Hannah Glossop stayed over into next day when rest of house-party had gone. All the men had gone back to offices but Tom Tyler, who was on leave from Siam. So she had him all to herself.
All afternoon went they for a walk across fields and she asked him what his life was. He was unpaid adjunct to British resident at Siam. He told about shooting they had and how you could get a game of squash racquets there. He said how once the resident’s wife came down to official dinner with her dress back to front, and the difficulty he had had to let her know. The way he had done it was to turn his plate upside down and being a clever woman she had understood. Dropping suddenly to the intimate he said evenings there were marvellous, and between them they had got together quite a good little dance band at the country club.
He was bored with this walk because she made him do all the talking and was serious, but she — as sometimes on a ship when is sun and spray so do you see rainbows everywhere, on the deck, on wave-crests, so as he spoke wonder was round about all he said for her.
As soon as Mr Bridges had gotten back he went round works. ‘ ‘Tis ‘im’ the men said when they saw him. He went round. He thought in his mind it was fine, fine to be back. ‘The men have but to come to me when they’re in trouble, I’m a father and mother to them,’ he cried in his heart, ‘aye, I am that.’
He talked long with Tupe, very hearty with him. Cummings came up then to greet him for Mr Bridges had gone straight into works when he was back. Loudly Mr Bridges met him. He said he felt fine, fine. He asked how things were and Mr Cummings said everything was going on all right. Then moving a few yards away so Tupe could not hear above the noise of lathes working in this shop Mr Bridges asked what about young chap? As heads of these two moved towards each other at that, men on lathes winked one to another, while Mr Cummings grew mysterious look on his face. He said he had only just heard, Tarver had come boasting to him he said, boasting the young chap was giving him another draughtsman. ‘Our overheads won’t stand it sir,’ he said, though he did not know much about such charges.
Mr Bridges said: ‘There’s a grand thing to welcome you back.’
He stood silent.
‘Another draughtsman, eh?’ he said. He swore.
At last he said why couldn’t Tarver have come and said a word to him when he got back, (forgetting he was but just arrived) no bit of friendliness in that man anywhere, it made life misery for you, why if you’d been so nearly dead you’d had a chat with Peter at the gate Tarver wouldn’t say a word when you got back.
‘Isn’t ‘e a beauty?’ Mr Bridges said.
That evening Mr Bridges went through works on the look out for trouble. Mr Tarver had not come to see him or ask him how he was. Bridges went through works on chance of finding someone to vent anger on.
That day Mr Bert Jones had one of his spells on him. Were days when he could not work, his mind was not in it. It was not that he couldn’t concentrate because he was thinking of something else, but rather as if his mind was satiated by the trade he worked at, as if he had reached saturation point as day by day, year by year he did very much the same things with almost identical movements of arms and legs. So sometimes when you are working daze comes over you and your brain lies back, it rocks like the sea, and as commonplace.
So he stopped working.
‘What’s the matter with you Bert?’
‘There aint nothing the matter?’
‘Well come on then.’
But Mr Bridges came up behind. He made a row. Only that, he did not suspend him. But he relieved choking feeling he had in his chest. He went away satisfied.
Mr Jones worked for rest of evening without stopping. He felt like quite desperate.
That evening, half past five, and thousands came out of factories, the syrens sounding, and went home.
Mr Craigan, with Gates and Jim Dale, went out of Dupret factory together, when Mr Tupe came up with them. He walked with them. He said:
‘ ‘Ow do you think the old man’s lookin’?’
Mr Gates said holiday didn’t seem to have done him much good. Anger rose in Mr Craigan at Tupe’s coming up to them.
‘Aint it a bloody shame’ said Tupe, ‘the way they try and drive a man of ‘is age to the mad’ouse. Did you ‘appen to see Tarver and young ‘opeful goin’ round together not above a week back? Well and now Tarver won’t come and bid the old man good day when ‘e gets back after goin’ away for ‘is ‘earth.’
‘ ‘Ow d’you know, know all,’ Mr Dale said.
‘I knows young feller because ‘e told me ‘imself.’
‘O he did, did ‘e?’
‘Ah, ‘e did, and I don’t reckon they’ve any right to treat an old man the way they’re doin’. ‘E’s told me things. When a man gets on in years they should respect ‘is age I reckon, what d’you say?’ said he, turning to Mr Craigan. This one made no answer to him.
‘Yes by rights that’s what they should do’ Mr Gates said, nervous.
‘Ah, and ‘e ‘ad a row with young Jones, which wasn’t nothing but those others trying to down ‘im, that bein’ a good lad’ said maliciously Mr Tupe. Dale asked eagerly if he had suspended him. ‘Suspend ‘im’ said Tupe, ‘suspend a fine chap like that, not on yer life, ‘e does the work of three in that shop.’
‘Well ‘e was suspended in the summer wasn’t ‘e?’
‘Yes, ‘e were suspended’ said Mr Gates hoping to close conversation.
‘Ah,’ Mr Tupe said, — ‘and what was that but Aaron Connolly, I know the man, nothing’s too low for ‘im, I saw ‘im go and tell Bridges ‘imself Bert was in there, and being as it might be in front of witnesses, the old man ‘ad no choice.’ Here Mr Tupe had inspiration. ‘That was why ‘e daint suspend Aaron’ he said triumphantly.
Mr Craigan went then to other side of the street and Dale followed him. Then at last Mr Gates followed them, because he feared Mr Craigan. Yet was he ashamed at leaving Tupe.
So came they home at evening. They went in to the house, they washed, and Lily had evening meal ready for them. Mr Dale was excited in his mind. He thought if Bert Jones was sacked chances were he would find no other job in Birmingham. Then he would leave the town, would have to, and go back to that home he said he had in Liverpool. Thought of this put Mr Dale in a good temper.
Lily began saying how Eames’ child next door had grown. Mr Gates said Eames was poor sort of a man. But subject of the works was in Mr Dale’s mind and he asked how much truth was there in this talk about old Bridges being crowded out.
‘I don’t know what ‘e’s told Tupey’ said Mr Gates, ‘but there’s only men of ‘is age and young men in that place, so trouble’s bound to be between ‘em, the younger lot trying to push the older out of the light. There’s none that comes between ‘em, speakin’ of age. And the young chap’s crazy like any lamb in the field.’
‘He’s not so crazy as some,’ Mr Dale said, ‘now take “our” Bert, that’s the second time ‘e’s been suspended in four months.’
‘Suspended! Where did you ‘ear he’d been suspended? The old man daint suspend ‘im’ said Mr Gates. Lily smiled. But Mr Craigan broke into conversation. He said:
‘If I ‘ad a son I wouldn’t educate ‘im above the station ‘e was born in. It’s hard enough to be a moulder and ‘ave the worry of the job forty-seven hours in the week but to be on the staff, or foreman even, with the man above you doggin’ at you and them under you never satisfied, like the young chaps never am nowadays, it aint like living at all. In course they’re getting rid of Bridges like they’ll get rid of me, seein’ I’m an old man now. Another month and we’ll be getting the old age pension Joe, and we’ll get the sack then. Like Bridges will get the sack, seein’ ‘e’s getting an old man, same as we.’
That same evening Lily Gates went out to meet Bert Jones.
When they met she saw for the first time white, cutting anger in him. He said they must get away, he said that! who had always been the one to draw back. They must go right off at once he said and anxiously she asked what the trouble was, for she knew him that he was not dependable worker. He said trouble? He said what was the matter with her who was so keen on their going and now, when be said they must go directly, wanted to know why?
‘Aren’t you on a line!’ she said pleasantly.
He told her about Bridges, but she thought when they were married he would be quieter, it would be the responsibility would make him so. She told him he must not worry about that. Indirectly then they talked of their going like it might be tomorrow, yet both questioned in their hearts if they would ever go. Then she quieted him. They kissed. She made him talk of other things. Soon she felt him contented again. So again they let their time slip by.
Mr Craigan felt he must act. Tupe now was so thick with Joe — it looked bad his having the face to come up and talk to them — and Lily with her Bert Jones. All this in images appeared in his mind before him.
Home was sacred thing to him. Everything, his self-respect was built on home. If he had no home to go back into an evening then he would have to move to another town where none knew him. As it was shame for the Hebrew women to be barren so in his mind was it desolation not to have people about him in his house, though he had never married.
He also had noticed Lily seemed quieter and while he saw in his mind it was winter kept them indoors, yet, because he wanted to, he saw Lily did not look so enchanted, she had talked more, she had not lately always been waiting, waiting till moment came to put on her clothes and meet Bert Jones.
So when Mr Gates had gone out, as he did every evening now leaving Jim Dale and he alone, he called Jim and said to him why must he be chipping Lily about Jones, why not leave her alone more? If you spoke to a female nowadays he said they made grievance out of it and took care to go another way to yours, whether it was their way or not, only to spite you. ‘And females,’ he said, ‘like to think you’re thinking of them, and afraid for ‘em, and once they know you’re that way they try and keep you at it.’ He said Jim’s talking of Jones would give that man importance in Lily’s mind which he did not deserve ‘being like 9,000 other wasters in this town. Let her forget ‘im.’ Mr Dale did not answer.
Mr Gates went to public house, where already Tupe was.
‘It made I laugh,’ Tupe said, ‘to see the look just now your old man give me when I come up. ‘E daint like it, did ‘e? No, we’re not good enough for ‘im, Joe.’
Gates was relieved that Mr Tupe had not taken it wrong, his crossing the street and leaving him for Craigan.
‘That’s the truth,’ he said ‘us ain’t.’
‘But I got in a good one, eh, when I said that about Aaron Connolly? There’s a dirty sneakin’ ‘ound for you. Anyroads ‘e ain’t no better’n a peasant, you can tell it by ‘is speech.’
‘I don’t know I got anything against Aaron.’
‘Well Joe, you’re a marvel. It’s no wonder to me you’re put upon. Got nothin’ against Aaron Connolly? I know what you mean but that’s the lie of it, ‘e daint ever let no one see t’other side of ‘is face. I know ‘im. No there ain’t nothin’ above board about ‘im, that’s just it.’
Later Mr Gates repeated what Craigan had said about how, soon as they had old age pension coming to them, they would be stopped off. Mr Tupe ridiculed idea of that. He said it was done at Thatcher’s but in old fashioned place like Duprets you could bet your live they’d never do anything of that kind. Then he gave all the old arguments for old men being better than young. Soon came in more friends of his, all labourers like Tupe himself. (This was loss of caste for Gates to be perpetually with them, as he was step above a labourer.) They sat drinking.
This was time of year when people that did not shoot came back from Scotland to watch shooters shooting pheasant instead of watching grouse-shooting. Also hunt balls were beginning. Now for Hannah Glossop, and Mr Tyler too, it was party after party in country houses, and they met at many of them.
Almost at once Mr Tyler began kissing Hannah when they were alone together, goodness she did like it. She made little rules about this for herself, one was she must not kiss him too often but let him kiss her. So when he kissed her, in little ecstasies she closed eyelids over eyes. He could not see of course that she rolled eyeballs under the lids when he kissed her. Yet she feared he would feel that in her lips so she did not often let him kiss her mouth, coy, coy, and did not often kiss him — well bred kissing.
Soon, after one or two more houseparties, he kissed her no more, though almost she stood about in dark places. He thought it was disgusting to kiss her who was so dumb then, and yearning.
Then he was rude to her.
Miss Glossop asked Tom to stay and he would not come.
Leaving house, going into the garden ‘he does not care’ she said aloud.
She walked in misery. She tried not to think of him. But as sometimes, coming across the sea from a cold country to the tropics and the sky is dull so the sea is like any other sea, so as you are coming tropical birds of exquisite colours settle to rest on the deck, unexpected, infinitely beautiful, so things she remembered of him came one by one back to her mind. And as the ship beat by beat draws nearer to that warmth the birds come from, so her feeling was being encompassed then by the memory of him and it was so warm she sat down on the wet ground and cried.