are fond of you, unless you
can keep your prestige as an adult; let that prestige be once
damaged, and even the best-hearted children will despise you.

So they began to be naughty in the normal, traditional way.
Before, Dorothy had only had to deal with occasional laziness,
outbursts of noise and silly giggling fits; now there were spite
and deceitfulness as well.  The children revolted ceaselessly
against the horrible routine.  They forgot the short weeks when old
Millie had seemed quite a good sort and school itself had seemed
rather fun.  Now, school was simply what it had always been, and
what indeed you expected it to be--a place where you slacked and
yawned and whiled the time away by pinching your neighbour and
trying to make the teacher lose her temper, and from which you
burst with a yell of relief the instant the last lesson was over.
Sometimes they sulked and had fits of crying, sometimes they argued
in the maddening persistent way that children have, 'WHY should we
do this?  WHY does anyone have to learn to read and write?' over
and over again, until Dorothy had to stand over them and silence
them with threats of blows.  She was growing almost habitually
irritable nowadays; it surprised and shocked her, but she could not
stop it.  Every morning she vowed to herself, 'Today I will NOT
lose my temper', and every morning, with depressing regularity, she
DID lose her temper, especially at about half past eleven when the
children were at their worst.  Nothing in the world is quite so
irritating as dealing with mutinous children.  Sooner or later,
Dorothy knew, she would lose control of herself and begin hitting
them.  It seemed to her an unforgivable thing to do, to hit a
child; but nearly all teachers come to it in the end.  It was
impossible now to get any child to work except when your eye was
upon it.  You had only to turn your back for an instant and
blotting-paper pellets were flying to and fro.  Nevertheless, with
ceaseless slave-driving the children's handwriting and 'commercial
arithmetic' did certainly show some improvement, and no doubt the
parents were satisfied.

The last few weeks of the term were a very bad time.  For over a
fortnight Dorothy was quite penniless, for Mrs Creevy had told her
that she couldn't pay her her term's wages 'till some of the fees
came in'.  So she was deprived of the secret slabs of chocolate
that had kept her going, and she suffered from a perpetual slight
hunger that made her languid and spiritless.  There were leaden
mornings when the minutes dragged like hours, when she struggled
with herself to keep her eyes away from the clock, and her heart
sickened to think that beyond this lesson there loomed another just
like it, and more of them and more, stretching on into what seemed
like a dreary eternity.  Worse yet were the times when the children
were in their noisy mood and it needed a constant exhausting effort
of the will to keep them under control at all; and beyond the wall,
of course, lurked Mrs Creevy, always listening, always ready to
descend upon the schoolroom, wrench the door open, and glare round
the room with 'Now then!  What's all this noise about, please?' and
the sack in her eye.

Dorothy was fully awake, now, to the beastliness of living in Mrs
Creevy's house.  The filthy food, the cold, and the lack of baths
seemed much more important than they had seemed a little while ago.
Moreover, she was beginning to appreciate, as she had not done when
the joy of her work was fresh upon her, the utter loneliness of her
position.  Neither her father nor Mr Warburton had written to her,
and in two months she had made not a single friend in Southbridge.
For anyone so situated, and particularly for a woman, it is all but
impossible to make friends.  She had no money and no home of her
own, and outside the school her sole places of refuge were the
public library, on the few evenings when she could get there, and
church on Sunday mornings.  She went to church regularly, of
course--Mrs Creevy had insisted on that.  She had settled the
question of Dorothy's religious observances at breakfast on her
first Sunday morning.

'I've just been wondering what Place of Worship you ought to go
to,' she said.  'I suppose you were brought up C. of E., weren't
you?'

'Yes,' said Dorothy.

'Hm, well.  I can't quite make up my mind where to send you.
There's St George's--that's the C. of E.--and there's the Baptist
Chapel where I go myself.  Most of our parents are Nonconformists,
and I don't know as they'd quite approve of a C. of E. teacher.
You can't be too careful with the parents.  They had a bit of a
scare two years ago when it turned out that the teacher I had then
was actually a Roman Catholic, if you please!  Of course she kept
it dark as long as she could, but it came out in the end, and three
of the parents took their children away.  I got rid of her the same
day as I found it out, naturally.'

Dorothy was silent.

'Still,' went on Mrs Creevy, 'we HAVE got three C. of E. pupils,
and I don't know as the Church connexion mightn't be worked up a
bit.  So perhaps you'd better risk it and go to St George's.  But
you want to be a bit careful, you know.  I'm told St George's is
one of these churches where they go in for a lot of bowing and
scraping and crossing yourself and all that.  We've got two parents
that are Plymouth Brothers, and they'd throw a fit if they heard
you'd been seen crossing yourself.  So don't go and do THAT,
whatever you do.'

'Very well,' said Dorothy.

'And just you keep your eyes well open during the sermon.  Have a
good look round and see if there's any young girls in the
congregation that we could get hold of.  If you see any likely
looking ones, get on to the parson afterwards and try and find out
their names and addresses.'

So Dorothy went to St George's.  It was a shade 'Higher' than St
Athelstan's had been; chairs, not pews, but no incense, and the
vicar (his name was Mr Gore-Williams) wore a plain cassock and
surplice except on festival days.  As for the services, they were
so like those at home that Dorothy could go through them, and utter
all the responses at the right moment, in a state of the completest
abstraction.

There was never a moment when the power of worship returned to her.
Indeed, the whole concept of worship was meaningless to her now;
her faith had vanished, utterly and irrevocably.  It is a
mysterious thing, the loss of faith--as mysterious as faith itself.
Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic; it is a change in
the climate of the mind.  But however little the church services
might mean to her, she did not regret the hours she spent in
church.  On the contrary, she looked forward to her Sunday mornings
as blessed interludes of peace; and that not only because Sunday
morning meant a respite from Mrs Creevy's prying eye and nagging
voice.  In another and deeper sense the atmosphere of the church
was soothing and reassuring to her.  For she perceived that in all
that happens in church, however absurd and cowardly its supposed
purpose may be, there is something--it is hard to define, but
something of decency, of spiritual comeliness--that is not easily
found in the world outside.  It seemed to her that even though you
no longer believe, it is better to go to church than not; better to
follow in the ancient ways, than to drift in rootless freedom.  She
knew very well that she would never again be able to utter a prayer
and mean it; but she knew also that for the rest of her life she
must continue with the observances to which she had been bred.
Just this much remained to her of the faith that had once, like the
bones in a living frame, held all her life together.

But as yet she did not think very deeply about the loss of her
faith and what it might mean to her in the future.  She was too
busy merely existing, merely struggling to make her nerves hold out
for the rest of that miserable term.  For as the term drew to an
end, the job of keeping the class in order grew more and more
exhausting.  The girls behaved atrociously, and they were all the
bitterer against Dorothy because they had once been fond of her.
She had deceived them, they felt.  She had started off by being
decent, and now she had turned out to be just a beastly old teacher
like the rest of them--a nasty old beast who kept on and on with
those awful handwriting lessons and snapped your head off if you so
much as made a blot on your book.  Dorothy caught them eyeing her
face, sometimes, with the aloof, cruel scrutiny of children.  They
had thought her pretty once, and now they thought her ugly, old,
and scraggy.  She had grown, indeed, much thinner since she had
been at Ringwood House.  They hated her now, as they had hated all
their previous teachers.

Sometimes they baited her quite deliberately.  The older and more
intelligent girls understood the situation well enough--understood
that Millie was under old Creevy's thumb and that she got dropped
on afterwards when they had been making too much noise; sometimes
they made all the noise they dared, just so as to bring old Creevy
in and have the pleasure of watching Millie's face while old Creevy
told her off.  There were times when Dorothy could keep her temper
and forgive them all they did, because she realized that it was
only a healthy instinct that made them rebel against the loathsome
monotony of their work.  But there were other times when her nerves
were more on edge than usual, and when she looked round at the
score of silly little faces, grinning or mutinous, and found it
possible to hate them.  Children are so blind, so selfish, so
merciless.  They do not know when they are tormenting you past
bearing, and if they did know they would not care.  You may do your
very best for them, you may keep your temper in situations that
would try a saint, and yet if you are forced to bore them and
oppress them, they will hate you for it without ever asking
themselves whether it is you who are to blame.  How true--when you
happen not to be a school-teacher yourself--how true those often-
quoted lines sound--


Under a cruel eye outworn
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay!


But when you yourself are the cruel eye outworn, you realize that
there is another side to the picture.

The last week came, and the dirty farce of 'exams', was carried
through.  The system, as explained by Mrs Creevy, was quite simple.
You coached the children in, for example, a series of sums until
you were quite certain that they could get them right, and then set
them the same sums as an arithmetic paper before they had time to
forget the answers; and so with each subject in turn.  The
children's papers were, of course, sent home for their parents'
inspection.  And Dorothy wrote the reports under Mrs Creevy's
dictation, and she had to write 'excellent' so many times that--as
sometimes happens when you write a word over and over again--she
forgot how to spell it and began writing in 'excelent', 'exsellent',
'ecsellent', 'eccelent'.

The last day passed in fearful tumults.  Not even Mrs Creevy
herself could keep the children in order.  By midday Dorothy's
nerves were in rags, and Mrs Creevy gave her a 'talking to' in
front of the seven children who stayed to dinner.  In the afternoon
the noise was worse than ever, and at last Dorothy, overcome,
appealed to the girls almost tearfully to stop.

'Girls!' she called out, raising her voice to make herself heard
through the din.  'PLEASE stop it, PLEASE!  You're behaving
horribly to me.  Do you think it's kind to go on like this?'

That was fatal, of course.  Never, never, never throw yourself on
the mercy of a child!  There was an instant's hush, and then one
child cried out, loudly and derisively, 'Mill-iee!'  The next
moment the whole class had taken it up, even the imbecile Mavis,
chanting all together 'Mill-iee!  Mill-iee!  Mill-iee!'  At that,
something within Dorothy seemed to snap.  She paused for an
instant, picked out the girl who was making the most noise, walked
up to her, and gave her a smack across the ear almost as hard as
she could hit.  Happily it was only one of the 'medium payers'.



6


On the first day of the holidays Dorothy received a letter from Mr
Warburton.


My Dear Dorothy [he wrote],--Or should I call you Ellen, as I
understand that is your new name?  You must, I am afraid, have
thought it very heartless of me not to have written sooner, but I
assure you that it was not until ten days ago that I even heard
anything about our supposed escapade.  I have been abroad, first in
various parts of France, then in Austria and then in Rome, and, as
you know, I avoid my fellow countrymen most strenuously on these
trips.  They are disgusting enough even at home, but in foreign
parts their behaviour makes me so ashamed of them that I generally
try to pass myself off as an American.

When I got to Knype Hill your father refused to see me, but I
managed to get hold of Victor Stone, who gave me your address and
the name you are using.  He seemed rather reluctant to do so, and I
gathered that even he, like everyone else in this poisonous town,
still believes that you have misbehaved yourself in some way.  I
think the theory that you and I eloped together has been dropped,
but you must, they feel, have done SOMETHING scandalous.  A young
woman has left home suddenly, therefore there must be a man in the
case; that is how the provincial mind works, you see.  I need not
tell you that I have been contradicting the whole story with the
utmost vigour.  You will be glad to hear that I managed to corner
that disgusting hag, Mrs Semprill, and give her a piece of my mind;
and I assure you that a piece of MY mind is distinctly formidable.
But the woman is simply sub-human.  I could get nothing out of her
except hypocritical snivellings about 'poor, POOR Dorothy'.

I hear that your father misses you very much, and would gladly have
you home again if it were not for the scandal.  His meals are never
punctual nowadays, it seems.  He gives it out that you 'went away
to recuperate from a slight illness and have now got an excellent
post at a girls' school'.  You will be surprised to hear of one
thing that has happened to him.  He has been obliged to pay off all
his debts!  I am told that the tradesmen rose in a body and held
what was practically a creditors' meeting in the Rectory.  Not the
kind of thing that could have happened at Plumstead Episcopi--but
these are democratic days, alas!  You, evidently, were the only
person who could keep the tradesmen permanently at bay.

And now I must tell you some of my own news, etc., etc., etc.


At this point Dorothy tore the letter up in disappointment and even
in annoyance.  He might have shown a little more sympathy! she
thought.  It was just like Mr Warburton after getting her into
serious trouble--for after all, he was principally to blame for
what had happened--to be so flippant and unconcerned about it.  But
when she had thought it over she acquitted him of heartlessness.
He had done what little was possible to help her, and he could not
be expected to pity her for troubles of which he had not heard.
Besides, his own life had been a series of resounding scandals;
probably he could not understand that to a woman a scandal is a
serious matter.

At Christmas Dorothy's father also wrote, and what was more, sent
her a Christmas present of two pounds.  It was evident from the
tone of his letter that he had forgiven Dorothy by this time.  WHAT
exactly he had forgiven her was not certain, because it was not
certain what exactly she had done; but still, he had forgiven her.
The letter started with some perfunctory but quite friendly
inquiries.  He hoped her new job suited her, he wrote.  And were
her rooms at the school comfortable and the rest of the staff
congenial?  He had heard that they did one very well at schools
nowadays--very different from what it had been forty years ago.
Now, in his day, etc., etc., etc.  He had, Dorothy perceived, not
the dimmest idea of her present circumstances.  At the mention of
schools his mind flew to Winchester, his old school; such a place
as Ringwood House was beyond his imagining.

The rest of the letter was taken up with grumblings about the way
things were going in the parish.  The Rector complained of being
worried and overworked.  The wretched churchwardens kept bothering
him with this and that, and he was growing very tired of Proggett's
reports about the collapsing belfry, and the daily woman whom he
had engaged to help Ellen was a great nuisance and had put her
broom-handle through the face of the grandfather clock in his
study--and so on, and so forth, for a number of pages.  He said
several times in a mumbling roundabout way that he wished Dorothy
were there to help him; but he did not actually suggest that she
should come home.  Evidently it was still necessary that she should
remain out of sight and out of mind--a skeleton in a distant and
well-locked cupboard.

The letter filled Dorothy with sudden painful homesickness.  She
found herself pining to be back at her parish visiting and her Girl
Guides' cooking class, and wondering unhappily how her father had
got on without her all this while and whether those two women were
looking after him properly.  She was fond of her father, in a way
that she had never dared to show; for he was not a person to whom
you could make any display of affection.  It surprised and rather
shocked her to realize how little he had been in her thoughts
during the past four months.  There had been periods of weeks at a
time when she had forgotten his existence.  But the truth was that
the mere business of keeping body and soul together had left her
with no leisure for other emotions.

Now, however, school work was over, and she had leisure and to
spare, for though Mrs Creevy did her best she could not invent
enough household jobs to keep Dorothy busy for more than part of
the day.  She made it quite plain to Dorothy that during the
holidays she was nothing but a useless expense, and she watched her
at her meals (obviously feeling it an outrage that she should eat
when she wasn't working) in a way that finally became unbearable.
So Dorothy kept out of the house as much as possible, and, feeling
fairly rich with her wages (four pounds ten, for nine weeks) and
her father's two pounds, she took to buying sandwiches at the ham
and beef shop in the town and eating her dinner out of doors.  Mrs
Creevy acquiesced, half sulkily because she liked to have Dorothy
in the house to nag at her, and half pleased at the chance of
skimping a few more meals.

Dorothy went for long solitary walks, exploring Southbridge and its
yet more desolate neighbours, Dorley, Wembridge, and West Holton.
Winter had descended, dank and windless, and more gloomy in those
colourless labyrinthine suburbs than in the bleakest wilderness.
On two or three occasions, though such extravagance would probably
mean hungry days later on, Dorothy took a cheap return ticket to
Iver Heath or Burnham Beeches.  The woods were sodden and wintry,
with great beds of drifted beech leaves that glowed like copper in
the still, wet air, and the days were so mild that you could sit
out of doors and read if you kept your gloves on.  On Christmas Eve
Mrs Creevy produced some sprigs of holly that she had saved from
last year, dusted them, and nailed them up; but she did not, she
said, intend to have a Christmas dinner.  She didn't hold with all
this Christmas nonsense, she said--it was just a lot of humbug got
up by the shopkeepers, and such an unnecessary expense; and she
hated turkey and Christmas pudding anyway.  Dorothy was relieved; a
Christmas dinner in that joyless 'morning-room' (she had an awful
momentary vision of Mrs Creevy in a paper hat out of a cracker) was
something that didn't bear thinking about.  She ate her Christmas
dinner--a hard-boiled egg, two cheese sandwiches, and a bottle of
lemonade--in the woods near Burnham, against a great gnarled beech
tree, over a copy of George Gissing's The Odd Women.

On days when it was too wet to go for walks she spent most of her
time in the public library--becoming, indeed, one of the regular
habituees of the library, along with the out-of-work men who sat
drearily musing over illustrated papers which they did not read,
and the elderly discoloured bachelor who lived in 'rooms' on two
pounds a week and came to the library to study books on yachting by
the hour together.  It had been a great relief to her when the term
ended, but this feeling soon wore off; indeed, with never a soul to
talk to, the days dragged even more heavily than before.  There is
perhaps no quarter of the inhabited world where one can be quite so
completely alone as in the London suburbs.  In a big town the
throng and bustle give one at least the illusion of companionship,
and in the country everyone is interested in everyone else--too
much so, indeed.  But in places like Southbridge, if you have no
family and no home to call your own, you could spend half a
lifetime without managing to make a friend.  There are women in
such places, and especially derelict gentlewomen in ill-paid jobs,
who go for years upon end in almost utter solitude.  It was not
long before Dorothy found herself in a perpetually low-spirited,
jaded state in which, try as she would, nothing seemed able to
interest her.  And it was in the hateful ennui of this time--the
corrupting ennui that lies in wait for every modern soul--that she
first came to a full understanding of what it meant to have lost
her faith.

She tried drugging herself with books, and it succeeded for a week
or so.  But after a while very nearly all books seemed wearisome
and unintelligible; for the mind will not work to any purpose when
it is quite alone.  In the end she found that she could not cope
with anything more difficult than a detective story.  She took
walks of ten and fifteen miles, trying to tire herself into a
better mood; but the mean suburban roads, and the damp, miry paths
through the woods, the naked trees, the sodden moss and great
spongy fungi, afflicted her with a deadly melancholy.  It was human
companionship that she needed, and there seemed no way of getting
it.  At nights' when she walked back to the school and looked at
the warm-lit windows of the houses, and heard voices laughing and
gramophones playing within, her heart swelled with envy.  Ah, to be
like those people in there--to have at least a home, a family, a
few friends who were interested in you!  There were days when she
pined for the courage to speak to strangers in the street.  Days,
too, when she contemplated shamming piety in order to scrape
acquaintance with the Vicar of St George's and his family, and
perhaps get the chance of occupying herself with a little parish
work; days, even, when she was so desperate that she thought of
joining the Y.W.C.A.

But almost at the end of the holidays, through a chance encounter
at the library, she made friends with a little woman named Miss
Beaver, who was geography mistress at Toot's Commercial College,
another of the private schools in Southbridge.  Toot's Commerical
College was a much larger and more pretentious school than Ringwood
House--it had about a hundred and fifty day-pupils of both sexes
and even rose to the dignity of having a dozen boarders--and its
curriculum was a somewhat less blatant swindle.  It was one of
those schools that are aimed at the type of parent who blathers
about 'up-to-date business training', and its watch-word was
Efficiency; meaning a tremendous parade of hustling, and the
banishment of all humane studies.  One of its features was a kind
of catechism called the Efficiency Ritual, which all the children
were required to learn by heart as soon as they joined the school.
It had questions and answers such as:

Q.  What is the secret of success?
A.  The secret of success is efficiency.
Q.  What is the test of efficiency?
A.  The test of efficiency is success.

And so on and so on.  It was said that the spectacle of the whole
school, boys and girls together, reciting the Efficiency Ritual
under the leadership of the Headmaster--they had this ceremony two
mornings a week instead of prayers--was most impressive.

Miss Beaver was a prim little woman with a round body, a thin face,
a reddish nose, and the gait of a guinea-hen.  After twenty years
of slave-driving she had attained to an income of four pounds a
week and the privilege of 'living out' instead of having to put the
boarders to bed at nights.  She lived in 'rooms'--that is, in a
bed-sitting room--to which she was sometimes able to invite Dorothy
when both of them had a free evening.  How Dorothy looked forward
to those visits!  They were only possible at rare intervals,
because Miss Beaver's landlady 'didn't approve of visitors', and
even when you got there there was nothing much to do except to help
solve the crossword puzzle out of the Daily Telegraph and look at
the photographs Miss Beaver had taken on her trip (this trip had
been the summit and glory of her life) to the Austrian Tyrol in
1913.  But still, how much it meant to sit talking to somebody in a
friendly way and to drink a cup of tea less wishy-washy than Mrs
Creevy's!  Miss Beaver had a spirit lamp in a japanned travelling
case (it had been with her to the Tyrol in 1913) on which she
brewed herself pots of tea as black as coal-tar, swallowing about a
bucketful of this stuff during the day.  She confided to Dorothy
that she always took a Thermos flask to school and had a nice hot
cup of tea during the break and another after dinner.  Dorothy
perceived that by one of two well-beaten roads every third-rate
schoolmistress must travel: Miss Strong's road, via whisky to the
workhouse; or Miss Beaver's road, via strong tea to a decent death
in the Home for Decayed Gentlewomen.

Miss Beaver was in truth a dull little woman.  She was a memento
mori, or rather memento senescere, to Dorothy.  Her soul seemed to
have withered until it was as forlorn as a dried-up cake of soap in
a forgotten soap dish.  She had come to a point where life in a
bed-sitting room under a tyrannous landlady and the 'efficient'
thrusting of Commercial Geography down children's retching throats,
were almost the only destiny she could imagine.  Yet Dorothy grew
to be very fond of Miss Beaver, and those occasional hours that
they spent together in the bed-sitting room, doing the Daily
Telegraph crossword over a nice hot cup of tea, were like oases in
her life.

She was glad when the Easter term began, for even the daily round
of slave-driving was better than the empty solitude of the
holidays.  Moreover, the girls were much better in hand this term;
she never again found it necessary to smack their heads.  For she
had grasped now that it is easy enough to keep children in order if
you are ruthless with them from the start.  Last term the girls had
behaved badly, because she had started by treating them as human
beings, and later on, when the lessons that interested them were
discontinued, they had rebelled like human beings.  But if you are
obliged to teach children rubbish, you mustn't treat them as human
beings.  You must treat them like animals--driving, not persuading.
Before all else, you must teach them that it is more painful to
rebel than to obey.  Possibly this kind of treatment is not very
good for children, but there is no doubt they understand it and
respond to it.

She learned the dismal arts of the school-teacher.  She learned to
glaze her mind against the interminable boring hours, to economize
her nervous energy, to be merciless and ever-vigilant, to take a
kind of pride and pleasure in seeing a futile rigmarole well done.
She had grown, quite suddenly it seemed, much tougher and maturer.
Her eyes had lost the half-childish look that they had once had,
and her face had grown thinner, making her nose seem longer.  At
times it was quite definitely a schoolmarm's face; you could
imagine pince-nez upon it.  But she had not become cynical as yet.
She still knew that these children were the victims of a dreary
swindle, still longed, if it had been possible, to do something
better for them.  If she harried them and stuffed their heads with
rubbish, it was for one reason alone: because whatever happened she
had got to keep her job.

There was very little noise in the schoolroom this term.  Mrs
Creevy, anxious as she always was for a chance of finding fault,
seldom had reason to rap on the wall with her broom-handle.  One
morning at breakfast she looked rather hard at Dorothy, as though
weighing a decision, and then pushed the dish of marmalade across
the table.

'Have some marmalade if you like, Miss Millborough,' she said,
quite graciously for her.

It was the first time that marmalade had crossed Dorothy's lips
since she had come to Ringwood House.  She flushed slightly.  'So
the woman realizes that I have done my best for her,' she could not
help thinking.

Thereafter she had marmalade for breakfast every morning.  And in
other ways Mrs Creevy's manner became--not indeed, genial, for it
could never be that, but less brutally offensive.  There were even
times when she produced a grimace that was intended for a smile;
her face, it seemed to Dorothy, CREASED with the effort.  About
this time her conversation became peppered with references to 'next
term'.  It was always 'Next term we'll do this', and 'Next term I
shall want you to do that', until Dorothy began to feel that she
had won Mrs Creevy's confidence and was being treated more like a
colleague than a slave.  At that a small, unreasonable but very
exciting hope took root in her heart.  Perhaps Mrs Creevy was going
to raise her wages!  It was profoundly unlikely, and she tried to
break herself of hoping for it, but could not quite succeed.  If
her wages were raised even half a crown a week, what a difference
it would make!

The last day came.  With any luck Mrs Creevy might pay her wages
tomorrow, Dorothy thought.  She wanted the money very badly indeed;
she had been penniless for weeks past, and was not only unbearably
hungry, but also in need of some new stockings, for she had not a
pair that were not darned almost out of existence.  The following
morning she did the household jobs allotted to her, and then,
instead of going out, waited in the 'morning-room' while Mrs Creevy
banged about with her broom and pan upstairs.  Presently Mrs Creevy
came down.

'Ah, so THERE you are, Miss Millborough!' she said in a peculiar
meaning tone.  'I had a sort of an idea you wouldn't be in such a
hurry to get out of doors this morning.  Well, as you ARE here, I
suppose I may as well pay you your wages.'

'Thank you,' said Dorothy.

'And after that,' added Mrs Creevy, 'I've got a little something as
I want to say to you.'

Dorothy's heart stirred.  Did that 'little something' mean the
longed-for rise in wages?  It was just conceivable.  Mrs Creevy
produced a worn, bulgy leather purse from a locked drawer in the
dresser, opened it and licked her thumb.

'Twelve weeks and five days,' she said.  'Twelve weeks is near
enough.  No need to be particular to a day.  That makes six
pounds.'

She counted out five dingy pound notes and two ten-shilling notes;
then, examining one of the notes and apparently finding it too
clean, she put it back into her purse and fished out another that
had been torn in half.  She went to the dresser, got a piece of
transparent sticky paper and carefully stuck the two halves
together.  Then she handed it, together with the other six, to
Dorothy.

'There you are, Miss Millborough,' she said.  'And now, will you
just leave the house AT once, please?  I shan't be wanting you any
longer.'

'You won't be--'

Dorothy's entrails seemed to have turned to ice.  All the blood
drained out of her face.  But even now, in her terror and despair,
she was not absolutely sure of the meaning of what had been said to
her.  She still half thought that Mrs Creevy merely meant that she
was to stay out of the house for the rest of the day.

'You won't be wanting me any longer?' she repeated faintly.

'No.  I'm getting in another teacher at the beginning of next term.
And it isn't to be expected as I'd keep you through the holidays
all free for nothing, is it?'

'But you don't mean that you want me to LEAVE--that you're
dismissing me?'

'Of course I do.  What else did you think I meant?'

'But you've given me no notice!' said Dorothy.

'Notice!' said Mrs Creevy, getting angry immediately.  'What's it
got to do with YOU whether I give you notice or not?  You haven't
got a written contract, have you?'

'No . . . I suppose not.'

'Well, then!  You'd better go upstairs and start packing your box.
It's no good your staying any longer, because I haven't got
anything in for your dinner.'

Dorothy went upstairs and sat down on the side of the bed.  She was
trembling uncontrollably, and it was some minutes before she could
collect her wits and begin packing.  She felt dazed.  The disaster
that had fallen upon her was so sudden, so apparently causeless,
that she had difficulty in believing that it had actually happened.
But in truth the reason why Mrs Creevy had sacked her was quite
simple and adequate.

Not far from Ringwood House there was a poor, moribund little
school called The Gables, with only seven pupils.  The teacher was
an incompetent old hack called Miss Allcock, who had been at
thirty-eight different schools in her life and was not fit to have
charge of a tame canary.  But Miss Allcock had one outstanding
talent; she was very good at double-crossing her employers.  In
these third-rate and fourth-rate private schools a sort of piracy
is constantly going on.  Parents are 'got round' and pupils stolen
from one school to another.  Very often the treachery of the
teacher is at the bottom of it.  The teacher secretly approaches
the parents one by one ('Send your child to me and I'll take her
at ten shillings a term cheaper'), and when she has corrupted a
sufficient number she suddenly deserts and 'sets up' on her own,
or carries the children off to another school.  Miss Allcock had
succeeded in stealing three out of her employer's seven pupils, and
had come to Mrs Creevy with the offer of them.  In return, she was
to have Dorothy's place and a fifteen-per-cent commission on the
pupils she brought.

There were weeks of furtive chaffering before the bargain was
clinched, Miss Allcock being finally beaten down from fifteen per
cent to twelve and a half.  Mrs Creevy privately resolved to sack
old Allcock the instant she was certain that the three children she
brought with her would stay.  Simultaneously, Miss Allcock was
planning to begin stealing old Creevy's pupils as soon as she had
got a footing in the school.

Having decided to sack Dorothy, it was obviously most important to
prevent her from finding it out.  For, of course, if she knew what
was going to happen, she would begin stealing pupils on her own
account, or at any rate wouldn't do a stroke of work for the rest
of the term.  (Mrs Creevy prided herself on knowing human nature.)
Hence the marmalade, the creaky smiles, and the other ruses to
allay Dorothy's suspicions.  Anyone who knew the ropes would have
begun thinking of another job the very moment when the dish of
marmalade was pushed across the table.

Just half an hour after her sentence of dismissal, Dorothy,
carrying her handbag, opened the front gate.  It was the fourth of
April, a bright blowy day, too cold to stand about in, with a sky
as blue as a hedgesparrow's egg, and one of those spiteful spring
winds that come tearing along the pavement in sudden gusts and blow
dry, stinging dust into your face.  Dorothy shut the gate behind
her and began to walk very slowly in the direction of the main-line
station.

She had told Mrs Creevy that she would give her an address to which
her box could be sent, and Mrs Creevy had instantly exacted five
shillings for the carriage.  So Dorothy had five pounds fifteen in
hand, which might keep her for three weeks with careful economy.
What she was going to do, except that she must start by going to
London and finding a suitable lodging, she had very little idea.
But her first panic had worn off, and she realized that the
situation was not altogether desperate.  No doubt her father would
help her, at any rate for a while, and at the worst, though she
hated even the thought of doing it, she could ask her cousin's help
a second time.  Besides, her chances of finding a job were probably
fairly good.  She was young, she spoke with a genteel accent, and
she was willing to drudge for a servant's wages--qualities that are
much sought after by the proprietors of fourth-rate schools.  Very
likely all would be well.  But that there was an evil time ahead of
her, a time of job-hunting, of uncertainty and possibly of hunger--
that, at any rate, was certain.




CHAPTER 5



1


However, it turned out quite otherwise.  For Dorothy had not gone
five yards from the gate when a telegraph boy came riding up the
street in the opposite direction, whistling and looking at the
names of the houses.  He saw the name Ringwood House, wheeled his
bicycle round, propped it against the kerb, and accosted Dorothy.

'Miss Mill-BURROW live 'ere?' he said, jerking his head in the
direction of Ringwood House.

'Yes.  I am Miss Millborough.'

'Gotter wait case there's a answer,' said the boy, taking an
orange-coloured envelope from his belt.

Dorothy put down her bag.  She had once more begun trembling
violently.  And whether this was from joy or fear she was not
certain, for two conflicting thoughts had sprung almost
simultaneously into her brain.  One, 'This is some kind of good
news!'  The other, 'Father is seriously ill!'  She managed to tear
the envelope open, and found a telegram which occupied two pages,
and which she had the greatest difficulty in understanding.  It
ran:


Rejoice in the lord o ye righteous note of exclamation great news
note of exclamation your reputation absolutely reestablished stop
mrs semprill fallen into the pit that she hath digged stop action
for libel stop no one believes her any longer stop your father
wishes you return home immediately stop am coming up to town myself
comma will pick you up if you like stop arriving shortly after this
stop wait for me stop praise him with the loud cymbals note of
exclamation much love stop.


No need to look at the signature.  It was from Mr Warburton, of
course.  Dorothy felt weaker and more tremulous than ever.  She was
dimly aware the telegraph boy was asking her something.

'Any answer?' he said for the third or fourth time.

'Not today, thank you,' said Dorothy vaguely.

The boy remounted his bicycle and rode off, whistling with extra
loudness to show Dorothy how much he despised her for not tipping
him.  But Dorothy was unaware of the telegraph's boy's scorn.  The
only phrase of the telegram that she had fully understood was 'your
father wishes you return home immediately', and the surprise of it
had left her in a semi-dazed condition.  For some indefinite time
she stood on the pavement, until presently a taxi rolled up the
street, with Mr Warburton inside it.  He saw Dorothy, stopped the
taxi, jumped out and came across to meet her, beaming.  He seized
her both hands.

'Hullo!' he cried, and at once threw his arm pseudo-paternally
about her and drew her against him, heedless of who might be
looking.  'How are you?  But by Jove, how thin you've got!  I can
feel all your ribs.  Where is this school of yours?'

Dorothy, who had not yet managed to get free of his arm, turned
partly round and cast a glance towards the dark windows of Ringwood
House.

'What!  That place?  Good God, what a hole!  What have you done
with your luggage?'

'It's inside.  I've left them the money to send it on.  I think
it'll be all right.'

'Oh, nonsense!  Why pay?  We'll take it with us.  It can go on top
of the taxi.'

'No, no!  Let them send it.  I daren't go back.  Mrs Creevy would
be horribly angry.'

'Mrs Creevy?  Who's Mrs Creevy?'

'The headmistress--at least, she owns the school.'

'What, a dragon, is she?  Leave her to me--I'll deal with her.
Perseus and the Gorgon, what?  You are Andromeda.  Hi!' he called
to the taxi-driver.

The two of them went up to the front door and Mr Warburton knocked.
Somehow, Dorothy never believed that they would succeed in getting
her box from Mrs Creevy.  In fact, she half expected to see them
come out flying for their lives, and Mrs Creevy after them with her
broom.  However, in a couple of minutes they reappeared, the taxi-
driver carrying the box on his shoulder.  Mr Warburton handed
Dorothy into the taxi and, as they sat down, dropped half a crown
into her hand.

'What a woman!  What a woman!' he said comprehensively as the taxi
bore them away.  'How the devil have you put up with it all this
time?'

'What is this?' said Dorothy, looking at the coin.

'Your half-crown that you left to pay for the luggage.  Rather a
feat getting it out of the old girl, wasn't it?'

'But I left five shillings!' said Dorothy.

'What!  The woman told me you only left half a crown.  By God, what
impudence!  We'll go back and have the half-crown out of her.  Just
to spite her!'  He tapped on the glass.

'No, no!' said Dorothy, laying her hand on his arm.  'It doesn't
matter in the least.  Let's get away from here--right away.  I
couldn't bear to go back to that place again--EVER!'

It was quite true.  She felt that she would sacrifice not merely
half a crown, but all the money in her possession, sooner than set
eyes on Ringwood House again.  So they drove on, leaving Mrs Creevy
victorious.  It would be interesting to know whether this was
another of the occasions when Mrs Creevy laughed.

Mr Warburton insisted on taking the taxi the whole way into London,
and talked so voluminously in the quieter patches of the traffic
that Dorothy could hardly get a word in edgeways.  It was not till
they had reached the inner suburbs that she got from him an
explanation of the sudden change in her fortunes.

'Tell me,' she said, 'what is it that's happened?  I don't
understand.  Why is it all right for me to go home all of a sudden?
Why don't people believe Mrs Semprill any longer?  Surely she
hasn't confessed?'

'Confessed?  Not she!  But her sins have found her out, all the
same.  It was the kind of thing that you pious people would ascribe
to the finger of Providence.  Cast thy bread upon the waters, and
all that.  She got herself into a nasty mess--an action for libel.
We've talked of nothing else in Knype Hill for the last fortnight.
I though you would have seen something about it in the newspapers.'

'I've hardly looked at a paper for ages.  Who brought an action for
libel?  Not my father, surely?'

'Good gracious, no!  Clergymen can't bring actions for libel.  It
was the bank manager.  Do you remember her favourite story about
him--how he was keeping a woman on the bank's money, and so forth?'

'Yes, I think so.'

'A few months ago she was foolish enough to put some of it in
writing.  Some kind friend--some female friend, I presume--took the
letter round to the bank manager.  He brought an action--Mrs
Semprill was ordered to pay a hundred and fifty pounds damages.
I don't suppose she paid a halfpenny, but still, that's the end of
her career as a scandalmonger.  You can go on blackening people's
reputations for years, and everyone will believe you, more or less,
even when it's perfectly obvious that you're lying.  But once
you've been proved a liar in open court, you're disqualified, so to
speak.  Mrs Semprill's done for, so far as Knype Hill goes.  She
left the town between days--practically did a moonlight flit, in
fact.  I believe she's inflicting herself on Bury St Edmunds at
present.'

'But what has all that got to do with the things she said about you
and me?'

'Nothing--nothing whatever.  But why worry?  The point is that
you're reinstated; and all the hags who've been smacking their
chops over you for months past are saying, "Poor, poor Dorothy, how
SHOCKINGLY that dreadful woman has treated her!"'

'You mean they think that because Mrs Semprill was telling lies in
one case she must have been telling lies in another?'

'No doubt that's what they'd say if they were capable of reasoning
it out.  At any rate, Mrs Semprill's in disgrace, and so all the
people she's slandered must be martyrs.  Even MY reputation is
practically spotless for the time being.'

'And do you think that's really the end of it?  Do you think they
honestly believe that it was all an accident--that I only lost my
memory and didn't elope with anybody?'

'Oh, well, I wouldn't go as far as that.  In these country places
there's always a certain amount of suspicion knocking about.  Not
suspicion of anything in particular, you know; just generalized
suspicion.  A sort of instinctive rustic dirty-mindedness.  I can
imagine its being vaguely rumoured in the bar parlour of the Dog
and Bottle in ten years' time that you've got some nasty secret in
your past, only nobody can remember what.  Still, your troubles are
over.  If I were you I wouldn't give any explanations till you're
asked for them.  The official theory is that you had a bad attack
of flu and went away to recuperate.  I should stick to that.
You'll find they'll accept it all right.  Officially, there's
nothing against you.

Presently they got to London, and Mr Warburton took Dorothy to
lunch at a restaurant in Coventry Street, where they had a young
chicken, roasted, with asparagus and tiny, pearly-white potatoes
that had been ripped untimely from their mother earth, and also
treacle tart and a nice warm bottle of Burgundy; but what gave
Dorothy the most pleasure of all, after Mrs Creevy's lukewarm water
tea, was the black coffee they had afterwards.  After lunch they
took another taxi to Liverpool Street Station and caught the 2.45.
It was a four-hour journey to Knype Hill.

Mr Warburton insisted on travelling first-class, and would not hear
of Dorothy paying her own fare; he also, when Dorothy was not
looking, tipped the guard to let them have a carriage to themselves.
It was one of those bright cold days which are spring or winter
according as you are indoors or out.  From behind the shut windows
of the carriage the too-blue sky looked warm and kind, and all the
slummy wilderness through which the train was rattling--the
labyrinths of little dingy-coloured houses, the great chaotic
factories, the miry canals, and derelict building lots littered with
rusty boilers and overgrown by smoke-blackened weeds--all were
redeemed and gilded by the sun.  Dorothy hardly spoke for the first
half-hour of the journey.  For the moment she was too happy to talk.
She did not even think of anything in particular, but merely sat
there luxuriating in the glass-filtered sunlight, in the comfort of
the padded seat and the feeling of having escaped from Mrs Creevy's
clutches.  But she was aware that this mood could not last very much
longer.  Her contentment, like the warmth of the wine that she had
drunk at lunch, was ebbing away, and thoughts either painful or
difficult to express were taking shape in her mind.  Mr Warburton
had been watching her face, more observantly than was usual for him,
as though trying to gauge the changes that the past eight months had
worked in her.

'You look older,' he said finally.

'I am older,' said Dorothy.

'Yes; but you look--well, more completely grown up.  Tougher.
Something has changed in your face.  You look--if you'll forgive
the expression--as though the Girl Guide had been exorcized from
you for good and all.  I hope seven devils haven't entered into you
instead?'  Dorothy did not answer, and he added:  'I suppose, as a
matter of fact, you must have had the very devil of a time?'

'Oh, beastly!  Sometimes too beastly for words.  Do you know that
sometimes--'

She paused.  She had been about to tell him how she had had to beg
for her food; how she had slept in the streets; how she had been
arrested for begging and spent a night in the police cells; how Mrs
Creevy had nagged at her and starved her.  But she stopped, because
she had suddenly realized that these were not the things that she
wanted to talk about.  Such things as these, she perceived, are of
no real importance; they are mere irrelevant accidents, not
essentially different from catching a cold in the head or having to
wait two hours at a railway junction.  They are disagreeable, but
they do not matter.  The truism that all real happenings are in the
mind struck her more forcibly than ever before, and she said:

'Those things don't really matter.  I mean, things like having no
money and not having enough to eat.  Even when you're practically
starving--it doesn't CHANGE anything inside you.'

'Doesn't it?  I'll take your word for it.  I should be very sorry
to try.'

'Oh, well, it's beastly while it's happening, of course; but it
doesn't make any real difference; it's the things that happen
inside you that matter.'

'Meaning?' said Mr Warburton.

'Oh--things change in your mind.  And then the whole world changes,
because you look at it differently.'

She was still looking out of the window.  The train had drawn clear
of the eastern slums and was running at gathering speed past
willow-bordered streams and low-lying meadows upon whose hedges the
first buds made a faint soft greenness, like a cloud.  In a field
near the line a month-old calf, flat as a Noah's Ark animal, was
bounding stiff-legged after its mother, and in a cottage garden an
old labourer, with slow, rheumatic movements, was turning over the
soil beneath a pear tree covered with ghostly bloom.  His spade
flashed in the sun as the train passed.  The depressing hymn-line
'Change and decay in all around I see' moved through Dorothy's
mind.  It was true what she had said just now.  Something had
happened in her heart, and the world was a little emptier, a little
poorer from that minute.  On such a day as this, last spring or any
earlier spring, how joyfully, and how unthinkingly, she would have
thanked God for the first blue skies and the first flowers of the
reviving year!  And now, seemingly, there was no God to thank, and
nothing--not a flower or a stone or a blade of grass--nothing in
the universe would ever be the same again.

'Things change in your mind,' she repeated.  'I've lost my faith,'
she added, somewhat abruptly, because she found herself half
ashamed to utter the words.

'You've lost your WHAT?' said Mr Warburton, less accustomed than
she to this kind of phraseology.

'My faith.  Oh, you know what I mean!  A few months ago, all of a
sudden, it seemed as if my whole mind had changed.  Everything that
I'd believed in till then--everything--seemed suddenly meaningless
and almost silly.  God--what I'd meant by God--immortal life,
Heaven and Hell--everything.  It had all gone.  And it wasn't that
I'd reasoned it out; it just happened to me.  It was like when
you're a child, and one day, for no particular reason, you stop
believing in fairies.  I just couldn't go on believing in it any
longer.'

'You never did believe in it,' said Mr Warburton unconcernedly.

'But I did, really I did!  I know you always thought I didn't--you
thought I was just pretending because I was ashamed to own up.  But
it wasn't that at all.  I believed it just as I believe that I'm
sitting in this carriage.'

'Of course you didn't, my poor child!  How could you, at your age?
You were far too intelligent for that.  But you'd been brought up
in these absurd beliefs, and you'd allowed yourself to go on
thinking, in a sort of way, that you could still swallow them.
You'd built yourself a life-pattern--if you'll excuse a bit of
psychological jargon--that was only possible for a believer, and
naturally it was beginning to be a strain on you.  In fact, it was
obvious all the time what was the matter with you.  I should say
that in all probability that was why you lost your memory.'

'What do you mean?' she said, rather puzzled by this remark.

He saw that she did not understand, and explained to her that loss
of memory is only a device, unconsciously used, to escape from an
impossible situation.  The mind, he said, will play curious tricks
when it is in a tight corner.  Dorothy had never heard of anything
of this kind before, and she could not at first accept his
explanation.  Nevertheless she considered it for a moment, and
perceived that, even if it were true, it did not alter the
fundamental fact.

'I don't see that it makes any difference,' she said finally.

'Doesn't it?  I should have said it made a considerable
difference.'

'But don't you see, if my faith is gone, what does it matter
whether I've only lost it now or whether I'd really lost it years
ago?  All that matters is that it's gone, and I've got to begin my
life all over again.'

'Surely I don't take you to mean,' said Mr Warburton, 'that you
actually REGRET losing your faith, as you call it?  One might as
well regret losing a goitre.  Mind you, I'm speaking, as it were,
without the book--as a man who never had very much faith to lose.
The little I had passed away quite painlessly at the age of nine.
But it's hardly the kind of thing I should have thought anyone
would REGRET losing.  Used you not, if I remember rightly, to do
horrible things like getting up at five in the morning to go to
Holy Communion on an empty belly?  Surely you're not homesick for
that kind of thing?'

'I don't believe in it any longer, if that's what you mean.  And I
see now that a lot of it was rather silly.  But that doesn't help.
The point is that all the beliefs I had are gone, and I've nothing
to put in their place.'

'But good God! why do you want to put anything in their place?
You've got rid of a load of superstitious rubbish, and you ought to
be glad of it.  Surely it doesn't make you any happier to go about
quaking in fear of Hell fire?'

'But don't you see--you must see--how different everything is when
all of a sudden the whole world is empty?'

'Empty?' exclaimed Mr Warburton.  'What do you mean by saying it's
empty?  I call that perfectly scandalous in a girl of your age.
It's not empty at all, it's a deuced sight too full, that's the
trouble with it.  We're here today and gone tomorrow, and we've no
time to enjoy what we've got.'

'But how CAN one enjoy anything when all the meaning's been taken
out of it?'

'Good gracious!  What do you want with a meaning?  When I eat my
dinner I don't do it to the greater glory of God; I do it because I
enjoy it.  The world's full of amusing things--books, pictures,
wine, travel, friends--everything.  I've never seen any meaning in
it all, and I don't want to see one.  Why not take life as you find
it?'

'But--'

She broke off, for she saw already that she was wasting words in
trying to make herself clear to him.  He was quite incapable of
understanding her difficulty--incapable of realizing how a mind
naturally pious must recoil from a world discovered to be
meaningless.  Even the loathsome platitudes of the pantheists would
be beyond his understanding.  Probably the idea that life was
essentially futile, if he thought of it at all, struck him as
rather amusing than otherwise.  And yet with all this he was
sufficiently acute.  He could see the difficulty of her own
particular position, and he adverted to it a moment later.

'Of course,' he said, 'I can see that things are going to be a
little awkward for you when you get home.  You're going to be, so
to speak, a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Parish work--Mothers'
Meetings, prayers with the dying, and all that--I suppose it might
be a little distasteful at times.  Are you afraid you won't be able
to keep it up--is that the trouble?'

'Oh, no.  I wasn't thinking of that.  I shall go on with it, just
the same as before.  It's what I'm most used to.  Besides, Father
needs my help.  He can't afford a curate, and the work's got to be
done.'

'Then what's the matter?  Is it the hypocrisy that's worrying you?
Afraid that the consecrated bread might stick in your throat, and
so forth?  I shouldn't trouble.  Half the parsons' daughters in
England are probably in the same difficulty.  And quite nine-tenths
of the parsons, I should say.'

'It's partly that.  I shall have to be always pretending--oh, you
can't imagine in what ways!  But that's not the worst.  Perhaps
that part of it doesn't matter, really.  Perhaps it's better to be
a hypocrite--THAT kind of hypocrite--than some things.'

'Why do you say THAT kind of hypocrite?  I hope you don't mean that
pretending to believe is the next best thing to believing?'

'Yes . . . I suppose that's what I do mean.  Perhaps it's better--
less selfish--to pretend one believes even when one doesn't, than
to say openly that one's an unbeliever and perhaps help turn other
people into unbelievers too.'

'My dear Dorothy,' said Mr Warburton, 'your mind, if you'll excuse
my saying so, is in a morbid condition.  No, dash it! it's worse
than morbid; it's downright septic.  You've a sort of mental
gangrene hanging over from your Christian upbringing.  You tell me
that you've got rid of these ridiculous beliefs that were stuffed
into you from your cradle upwards, and yet you're taking an
attitude to life which is simply meaningless without those beliefs.
Do you call that reasonable?'

'I don't know.  No perhaps it's not.  But I suppose it's what comes
naturally to me.'

'What you're trying to do, apparently,' pursued Mr Warburton, 'is
to make the worst of both worlds.  You stick to the Christian
scheme of things, but you leave Paradise out of it.  And I suppose,
if the truth were known, there are quite a lot of your kind
wandering about among the ruins of C. of E.  You're practically a
sect in yourselves,' he added reflectively: 'the Anglican Atheists.
Not a sect I should care to belong to, I must say.'

They talked for a little while longer, but not to much purpose.  In
reality the whole subject of religious belief and religious doubt
was boring and incomprehensible to Mr Warburton.  Its only appeal
to him was as a pretext for blasphemy.  Presently he changed the
subject, as though giving up the attempt to understand Dorothy's
outlook.

'This is nonsense that we're talking,' he said.  'You've got hold
of some very depressing ideas, but you'll grow out of them later
on, you know.  Christianity isn't really an incurable disease.
However, there was something quite different that I was going to
say to you.  I want you to listen to me for a moment.  You're
coming home, after being away eight months, to what I expect you
realize is a rather uncomfortable situation.  You had a hard enough
life before--at least, what I should call a hard life--and now that
you aren't quite such a good Girl Guide as you used to be, it's
going to be a great deal harder.  Now, do you think it's absolutely
necessary to go back to it?'

'But I don't see what else I can do, unless I could get another
job.  I've really no alternative.'

Mr Warburton, with his head cocked a little on one side, gave
Dorothy a rather curious look.

'As a matter of fact,' he said, in a more serious tone than usual,
'there's at least one other alternative that I could suggest to
you.'

'You mean that I could go on being a schoolmistress?  Perhaps
that's what I ought to do, really.  I shall come back to it in the
end, in any case.'

'No.  I don't think that's what I should advise.'

All this time Mr Warburton, unwilling as ever to expose his
baldness, had been wearing his rakish, rather broad-brimmed grey
felt hat.  Now, however, he took it off and laid it carefully on
the empty seat beside him.  His naked cranium, with only a wisp or
two of golden hair lingering in the neighbourhood of the ears,
looked like some monstrous pink pearl.  Dorothy watched him with a
slight surprise.

'I am taking my hat off,' he said, 'in order to let you see me at
my very worst.  You will understand why in a moment.  Now, let me
offer you another alternative besides going back to your Girl
Guides and your Mothers' Union, or imprisoning yourself in some
dungeon of a girls' school.'

'What do you mean?' said Dorothy.

'I mean, will you--think well before you answer; I admit there are
some very obvious objections, but--will you marry me?'

Dorothy's lips parted with surprise.  Perhaps she turned a little
paler.  With a hasty, almost unconscious recoil she moved as far
away from him as the back of the seat would allow.  But he had made
no movement towards her.  He said with complete equanimity:

'You know, of course, that Dolores [Dolores was Mr Warburton's ex-
mistress] left me a year ago?'

'But I can't, I can't!' exclaimed Dorothy.  'You know I can't!  I'm
not--like that.  I thought you always knew.  I shan't ever marry.'

Mr Warburton ignored this remark.

'I grant you,' he said, still with exemplary calmness, 'that I
don't exactly come under the heading of eligible young men.  I am
somewhat older than you.  We both seem to be putting our cards on
the table today, so I'll let you into a great secret and tell you
that my age is forty-nine.  And then I've three children and a bad
reputation.  It's a marriage that your father would--well, regard
with disfavour.  And my income is only seven hundred a year.  But
still, don't you think it's worth considering!'

'I can't, you know why I can't!' repeated Dorothy.

She took it for granted that he 'knew why she couldn't', though she
had never explained to him, or to anyone else, why it was impossible
for her to marry.  Very probably, even if she had explained, he
would not have understood her.  He went on speaking, not appearing
to notice what she had said.

'Let me put it to you', he said, 'in the form of a bargain.  Of
course, I needn't tell you that it's a great deal more than that.
I'm not a marrying kind of man, as the saying goes, and I shouldn't
ask you to marry me if you hadn't a rather special attraction for
me.  But let me put the business side of it first.  You need a home
and a livelihood; I need a wife to keep me in order.  I'm sick of
these disgusting women I've spent my life with, if you'll forgive
my mentioning them, and I'm rather anxious to settle down.  A bit
late in the day, perhaps, but better late than never.  Besides, I
need somebody to look after the children; the BASTARDS, you know.
I don't expect you to find me overwhelmingly attractive,' he added,
running a hand reflectively over his bald crown, 'but on the other
hand I am very easy to get on with.  Immoral people usually are, as
a matter of fact.  And from your own point of view the scheme would
have certain advantages.  Why should you spend your life delivering
parish magazines and rubbing nasty old women's legs with Elliman's
embrocation?  You would be happier married, even to a husband with
a bald head and a clouded past.  You've had a hard, dull life for a
girl of your age, and your future isn't exactly rosy.  Have you
really considered what your future will be like if you don't
marry?'

'I don't know.  I have to some extent,' she said.

As he had not attempted to lay hands on her or to offer any
endearments, she answered his question without repeating her
previous refusal.  He looked out of the window, and went on in a
musing voice, much quieter than his normal tone, so that at first
she could barely hear him above the rattle of the train; but
presently his voice rose, and took on a note of seriousness that
she had never heard in it before, or even imagined that it could
hold.

'Consider what your future would be like,' he repeated.  'It's the
same future that lies before any woman of your class with no
husband and no money.  Let us say your father will live another ten
years.  By the end of that time the last penny of his money will
have gone down the sink.  The desire to squander it will keep him
alive just as long as it lasts, and probably no longer.  All that
time he will be growing more senile, more tiresome, more impossible
to live with; he will tyrannize over you more and more, keep you
shorter and shorter of money, make more and more trouble for you
with the neighbours and the tradesmen.  And you will go on with
that slavish, worrying life that you have lived, struggling to make
both ends meet, drilling the Girl Guides, reading novels to the
Mothers' Union, polishing the altar brasses, cadging money for the
organ fund, making brown paper jackboots for the schoolchildren's
plays, keeping your end up in the vile little feuds and scandals of
the church hen-coop.  Year after year, winter and summer, you will
bicycle from one reeking cottage to another, to dole out pennies
from the poor box and repeat prayers that you don't even believe in
any longer.  You will sit through interminable church services
which in the end will make you physically sick with their sameness
and futility.  Every year your life will be a little bleaker, a
little fuller of those deadly little jobs that are shoved off on to
lonely women.  And remember that you won't always be twenty-eight.
All the while you will be fading, withering, until one morning you
will look in the glass and realize that you aren't a girl any
longer, only a skinny old maid.  You'll fight against it, of
course.  You'll keep your physical energy and your girlish
mannerisms--you'll keep them just a little bit too long.  Do you
know that type of bright--too bright--spinster who says "topping"
and "ripping" and "right-ho", and prides herself on being such a
good sport, and she's such a good sport that she makes everyone
feel a little unwell?  And she's so splendidly hearty at tennis and
so handy at amateur theatricals, and she throws herself with a kind
of desperation into her Girl Guide work and her parish visiting,
and she's the life and soul of Church socials, and always, year
after year, she thinks of herself as a young girl still and never
realizes that behind her back everyone laughs at her for a poor,
disappointed old maid?  That's what you'll become, what you must
become, however much you foresee it and try to avoid it.  There's
no other future possible to you unless you marry.  Women who don't
marry wither up--they wither up like aspidistras in back-parlour
windows; and the devilish thing is that they don't even know that
they're withering.'

Dorothy sat silent and listening with intent and horrified
fascination.  She did not even notice that he had stood up, with
one hand on the door to steady him against the swaying of the
train.  She was as though hypnotized, not so much by his voice as
by the visions that his words had evoked in her.  He had described
her life, as it must inevitably be, with such dreadful fidelity
that he seemed actually to have carried her ten years onward into
the menacing future, and she felt herself no longer a girl full of
youth and energy, but a desperate, worn virgin of thirty-eight.  As
he went on he took her hand, which was lying idle on the arm of the
seat; and even that she scarcely noticed.

'After ten years,' he continued, 'your father will die, and he will
leave you with not a penny, only debts.  You will be nearly forty,
with no money, no profession, no chance of marrying; just a
derelict parson's daughter like the ten thousand others in England.
And after that, what do you suppose will become of you?  You will
have to find yourself a job--the sort of job that parsons'
daughters get.  A nursery governess, for instance, or companion to
some diseased hag who will occupy herself in thinking of ways to
humiliate you.  Or you will go back to school-teaching; English
mistress in some grisly girls' school, seventy-five pounds a year
and your keep, and a fortnight in a seaside boarding-house every
August.  And all the time withering, drying up, growing more sour
and more angular and more friendless.  And therefore--'

As he said 'therefore' he pulled Dorothy to her feet.  She made no
resistance.  His voice had put her under a spell.  As her mind took
in the prospect of that forbidding future, whose emptiness she was
far more able to appreciate than he, such a despair had grown in
her that if she had spoken at all it would have been to say, 'Yes,
I will marry you.'  He put his arm very gently about her and drew
her a little towards him, and even now she did not attempt to
resist.  Her eyes, half hypnotized, were fixed upon his.  When he
put his arm about her it was as though he were protecting her,
sheltering her, drawing her away from the brink of grey, deadly
poverty and back to the world of friendly and desirable things--to
security and ease, to comely houses and good clothes, to books and
friends and flowers, to summer days and distant lands.  So for
nearly a minute the fat, debauched bachelor and the thin,
spinsterish girl stood face to face, their eyes meeting, their
bodies all but touching, while the train swayed them in its motion,
and clouds and telegraph poles and bud-misted hedges and fields
green with young wheat raced past unseen.

Mr Warburton tightened his grip and pulled her against him.  It
broke the spell.  The visions that had held her helpless--visions
of poverty and of escape from poverty--suddenly vanished and left
only a shocked realization of what was happening to her.  She was
in the arms of a man--a fattish, oldish man!  A wave of disgust and
deadly fear went through her, and her entrails seemed to shrink and
freeze.  His thick male body was pressing her backwards and
downwards, his large, pink face, smooth, but to her eyes old, was
bearing down upon her own.  The harsh odour of maleness forced
itself into her nostrils.  She recoiled.  Furry thighs of satyrs!
She began to struggle furiously, though indeed he made hardly any
effort to retain her, and in a moment she had wrenched herself free
and fallen back into her seat, white and trembling.  She looked up
at him with eyes which, from fear and aversion, were for a moment
those of a stranger.

Mr Warburton remained on his feet, regarding her with an expression
of resigned, almost amused disappointment.  He did not seem in the
least distressed.  As her calmness returned to her she perceived
that all he had said had been no more than a trick to play upon her
feelings and cajole her into saying that she would marry him; and
what was stranger yet, that he had said it without seriously caring
whether she married him or not.  He had, in fact, merely been
amusing himself.  Very probably the whole thing was only another of
his periodical attempts to seduce her.

He sat down, but more deliberately than she, taking care of the
creases of his trousers as he did so.

'If you want to pull the communication cord,' he said mildly, 'you
had better let me make sure that I have five pounds in my pocket-
book.'

After that he was quite himself again, or as nearly himself as
anyone could possibly be after such a scene, and he went on talking
without the smallest symptom of embarrassment.  His sense of shame,
if he had ever possessed one, had perished many years ago.  Perhaps
it had been killed by overwork in a lifetime of squalid affairs
with women.

For an hour, perhaps, Dorothy was ill at ease, but after that the
train reached Ipswich, where it stopped for a quarter of an hour,
and there was the diversion of going to the refreshment room for a
cup of tea.  For the last twenty miles of the journey they talked
quite amicably.  Mr Warburton did not refer again to his proposal
of marriage, but as the train neared Knype Hill he returned, less
seriously than before, to the question of Dorothy's future.

'So you really propose', he said 'to go back to your parish work?
"The trivial round, the common task?"  Mrs Pither's rheumatism and
Mrs Lewin's corn-plaster and all the rest of it?  The prospect
doesn't dismay you?'

'I don't know--sometimes it does.  But I expect it'll be all right
once I'm back at work.  I've got the habit, you see.'

'And you really feel equal to years of calculated hypocrisy?  For
that's what it amounts to, you know.  Not afraid of the cat getting
out of the bag?  Quite sure you won't find yourself teaching the
Sunday School kids to say the Lord's Prayer backwards, or reading
Gibbon's fifteenth chapter to the Mothers' Union instead of Gene
Stratton Porter?'

'I don't think so.  Because, you see, I do feel that that kind of
work, even if it means saying prayers that one doesn't believe in,
and even if it means teaching children things that one doesn't
always think are true--I do feel that in a way it's useful.'

'Useful?' said Mr Warburton distastefully.  'You're a little too
fond of that depressing word "useful".  Hypertrophy of the sense of
duty--that's what's the matter with you.  Now, to me, it seems the
merest common sense to have a bit of fun while the going's good.'

'That's just hedonism,' Dorothy objected.

'My dear child, can you show me a philosophy of life that isn't
hedonism?  Your verminous Christian saints are the biggest hedonists
of all.  They're out for an eternity of bliss, whereas we poor
sinners don't hope for more than a few years of it.  Ultimately
we're all trying for a bit of fun; but some people take it in such
perverted forms.  Your notion of fun seems to be massaging Mrs
Pither's legs.'

'It's not that exactly, but--oh! somehow I can't explain!'

What she would have said was that though her faith had left her,
she had not changed, could not change, did not want to change, the
spiritual background of her mind; that her cosmos, though now it
seemed to her empty and meaningless, was still in a sense the
Christian cosmos; that the Christian way of life was still the way
that must come naturally to her.  But she could not put this into
words, and felt that if she tried to do so he would probably begin
making fun of her.  So she concluded lamely:

'Somehow I feel that it's better for me to go on as I was before.'

'EXACTLY the same as before?  The whole bill of fare?  The Girl
Guides, the Mothers' Union, the Band of Hope, the Companionship of
Marriage, parish visiting and Sunday School teaching, Holy
Communion twice a week and here we go round the doxology-bush,
chanting Gregorian plain-song?  You're quite certain you can manage
it?'

Dorothy smiled in spite of herself.  'Not plain-song.  Father
doesn't like it.'

'And you think that, except for your inner thoughts, your life will
be precisely what it was before you lost your faith?  There will be
NO change in your habits?'

Dorothy thought.  Yes, there WOULD be changes in her habits; but
most of them would be secret ones.  The memory of the disciplinary
pin crossed her mind.  It had always been a secret from everyone
except herself and she decided not to mention it.

'Well,' she said finally, 'perhaps at Holy Communion I shall kneel
down on Miss Mayfill's right instead of on her left.'



2


A week had gone by.

Dorothy rode up the hill from the town and wheeled her bicycle in
at the Rectory gate.  It was a fine evening, clear and cold, and
the sun, unclouded, was sinking in remote, greenish skies.  Dorothy
noticed that the ash tree by the gate was in bloom, with clotted
dark red blossoms that looked like festerings from a wound.

She was rather tired.  She had had a busy week of it, what with
visiting all the women on her list in turn and trying to get the
parish affairs into some kind of order again.  Everything was in a
fearful mess after her absence.  The church was dirty beyond all
belief--in fact, Dorothy had had to spend the best part of a day
cleaning up with scrubbing-brushes, broom and dustpan, and the beds
of 'mouse dirts' that she had found behind the organ made her wince
when she thought of them.  (The reason why the mice came there was
because Georgie Frew, the organ-blower, WOULD bring penny packets
of biscuits into church and eat them during the sermon.)  All the
Church associations had been neglected, with the result that the
Band of Hope and the Companionship of Marriage had now given up the
ghost, Sunday School attendance had dropped by half, and there was
internecine warfare going on in the Mothers' Union because of some
tactless remark that Miss Foote had made.  The belfry was in a
worse state than ever.  The parish magazine had not been delivered
regularly and the money for it had not been collected.  None of the
accounts of the Church Funds had been properly kept up, and there
was nineteen shillings unaccounted for in all, and even the parish
registers were in a muddle--and so on and so on, ad infinitum.  The
Rector had let everything slide.

Dorothy had been up to her eyes in work from the moment of reaching
home.  Indeed, things had slipped back into their old routine with
astonishing swiftness.  It was as though it had been only yesterday
that she had gone away.  Now that the scandal had blown over, her
return to Knype Hill had aroused very little curiosity.  Some of
the women on her visiting list, particularly Mrs Pither, were
genuinely glad to see her back, and Victor Stone, perhaps, seemed
just a little ashamed of having temporarily believed Mrs Semprill's
libel; but he soon forgot it in recounting to Dorothy his latest
triumph in the Church Times.  Various of the coffee-ladies, of
course, had stopped Dorothy in the street with 'My dear, how VERY
nice to see you back again!  You HAVE been away a long time!  And
you know, dear, we all thought it such a SHAME when that horrible
woman was going round telling those stories about you.  But I do
hope you'll understand, dear, that whatever anyone else may have
thought, I never believed a word of them', etc., etc., etc.  But
nobody had asked her the uncomfortable questions that she had been
fearing.  'I've been teaching in a school near London' had
satisfied everyone; they had not even asked her the name of the
school.  Never, she saw, would she have to confess that she had
slept in Trafalgar Square and been arrested for begging.  The fact
is that people who live in small country towns have only a very dim
conception of anything that happens more than ten miles from their
own front door.  The world outside is a terra incognita, inhabited,
no doubt, by dragons and anthropophagi, but not particularly
interesting.

Even Dorothy's father had greeted her as though she had only been
away for the week-end.  He was in his study when she arrived,
musingly smoking his pipe in front of the grandfather clock, whose
glass, smashed by the charwoman's broom-handle four months ago, was
still unmended.  As Dorothy came into the room he took his pipe out
of his mouth and put it away in his pocket with an absent-minded,
old-mannish movement.  He looked a great deal older, Dorothy
thought.

'So here you are at last,' he said.  'Did you have a good journey?'

Dorothy put her arms round his neck and touched his silver-pale
cheek with her lips.  As she disengaged herself he patted her
shoulder with a just perceptible trace more affection than usual.

'What made you take it into your head to run away like that?' he
said.

'I told you, Father--I lost my memory.'

'Hm,' said the Rector; and Dorothy saw that he did not believe her,
never would believe her, and that on many and many a future
occasion, when he was in a less agreeable mood than at present,
that escapade would be brought up against her.  'Well,' he added,
'when you've taken your bag upstairs, just bring your typewriter
down here, would you?  I want you to type out my sermon.'

Not much that was of interest had happened in the town.  Ye Olde
Tea Shoppe was enlarging its premises, to the further disfigurement
of the High Street.  Mrs Pither's rheumatism was better (thanks to
the angelica tea, no doubt), but Mr Pither had 'been under the
doctor' and they were afraid he had stone in the bladder.  Mr
Blifil-Gordon was now in Parliament, a docile deadhead on the back
benches of the Conservative Party.  Old Mr Tombs had died just
after Christmas, and Miss Foote had taken over seven of his cats
and made heroic efforts to find homes for the others.  Eva Twiss,
the niece of Mr Twiss the ironmonger, had had an illegitimate baby,
which had died.  Proggett had dug the kitchen garden and sowed a
few seeds, and the broad beans and the first peas were just
showing.  The shop-debts had begun to mount up again after the
creditors' meeting, and there was six pounds owing to Cargill.
Victor Stone had had a controversy with Professor Coulton in the
Church Times, about the Holy Inquisition, and utterly routed him.
Ellen's eczema had been very bad all the winter.  Walph Blifil-
Gordon had had two poems accepted by the London Mercury.

Dorothy went into the conservatory.  She had got a big job on hand--
costumes for a pageant that the schoolchildren were going to have
on St George's Day, in aid of the organ fund.  Not a penny had been
paid towards the organ during the past eight months, and it was
perhaps as well that the Rector always threw the organ-people's
bills away unopened, for their tone was growing more and more
sulphurous.  Dorothy had racked her brains for a way of raising
some money, and finally decided on a historical pageant, beginning
with Julius Caesar and ending with the Duke of Wellington.  They
might raise two pounds by a pageant, she thought--with luck and a
fine day, they might even raise three pounds!

She looked round the conservatory.  She had hardly been in here
since coming home, and evidently nothing had been touched during
her absence.  Her things were lying just as she had left them; but
the dust was thick on everything.  Her sewing-machine was on the
table amid the old familiar litter of scraps of cloth, sheets of
brown paper, cotton-reels and pots of paint, and though the needle
had rusted, the thread was still in it.  And, yes! there were the
jackboots that she had been making the night she went away.  She
picked one of them up and looked at it.  Something stirred in her
heart.  Yes, say what you like, they WERE good jackboots!  What a
pity they had never been used!  However, they would come in useful
for the pageant.  For Charles II, perhaps--or, no, better not have
Charles II; have Oliver Cromwell instead; because if you had Oliver
Cromwell you wouldn't have to make him a wig.

Dorothy lighted the oilstove, found her scissors and two sheets of
brown paper, and sat down.  There was a mountain of clothes to be
made.  Better start off with Julius Caesar's breastplate, she
thought.  It was always that wretched armour that made all the
trouble!  What did a Roman soldier's armour look like?  Dorothy
made an effort, and called to mind the statue of some idealized
curly-bearded emperor in the Roman Room at the British Museum.  You
might make a sort of rough breastplate out of glue and brown paper,
and glue narrow strips of paper across it to represent the plates
of the armour, and then silver them over.  No helmet to make, thank
goodness!  Julius Caesar always wore a laurel wreath--ashamed of
his baldness, no doubt, like Mr Warburton.  But what about greaves?
Did they wear greaves in Julius Caesar's time?  And boots?  Was a
caligum a boot or a sandal?

After a few moments she stopped with the shears resting on her
knee.  A thought which had been haunting her like some inexorcizable
ghost at every unoccupied moment during the past week had returned
once more to distract her.  It was the thought of what Mr Warburton
had said to her in the train--of what her life was going to be like
hereafter, unmarried and without money.

It was not that she was in any doubt about the external facts of
her future.  She could see it all quite clearly before her.  Ten
years, perhaps, as unsalaried curate, and then back to school-
teaching.  Not necessarily in quite such a school as Mrs Creevy's--
no doubt she could do something rather better for herself than
that--but at least in some more or less shabby, more or less
prison-like school; or perhaps in some even bleaker, even less
human kind of drudgery.  Whatever happened, at the very best, she
had got to face the destiny that is common to all lonely and
penniless women.  'The Old Maids of Old England', as somebody
called them.  She was twenty-eight--just old enough to enter their
ranks.

But it didn't matter, it didn't matter!  That was the thing that
you could never drive into the heads of the Mr Warburtons of this
world, not if you talked to them for a thousand years; that mere
outward things like poverty and drudgery, and even loneliness,
don't matter in themselves.  It is the things that happen in your
heart that matter.  For just a moment--an evil moment--while Mr
Warburton was talking to her in the train, she had known the fear
of poverty.  But she had mastered it; it was not a thing worth
worrying about.  It was not because of THAT that she had got to
stiffen her courage and remake the whole structure of her mind.

No, it was something far more fundamental; it was the deadly
emptiness that she had discovered at the heart of things.  She
thought of how a year ago she had sat in this chair, with these
scissors in her hand, doing precisely what she was doing now; and
yet it was as though then and now she had been two different
beings.  Where had she gone, that well-meaning, ridiculous girl who
had prayed ecstatically in summer-scented fields and pricked her
arm as a punishment for sacrilegious thoughts?  And where is any of
ourselves of even a year ago?  And yet after all--and here lay the
trouble--she WAS the same girl.  Beliefs change, thoughts change,
but there is some inner part of the soul that does not change.
Faith vanishes, but the need for faith remains the same as before.

And given only faith, how can anything else matter?  How can
anything dismay you if only there is some purpose in the world
which you can serve, and which, while serving it, you can
understand?  Your whole life is illumined by the sense of purpose.
There is no weariness in your heart, no doubts, no feeling of
futility, no Baudelairean ennui waiting for unguarded hours.  Every
act is significant, every moment sanctified, woven by faith as into
a pattern, a fabric of never-ending joy.

She began to meditate upon the nature of life.  You emerged from
the womb, you lived sixty or seventy years, and then you died and
rotted.  And in every detail of your life, if no ultimate purpose
redeemed it, there was a quality of greyness, of desolation, that
could never be described, but which you could feel like a physical
pang at your heart.  Life, if the grave really ends it, is
monstrous and dreadful.  No use trying to argue it away.  Think of
life as it really is, think of the DETAILS of life; and then think
that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the
grave.  Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives
are exceptionally fortunate, can face that thought without
flinching?

She shifted her position in her chair.  But after all there must be
SOME meaning, SOME purpose in it all!  The world cannot be an
accident.  Everything that happens must have a cause--ultimately,
therefore, a purpose.  Since you exist, God must have created you,
and since He created you a conscious being, He must be conscious.
The greater doesn't come out of the less.  He created you, and He
will kill you, for His own purpose.  But that purpose is inscrutable.
It is in the nature of things that you can never discover it, and
perhaps even if you did discover it you would be averse to it.
Your life and death, it may be, are a single note in the eternal
orchestra that plays for His diversion.  And suppose you don't like
the tune?  She thought of that dreadful unfrocked clergyman in
Trafalgar Square.  Had she dreamed the things he said, or had he
really said them?  'Therefore with Demons and Archdemons and with
all the company of Hell'.  But that was silly, really.  For your not
liking the tune was also part of the tune.

Her mind struggled with the problem, while perceiving that there
was no solution.  There was, she saw clearly, no possible
substitute for faith; no pagan acceptance of life as sufficient to
itself, no pantheistic cheer-up stuff, no pseudo-religion of
'progress' with visions of glittering Utopias and ant-heaps of
steel and concrete.  It is all or nothing.  Either life on earth is
a preparation for something greater and more lasting, or it is
meaningless, dark, and dreadful.

Dorothy started.  A frizzling sound was coming from the glue-pot.
She had forgotten to put any water in the saucepan, and the glue
was beginning to burn.  She took the saucepan, hastened to the
scullery sink to replenish it, then brought it back and put it on
the oilstove again.  I simply MUST get that breastplate done before
supper! she thought.  After Julius Caesar there was William the
Conqueror to be thought of.  More armour!  And presently she must
go along to the kitchen and remind Ellen to boil some potatoes to
go with the minced beef for supper; also there was her 'memo list'
to be written out for tomorrow.  She shaped the two halves of the
breastplate, cut out the armholes and neckholes, and then stopped
again.

Where had she got to?  She had been saying that if death ends all,
then there is no hope and no meaning in anything.  Well, what then?

The action of going to the scullery and refilling the saucepan had
changed the tenor of her thoughts.  She perceived, for a moment at
least, that she had allowed herself to fall into exaggeration and
self-pity.  What a fuss about nothing, after all!  As though in
reality there were not people beyond number in the same case as
herself!  All over the world, thousands, millions of them; people
who had lost their faith without losing their need of faith.  'Half
the parsons' daughters in England,' Mr Warburton had said.  He was
probably right.  And not only parsons' daughters; people of every
description--people in illness and loneliness and failure, people
leading thwarted, discouraging lives--people who needed faith to
support them, and who hadn't got it.  Perhaps even nuns in
convents, scrubbing floors and singing Ave Marias, secretly
unbelieving.

And how cowardly, after all, to regret a superstition that you had
got rid of--to want to believe something that you knew in your
bones to be untrue!

And yet--!

Dorothy had put down her scissors.  Almost from force of habit, as
though her return home, which had not restored her faith, had
restored the outward habits of piety, she knelt down beside her
chair.  She buried her face in her hands.  She began to pray.

'Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.  Lord, I believe, I
believe; help Thou my unbelief.'

It was useless, absolutely useless.  Even as she spoke the words
she was aware of their uselessness, and was half ashamed of her
action.  She raised her head.  And at that moment there stole into
her nostrils a warm, evil smell, forgotten these eight months but
unutterably familiar--the smell of glue.  The water in the saucepan
was bubbling noisily.  Dorothy jumped to her feet and felt the
handle of the glue-brush.  The glue was softening--would be liquid
in another five minutes.

The grandfather clock in her father's study struck six.  Dorothy
started.  She realized that she had wasted twenty minutes, and her
conscience stabbed her so hard that all the questions that had been
worrying her fled out of her mind.  What on earth have I been doing
all this time? she thought; and at that moment it really seemed to
her that she did not know what she had been doing.  She admonished
herself.  Come on, Dorothy!  No slacking, please!  You've got to
get that breastplate done before supper.  She sat down, filled her
mouth with pins and began pinning the two halves of the breastplate
together, to get it into shape before the glue should be ready.

The smell of glue was the answer to her prayer.  She did not know
this.  She did not reflect, consciously, that the solution to her
difficulty lay in accepting the fact that there was no solution;
that if one gets on with the job that lies to hand, the ultimate
purpose of the job fades into insignificance; that faith and no
faith are very much the same provided that one is doing what is
customary, useful, and acceptable.  She could not formulate these
thoughts as yet, she could only live them.  Much later, perhaps,
she would formulate them and draw comfort from them.

There was still a minute or two before the glue would be ready to
use.  Dorothy finished pinning the breastplate together, and in the
same instant began mentally sketching the innumerable costumes that
were yet to be made.  After William the Conqueror--was it chain
mail in William the Conqueror's day?--there were Robin Hood--
Lincoln Green and a bow and arrow--and Thomas a Becket in his cope
and mitre, and Queen Elizabeth's ruff, and a cocked hat for the
Duke of Wellington.  And I must go and see about those potatoes at
half past six, she thought.  And there was her 'memo list' to be
written out for tomorrow.  Tomorrow was Wednesday--mustn't forget
to set the alarm clock for half past five.  She took a slip of
paper and began writing out the 'memo list':


7 oc.  H.C.

Mrs J. baby next month go and see her.

BREAKFAST.  Bacon.


She paused to think of fresh items.  Mrs J. was Mrs Jowett, the
blacksmith's wife; she came sometimes to be churched after her
babies were born, but only if you coaxed her tactfully beforehand.
And I must take old Mrs Frew some paregoric lozenges, Dorothy
thought, and then perhaps she'll speak to Georgie and stop him
eating those biscuits during the sermon.  She added Mrs Frew to her
list.  And then what about tomorrow's dinner--luncheon?  We simply
MUST pay Cargill something! she thought.  And tomorrow was the day
of the Mothers' Union tea, and they had finished the novel that
Miss Foote had been reading to them.  The question was, what to get
for them next?  There didn't seem to be any more books by Gene
Stratton Porter, their favourite.  What about Warwick Deeping?  Too
highbrow, perhaps?  And I must ask Proggett to get us some young
cauliflowers to plant out, she thought finally.

The glue had liquefied.  Dorothy took two fresh sheets of brown
paper, sliced them into narrow strips, and--rather awkwardly,
because of the difficulty of keeping the breastplate convex--pasted
the strips horizontally across it, back and front.  By degrees it
stiffened under her hands.  When she had reinforced it all over she
set it on end to look at it.  It really wasn't half bad!  One more
coating of paper and it would be almost like real armour.  We MUST
make that pageant a success! she thought.  What a pity we can't
borrow a horse from somebody and have Boadicea in her chariot!  We
might make five pounds if we had a really good chariot, with
scythes on the wheels.  And what about Hengist and Horsa?  Cross-
gartering and winged helmets.  Dorothy sliced two more sheets of
brown paper into strips, and took up the breastplate to give it its
final coating.  The problem of faith and no faith had vanished
utterly from her mind.  It was beginning to get dark, but, too busy
to stop and light the lamp, she worked on, pasting strip after
strip of paper into place, with absorbed, with pious concentration,
in the penetrating smell of the glue-pot.



THE END





This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia