Miss Gates left house, dressed, so quickly that she was before almost the last of Mr Gates could be seen in their street where he went to Tupe and public houses. She walked firmly, quickly. She went to where Mr Jones lodged.
As she clapped the door knocker she thought for first time how he would be now at his evening class. Not used to think at all except about prices of things she was now quickly thinking. When Mrs Johns opened door to her she said with drama, and at once, she was that young lady Mr Bert Jones kept company with and she would leave a note for him if Mrs Johns did not mind. This one said to come in, Bert would be back in two ticks, and would she sit down in the front parlour. Then, as if she wanted to explain asking her into the front parlour, (formal entertaining of so young a girl compared with Mrs Johns) then she said ‘You see dear you ‘aven’t been down our way before ‘ave you,’ and she says Bert Jones is as son to her in her heart, never having had children of her own. Miss Gates said she would write a letter to him if Mrs Johns wouldn’t mind being bothered for paper and ink. This one said wasn’t she in a hurry, why he’d only gone down the road to the post office, ‘been writing a letter to ‘is mum and dad,’ said Mrs Johns ‘trying to find ‘em.’ But Lily noticed nothing in this, that he should not be at evening class or that he should be trying to find parents, not even when Mrs Johns went on to say that was why she felt so particular about him, being childless as she was. Lily Gates was now at bow window: ‘ ‘Ere ‘e is, ‘e’s coming,’ cried she, and Mrs Johns left parlour saying to make herself at home please, though she knew the room wasn’t up to much! This last Miss Gates did not notice either, indeed she was not noticing anything. This haste seemed indecent to Mrs Johns, and not to bring her manners with her, first time the girl came to his house, this shocked Mrs Johns. She went to front door to tell him not to trouble to come in by the back for Lily was in the front room, and to see what was on his face or if he knew about it whatever it was.
When Mr Jones came in she went back to kitchen where sat Mr Johns. She told him the story and said she gone herself to the front door to see if Bert’s face wore any kind of look on it. But no, she says, he doesn’t know anything about nothing whatever it is, and when she’d told him who was waiting for him he’d seemed like frightened.
‘Time was when I said ‘e ‘adn’t the stuffing in him to go out and shift for ‘imself like, but now I seen ‘is young lady, that girl could take a man anywheres, men being what they are.’
‘That’s bad,’ said Mr Johns.
‘Yes, and that girl’s not ‘appy at ‘ome,’ said Mrs Johns. ‘I’ll lay there’s been some trouble at ‘er ‘ouse and she’s come round to tell ‘im about it. If I wasn’t what I was, but like some I knows on, I’d be listening at that key ‘ole this very minute.’
‘You think ‘ell go then?’
‘I’m afraid for ‘im,’ said Mrs Johns, ‘such a nice lad that ‘e is. That’s what comes of taking up with foundry people,’ she said.
Meanwhile, in other room, Lily was saying like as if everything had been knocked out of her now she was with Mr Jones.
‘He struck me!’
‘ ‘E ‘it you? What did ‘e hit you with?’
‘With ‘is fist, yes, I fell down, couldn’t help myself ‘e ‘it out so hard.’
‘Striking a woman,’ said Mr Jones, ‘that’s about as low a thing as ‘e could do.’
‘ ‘E’s my father you see Bert. Yes ‘e’s got a right to, one way you look at it. But I can’t stay in that ‘ouse,’ she said and they talked of what they would do. Mr Jones fell more and more silent as this went on, and her temper rose till she said she would see him tomorrow and with that she went. She was afraid she might say something to him about himself which would bring quarrels between them, for now of all times she wanted him for her life.
And now for Mr Jones his position was this: that as it might be foreman had given him a job out of which, if he did it right and it was not easy to do, would come advancement and satisfaction for him.
Foreman set up the job on lathe and stood by then to see if he could do it. Others in the shop looked on from their places, maliciously, some enviously, and others hoped it would come out right for him. So he, Mr Jones, began on first part of what he had to do, and this part was easy for him. With all senses fixed on it yet in a sense he played with the job.
So he completed first stages of what had to be done. He looked at his work and it was right. But this part was not the test. Final, more difficult work on it was coming, foreman began to smile with anticipation at the difficulties that were before him.
If Mr Jones did not want to go on those others watching him, and the foreman, made it into confession of failure to draw back. Also he realized now, what he had not thought of before, that he had indeed begun — bit of metal he was using was scored now, partly used, and if he gave up they might not be able to bring it in for some other job. Also he might never have the chance again and suddenly it seemed so desirable to him that ‘I’ll have a try,’ he said in mind and threw belt of his lathe over into gear.
Now the job, revolving so many turns each second, now it had a stillness more beautiful than when actually it had been still. On the small surface of it was sheen of light still and quiet, for noise of his lathe could not be heard above noise of other lathes working about him. And pace of events bearing on his life quickened so that for two moments their speed had appearance of stillness. Also the foreman and others that were looking on openly by now, had now his appearance and features. He said in mind he had to go on and do the job right He poised before it, tool in his hand and it might be the sense of power he had and which he felt for the first time, to make waster of that bit of steel or a good job out of it, it might be that kept him still undecided.
Mr Dupret talked with Walters in Mr Bridges’ office. He said they had to do something, they could not go on as they were now. If they got into rut of losing money they would never get out of it. He said while he had been down here this last week or two he had seen many more elderly men working than he had thought possible. ‘It’s not fair on the younger men Walters,’ he said, thinking just now like a journalist, ‘you can’t get away from the fact that younger men work the harder.’
(Walters had been sent for as last resort to deal with Mr Dupret. Bridges now took everything as a joke. But Mr Dupret said constantly in his mind, ‘I must work, work.’ After Miss Glossop it was most necessary for him to do something tangible violently, and in this Mr Archer, and Tarver also, egged him on.)
Mr Walters saw that no argument would be heard by Mr Dupret and as he was actuated really by a devotion to Dupret’s father he forgot about his pride. He thought no great harm would come of this, he would let the boy do it, and then he thought he could not prevent him if he wanted to, and smiled. If he threatened to resign, for instance, probability was his resignation would be accepted. And as all his life he had worked in this business he saw it as his own creation, and did not care to think of that work undone through Tarver’s inexperience.
So it was decided that all men within six months of their old age pension (what would it mean, thought Mr Walters, nothing, twelve men at the most) all these would get their cards on Saturday. Mr Bridges had come in by then and smiling he said to make it Wednesday, Wednesday was end of every working week. Mr Dupret said no, tomorrow Saturday, for God’s sake do get something done and walked out.
(Mr Archer was in course of being disappointed. Mr Dupret thinking over what had been said, thought afterwards these two had behaved very well and shown a real will to help.)