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Full text of "Under thirty, an anthology"

UNDER THIRTY 



UNDER THIRTY 

An Anthology 

Edited by 

MICHAEL HARRISON 





LONDON 
RICH & COWAN LTD. 

37 Bedford Square, W.C.i 



Made and Printed in Great Britain at 
The Mayflower Press, Plymouth. William Brendon & Son, Ltd. 



MY acknowledgments to Messrs. Jonathan Cape, 
Ltd., for their kindness in allowing me to reprint 
Mr. Arthur Calder-Marshall's story, ' Pickle My 
Bones,' and to Mr. Alexander MacLehose for his 
kind permission to include ' The Corporal,' in this 
anthology. 



All the stories in this collection were written by 
their authors before attaining their thirty-first 
year. 



CONTENTS 



FOREWORD 
WALTER ALLEN 

FRANK BAKER 
H. E. BATES 
W. J. BEAMOND 
JOHN BETJEMAN 
DOUGLAS BOYD 
WALTER BRIERLEY 
ARTHUR CALDER-MARSHALL 
H. A. CARTER 
PETER CHAMBERLAIN- 
RUPERT CROFT-COOKE 
A. W. DODD 

RONALD MACDONALD DOUGLAS 
DAVID GASCOYNE 



PAGE 

ix 

Autobiographical Note 3 

The Geography Master 5 

Autobiographical Note 15 

The Cat comes Home 1 7 

Autobiographical Note 27 

The Machine 29 

Autobiographical Note 37 

History of Oscar 39 

Autobiographical Note 49 

Move with the Times 50 

Autobiographical Note 63 

The Gospel Chariot 65 

Autobiographical Note 81 

Transition 82 

Autobiographical Note 99 

Pickle My Bones 102 

Autobiographical Note 1 1 3 

Another Day 1 1 4 

Autobiographical Note 1 2 1 

Shrimps 122 

Autobiographical Note 133 

Rough Island Story 1 34 

Autobiographical Note 145 

The Opposition 147 

Autobiographical Note 
The Corporal 

Autobiographical Note 1 7 1 

Death of an Explorer 173 , 



Vlll 



CONTENTS 



R. G. GOODYEAR 

LESLIE HALWARD 

JOHN HAMPSON 

MICHAEL HARRISON 

TANGYE LEAN 

JOHN LINDSEY 

LAURENCE MILLER 

DONALD MOFFAT 

RICHARD PARKER 

JOHN PUDNEY 

IVAN ROE 

PHILIP SCOTT 

ANTHONY HECKSTALL SMITH 

RANDALL SWINGLER 

UVEDALE TRISTRAM 



Autobiographical Note 189 

Valse des Fleurs 190 

Autobiographical Note 197 

The Doll 198 

Autobiographical Note 207 

The Harlot's Progress 208 

Autobiographical Note 215 

For Ever and For Ever 216 

Autobiographical Note 238 

Ballerina 239 

Autobiographical Note 259 

A Muffled Peal 260 

Autobiographical Note 269 

Life is Like That 271 

Autobiographical Note 281 

c Doucement ! Douccment ! ' 282 

Autobiographical Note 291 

Soup Kitchen 292 

Autobiographical Note 297 

The Albions' Secret 298 

Autobiographical Note 3 1 1 

My Husband is III 312 

Autobiographical Note 319 

Mr. Mel lows' s Romance 321 

Autobiographical Note 329 

A Saucer of Milk 330 

Autobiographical Note 339 

Mrs. Panting' s Victory 341 

Autobiographical Note 351 
The Disillusionment of 

Mr. Summerton 352 

Autobiographical Note 361 

Off the Road 363 



FOREWORD 

BY MICHAEL HARRISON 

SEVERAL times within the last few weeks people have 
asked me : But why thirty ? Why not twenty-five ? 
they say, reminding me that there is a literary precedent 
for selecting that age ; or three-score years and ten ? for 
which a literary precedent (though not, even with the help 
of Messrs. Heinemann, quite so important a precedent) 
exists. And when they asked, I could only shrug my 
shoulders, unable to answer ; nor, indeed, until I had sat 
down to write this foreword, had I realized that there might 
well be something more than caprice in the determining 
the age-limit of my contributors. To-night I stumbled on 
the truth, remembering that it was in 1935 that the idea 
of this anthology first came to me. In 1935, when I was 
twenty-seven. 

* * * 

A little personal history : 

On my seventh birthday I awakened to a sense of expecta- 
tion, as I had awakened (since consciousness had first super- 
vened) on every previous birthday. But on this, my seventh 
birthday, although I was to awaken with the old expectancy, 
I was soon to know the added sense of responsibility. 

On the little table by my bed was a variety of objects, 
among which a cap-firing pistol of pressed tinware looms 
most memorable in my recollection. There was also a 
picture-postcard, addressed to me, and wishing me ' many 
happy returns of the day.' I think that I remember this 
with a preternatural clarity because of the fact that my nurse 
had purchased it on the afternoon before, concealing its 

ix 



x FOREWORD 

true destination with that pathetic secretiveness which, in 
persons of her nature, proclaims all of a secret but its identity. 

We had gone into a little general stores that lay at the 
end of a long country lane, bordered with tall elms, where 
are now little villas : Windermere, Braeside, Mon Abri, 
Le Chalet, and I don't know what else besides. And while 
the stores is there yet, and still called a stores, and the general- 
ness of it has been not reduced, but rather multiplied a 
thousandfold, it is little no more, and the brick aprons of its 
tall sash windows have been bitten into by the leaden 
edging which protects the bravery of its too-familiar red- 
and-gold fascia. So all things, as was graven on the temple 
of the Holy Bottle, move to their end. . . . 

But all these changes, these evidences of progress, were 
undreamt of on that far-off spring day ; and I, in common 
with a million other little English boys, was growing up in 
the calm, unquestioning acceptance of that vanished world's 
unchangeableness ; even though that world was (had we 
had the wit to perceive it) already gone. And here, although 
this reflexion belongs more properly to a later part of this 
essay, I feel compelled to point out that where we shall 
differ essentially from our children (if the thermite bombs 
permit them to reach an adult condition), and differ in an 
even greater degree from our grandchildren, is in the fact 
that, physically at least, our youth was passed in the old 
world. Whatever our adolescence may have brought, we 
were born into sights and sounds which had more affinity 
with the eighteenth than with the twentieth century. All 
but the very youngest of us here passed our childhood in 
a world that differed only in insignificances from the 
world of our great-grandfathers. Some of the carriages, of 
course, were driven by internal combustion engines, as some 
of the carriages of the eighteen-twenties and eighteen- 
thirties were driven by steam engines, until the bribing of 
Members of Parliament by the railway interests re-estab- 
lished the monopoly of the horse for a further sixty years. 
As a child I have seen the sweeps dancing on May Day in 
their leaf-covered wicker frames, before Mr. Gollancz and 
the Left Book Club made us conscious of this day's pro- 



FOREWORD xi 

founder significance. And even eight years ago (and, for 
all that I know, he may be there to this day), there was, in 
Maidstone, an old carpenter who might, from his dress, 
have been the very person who walked with the Lobster, 
talking of cabbages and kings. Which among our children 
will have seen a carpenter in a cap of folded brown paper, or 
eaten locust, or tiger-nuts, or seen pearly-clad costers not 
merely cadging for unspecified charities, or sable-plumed 
horses between the shafts of hearses, or one-man bands, or 
incredible old beggars, or unshod children, or those same 
children selling their buckets of horse-dung at the garden 
gate, or any one of those thousand vanished things that 
made up the fabric of our childish everyday ? In our 
childhood there were telephones, of course, as there had 
been telephones since twenty years before Graham Bell had 
' invented ' them, and wireless, as there had been wireless 
since forty years before Marconi had * invented ' that. 
And there were Pearl White and Flora Finch and John 
Bunny at the picture-palace, and Charlie Chaplin, too, 
although he wore the trappings of a stage French count. 
But all these benefits had, in 1914, only the rank of novel- 
ties, amusements, luxuries what you will. They had not 
yet affected, as to-day they so profoundly affect, the vital 
structure of existence. In 1914, when I was seven, it was 
still the old world. Only yesterday did the old order give 
place to the new : when the grey repetitions of Euston and 
Paddington and Hammersmith began to crumble beneath 
the pick of the housebreaker's men, to reform in the higher, 
whiter glory of the block of flats : Eureka Court, Borborygm 
Feilde, Mount Byzantium. O tempora, O mores . . . ! 

Until a lustrum since, it was possible to find whole towns 
whose architecture had known no change nor addition since 
the eighteenth century, and even with those of us to whom 
the advantage of the Wool worth Stores came early, we grew 
up to accept as commonplaces the restrained fancies of 
Georgian and Regency architects, and often of builders even 
more ancient. I think that this factor is too frequently 
ignored in estimating the curious temperament manifest 
in our young men, who grew up in the fag-end of a civiliza- 



xii FOREWORD 

tion, and are not (as too many of them think) the vanguard 
of a newer existence, but rather the rearguard the 
stragglers, if you like of an older way of living. 



Well, to get back to that long, elm-bordered lane. My 
nurse bought a picture-postcard at the little general stores : 
a glutinous affair of roses and tinsel, with two simpering 
faces and a ' poem.' The following morning I awoke to 
find its sickly charms adorning the little mound of gifts. 

Nannie said, on entering the bedroom : 

" Many happy returns ! " 

I thanked her for her good wishes. I said, observing, 
with the clear eye of childhood, her hardly concealed 
diffidence : 

" Is this the postcard that you bought yesterday after- 
noon ? " 

"What if it is?" 

" Well, but, Nannie, is it ? " 

" Ask no questions, hear no lies," was the reply. 

There was no answer to that. I was, in truth, more excited 
than I had cared to confess, for she was a pretty girl, and 
the romantic passion that I had already conceived for Miss 
Pearl White had rendered me more than susceptible to a 
generalization of the sentiment. She said, with a mock 
severity that I found quite enchanting : 

" A gentleman doesn't ask a lady where she bought what- 
ever it was she sent him ! " 

" Oh ! " said I, " I don't really want to know." 

Mollified : 

" Well, that's good. And to-day you've got to be a good 
boy. Extra-specially good, I mean." 

I asked why. I have always asked why. She explained : 

" Because you're seven. And that," she said with a 
seriousness which I might not altogether disregard, " is the 
First Milestone. Seven, fourteen, twenty-one. . . . Like 
that. . . ." 

" Like what ? " 

" Like what I said. Seven. And another seven years. 



FOREWORD xiii 

And that makes fourteen. And another seven makes 
twenty-one. And then you're a man. Do you see ? " 



I saw. Indeed, the origin of what Mr. Malcolm Mug- 
geridge has called my ' romantic discontent ' lies in nothing 
more than the inability to look backward except with regret 
for the past, and forward but to grow fearful for what new 
* improvement ' lies before me. This has ever been my way 
at least, since Nannie first called my attention to the swift 
passage of the years. I can remember a tearful little boy, 
in 1915, almost inconsolable because 1912 was already 
three years distant and would never be any nearer. Why, 
out of all the years in human history, I should have selected 
that as the very limit of the Golden Age I have still not 
discovered, but 1912, in my childhood, marked for me the 
end of that existence that was worth living. I don't know 
why : my Celtic blood has, no doubt, much to do with 
this reluctance to accept the present. After all, in accom- 
modation there is a savour of self-discipline, and self-dis- 
cipline, like every other form of discipline, is abhorrent to 
the Celtic soul. I have not the least doubt that a psycholo- 
gist could tell me for what is there a psychologist will 
not tell you, if you give him half a chance ? Yet, curiously 
enough, I am not over desirous of discovering why I suffer 
from this odd sort of hyperaesthesia in regard to time : it 
is enough for me to realize that it is part of my nature, and 
that no to-day will ever possess a tenth of the charm that 
the day before yesterday holds for me. 



Now, thirty is no multiple of seven, but there is, for all 
that, a great deal more definite in its implications compared 
with twenty-eight. I talk now of ages. Thirty seems to 
me to be a dividing between youth and manhood so ade- 
quate and justified that, compared with it, the selection of 
twenty-one appears almost speciously arbitrary : an excuse 
for trustees to throw off the burden of their trusteeship, for 
wards to assume the burden of their own bills, and 



xiv FOREWORD 

for politicians and parents to begin to recoup themselves 
for the work that they have put to the turning quite intelli- 
gent young men into breadwinners and dupes. So much 
for the Third Milestone. But thirty is a different sort of 
proposition. At thirty one is, of course, still a young man, 
but even the newspapers make tacit admission that one has 
reached an age when maturity is imminent, and at thirty, 
one has to bludgeon the elderly husband of one's middle- 
aged mistress before the newspapers will call one ' a boy.' 
No, there are thousands besides Mr. Godfrey Winn for whom 
the cry : ' I'll never be thirty again ! ' holds an almost 
intolerable poignancy. 



The year 1935 will always be memorable for me by reason 
of a curious phenomenon : the extraordinary number of 
young writers of the first class who achieved a noteworthy 
success, some with first novels, others with seconds and thirds. 
There was Mr. Anthony Thorne, for instance, whose wholly 
admirable Delay in the Sun earned him an Evening Standard 
choice, but which would have established him as a serious 
writer even without that gratifying commendation. There 
was Mr. Hugh Talbot, another of Mr. Howard Spring's 
selections. In Mr. Talbot, it was evident that we had a 
romantic historian that one day would achieve the quality 
of a Dumas or a Quiller-Couch, and in Mr. Richard Blake- 
Brown's wayward fancies the material that would most 
certainly enable him to fill the gap left by Ronald Firbank's 
death. Then again, we had Mr. Hugh Brooke, whose 
novels, Man Made Angry and Miss Mitchell, while neurotic 
with a most sinister intensity, are constructed with a balance 
and clarity of thinking that partakes nothing of the abnormal 
emotions of which they treat. Nor in considering the list 
of notable young writers must mention fail to be made of 
Mr. John Collier, Mr. Wynyard Browne, and Mr. R. G. 
Goodyear, whose / Lie Alone marked him as a novelist of 
powers already mature. Then there were others of estab- 
lished reputations, but who had published works during the 
year which had not lessened those reputations : Mr. Evelyn 



FOREWORD xv 

Waugh and his brother Alec, Mr. John Heygate, Mr. John 
Betjeman. In the world of the theatre my friend Roddy 
Acldand was consolidating his position after one temporary 
set-back, and another young writer had abandoned the 
theatre for the novel : Mr. Laurence Miller, whose play, 
Head-on Crash, in which Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Miss Flora 
Robson, and the late Mr. Cronin-Wilson acted, many 
readers will remember. Mr. James Agate said of this play : 
' This piece is a failure on an extraordinary high level, and 
worthier of respect than fifty abject successes.' The writer, 
in acknowledging Mr. Agate's epigrammatic neatness of 
expression, would apply the same criticism to Mr. Miller's 
first novel. It was not a success, and, if Mr. Miller will 
forgive my saying so, it did not really deserve to be, but 
its publication, from the author's point of view, was justified 
in that it demonstrated his ability in the technique of the 
novel. One of Mr. Miller's short stories is included in the 
present collection, but I shall have more to say of the con- 
tributors later. Nor, in ending this survey of young author- 
ship in 1935 must I overlook Mr. H. E. Bates, adding 
fresh laurels to an already over-burdened crown ; Mr. 
Arthur Calder-Marshall, busy emerging from the chrysalis 
stage of creativeness in a manner which he describes in the 
following pages far better than lies within my power ; 
and, lastly, Mr. Gawen Brownrigg, whose Star against Star 
is a tour-de-force of youthful competence, almost unbelievable 
in its precocious understanding of the feminine mind. I 
could go on giving names far beyond the space at my dis- 
posal, and if I have omitted names that deserved inclusion 
the reader will understand that only the exigencies of 
brevity prevent their mention. But I have enumerated 
enough to show that that year was, indeed, a most memor- 
able year where youthful talent was concerned. Youth 
forced itself on one's notice ; did not allow itself to be over- 
looked or ignored, and I wondered a little, in considering 
this eruption of the creative spirit, if, indeed, the con- 
sciousness of imminent eld was not the motive force behind 
all this tremendous activity ? From that thought, it was 
easy enough to progress to a curiosity that permitted me no 



xvi FOREWORD 

repose until I had discovered something of the writers 
themselves, and the satisfying curiosity in a small degree 
elicited the astonishing fact that the ages of most were 
nearly identical : that is, between twenty-five and thirty. 
Was it, I was forced to ask myself, that in the attaining that 
age reposed some undeniable compulsion to declare one's 
talent or for ever hold one's peace ? Or, missing that 
earlier tide, must one wait until the St. Martin's Summer 
of intellectuality and let one's genius flower only as some 
late Autumn crocus, in the manner of William de Morgan ? 
Only in examining my own heart have I seemed to find an 
answer to these deep questions, and while the identity of 
the songs that the Sirens sang or that name that Achilles 
assumed when he played among the women, are to be 
discovered, so they say, with proper searching, such research 
lies beyond both my skill and my patience, and so it is with 
this metaphysical property of thirty. I can only fly to vague 
surmise and speculation. 



The reader will understand how, from this inordinate 
interest in the younger writer, it was but a short step to my 
wishing to make a permanent record of so transient, so 
ephemeral a condition as that which those writers enjoyed. 
In ten years time the majority of them would, please God ! 
be still with us, but they would be approaching the Lesser 
Climacteric, and what they had thought of that brief phase 
through which they were now passing, while clear enough, 
no doubt, in their minds, would be so tinctured by all the 
trials and achievements, the failures and successes of ten 
years, that one might not rely on them for a true picture of 
what they had thought as they rushed headlong for their 
thirtieth year. 

I determined then that I would make a collection of these 
young writers : their histories, their views and their work. 
If one should ask me what more I hoped, in making this 
collection, to justify than a personal curiosity, I can only 
reply that on the shoulders of the young man who is thirty 
to-day rests the heavy burden of the world. When older 



FOREWORD xvii 

and younger are shivering within their fortresses of re- 
inforced concrete, we shall be tainting the mud with our 
purulent corpses, or dropping from the bomb-starred skies 
as a leaf falls, but faster and less tranquilly, and in no hope 
of some regenerate Spring. . . . 

I like to think that when a mile-deep Whitehall trembles 
to the distant concussion of the bombs, and through the 
barren earth distills the poison that is less deadly than the 
evil which brought it into being, some ' statesman,' of worth 
too precious to risk amid the thermite and lewisite and hail 
of metal shards and gangrenous vapours above, may reach 
for a book to while away the shivering hours of waiting 
and find this volume. For here are other things than war ; 
than the whining cadence of the shell against the deep 
chiaroscuro of the barrage, and what songs we have to 
sing are sung to a different metre than is provided by the 
petulant rattle of the Brens and the Hotchkisses. There are 
unheroic things here, and things about which no one but 
us could have sung. There is the story of the child who 
went barefooted to seek the pint of soup that had been 
refused his parents, and, because he had no other receptacle, 
took a chamber-pot, the only sound vessel remaining to his 
stricken household. Mr. Parker, the author of this moving 
little story, will tell you in his autobiographical note that 
he is a Communist. I am no Communist myself, and, 
indeed, I am not at all certain what are the qualifications 
for the right to describe oneself as a Communist, but Mr. 
Parker's story will help the reader to understand what may 
be an unfamiliar and possibly repugnant viewpoint far 
better than a dozen volumes of the Das Kapital and Anti- 
Diihring type. 



I mentioned the idea to the son of a well-known pub- 
lisher : one night, at a cocktail party. A literary cocktail 
party. He confessed himself much taken with the notion, 
and gave me formal permission to proceed with the collection 
of the stories. 

It was amusing work, and arduous work, too ; for in 



xviii FOREWORD 

all I read more than a hundred manuscripts ; and letters, 
in the true literary tradition, went a long time without an 
answer. It hardly matters now to whom I applied for tales 
and histories ; after the first half-dozen letters had gone 
out, answers began to come in unsolicited. With that 
kindly spirit which distinguishes your true artist to whom 
accomplishment is not to be reckoned primarily in terms of 
material gain Mr. Edward O'Brien sent me a number of 
names suitable for my list. In the end I had reluctantly to 
inform a number of most worthy applicants that I was 
unable to accept any more stories, either for perusal or for 
inclusion. When the volume was complete, I was informed 
that the publishers had changed their mind. Once more 
I had to write to my young men, and this time to tell them 
that the collection was indefinitely shelved. 



It is one of the commoner superstitions of the publishing 
world that upon the collection of short stories rests a hoodoo, 
which neither the quality of the story nor the prestige of the 
author (or authors) has power to cast off. When the 
publishers, after what they called ' careful consideration,' 
decided against publication, their action was only in defer- 
ence to this inherent suspicion of the omnibus's virtue. But 
their answer was final. 

Still, I had had a great deal of fun making the collection, 
and disappointed as I was at failing to achieve publication, 
I had, in truth, the satisfaction of knowing that I had 
succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. For, 
of thirty young men, eight who were unknown when I 
picked out their stories from the hundred sent me, have 
since appeared in the publishers' lists, and of the rest, not 
one but has confirmed the promise implicit in the one or 
two works whose writing impelled me to invite him to 
contribute to my collection. 



And what an extraordinary collection it was, in which 
every trade but that of the professional writer was repre- 



FOREWORD xix 

sented ! (It's different to-day, as you may see by the auto- 
biographical notes ; for several of the authors have gone 
into journalism for a living.) There was Walter Brierley, 
who left his elementary school at the age of thirteen to go 
down the mine, and wrote two stories that gained him the 
Arthur Markham Memorial Prize while enjoying the rich 
experience that only a labour exchange may afford. There 
was John Heygate, heir to a baronetcy, and almost a pro- 
fessional journalist (he was in the film business then), and 
Gawen Brownrigg, heir to another baronetcy, who had 
the closest connection with the business of letters of any of 
us, for he was in a publisher's office. At the time of his 
recent death he was in Kenya, on a paper : another one who 
turned journalist in earnest. Tangye Lean contributed to 
Isis, I believe, and was about to turn journalist as seriously 
as Brownrigg ; in his case, on the literary side of the News 
Chronicle. I was secretary to a doctor in those days : Fleet 
Street was yet distant ; and several of my young men, I 
suspect, were doing nothing at all. One of the best stories 
submitted, The Song of the Scythe, came from a young man 
who lived in Northampton, Douglas Boyd. I have since 
had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Boyd, who gave me the 
technical name of his occupation. I have forgotten it, but 
Mr. H. E. Bates could tell me, no doubt, as that was his 
occupation for a time : I mean the business of making 
boots. No profession seems to cast a blight over the 
astonishing ambition of these young men : I had not, in 
those days, heard of Mr. Richard Parker, but his case will 
serve as an excellent example of what I intend to point out. 
Among the many occupations with which Mr. Parker has 
busied himself is that of pig-gelder. Verb sap., as the old 
phrase has it ! 

I realize that it will be a tremendous comfort to all 
reactionaries members of the Labour Party and so forth 
to observe how many of my contributors received their 
education in the State schools. Such people will point to 
this undeniable fact as proof of the worth of the compulsory 
educational system. They are welcome to the satisfaction 
that such ' proof brings them. For myself, I realize, and 



xx FOREWORD 

so do all my collaborators, that the only education that is 
worth a damn is the education which one provides oneself, so 
that undue importance should not be attached to the fact 
that the public schools have a bad showing in my list. 

Through Mr. O'Brien's kindness I made the acquaint- 
ance of what (something against their wishes, I believe) has 
come to be known as the Birmingham Group. Peter 
Chamberlain, whom the Birmingham Sunday Mercury called, 
somewhat ambiguously, the * sophisticated ' member of the 
group, is the grandson of a former Lord Mayor of Birming- 
ham, while Leslie Halward, one of the finest short-story 
writers of our day, has been a plasterer's labourer, and has 
known the rigours of the Means Test. Walter Allen, young- 
est of the group, has been a schoolmaster (experience turned 
to excellent use in The Geography Master) and has lectured 
on English in the State University of Iowa. John Hampson, 
whose Sunday Night at the Greyhound, which you can now buy in 
the Penguin edition for a tanner and you most certainly 
should is as good as anything of its kind, is the grandson 
of another famous Birmingham figure : Mercer Simpson, 
who managed the Birmingham Theatre Royal in Victorian 
days. And I have just remembered that Peter Chamberlain 
was a journalist : he is a motor-cyclist of experience, 
and did the sports column for a time on a motor-cycling 
paper. 

Who else was there ? Laurence Miller, whom I have 
mentioned : son of a doctor, and victor over great physical 
handicaps that have never touched his calm outlook. That 
astonishing child, David Gascoyne (he is, even to-day, only 
twenty-one). What he was doing for a living, I don't quite 
know ; but he was writing well enough to have justified 
considerable inactivity. John Lindsey, at twenty-five or 
so, was completing his twenty-somethingth novel, and 
earning the money that they failed to provide in teaching 
nasty little boys, amo, amas, amat, and the rest of it. He's 
still doing it, poor chap ! 

But Lord ! I can't go on like this. There are too many 
of them, and the life stories grow even more fantastic. But 
the collection was off, and I wrote to tell them so. They 



FOREWORD xxi 

passed out of my ken : back to schoolroom and racing- 
track and plasterer's trowel and (who knows ?) gelding- 
knife and labour exchange. . . . 



And there the matter remained until the beginning of 
this year. But sometime in the Autumn of last year I found 
myself becoming only too uncomfortably aware of Time's 
winged chariot's rumbling tread. Rumbling ? Say, rather : 
rushing I I turned up the old letters ; read once more the 
old words of understanding and commiseration with which 
all had soothed the harshness of failure. " My God ! " 
said Mr. Wynyard Browne, writing from a Norfolk vicarage, 
" what a racket ! " and in some other condolences the 
elegancies were even less lightly observed. 

Well, I read all the old letters, and my mind was made 
up. Within a few months the ominous age should have 
engulfed most of us (some, indeed, having already crossed 
the fateful border) and soon we should have forgotten what 
it was about that earlier age that was so different from the 
age that so shortly we should own. I wrote to the original 
contributors : some answered most of them and a few 
did not, but whether that was because authors are always 
changing their addresses (landlords being what they are !) 
or because there is still a lot of truth in the saying that a 
burnt child fears the fire, I shall never know. But, as on 
that previous occasion, far more applied than were applied 
to, and once more I found myself with over a hundred 
stories to read. I read them : I made my selection. It 
fills the pages following this preface. I found a publisher, 
by whose courage I am permitted to address you from this 
safest of rostra, to which no eggs or moribund tomatoes may 
ever penetrate. Now, all that remains for me to find is 
the sympathetic reader. 



I mentioned just now that I had had through my hands 
the better part of two hundred short stories, so that the 
reader may well wonder which principle I followed in select- 



xxii FOREWORD 

ing, out of that large number, no more than twenty-nine. 
First of all, let me say that I am not offering these thirty 
stories as the finest that have ever been written ; not 
even as the finest that have been written by young men 
under thirty ; not even, in truth, as the finest out of all those 
stories that were sent to me. I did not set out to compile 
a Best Short Stones of 1938. Why should I ? Mr. O'Brien 
does, has been doing, that sort of thing for a number of 
years, and he does it too well that anyone should hope to 
improve on his efforts. No, what I wanted to do was to 
prepare what Time and Tide I am sure would call a ' con- 
spectus ' of the world of the younger writer : a conspectus 
whose survey should include both the man and his work, 
treating the two interests as inseparable as, indeed, 
they should always be treated. I have, therefore, in 
making my selection, imposed this condition : that each 
member of my little band shall be representative of his 
type, and that his story shall be interpretative of him- 
self. I hope that that's clear enough ? I do hope so, 
indeed ; for only in the making this clear can I look for 
understanding in the reader of the principle involved in my 
selection. 

And if one looks for some uniting sentiment among all 
these young men ; some sentiment, that is to say, other 
than their love of the pen, I think that it will be found in 
the note of protest with which each story is informed, 
whether it be Mr. Parker voicing his discontent with the 
system that makes a grudged and insolently administered 
privilege out of what should be an inalienable right, or Mr. 
Betjeman, sighing for a world in which progress is measured 
by other standards than the centralization of the distributive 
trades (What now, Mr. Betjeman ? Is it to be G. K.'s 
Weekly or The British Union?), or Mr. Philip Scott, almost 
the only representative of the pure traditionalist in my 
collection, gently bemoaning the unequal partition of 
charm, and the dispensation by which the romantic impulse 
must be stifled through the accident of the unromantic 
presence. I suppose that this discontent with established 
custom ; this reluctance to settle down into that acceptance 



FOREWORD xxiii 

which is the most notable characteristic of the old age for 
which we are so rapidly heading, has always been the index 
and the sigil of youth. But never, surely, was it so important 
a factor of the youthful spirit as it is to-day. 

And what should that signify ? That in the elements of 
this questioning discontent repose the seeds of a new and 
better order of living ? The seeds, yes : but it would be a 
bolder man than I who might dare affirm that those seeds 
will ever germinate, sown as they are in the arid soil of 
resignation and watered by no gentle dew of hope. Let 
this volume, then, remain as the testament of what we 
thought of a world after a thousand gods and a score of 
saviours and, of wise men, the number of the sands upon 
the seashore : after all these had done their wordy damned- 
est, and we have risen on stepping-stones of their dead 
selves to higher things. Do we find it good ? Curiously 
enough, yes, The world, that is to say. But of those 
capricious ordinances which spring from the prejudices 
or venalities of kings and prime ministers, or from the 
migraines of livery judges, we remain distressingly 
contemptuous. 

Ungrateful little things ! For where should we be : 
where indeed ? if there were no one to look after us ; to 
regulate every hour of our waking (and much of our 
sleeping) hours. Where indeed ! 



No, for all that we indulge a respectful envy for those 
talents by which a man can abandon some trivial, unre- 
munerative occupation (a small provincial solicitor's 
practice, say, or the secretaryship of some second-rate trade 
union) and, taking on the care of the public weal at a salary 
which every newspaper reader knows to be grossly inade- 
quate, can yet contrive to achieve an easy competence (to 
say nothing of the earldom) so that, in the fullness of time, 
some of us can write his memoirs for him at a guinea a 
thousand pale Ghosts, more wan and spectral than those 
who chased Odysseus from the gates of Hell ! for these 
talents we have envy enough. But would we change ; 



xxiv FOREWORD 

and has that respectful envy reconciled us to our bondage ? 
Ah-ha. . ! 



So perhaps, after all, it is not surprising that a curious 
egotism seems manifest in our young men : the sort of 
egotism that consists rather in looking to oneself for assist- 
ance than in believing oneself to be wiser or better or more 
deserving than one's neighbour. Of this latter (and odious) 
sort our young men are happily free. They are not self- 
centred so much as self-contained, and their interest in the 
world around them is both lively and continuous, nor are 
their compassions shy of stirring. But arid this is where 
their generation differs fundamentally from every preceding 
generation they have lost faith in everything but them- 
selves, nor does this turning to themselves for the only help 
they may command spring from a certitude of their own 
ability, but rather from the certitude that the old guides 
and the old prophets guided only themselves ; prophesied 
only with the windy inanities of Delphi. For and we are 
the first to regret it we have rumbled the old men, and 
through them and because of them, we have learnt to mistrust 
the old standard. Those garrulous old men, who have told 
us that little boys should be seen and not heard ! We 
might have respected the injunction had they perserved an 
equal reticence. But what did they do ? Did then" cynic- 
ism go as far as to permit them to think that we should 
miss the implications of their self-justificatory memoirs ; 
their ' explanations ' ; their countless ' true versions ' of 
this disaster and that betrayal ; screaming their several 
protests against misunderstanding, the while their dirty 
linen and how dirty it is only a reader of a politician's 
memoirs can know pollutes the air. The War. . . . Who 
started that ? Please, Teacher, it wasn't me ! I think it 
must have been him . . . ! But as we both got the same 
reward, hero and discredited failure, what the hell, children, 
what the sweet hell ! 

The Marne, Kut, Jutland, Passchendaele, Versailles. . . . 
Do you want to know about them, and who was to blame 



FOREWORD xxv 

for what went wrong ? Well, a thousand innocent victims 
of misrepresentation will tell you, at half a guinea to eighteen 
bob the volume. 

No, we shall stick to our writing, hoping perhaps that 
through it may come the material and spiritual assistance that 
we require. For no one can help us but ourselves, and the 
cynical plundering of our natural birthright has made us 
understandably, do you think ? not inclined to patch-up 
the crumbling fabric of our ' civilization,' which was never 
our civilization, anyway. And that is what you will find 
in the succeeding pages : that the old magic has gone. 
We don't believe in the old tales, and we cannot accept 
the legend of god-like omniscience in our rulers. For, 
whatever myths you will find in the ancient cosmogonies 
Hebrew, Greek, Hindu, Aztec you will never there find a 
god who apologized for having been led astray. Well, we 
have been told ; and if we ever, in the future, should fall 
into the errors of trusting those to whom trust may never 
be more than the occasion of betrayal, or respect those who 
cannot even respect themselves, then we shall deserve all 
that will most surely come to us. So, to your pen, my 
brave young men ! who have left your coal mines and 
carpenter's benches and church organs and insurance 
offices for the less certain prospects of the pen ; your regular, 
safe jobs, with the Staff Superannuation Fund and the little 
maisonette at Sidcup, for the Barmecide feasts of literary 
cocktail parties and the lairs of the literary agents, strewn 
with the whitened bones of a multitude of ambitions. . . . 

Scribble away, fledgling neophytes of Apollo, and your 
reward may not be the hollow vanity that men would have 
you think it, for all that your names will even in the end be 
plain Mr. Brierley and plain Mr. Halward and plain Mr. 
Hampson, unamplified by titles that ring with the sonorous 
majesty of a Te Deum, nor ever will your chests know the 
bravery of orders that shine with the glory of the sun-in- 
splendour. Though, indeed, there may be one of our 
company smug enough to earn himself a knighthood. . . . 
But I doubt it ; I doubt it. ... 

Shall we be cast down by this insufficiency ? Shall we, 



xxvi FOREWORD 

young men ? Or shall we value more what perhaps may 
with justice be said of us, that was said of another of our 
company : 

r\v yap Trapy (friXavQpwiriri Trapecm xai ^tAorexwV 
(" Where the love of man is, there also is love of the art ") ? 



WALTER ALLEN 



The Geography Master 



I WAS born at Aston, Birmingham, on 23 February 1911, 
and if there were any justice in the world I should now just 
about be retiring from professional football to grow fat in 
my own pub ; because, until I was eleven I went to the locol 
elementary school where, inspired by the Villa, I played 
football in the playground every dinner-hour. I was the 
worst footballer in the school. I won a scholarship to Aston 
Grammar School, where I became the worst rugger player 
in the school. I disliked school, but since I became an adept 
at running with the hare and hunting with the hounds and 
always made my friends among the toughest boys, because 
I was most afraid of these, I did not have too bad a time. 

In 1929 I won an open entrance scholarship at Birming- 
ham University, where I read English. I cut as many 
lectures as I could, filled the University magazine with 
imitations of Joyce, Edgell Rickword, Eliot and Auden, a 
policy which resulted in a new low in sales, and got a better 
degree than I deserved. 

When I went down I started free-lancing. Also I lectured 
for the W.E.A., wrote and read children's stories from 
Midland Regional, and began to write short stories and 
criticism. Then for six months I was a temporary master 
at my old school. I found I disliked being a schoolmaster 
as much as I'd disliked being a schoolboy. 

In 1935 I went to the States to lecture on modern literature 
in the summer session of Iowa University. I was in America 
six months, spent all the money I had made in the Middle 
West in Kansas City, Chicago and New York, and came 
back to England on a cargo boat, a voyage memorable 
because the skipper was sea-sick the whole time. 

For eighteen months I worked as a feature-writer in a 
Birmingham news agency. Then Michael Joseph accepted 
my novel, Innocence Is Drowned, and I came to London. I 



4 UNDER THIRTY 

am now reviewing, reading for films, and working on a new 
novel. 

I feel I have been particularly lucky in the sympathy 
and encouragement I have received from my father and 
from other and older writers, especially from my friends 
John Hampson, Edward J. O'Brien, and H. S. Cater, who 
tried to make a newspaperman out of me but caught me 
too late. 

I have contributed to The Spectator, The Listener, New 
Stories, Night and Day, The Bookman, The Radio Times, The 
New English Weekly, The New Republic, and American Prefaces. 

WALTER ALLEN. 



THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER 

FOR the third morning in succession Dryden stayed in 
the empty form-room at break instead of going into 
the Common Room. On the desk lay his open mark-book 
and beside it the Remove's test papers. They were dis- 
graceful ; and the School Certificate examination was only 
three months away. Not one of them would pass in 
Geography. Dryden felt very sorry for himself : the blame 
would fall on him. I am a failure, he muttered miserably 
to himself. He had always been terrified of failure, and he 
was sure that they discussed him already in the Common 
Room. " Ah, Dryden ! Nice fellow and a scholar, but a 
failure as a schoolmaster. Can't keep discipline. Pity ! " 

A failure. The word bit into his brain as though written 
in acid. He saw himself : a rock half-buried in sea- 
sand ; gaily the advancing waves pranced at the rock's 
black base, impertinently flicked spray over the glistening 
sable escarpment. One day they would submerge it. 

He turned back the pages of the mark-book until he 
came to those devoted to his own form, 3a. He knew the 
names by heart : Adderley, Anderson, Andrews, Belpar, 
the thirty of them down to the little Jewboy Zukovsky. 
The desks in front of him were filled with their shades 
spread out fanwise before him, their hub and focal point. 
They were his boys, each one of them known and noted, 
their futures stamped on them already, the happy-go-lucky, 
the close business man, the secret drinker, the shyster, the 
wheedler, the square peg in the round hole, the successful 
whose strength was in the exploitation of his weakness. 
In the middle of them was young Fearon ; and then the 
shadows assumed solidity, the room was alive again. 
Dryden bent over his papers. There was silence in the 



6 UNDER THIRTY 

room. Then a desk-lid clattered down and Dryden started 
suddenly, jerking his head sideways like a shying horse. 

" Who banged that desk-lid ? " 

Angrily his eyes swept over the thirty upturned faces, 
faces like flowers ranged in a formal garden, innocent, 
decorous, bright ; faces on which lurked scarcely suppressed 
grins. There was silence. 

" Fearon. Was it you ? " Feeling himself flushed, his 
hands trembling. 

Fearon shot up from his seat. A grotesque harelip 
seared his mouth like a purple weal ; so the face was gnome- 
like and malicious in expression. He grinned twistedly, 
happily, gripping the ledge of the desk and looking first 
at his feet and then at the master ; writhing. The class 
leaned forward, expectant and happy. 

" Well ? " snapped Dryden. 

" Meesir ? Nosir ! " The words slobbered from the mouth 
that was as misshapen as the painted grin on a clown's face. 
He gazed at Dryden with big brown lustrous eyes, beautiful 
eyes above the tortured lips. They were eyes soft with 
innocence. 

" All right. Sit down." 

Dryden spoke wearily. It was hopeless. But he knew 
it had been Fearon. Then the bell rang and there was a 
banging of desks and a scurry of feet towards the door. 
" Quietly ! " he protested against the din. But no one heard 
him ; he was submerged. Then there was silence ; he was 
left suddenly high and dry above the spate. 

Fearon. Fearon. The boy obsessed him. He had ruined 
the discipline of the from. He exploited his defect, revelled 
in his slobbering speech like a cretin's and used it as a 
device for comedy. Now Dryden hated to have the boy 
approach him ; he smelled with the sickeningly sweet 
stench of the children of the very poor ; miasma of under- 
clothes too rarely washed and changed. But he was a happy 
little boy, and he had turned the class against Dryden. 
When he turned to write upon the blackboard Dryden 
was conscious of thirty pairs of eyes ironically scrutinizing 
him. At night he dreamed of those eyes boring into him, 



THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER 7 

and in the centre of them were Fearon's eyes, big, brown, 
beautiful, shining softly and maliciously. The face loomed 
through his dreams like the face of the Cheshire Gat. Then 
the whole class was upon him, laughing at his threats. 
" Quietly ! Quietly ! " His lips framed the words, but 
no sounds came. The din was too great, and no one 
heard him. 

He was a failure. He hated himself for the humiliation 
he had brought upon himself. He saw himself in thirty 
years' time : a second * Stinker,' as the German master at 
his old school had been called, shuffling along the corridors 
like a broken horse on its way to the knackers, head on one 
side, muttering to himself, ignorant of the sheet of paper, 
' Stinker,' pinned to the back of his tattered gown ; and 
then squinting about him with suspicious eyes and suddenly 
letting fly at a passing boy's head with a chubby paw : 
" Gerrout of my way, you young lout / " A comic figure, 
enemy of boys and butt for boys. Grimly riding a push- 
bike through Bavaria in the summer holidays, exploring 
the beauties of church architecture and muttering to 
himself. 

He was twenty-three ; and he wondered whether there 
was still time to enter another profession. But what ? His 
degree was not good enough for him to get a position in a 
university ; and he believed that teaching was a mission 
and that in the understanding of the principles of Geography 
lay the key to the problems of the modern world. If it 
were only Dartington Hall ! But it was Marl Hill Secondary 
School, and his job was to help the sons of honest artisans 
to rise above their fathers by qualifying for posts as clerks. 

A bell rang, and the noise in the playground outside 
flared up. There was a clattering in corridors. Dryden 
pulled himself up, feeling his face strained and severe. He 
waited for Remove. Their work was disgraceful, their 
knowledge of the geography of the United States appalling ; 
and the School Certificate exam, was only three months 
ahead. 

One by one the boys sauntered into the room. They 
were at that age when boys are boys no longer and yet are 



8 UNDER THIRTY 

still remote from manhood. Their faces were pimply ; 
incipient hair smeared their upper lips. In his few months 
of teaching Dryden had watched their progress from 
knickers and tousled hair to trousers and hair stiff and shiny 
and malodorous with cheap brilliantine. Watching, Dryden 
pitied them. Skulking behind their atlases they drew pictures 
of motor bikes and designed wireless sets ; in Divinity they 
giggled over Deuteronomy. But Dryden's job was to teach 
them the geography of the United States so that they might 
qualify for posts as municipal clerks and wear plus-fours 
on Sundays. 

He got up from his desk and drew a sketch-map of the 
Great Lakes on the blackboard. Behind him, voices were 
loudly insolent. He felt himself flush. But he would wait. 
Slowly the boys sat down and, turning, Dryden was just 
in time to see a desk carefully upset by a cunning foot. The 
lid opened and half a dozen books fell on to the floor. 

" Who did that ? " asked Dryden, pointing to the desk. 
His voice was level, but he felt himself shaking. There was 
a confused chorus : " Pleasesir, Thompson. Nosir, Phillips. 
That's a lie, sir, it was Smith, sir. . . . Nosir, Bargee, I 
mean Bartholomew, sir. . . ." 

" All right, all right. I'll find out later." The din was 
unendurable. " You, Smith, put the desk in its proper 
position. Help him, Ricketts ! " Three other boys also 
darted forward, and the desk was hauled into its place by 
over-zealous hands. Dryden watched ; the hubbub flowed 
over him in waves ; he was passive. He saw how one of 
them in hauling up the desk was careful to flick the ink- 
well out of its socket with his little finger ; the ink lay in a 
gleaming pool upon the floor. But he said nothing ; he 
was content to be a spectator. He saw how self-consciously 
they behaved, glancing first at him and then at their fellows, 
posing continually for one another's approval. They 
swaggered back to their seats, talking casually to the boys 
they passed. Seated, they hitched up their trousers at the 
knee, crossed their legs or shot them out under the desk, 
yawned elaborately, leaned back. Parodies of men. 

Dryden waited. 



THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER 9 

At last there was something like silence. Dryden held 
up the test papers. There were cries of: " Ooh, our 
tests ! . . . How many have I got, sir ? ... You got a 
duck, I bet ! . . ." He waited again ; now he was getting 
impatient. Why bother to turn them into municipal 
clerks ? Why intervene at all ? Why not let them be 
butcher-boys and labourers, with the dole waiting for them 
when they were twenty-one and expecting men's wages ? 

" I may as well tell you straight away," he said, " that 
these papers are disgraceful. Without exception. You'll 
all do them again, for to-morrow morning. There'll be 
detention for anyone who fails to bring his work to me at 
nine o'clock." 

Murmurs of resentment. " Shut up ! " he shouted. He 
saw through narrowed eyes the comic fear they displayed 
at his threat. He was angry. The young fools ! But he 
controlled himself. " That's enough," he said. " And in 
case you are under a misunderstanding and think you've 
done well, let me tell you the maximum mark was a hundred 
and not fifty ! " He stopped for a moment. " Now you 
know what work you have to do. Get on with it." 

He walked along the rows, returning papers, pointing 
out errors, answering questions. The boys settled down to 
their work, and Dryden leaned for a few moments against 
his desk watching them. They were pitiably awkward ; 
everything had to be explained to them a dozen times. But 
for once they weren't working at all badly. He turned 
away to the blackboard and began a sketch-map of the 
Appalachian system. This period was going better than he 
had expected ; but for all that he decided he would get 
out of teaching. He was still young enough to sit for the 
Civil Service. Perhaps the Colonial Office. . . . 

" Please, sir." 

He wheeled round, chalk held poised in his hand, his 
fair hair sweeping over his forehead. It was Bartholomew, 
' Bargee,' a hulking youth too big for his age, sullen and 
uncivil, with a heavy jowl and heavy fists that dangled 
down at his sides as he walked. Now, the jowl was yet 
heavier. He proffered Dryden his test paper. 



io UNDER THIRTY 

" Well, Bartholomew ? " 

The boy growled surlily. " Please, sir, my marks are 
wrong ! " 

" Well ? " 

" I should have twenty- two and you've only given me 
eighteen." 

The boy's tone annoyed Dryden. He spoke contemptu- 
ously : " Since the maximum was a hundred, three more or 
less won't make much difference on jour paper. Sit down 
and get on with your work." 

The boy stared at him with puzzled eyes. Marks were 
sacrosanct. " Aren't you going to alter them ? " he asked. 

Sudden anger flared up in Dryden : the boy was being 
insolent ! He struggled to control himself, leaned forward 
on his hands pressed downward on the desk. 

" Did you hear what I said ? " His voice rose in a sudden 
yell. " Sit down ! " The loudness of his voice startled 
him, and he gripped the desk to check the trembling of 
his body. Muttering, the boy shambled away. Dryden 
watched him ; all his hatred was now fused in the ungainly 
lumbering boy. 

As he sat down Bartholomew glared at him and mumbled 
something to his neighbour. 

Dryden leaped down from the platform. Rage shook 
him ; the room was suddenly misty, like a blurred photo- 
graph. " What did you say ? What did you say ? " he 
shouted. Eyes were turned curiously upon him, eyes 
flowering out of the mist. 

" I said it wasn't fair," the boy muttered. 

Dryden stared at him uncertainly. The room was over- 
poweringly hot ; his skull was clamped between constricting 
bands. As though buffeted in a high wind his body shook. 
Suddenly he snorted, and his head ducked. He took a 
step forward and found himself towering above the boy. 
" You said what ? " he yelled ; and as his voice soared in 
passion he rained blow after blow at the boy's head, his 
arms like flails. Power flowed in him, delicious and intoxi- 
cating. He would kill the boy. Bartholomew lifted up his 
hands to protect himself, the knuckles red and bony. The 



THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER n 

gesture was pathetic. Dryden grabbed the boy by the collar 
and dragged him out of the desk. " Get outside, get 
outside ! " he shouted, and beating the boy's head with 
his fists, he drove him to the door. Bartholomew clutched 
at the handle and turned for a second to stare at the master 
with a look of pure astonishment : his face was white. 

" Get outside," Dryden bawled frenziedly. And as the 
boy edged through the door he lunged his shoe forward 
and heard the click of its impact with the base of the boy's 
spine. 

He slammed the door and leaned heavily against it, like 
a wilted plant. He was shuddering as though in fever ; the 
faces of the boys were white horrified ovals. So he stood ; 
until passion ebbed, and then his whole body was deliciously 
weak, as after an orgasm. One by one the boys dropped 
their eyes from him and were bowed over their work in 
silence. There was no sound in the room. He walked to 
his desk and sat down trembling. His forehead was wet 
with sweat. 

" Open the window," he said. He wondered what it 
was that he had done. 



FRANK BAKER 
* 

The Cat comes Home 



\ 



BORN in London in 1908. A chorister at Winchester 
Cathedral from 1919 to 1924. From 1924 to 1929 an 
insurance clerk in the City of London. During this period 
I wrote several plays under the influence of Ibsen, Tchekov, 
Wilde, and Shaw. These have now gone the way of 
adolescent works. 

Was organist successively at two London churches ; 
intended to work for a music degree, but had little time for 
study. In 1929 resigned my job in the City in order to take 
secretarial work at an ecclesiastical music school where I 
hoped to make a career of music. Lived for a time in a 
collegiate atmosphere where young men learnt all about 
Fayrfax and plain chant subtleties. Was also organist at 
a third City church. 

Neither I nor the academic mind could thrive harmoni- 
ously together. I abandoned musical studies and went to 
St. Just on the west coast of Cornwall, where I became 
organist of the village church, lived alone in a stone cottage, 
and suddenly discovered that I knew the name of hardly a 
single wild or cultivated flower, and that birds and trees 
had always simply been birds and trees. I grew up dis- 
covering a life my forefathers had known. 

Wrote first novel (drearily autobiographical) which natur- 
ally nobody would publish. The acceptance of some 
musical articles by the Radio Times ; the good advice of 
George Manning-Sanders, Bernard Walke (who was then 
Vicar of St. Hilary Church) and Edward Garnett, encour- 
aged me to believe I was a writer, not a musician. In spite 
of this I was constantly side-tracked by music and wrote 
many songs which pleased musician friends but not pub- 
lishers. Achieved little success in literature, except for the 
publication of a few tales and musical articles, until in June 
1935 Peter Davies published my second novel, The Twisted 
Tree. This had previously been rejected by nine publishers 

15 



i6 UNDER THIRTY 

and one famous literary agent who asked me to send a 
shilling for its return. It was well received by reviewers, 
though most agreed it was over- written. 

From 1930 onwards lived in St. Just ; Bramshaw, New 
Forest ; St. Hilary, Cornwall (where I became organist of 
the church) and Hedsor, Bucks. I increasingly dislike 
playing or listening to organs but cannot avoid it. 

Third novel was written in New Forest, but has not been 
published. Fourth novel, The Birds, written at St. Hilary 
and published by Davies. It was a failure. 

Works, published or unpublished, include about forty- 
five short stories (turned down by all editors, lowbrow or 
highbrow) ; five novels ; seven plays ; various articles in 
musical criticism, and about a hundred poems. 

Financially unsuccessful. But I still enjoy it. 

FRANK BAKER. 



THE CAT COMES HOME 

soft autumn sunlight fell slowly along the dairy 
J_ door and slanted across layers of butter on stone slabs. 
A great pan of cream, thick and unbroken, was caught in 
its light ; the pallid curves of eggs in a basket, enriched by 
its touch. Nothing else moved in the long silence of after- 
noon. The sun, serene in its journey, fell as the season 
fell ; towards evening, towards winter. 

Outside in the yard a withered old tabby-cat paused 
warily on the rim of a dustbin. She saw a tawny cattle- 
dog slink and shake himself by the side of a sunny wall 
where pennywort spired in mossy crevices. She had no 
fear of him, but she paused in her scavenging because he 
had lit the fires of her memory. She saw dahlias, russet 
and sulphur, dark-rose and saffron-coloured, and the colours 
formulated to a pattern in her mind, until they fell to the 
design of a rich rug she had habitually slept on, earlier in 
her days. There had been a fire a fire in the slab beyond 
the rug. She remembered how she had loved fire ; how, 
as a kitten, she had often tried to attack the ribbons of flame 
that flared from beneath a half-consumed log. Like strands 
of silk from her old mistress's work-basket, she had thought 
that fire also could be captured and teased to destruction. 
One day she had found her mistake, for a flame licked the 
tip of her nose and made her jump away, trembling with 
fear and anger. So began the long series of disillusionments 
that changed her from a kitten into a cat, and made her a 
creature dependent upon no human person for companion- 
ship living a subtle life wherein fish and milk varied the 
sweet monotony of sleep. There had been a sheep-dog 
also in the house. She had watched him with disdain as 
he fawned on his mistress. That dog, she reflected, would 

17 



1 8 UNDER THIRTY 

pine and fall ill if the woman were to leave him. But she, 
alone in her secret life, would never need anyone to look 
after her. 

So she had thought in those easy days before the fire, 
when nothing had happened to check the placid flow of 
her days except the birth and nourishment of kittens. At 
first she resented this momentous distribution of her own 
identity, but later she learnt to accept her fate ; as years 
went on, resigned herself patiently to the advent of each 
litter, and did not even greatly care when all, except one, 
were dipped and drowned in a pail. Why should they leave 
that one, she had even sometimes asked herself? She 
thought that the whole business was a waste of time, and 
realizing that these periods of fruitfulness were due to the 
attentions of a certain tom-cat, she decided that the ecstasy 
of love was little compensation for the discomfort of bearing 
young. She kept away from the torn, receded more and 
more into the vast world of her soul, and regarded life with 
a wise and enigmatic eye. She knew what to avoid and 
when to be avoided ; where to find a dish of milk and 
when to expect fish for her dinner. There was no calendar 
to her life, no seasons. She did not tear off month after 
month and say to herself : " Oh, how I wish summer would 
come ! " For it was all much the same. Sometimes there 
were bright flowers against the house wall ; sometimes a 
wedge of thin snow. But the changeless order of the placid 
household suffered no reform. The fire in the kitchen was 
always alight ; her friend, now that she understood it. And 
the rug, though worn to a discoloured patch where she had 
so often slept, was warm with the warmth she daily gave and 
borrowed from it. 

She did not know she had grown old until one day, up- 
stairs in the wistaria-scented room where the old woman 
slept, a doctor and a nurse crept on careful feet. The 
laws of the house were altered. Strange people came. At 
evening time the hearth was littered with grey sucked stubs 
of paper ; the room full of coiling blue smoke, sour and 
stinging. It was winter and wild weather. Nobody 
regarded the old cat except to kick her away from the rug. 



THE CAT COMES HOME 19 

For eleven years she had suffered no such outrage. At first 
she rebelled against this invasion and humped her back 
sullenly upon the intruders. The sheep-dog with his 
despicable skill had found favour in the hearts of the 
strangers ; but the cat had no tricks to amuse them. 

One day her saucer of milk was not in its proper place. 
Again, when she expected fish for dinner, she was given 
watery milk with sopped crusts of tasteless bread. She came 
slowly to accept this violation of her laws ; she even found 
in her new manner of life a certain quality of adventure 
which she had not known for years. 

In this spirit, she went out one day, her body tingling 
with life, a strange impatience in her loins. She saw her 
reflection in a pail of water and looked at it equivocally. 
A massive tom-cat stole up, looked at her, then walked 
casually away. She followed him. But he turned suddenly, 
snarled at her with bared teeth, and ran away. 

It was then that she realized that something decadent 
had invaded her ; something to which she could give no 
name ; something that changed the comfort of her home 
and made the sun's descent seem shallow and tepid. Anxi- 
ously, now, the old cat began to hope for a day when the 
strangers should be gone, her dish of milk in its proper 
place, her life easy as it had been before. A day when her 
mistress would walk down the stairs and wind the clock in 
the hall, so that the pendulum should sway and time be 
even again. 

But that day never came. Instead, a terrible thing 
happened. A great glass carriage drew up before the door 
of the house and, creaking in the snow, sad men carried 
away a heavy wooden box covered with chrysanthemums. 
So they drove away with many people following after. 
When they had gone, the cat ran upstairs. She was alone 
in the house ; even the sheep-dog had gone with the 
strangers behind the carriage. 

In the familiar room all was still and tidy. The bed was 
covered as though nobody would ever sleep in it again. 
Her mistress was not there. 

She shivered and ran downstairs. A mouse squeaked in 



20 UNDER THIRTY 

the wall ; she did not hear it. In the kitchen the fire had 
died and the afternoon died with it. Night mounted the 
walls, sombre and gradual. The shadows faded and the 
eyes of a dark day closed, one by one. It grew very cold. 

The strangers came back, and still she was disregarded. 
They talked till very late and seemed to have many jokes 
to tell one another. A man came one day, with a bundle 
of papers, and while they all sat at a table, he read to them. 
He wore little spectacles, and his voice was clipped short 
like his hair. There were spats on his feet and his shoes 
were so bright that the cat could see her paws in them. The 
strangers quarrelled and shouted at one another. 

Soon, they left, and the house was inhabited only by a 
long, sour man and his daughter. A van, larger than the 
carriage, came to the door and three clumsy men with heavy 
feet clumped into the house. Methodically and swiftly 
they began to carry out chairs, tables, beds, and china. 
Very soon all those comfortable corners which had varied 
the old cat's sleep were cold and empty. The rug was 
whisked from the floor and all that was left of it was an out- 
line of hairy dust. The rooms were no longer gracious with 
curves but stark with angles where thin winds crept. 

The old cat went outside and sat on a water butt, an 
expression of dignified disinterest on her face. There was 
yet, she thought, something that could change all this. 
The house still stood there ; was it possible they could take 
that away as well ? Hungry and tired for there had been 
no food and no place to rest all day she sat on the water 
butt and turned her back on the house. 

Presently, she went inside. The men had gone away 
and the rooms were quite empty. The man stood by the 
door with his daughter, and bags all around them. 

" Father," she said, " what about this old cat ? " " Oh, 
she's too old to take away. Besides, cats like places more 
than people. She'll be all right." 

They went away with their baggage, the sheep-dog 
following them, carrying a parcel in his teeth. As he 
passed the cat she arched her back in sudden anger. He 
ran on with his tail between his legs and did not look back. 



THE CAT COMES HOME 21 

Left alone, the cat now made no attempt to hide her 
anxiety. The doors of the house were locked and the 
windows barred. Even if she could have got in, what 
waited for her inside ? She sat down on the path and 
cleaned herself, so as to be able to think more clearly. 
In the bewildered twilight of her old brain, one thing stood 
out, clear and insistent. She must eat and she must 
drink. 

Slowly she went over to a neighbouring farm and watched 
a woman throwing bread to some fowls. As though they 
had been clockwork figures, they ran about and pecked at 
the food. When the woman had gone in, the cat cautiously 
came into the yard, seized a crust and made for an old 
barn. Here, amongst oil cans, washing tubs, old pots and 
pails, she caught savagely at the bread with no relish for its 
savourlessness : for the first time in her life, eating only 
that her belly might be lined. 

Sleep came. Shivering and weary, her eyes closed and 
her mind went back to the kitchen fire. 

So began weeks and months of wandering. Still strong, 
for she had eaten well for many years, she went from place 
to place. Hated by the lean farm cats, who lived a wilder 
life than she had ever known, she could find no home. She 
went across some moors to a neighbouring village. Here, 
unknown, and tormented by school children, she passed 
her days near dustbins and backyards, or wherever a crust 
or a scrap of meat could be found. Sleep in the daytime 
became a forgotten luxury ; sleep at night only a necessity. 
There was little pleasure left in either. 

Summer came, and for the first time she was fully aware 
of it. The sun scorched her drooping back and drove a 
sharp pain into her pitted haunches. Yet, at times, she 
would lie in some shade, and the old peace would enfold 
her. She was quite alone ; as alone as any living creature 
could be. She would sit in those summer days, watching 
butterflies pursue one another in their hilarious flights ; 
watching cows fondle one another ; hearing the tethered 
donkeys calling from hill-side to hill-side. She would see 
the swallows swoop and breast the hedges, and watch them 



22 UNDER THIRTY 

as evening came and they returned to their nests. She 
would see farm labourers at their work, and watch them at 
evening time as they walked slowly back to their homes and 
their food. 

In August the sun rose softer and the first stale hint of 
autumn tinged the trees. The brown limbs of the boys ran 
to the sea and the village was silent under the spell of 
indolence. The cat was happy now in some static way. 
A calm mood of resignation held her. Every morning when 
she awoke with the sun, her first thought would be of food ; 
but since she had hardened herself to living on any old 
scrap or morsel she could find, her life was not so difficult 
as it had been at first. Having found enough to stay her 
hunger, she would venture forth and seek out some hidden 
place of comfort. In an old cart or stretched out on a 
lichenous stone, she would lie with her thoughts. 

In autumn she found a hayrick where she could rest 
undisturbed. From its warm bosom she could hear the 
voices of the men in the fields, listen to the patient sound 
of the threshing machine and, at night, move her shadow 
in the light of a red moon. The nights grew colder, the days 
shorter. The sun seemed bigger yet more distant ; faintly 
she was aware of the passing of a season. 

One day she could not find any food, and desperately 
moaned her way along a rough and dusty lane. A man 
passed and called to her. She paused with surprise ; then, 
shooting up her tail, ran to him with a cry of delight. But 
the sound of her own harsh voice frightened both her and 
the man. He passed on quickly. She never cried again. 
She forgot the cracked tones of her voice as she had by now 
forgotten the meagre shape of her body. 

October drew on and the sun grew less and less clear, 
the days more misty and the ground damp. And on an 
afternoon of strange quietness she wandered wearily into 
the yard of a house and made for a dustbin. 

There she saw the cattle-dog and stopped, overcome with 
memory. The wine-dark dahlias in the garden, the hellen- 
iums and geraniums these were old colours of a past life. 
Hardly daring to trust her memory she peered cautiously 



THE GAT COMES HOME 23 

round the dairy door. Inside, the sun sent his slanting arm 
over cream, butter, and eggs. 

It was the same house. Everything but the shell had 
changed, but it was the same house. The wistaria still 
clung above her mistress's window. 

Very weakly and yet eagerly, she went into the dairy, 
and listened with head on one side for the sound of foot- 
steps. She heard nothing. But she saw a sight so lovely 
that she could barely move for pure joy. A pan of unbroken 
cream, gold and rich and still in the falling sun. With a 
great effort she clambered up to the slate slab on which it 
rested and for a moment stood with her chin above the pan. 

The sun caught her. Cream and old cat together were 
held in the autumn sun. And no sound at all in the long 
afternoon. 

For a moment only she paused, then suddenly lowered 
her head and fell upon the wrinkled surface. She rested 
her paws upon the pan in an effort to drink deeper. Her 
whole face was inside it. In her soul ran a sweet stream 
of joy ; her body thrilled and arched with pleasure. Down 
deep and deeper still she drank, until drowsiness overcame 
her and she fell heavily to the ground. 

Unsteadily she went into the kitchen and knew vaguely 
that it was the room which she had loved so much. The 
furniture was unfamiliar but the fire still slumbered in the 
slab as though it had never gone out. She fell down before 
it, stretched her limbs, and weakly licked her chops. The 
sun lay upon a patch of the wall ; this and the firelight 
charged the room with copper light. Half awake, the cat 
watched the shadows change and heard the clock strike. 
Her mind went back to the past. Evening would come 
and the lamp be lit. Soon her mistress would call : " Jinny ! 
Jinny ! Time for you to go to bed, dear." 

The fire crackled and the flames spluttered lower. The 
old cat lay quite still in a firmament of cream and firelight 
and autumn sun. . . . 

.... when it was dark, the door opened and a young 
woman came in. Lighting the lamp she saw the cat and 
called to her husband. 



24 UNDER THIRTY 

" I say, you here's a darned old cat asleep." 

" Drive 'e out. Us don't want stray cats." 

She touched Jinny with her foot, then bent down to look 

at her more closely. 

" It don't move at all," she said. " Reckon she's sick." 

Her husband came in. " I'll move 'e," he said, and kicked 

her roughly. 

The woman was in the dairy. 
" By gosh ! " she called. " She's stuffed herself that full 

of cream I d'thenk she'll never move no more at all." 



H. E. BATES 
* 

The Machine 



BORN in 1905, on the borders of Northamptonshire and 
Bedfordshire, the country that is now the scene of much of 
his work ; worked without any distinction at all as a junior 
reporter on a Northampton newspaper at the age of seven- 
teen ; left the newspaper graduated to a warehouse dealing 
in nails, linen-thread, eyelets, stiffeners, calico-linings, 
leather, hessian, buckram, rivets, sprigs, heels, tapes, 
besides Heaven knows how many other things that are used 
in the making of a boot. Managed to find time to write 
(in the warehouse's time, not his own) scores of stories, 
poems, some one-act plays, and two novels. Rewrote one 
of these novels : The Two Sisters ; submitted it without 
success to nine publishers, and saw it accepted by the tenth 
and subsequent publisher, with a preface by Edward 
Garnett. He (i.e. the author) was then twenty. Under 
Garnett's influence, turned his attention to the short story, 
and wrote prolifically, destroying nightly fifty per cent of 
all he wrote. Owed everything to Garnett, who read, 
criticized, praised, damned, and advised on all he wrote 
at that time. Married in 1931 ; went to live in Kent, and 
proceeded to assist maternity in the creation of two daughters 
and a son. In the country, became more interested in the 
country he had left, and began to write books about the 
country. In these books, delivered attacks on the current 
fashion of sentimentalizing the country, on gamekeepers, 
blood-sports, and local squirearchies, all of which did not 
prevent his becoming, in 1937, chairman of the parish 
council. This fact, in turn, did not prevent his being captain 
of the local football team, a member of the local cricket team, 
or hundred yards champion, in his socks, of the local sports. 
Would almost rather, in fact, have been an athlete than a 
writer. Has now written, besides novels, something like a 
hundred and fifty short stories, which are collected mainly 

27 



28 UNDER THIRTY 

in seven volumes : Day's End, Seven Tales and Alexander, 
The Black Boxer, The Woman who had Imagination, Thirty 
Tales, Cut and Come Again, and Something Short and Sweet. 
Has been anthologized in something like fifty English and 
American anthologies, and holds the record for appearances 
in The Best Short Stones with ten stories, technically eleven, 
since he is apparently the only writer to have two stories 
chosen, by a mistake, in one year. Has nearly finished a 
play, Carrie and Cleopatra, in four acts, and is now at work 
on a novel. Writes generally very quickly, and out of doors 
(all the year round). 

H. E. BATES. 



THE MACHINE 

VERY evening, up at the farm, we saw the same men 
go past, out towards the villages, at the same time. 
They were coming home from the factories down in the 
valley ; men escaping from the machine. 

And though we got to know them well by sight, first the 
young chaps, racing hard, with flying mufflers, then the 
old stagers, the old tough shoe-finishers still wearing polish 
blackened aprons, then the man with the black cork-leg 
and only one pedal to his bicycle, there was one we knew 
really well. His name was Simmons. We called him 
Waddo. 

When Waddo went past we lifted hands from hoes or 
rakes, or even waved a cabbage that we might be cutting, 
and hailed him. " Way up ! " we called. 

" Waddo ! " he shouted, and sailed on. 

But three times a year, at hay-time, harvest, and thresh- 
ing, when we needed extra hands, he stopped to help us. 
He rode his pink-tyred semi-racing bike into the stack 
yard, unstrapped his dinner-basket, rolled up his sleeves, 
and looked round at us, as we stood stacking corn or un- 
loading hay, with a look of tolerant contempt. As though 
to say : " You poor miserable devils. Bin here since morning 
and all you done is stack up three ha'porth o' hay. Well, 
spit on me big toe, spit on it. If you ain't a bleedin' limit." 
It was the look of a giant for a degenerate collection of 
pitch-fork pigmies. Waddo himself stood five feet three. 

But when he came into that yard we were transformed. 
He flung himself to work with an almost daemonic fury of 
strength. The muscles of his small arms were tight as clock- 
work springs under the white factory-blanched flesh. His 
little head, with thin wire-brush hair worn bald at the 

29 



30 UNDER THIRTY 

temples, was like a bullet that might have gone off at any 
moment with an explosive bang of enthusiasm or disgust. 
He worked swiftly, with the slight puffed swagger of a man 
of mountainous physique, incessantly talking, always comic, 
spitting mouthfuls of patient disgust for us who worked so 
hard all day and did nothing. There was some extra 
volcanic force in Waddo, who never tired, never gave up, 
and was never beaten. Coming from the machines, he was 
like a machine himself. " Waddo," we'd say to him, 
" blowed if you don't go on wheels." 

" I bleedin' well have to," he'd say. " Don't I ? " And 
we knew, with his five-mile ride to work and his five miles 
back, his eight-hour day holding boots to the jaws of a 
stitcher in the factory, his seven children, his readiness to 
mow with his own hands, in his spare time, every blade of 
grass and every standing acre of corn in the parish, how 
true it was. " I got a day's work to git through in half," 
he'd say. " Not like some folks." 

" What you need on this place," he'd say at last, " is 
machinery." 

In any discussion of the machines Waddo held us as it 
were at arm's length, in contempt. " Call yourself bleedin' 
farmers, and ain't got a machine in the place. No binder, 
no hay-turner, no root-cutter. No tater-riddle, no nothing. 
Blimey, spit on me big toe, spit on it. Ain't you up-to- 
date ? Here you are scrattin' about like old hens scrattin' 
for daylight, when a couple o' machines'd bring you right 
bang-slap up with the times. Machines that's what you 
want. Save yourself time and money. See ! They do 
away with the men." 

The machine was his god. It was exemplified in his 
racing bike, in the stitcher which he fed all day with boots, 
like some omnivorous steel brute, at the factory, in the 
threshing-drum we hired once every winter. Working so 
beautifully, swiftly, and naturally with his own hands, he 
exalted the mechanism that could have cut out the element 
of man. It fed his devotion with the same daemonic energy 
as he worked, so that he preached at us with one hand on 
the futility of a machineless world and showed us, with the 



THE MACHINE 31 

other, how incomparable and effective it could be. With 
the machinery of his two hands he swung a scythe with a 
mastery and precise beauty that no machine could ever 
have shown. 

And at heart, I think, he knew it. He mowed very fast, 
as though carelessly, off-hand, apparently indifferent. He 
was often not so tall, by a foot, as the corn he cut. Head 
down, he had a certain air of detached dreaminess, as though 
the whole thing meant nothing to him at all. 

Then, at the end of the swathe, he would turn and look 
back ; and we would see, for a moment, the beauty of the 
work recaptured in his own eye, the small light of pleasure 
glinting out as though a bead of sweat had been caught in 
the pupil. He gazed, as we did, at the level alleys of stubble, 
short and straight as though the corn were sprouting up 
white again, the golden-white corn stalks shining as if sun- 
oiled, the sienna-gold sweep of ears and the straight wall of 
standing corn, and he must have known that he was a master 
hand. 

But always, in time, the obsession of the machine caught 
him up again. " How many acres o' wheat you got here ? 
Ten ? Gonna take us a week to move it. Now with a 
binder " 

We would say something about expense. 

" Expense ! Spit on me big toe. You can't see for 
looking. Expense ! You can save the bleedin' cost of the 
thing in a couple o' years. Save money, save men. Don't 
you see ? " 

And he would work on sometimes into the still August 
moonlight, tireless as a machine himself, mowing, whetting 
the scythe, dropping the scythe to fall flat on some escaping 
leveret, mowing again, still arguing, still abusing us, then 
biking off, at last, across the moon-dewed land with the 
energy of a man just beginning a cycle race. 

" Don't you want a light ? " we'd say to him. 

" Light ? Spit on me big toe, I s'll be home and in bed 
with the missus afore you can strike a match." 

He abused and decried us all through harvest and hay- 
making. At threshing he got his reward. In the engine and 



32 UNDER THIRTY 

drum he saw, at last, a sensible interpretation of life : a 
complicated system of power and steam, a miracle, a single 
unit doing the work of scores of men. " Some sense," he'd 
say, " at last." 

He took a day off from the factory, then, to help us, 
arriving at six in the morning, and we saw then that we 
had never seen him except as a tired man. He skidded 
into the yard at full speed, bounced off his bicycle, seized 
his pitch-fork as though ready to lift a complete corn-stack 
with one finger. He argued vociferously, held us at the 
usual arm's length of contempt, laughed and joked and 
worked as always with the same casual and yet explosive 
and masterly rhythm. Working high up in the drum, on 
the edge of a maelstrom, he bawled down to us below with 
gigantic accents, though nobody could hear, feeding sheaves 
to the drum with the pleasure of a man feeding a favourite 
beast. 

We threshed, one year, in November. The wind came 
down on us from the north-east, with intermittent bites of 
ice-rain, across bare land. The power of the wind roaring 
under the drum spouted up a terrific blast of chaff, all day 
long, that was like hail on the naked eyes. Above, chaff 
and chaff-dust were winnowed from the cracks of the drum 
in fierce little clouds, as though she were spitting ice vapour. 
Higher still, on the roof of the drum, the men caught by 
the full force of the wind and up-blown chaff and wind- 
flashed straw worked all day half-blinded. 

Waddo was on the drum. Exhilarant in that terrific wind, 
he worked as though the wind shot him new energy. He 
bawled down at us with a mouth that, against the roar of 
drum and engine and wind, was quite soundless. But we 
understood, we felt the words in his gestures of contemptuous 
triumph. " See ? Didn't I tell you ? Spit on me toe 
didn't I tell you what a machine could save you ? " 

That day the rats began to run out of the first stack about 
eleven o'clock. We pursued and hemmed and cornered 
them, smashing them to lumps of grey-red jelly in the wind- 
littered straw. From above Waddo looked down on us 
like a director of operations, yelling and waving his fork. 



THE MACHINE 33 

As he stood there, jack-in-the-boxing, gesticulating, 
laughing, a rat leapt out of a sheaf he was lifting. We saw 
his own leap of energetic excitement and knew the words 
he yelled by long habit and the shaping of his lips : 

" Spit on me big toe, spit on it ! Waddo ! Spit on 
me " 

We saw him slip. We knew how the iron-shod boots must 
have slid on the loose kernels of polished grain, on the 
straw-smoothed roof of the drum. He lifted a wild hand. 
We yelled and shouted. The engine-man threw on the 
brakes and we heard the shriek and moan of stopped 
machinery. 

" Waddo ! " we yelled. " Waddo. For Christ's sake ! 
Waddo ! " 

There was no answer ; and in a world that stood still we 
knew that the machine had claimed him. 



W. J. BEAMOND 

* 

History of Oscar 



W. J. BEAMOND is twenty-four. He was born in Cheshire 
and attended council school until eleven, when he gained 
a scholarship to the Wallasey Grammar School. At fourteen 
he was reading Dostoievsky and Strindberg, his mind 
already saturated with Shaw and Wells. He now reads 
Proust and Virginia Woolf and studies Joyce, and spends 
35 per cent of his income on books. He is at present engaged 
in business in Liverpool, but his real interest is, of course, 
in writing. He is addicted to all aspects of literature and 
has done a large amount of private criticism. 

He has been writing since boyhood. The only instruction 
he has received was at eighteen, when he wrote to Bernard 
Shaw, explaining his ideas and asking how to become a 
writer. Shaw advised him to ' write a thousand words a 
day for five years to get executive skill, and then carry out 
your plans. To discuss them beforehand is to invite their 
annexation by some competent executant.' This was quite 
the best advice he could have been given, and he regrets 
only that there have been many days when he was prevented 
from carrying it out to the letter. 

His work appeared first in the Daily Mail and the Daily 
Herald. Later he contributed to New Stones and Lovat 
Dicksorfs Magazine, and to JVo Want of Meat, Sir ! (Grayson 
& Grayson). He was represented in O'Brien's collection 
of The Best Short Stories 0/1934. (Cape) with a story he wrote 
when he was twenty. This was the well-known ' Funeral 
Service Over A Dead Monkey,' which he says ' wrote itself.' 
He is now working upon a novel to be called Women Must 
Weep, and has plans for a dozen more. 

The greatest difficulty he experiences in writing is the 
abundance of ideas that fill his mind. He has, at the 
present time, exactly 147 short-story ideas, each duly 
tabulated and clamouring emulatively for his attention. 

37 



38 UNDER THIRTY 

Normally he writes several stories together as this * uses 
up odd minutes.' He has, however, no original idea about 
the short story because, he says, it can be almost anything. 

His other interests are music, which he feels to be the 
greatest of the arts, painting, which to him means only the 
Impressionists, wood engraving, ballet, and (so his friends 
declare) arguing. 

He considers the three greatest English contemporary 
short stories to be Manhood's ' Lonely Camp,' Lawrence's 
* The Fox,' and Joyce's ' The Dead.' 

He would specially like mentioned here the kindness and 
encouragement he has received in the recent past from 
other writers, notably L. A. Pavey, H. A. Manhood, and 
H. E. Bates. 

W. J. BEAMOND. 



HISTORY OF OSCAR 

' I \HE History of Oscar properly begins with Mr. Marshall, 
X for it was he who first discovered and divined in Oscar 
those qualities and peculiarities which here justify his claim 
to fame. Moreover, one might say that until Mr. Marshall 
met Oscar, Oscar had no history. For the important and 
accessible details of Oscar's life are to be found only in his 
association with the rich old gentleman. His career before 
that time must remain hidden for ever in the darkest waters. 

Mr. Marshall lived in a handsome Georgian house in a 
forgotten square in London one of the few such houses 
that had not been turned into business offices and the tran- 
quillity of the square invaded by trolly-buses and trackless 
trams. It was a large house, encumbered with glass-domed 
clocks, framed lithographs, and cabinets of old silver. 

Many of the rooms were kept closed, because Mrs. Winter- 
thorpe, Mr. Marshall's housekeeper, wished it so. A 
formidable lady in the middle-forties, she looked after Mr. 
Marshall with a fierce regard for his health, digestion, and 
little eccentricities. Alternately she browbeat and mothered 
him, and always had her way ; he really could not do without 
her. 

Though his hair was white and his trim figure slightly 
stooping, Mr. Marshall looked rather less than his seventy- 
two years. His fine high forehead was deeply lined from the 
nervous uplifting of the left eyebrow. His eyes were becom- 
ing pale and less confident ; there was an increasing tinge 
of asperity in his voice, a sharper twinge of pain in his 
sciatica. He reckoned he had another ten years. 

Mr. Marshall made no use at all of his leisure. He was, 
as became his years, of a retiring disposition ; a man of 
settled views, living almost outside life. He habited a 

*- 39 



40 UNDER THIRTY 

warm-smelling, triangular room at the back of the house, 
cluttered up with his books and pictures and music. He was 
a great lover of character and read Thackeray, Dickens, 
Eliot with whole-hearted admiration. 

Occasionally, however, these failed him and life assumed 
the pall of weary waiting, and he yearned to experience the 
disturbing emotions of joy, fear and excitement. 

All of which was perfectly satisfactory in the man to whose 
care Oscar was fated to be entrusted. 

It was his habit to go for a walk every afternoon while 
Mrs. Winterthorpe ' did over.' Then, in the evening, after 
a little music and a glance at some prints, he would settle 
down with a book, a mild whisky and soda, and much 
pondering upon the absorbing mystery of Character. 

The intoxicant was an ingrained habit. The respective 
quantities of whisky and soda never varied, because Mrs. 
Winterthorpe kept the key of the cupboard and knew just 
how much was good for him. No argument, however vital, 
could have been brought to bear against her. 

Mr. Marshall had been on an expedition one day after a 
Currier and Ives he did not possess and was returning home 
past an aquaria dealer's, when he suddenly found his pro- 
gress barred by a plank resting on some trestles. On the 
plank were six bowls of goldfish, and above it a notice : 
' Goldfish 2s. 6d. each.' 

Mr. Marshall skirted the plank, then stopped, intrigued. 
Five of the bowls contained three or four fish each ; the 
sixth contained only one fish. Mr. Marshall frowned 
heavily at the single occupant of the sixth bowl. 

It was Oscar. 

Oscar had already spotted Mr. Marshall. He had spent 
three dull days outside the shop without anyone taking the 
slightest notice of him, and he was ineffably bored. His 
gimlet eyes fastened upon Mr. Marshall's quiet figure and 
the thrill of ecstasy that passed along his spine surprised 
him pleasurably. He turned and swam rapidly round and 
round the confines of his bowl, becoming almost delirious 
with excitement when the amiable old gentleman bent 
down towards him. 



HISTORY OF OSCAR 41 

Mr. Marshall adjusted his spectacles and stared medita- 
tively. Oscar stopped gyrating and stared back, unblinking. 
For a moment nothing happened ; then in their joined gaze 
something passed between them that set Mr. Marshall's 
left eyebrow twitching furiously. 

He bent his head close to the bowl, and Oscar trembled. 
His beautiful body shone, his tail swished slightly, coquet- 
tishly, and he pressed his snout against the glass with an 
eager intensity. There was no mistaking the expression on 
his wise little face. 

Mr. Marshall, in a daze, paid his half-crown. 

Though later he swore that he had at once evinced 
Oscar's varied qualities, it is plain that he did not have an 
inkling of the effect that Oscar's entry was to have on his 
affairs. 

For Oscar quickly made it apparent that he was no 
ordinary goldfish, and therefore no ordinary treatment 
would suffice. Unless he received due attention he became 
very impatient and irritable and took on the expression of 
a neglected old woman. 

True, he belonged to the common golden-red carp 
variety, was less than three inches long, with curious black 
markings on his body ; but there was no mistaking the 
amazing range of moods and unusual sensitiveness he was 
wont to display from time to time. Oscar, Mr. Marshall 
made the momentous discovery, had Character. The old 
gentleman was therefore able to bring a rare understanding 
to the exacting needs of his companion. 

These were far from simple. There was the business of 
feeding. Any preconceived ideas, such as ants' eggs that 
Mr. Marshall had held, had to be radically altered. Oscar 
disdained ants' eggs. In this Mr. Marshall agreed ; it 
would have lowered his prestige to live for a week on a 
penny packet of such puerile food. Mr. Marshall, not 
risking independent experimentation, sought expert advice. 

He exerted himself to the full, interrogating aquaria 
dealers and ransacking libraries until he had gathered quite 
a compendium of information. Mosquito larvae, earth- 
worms, and water-fleas began to find their way into Oscar's 



42 UNDER THIRTY 

bowl, followed by some decorative coarse sand and a few 
choice weeds. 

Oscar, on his stand in a corner of Mr. Marshall's room, 
was grateful for all this, and when Oscar was grateful he 
was wholly charming. He would preen himself under his 
master's admiring glances, then at a nod from Mr. Marshall 
flick his tail and glide beautifully and in his best style. 

The room, the whole house, life itself took on a brighter 
habiliment from his presence. Mr. Marshall could disregard 
Mrs. Winterthorpe's deprecations of * that fish ' in the sleek- 
ness of Oscar's body and lithe movements, and in the thrill 
of some new facet of his variegated character. 

Yet, though treated royally until he became almost barrel- 
shaped, Oscar was at times difficult. Aggressive and ever- 
demanding he might be, and Mr. Marshall could satisfy, 
even encourage him ; but what was he to do when Oscar 
sulked and moped and on his approach retreated crossly 
to the farther side of the bowl ? When he paid no heed 
to the little flatteries and coaxing tones of his anxious 
master, or to the finger poked playfully at the side of the 
bowl ? 

Mr. Marshall made a careful study of the classified 
diseases, exhausted his accumulated knowledge and was at 
his wits' end when it came to him that his pet was fretting. 
Why ? There could be only one reason. 

Oscar was lonely. He was pining for his kind. 

The next day Mr. Marshall purchased three goldfish 
and introduced them into Oscar's bowl and each 
morning for three days he removed the dead body of a 
goldfish. There was nothing to show how they had met 
their deaths. 

Mr. Marshall pondered the matter deeply. Oscar had 
taken no notice of the companion goldfish perhaps from 
social reasons or sheer contrariness but as each one had 
died, he had become perkier and sprier and now seemed 
very well pleased with himself. 

Oscar, for all his demureness, was a Killer. 

Mr. Marshall wondered what would happen when Oscar 
next lusted after blood, and lived in a state of nervous 



HISTORY OF OSCAR 43 

apprehension. Not for anything would he put more fish 
at Oscar's tender mercies ; it would be diabolically cruel. 
It would be murder. 

He winced, and scrutinized Oscar long and carefully each 
morning. When less than a month later Oscar again 
showed signs of restlessness, Mr. Marshall almost wept in 
distress. 

He conducted a series of extensive enquiries, but the 
delicate and cautious manner in which these were carried 
out (for Mr. Marshall believed that most fanciers would 
consider a ' killer ' goldfish better dead, character or 
no character), defeated his efforts. Tropical Fish Monthly 
could make nothing of his letter and did not bother to 
reply. The dealers were interested only in selling him 
more fish. 

Then someone advised him to try whisky ! He treated 
the idea in the manner it had been given, as a joke. Mean- 
while, Oscar slowly languished, refusing even chopped-up 
oyster. After much hesitation, not quite himself, Mr. 
Marshall tentatively yielded to the suggestion. 

He was amazed to find that it worked ! 

From that moment Oscar never looked back. 

The apportioning of the last half-inch of his evening 
whisky and soda to Oscar's bowl had within a month become 
a daily rite. While Mr. Marshall sipped at his glass, Oscar, 
having eyed him roguishly, would swim about in a sort of 
restrained, eager anticipation. Then as Mr. Marshall drew 
near, smiling, glass in hand, Oscar would sidle gently 
towards him and rise to the surface of the water. He would 
float there, his little body tense and still, waiting for the 
raised glass to be tipped. 

As the yellowy liquid passed over his gleaming form he 
would tremble, almost faint with joy, from the tip of his 
snout to the base of his tail. His sharp eyes would shine 
with a wicked happiness, then away he would dart round 
and round the bowl, flashing to the top, sharp as a knife- 
thrust, then plunging madly, his movements swift and direct, 
displaying not the least sign of grogginess. He was a tough 
little beggar. 



44 UNDER THIRTY 

And Mr. Marshall would lean over the bowl, cocking his 
left eyebrow and chuckling with gay admonishment. 

This went on for over four months, until one night Mr. 
Marshall strayed during an after-tea saunter and returned 
home an hour late. 

He was both very tired and thirsty as he let himself down 
into his chair, his glass of whisky and soda grasped firmly 
in his right hand. He sipped appreciatively, kicked off his 
slippers, and before he was aware of it had absent-mindedly 
drunk off his glass ! 

He stared, first incredulously, then in growing alarm, 
at the empty tumbler. He restrained himself, however, 
with a commendable presence of mind, glancing casually at 
the bowl. Oscar caught the look and swam nearer. Mr. 
Marshall put his hand furtively round the bottom of the 
tumbler and smiled. Oscar hesitated for a second, then 
wriggled himself playfully and swam away blithely. 

Mr. Marshall mopped his brow. If only he had the cour- 
age of an Oliver Twist to ask for more. . . . But even if he 
dared approach Mrs. Winterthorpe for more whisky, it 
would be of no avail. Nothing would move her, and 
certainly nothing in favour of Oscar. 

Now he knew Oscar's general characteristics pretty well. 
He knew what the little fellow liked and what he con- 
temptuously swished his tail at. But of the heart that beat 
beneath his golden-red scaly skin, Mr. Marshall knew 
nothing. The fundamental Oscar was denied him, had 
resisted his most subtle efforts. 

Mr. Marshall saw now that here was his opportunity of 
probing the inner depths of the slayer and sybarite, of 
revealing in one stroke the true nature of Oscar's heart. 

He would tip the empty tumbler and pretend to pour 
whisky over Oscar's body. 

What Oscar would do when he realized the deception, 
Mr. Marshall did not falter and ask himself. He would 
have to risk even his failing him. There could be no 
illusions between them. 

Oscar stopped torpedoing around his domains and rammed 
his snout against the side of the bowl as Mr. Marshall 



HISTORY OF OSCAR 45 

approached, his hand concealing the last half-inch of the 
tumbler. Oscar swam to within an inch of the surface of the 
water and lay there, immovable. 

Mr. Marshall slowly tilted the glass. 

Oscar quivered in eager expectation. He waited con- 
fidently, happily. He waited. . . . Then his eyes stared 
wide and open. Bewilderment rippled along his spine, his 
snout twitched with consternation, and slowly he rose to 
the surface. 

Mr. Marshall breathed tensely, fascinated. 

Oscar raised his little red snout out of the water and 
made low, sucking noises. 

Mr. Marshall gripped the bowl feverishly. 

Oscar gave voice again, and this time the sounds were 
unmistakable. 

Mr. Marshall's spectacles became misted over and he 
could not see. His throat was choking. He turned away ; 
he could not bear it. Oscar, with the heart of a child, was 
crying. . . . 

He rushed convulsively for the door, waving the empty 
tumbler, bawling peremptorily, at the top of his voice, for 
Mrs. Winterthorpe and the key. 

The History of Oscar does not end here, however, for his 
triumph was to have repercussions in his master's life. Mrs. 
Winterthorpe did not like having her authority thwarted 
by a goldfish, and a few days later she left Mr. Marshall for 
a widowed sea captain who decently scorned anything 
smaller than a whale. Not long after this Mr. Marshall 
died, and Oscar found his way through devious channels to 
the bosom of a Socialist family where he had rather a lean 
time of it. 

He was put in a round bowl of distorted glass with two 
other goldfish. Through the glass the black markings on 
his body appeared enormous and he was re-named Black 
Joe. 

But Oscar, or Black Joe, did not share the family's views 
on collectivism, and there were two mysterious deaths in the 
bowl. 



46 UNDER THIRTY 

Then one day he himself disappeared. He left no trace. 
Several fantastic surmises were put forward of his end, but 
the most commonplace happened to be the true one. 

The family had a cat . . . and the cat had been having 
rather a lean time of it, too. 



JOHN BETJEMAN 
* 

Move with the Times 



BORN : London, 1 906, but this story was written three years 
ago. That is why I am in the running for ' Under Thirty.' 

Chief interests : Ecclesiastical architecture of the late 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries ; box-pews and 
three-decker pulpits ; Irish peers and Irish architecture 
and pre-Celtic-Twilight Irish poetry, written in English ; 
Salkeld's catalogue ; branch railways ; suburbs ; pro- 
vincial towns ; steam trams ; gas light ; decay and squalor 
in all their forms ; Georgian and Victorian architecture. 

Dislikes : Aeroplanes ; main roads ; insurance com- 
panies ; ' development ' ; local councils ; materialism, 
dialectical or otherwise ; a Mr. Wilkinson who is a scar on 
my mind left by schooldays ; wireless in motor cars ; 
pseudo-modern and pseudo-Queen Anne, Renascence, 
Tudor and Swedish building. 

Hopes : Triumph of Christianity ; a town plan for 

England. 

* * * 

This has cost me sweat and blood. I cannot write about 
myself, just as some people can't sign their names. If it 
is inadequate, get someone else to do it, or leave it out 
altogether. 

JOHN BETJEMAN. 



49 



MOVE WITH THE TIMES 

'TV TOW 'oo was the ole boy as used to be with Con- 

l\j solidated Dried Fruits before Lemon come on ? 
Grogson was it ? " 

" No, not Grogson let me think it must have been 
Gregory." 

" No, not Gregory shorter name than that a little 
bald feller 'e was, with bright eyes." 

" Yers, I know 'oo you mean." 

By this time the rest of the table was interested. Mac- 
pherson of Autopolishes put down his cup of tea. Before 
helping himself to some more beetroot with his corned beef, 
he put in : " Died, didn't he ? I remember there was talk 
of giving him something out of the Benevolent, but he had 
passed on before we passed the order." 

" Ah, yes, we must all pass on." 

" That's it come to-day and gone to-morrow, as the lodger 
said owin' two months' rent." 

A laugh went up at Grossman's remark. Grossman could 
always be counted on for a laugh. D'you remember his 
one about the schoolmistress and the house-painter ? Clever 
chap, Grossman. Go-ahead, too. Knew a good thing 
when he was on one. Doubled the orders for Youneedawear 
Slumber Suits in Barnstaple alone. " I oughta recollek the 
name be fergettin' me own next perhaps Our Friend at 
the top of the table can inform us ? " 

Our Friend at the top of the table had been paying no 
apparent attention to the conversation. He had got through 
a cut off the roast, well soaked in H.P. Sauce, passed on to 
apple tart, and was contemplating bread and marmalade 
with some of the cream for which Mrs. Yeo's hotel was 
famous. After that he would have cheese. 

5 



MOVE WITH THE TIMES 51 

All the table waited on Our Friend's words. Anything 
to do with the past and Our Friend knew it. Forty-five 
years in business and still going strong. There had been an 
attempt to nickname him Johnnie Walker, but the name 
hadn't stuck. It was undignified. For years now Our 
Friend had been called the Admiral, and the Admiral he 
remained, for indeed there was something at once nautical 
and commanding about his neat appearance. 

Our Friend deliberately took up his third cup of tea. 
Before drinking he cleared his throat. All attention was 
riveted. Even Gutteridge and Verschoyle paused in dis- 
cussing the merits of Morris and Ford. 

" Grigson was the name. Gregory Grigson." 

" That's right, Grigson." 

" Grigson." 

" 'Course. Can't think 'ow I forgot it." 

Tension relaxed. There was a renewed noise of knives and 
forks scraping on plates and of suction something like a vacuum 
cleaner imbibing water as the gentleman ate and drank. 

In groups they left the table, some to gaslit bedrooms, 
some to various sitting-rooms, all to sit with pen, paper, 
and a little attache-case writing off to the firm, reporting 
progress, arranging for a room in another town next week. 

Our Friend the Admiral was the last to leave as he had 
been the last to enter the room. He was a gentleman, and 
liked to make his meal approach as nearly the time of a 
gentleman's dinner without inconveniencing Mrs. Yeo. 

" Your table in the back room is cleared, Mr. Battersby, 
as soon as you are ready for it." 

" Thank you, Mrs. Yeo. I shall be proceeding thence so 
soon as I have finished this delicious lemon-curd tartlet." 

" Ah, now, they're my sister's. She knew you liked 
them. There was a time when I could put a plate of those 
lemon-curd tartlets as high as the centre vase on the table 
and it would be cleared before the meal was over. But the 
gentlemen don't seem to eat nowadays like they used to . . ." 

" No, it's not like it used to be. Eheu fugaces, Mrs. Yeo, 
eheu fugaces ! Nervous excitement. They're on the move 
too much. Too anxious to get away. They haven't their 



52 UNDER THIRTY 

hearts in their work. Now I am rarely finished before a 
Saturday morning. But these young fellows scramble 
through their orders to be off on a Thursday evening. 
Hurry hurry hurry. It ruins the digestion." 

" That's so, Mr. Battersby, just as you say. But we must 
keep up with the times, mustn't we ? I'm trying to get the 
Council to let me turn the backyard into a garage." 

" Ah, you study your guests too much, Mrs. Yeo. Why 
can't they be content with the railways instead of having 
these motors ? The South, the Great, and the Midland. 
They've always been good enough for me though, of 
course, we keep a car at home for joy-riding." 

What harm was there in a little white lie like the last ? One 
must keep up appearances if one is to keep up with the 
times. 

2 

Nice woman, Mrs. Yeo. Quite a lady, and had worked 
Godolphin's up from next to nothing. Twenty-eight years 
she'd been here, and he'd been once a month almost every year 
since then except the time, three years ago, when he under- 
went that eye operation. Funny how the old trouble seemed 
to be coming back again. After a long day naturally your eyes 
get tired at sixty-eight. Perhaps it was just anno Domini. 

Nice of them to let him have this room to himself. 

Don't feel like work this evening. Turn in and get a 
good sleep. Probably be all right in the morning. Deal 
with correspondence then. No, there was that eight forty- 
five post to catch. Some pressing matters to attend to. 
And he must drop a line to Kate. 

Mr. Battersby opened a letter. 

WILLIAMSON & SON 
THE QUALITY SHOP 

High Street, JEWELLERY 

Exchester, NOVELTY GOODS 

Devon. SILVERWARE 

ART STONEWORK 
REPAIRS EXECUTED 

DEAR SIR, 

I beg to state that my father, Mr. Joseph Williamson, 
Senior, passed peacefully away in his sleep last Tuesday. 



MOVE WITH THE TIMES 53 

It was a tranquil end of an esteemed parent. He had 
been ailing for some months. 

Why do these young people use the typewriter ? So 
difficult to read. Why not a good copperplate hand like 
his own ? Or was this a circular letter to the trade ? He 
hoped not. It would have been civil of young Williamson 
to have written personally to an old friend of his father's. 
He brought his eyes into focus once again. 

I take this opportunity of also intimating to you with 
reference to the decease of the above, that the negotia- 
tions pending the illness of Mr. Williamson, Senior, re the 
amalgamation of this firm with a larger concern are now 
almost completed. We are, under the circumstances, not 
renewing our stock just at present, and are anxious to 
save you an unnecessary call. 

Yours faithfully, 

Jos. WILLIAMSON.' 

Ah ! Incorporated Art Gifts, Ltd., buying them up, of 
course. Eheu fugaces ! Not a very civil letter, and there 
was another good customer gone. He'd heard enough of 
the Incorporated. They'd bought up Puxley's in the 
High Street here. It had been a sound little concern on the 
old lines, and now they'd taken down the old premises, put 
in one of their great blazing shop fronts, and filled the 
windows with flashy, cheap trinkets not worth the price of 
carriage. 

Mr. Battersby was senior West Country representative of 
Messrs. Netherton and Goldberg, fancy goods manufac- 
turers and silversmiths, Dalston Lane, E. He used to look 
almost lovingly at the bag of stock on a chair near him. 
At least he could offer his clients a quality article. He 
would never forget the time he had gone into one of the 
Incorporated shops in an effort to get a little extra business. 
' Traveller ? Not to-day, thank you. We've got enough 
to see to as it is. Quite enough stock, and up-to-date, too. 
Netherton and Goldberg ? Never heard of them. Ah, they 
may be old established. I'm not saying they aren't. A 



54 UNDER THIRTY 

damn sight too old established. Try the Tower of London, 
old man." 

A gratuitous insult. And from a young fellow who was 
obviously no gentleman. In his day, a gentlemanly bearing 
had been an essential of good business. Hullo, 7.45 ! Post 
goes in an hour. 

With aching eyes Mr. Battersby plied on in his neat 
copper-plate, checking his order book and writing letters. 

The gas seemed to be burning less brightly. Funny how 
gas can't be relied upon for light nowadays. Or was it his 
sight ? 

Well, he must drop that line to Kate. Thank goodness 
he had a good wife at home. He was not a man to go carry- 
ing on with the chambermaids at every house on the road 
like Grossman and the rest of them. Kate wouldn't mind 
a few words left out here and there and a little illegibility. 
She knew about his eyes. And hadn't she had her troubles, 
too ? When she had that cancer in the throat they all said 
she would never recover. 

He'd lost a lot of business then worrying about her at 
home and him miles away on the road. Anything might 
have happened. Thank the dear Lord he'd always been a 
good churchman. The Lord provides in his own good 
time and the Lord had provided for him. 

By denying them children, He had enabled them to save 
enough money to pay the best doctors and surgeons, and 
Kate was with him still. The old trouble hadn't returned, 
though she'd never picked up her strength somehow. But 
the rent of the house was not much an advantage of living 
in the provinces. A nice little place built just before the 
war and therefore sound. Outside Devizes. As Kate had 
said : " In the town, yet not in it. A regular camelia." 
And he had laughed and replied : " Chameleon, my dear, 
chameleon." How they had laughed ! Always a little 
joke. 

It would have surprised Spender and the rest of them if 
they had known what a jolly old boy the Admiral was at 
home. The Admiral in the messroom, eh ? Well, here 
goes. 



MOVE WITH THE TIMES 55 

GODOLPHIN'S COMMERCIAL HOTEL, 

FORE STREET, BIDWORTHY, 

NORTH DEVON. 
MY DEAR KATE, 

Only a line. I enclose p.o. for 55. 40! . (five shillings 
and fourpence) towards the car. Put it away carefully. 
Business is not picking up yet, but times are bad. The 
eyes are none too good. Back by the late on Sat. 

Yours affectionately, 

ALFRED. 

N.B. Poor old Williamson of Exchester is dead. You 
will remember I took you to look him up that time we 
were at Sidmouth. 

3 

The gas was full on in the commercial room. Price was 
packing up. He'd get off to-night. A row of coat-hangers 
in his Essex saloon showed you he was in the robes and 
mantles line. The Admiral came out with his letters. 

" Drop you at the P.O. ? " 

' Thank you no, sir. A little air will do me good." 

" The old Admiral's showing his age a bit," said Cross- 
man, who was having a last pipe in the hotel doorway. 
11 D'you notice 'e doesn't seem to see straight. Look at 
'im goin' down the street there. Quite unsteady. Yet he's 
T.T. as Pussyfoot himself." 

" Yes, the old boy's cracking up. 'Bout time 'e retired. 
I'll bet he's feathered 'is nest all right." 

'* Too damn superior fer me," said Huggins of Esivacs, 
who had joined the group at the door. " Oi've no use fer a 
feller as lords it over yer when yer know 'e's got about as 
much business as could be put in a kangaroo's pocket." 

" I 'ear the Incorporated is buying up Netherton's," said 
Grossman. "Wonder if the ole boy knows?" Grossman 
knew everything, other people's business as well as his 
own. 

When the Admiral returned, he popped into the com- 



56 UNDER THIRTY 

mercial room, as was his custom, to say good night. Collins 
of International Pearl Collar Studs sang out : " Seen the 
letter from Williamson's, Mr. Battersby ? That'll be a blow 
to your business. The Incorporated's taking them over." 

" Yes, Young Williamson wrote me," but he noticed that 
Collins' letter was identical with his own, and he knew for 
a fact that Collins didn't go to Williamson's more than once 
a year. " Good night, gentlemen." 

Mr. Battersby once more to-night consoled himself with 
the thought that he at least had a quality article to offer 
to his clients. He turned down the bedroom gas. Eheu 
fugaces ! Home soon now. 



The car arrived from the Motor Supplies Co. Kate was 
delighted. The young man accompanying it, quite a 
gentleman, offered to give her a lesson. " I shall be able 
to learn while you are away, Alfred," she said. " No 
carrying on now," said Mr. Battersby, with a jolly twinkle 
at the young man. But somehow, as the weeks passed, 
Kate hadn't picked up enough strength to get about and 
learn to drive the car. 

In early March a surprise awaited Mr. Battersby at 
Godolphin's. " Yes, we've had the electric light put in," 
said Mrs. Yeo. " We've got a lovely new fixture in your 
sitting-room." He beheld a pink glass shade which deflected 
the light in a glaring circle from the ceiling to the table. 
He did not say that he had refused to have the electric 
light at home because it hurt his eyes. Mrs. Yeo took him 
on a tour of inspection of all the switches and fixtures, an 
honour meet for him as senior hotel guest. But all Mr. 
Battersby could bring himself to say was " Eheu fugaces ! " 
' Yes, Mr. Battersby, just as you say. We must move with 
the times, that's what I say." She understood Latin even 
less than Mr. Battersby. 

At the end of that week he received a further surprise, in 
the form of a letter from Netherton's head office in London. 
This was out of order. Their letters generally arrived at 
the beginning of the week. 



MOVE WITH THE TIMES 57 

DEAR MR. BATTERSBY, 

You will no doubt be surprised to hear that we have 
amalgamated with Incorporated Art Gifts, Ltd. Natur- 
ally for the good of the firm we must move with the times, 
and although the decision was not unexpected it was more 
sudden than many anticipated. 

The Incorporated Art Gifts Company is a big firm, 
and of course they expect to reorganize our own concern. 
I am therefore taking this opportunity of thanking you 
very sincerely for your long and loyal service to the old 
firm. It is largely due to the loyal support of such servants 
as yourself that our high reputation has been maintained. 

As I am retiring myself I am not in a position to do 
anything but advise. I shall naturally advise the reorgan- 
ized company if my advice is worth anything to 
endeavour to retain your services. Although on consulting 
the books I see that your order list has somewhat decreased 
lately, I well understand that this is possibly due to the 
keen competition of Art Gifts, Ltd., themselves, a position 
that will now be obviated by amalgamation. 

I wish I could hold out some hopes for you, but I 
understand that the system of representatives employed 
by the amalgamators is different from our own. Again 
believe me when I say that your long and loyal services 
have been deeply appreciated by Mr. Goldberg and 
myself. 

Yours sincerely, 

JAS. NETHERTON, 
Sales and General Manager. 

A very civil letter and in his own handwriting too. Of 
course he'd heard rumours, but this was obviously the sack. 
A very gentlemanly way of putting it. Let's see, 1000 in 
the bank, and take off another fifty for the car. Not enough 
to last long with the possibility of more doctor's bills. His sight 
didn't seem to be improving either. A guffaw echoed from 
the commercial room. Put himself on the Benevolent like 
poor old Gregory Grigson ? Have his private affairs dis- 
cussed ? Not he ! The old Admiral reduced to the ranks. 



58 UNDER THIRTY 

Some joke that would be. Impossible ! He would say he 
was retiring to that feathered nest which they all supposed 
he'd got. Meanwhile business as usual and get on with 
the week's work. What was that they used to sing in the 
trenches ? ' Old soldiers never die.' He wished he'd been 
young enough to go. 

It was a wet Saturday when Mr. Battersby returned to 
Devizes after that eventful week. He must save money 
now. Not take the bus, but walk to the station. 

There was no light in the front room. Funny. Not like 
Kate to be out on a Saturday. Flo, the daily, answered the 
door. 

" Oh, sir, I waited behind to tell yew, sir they've taken 
Mrs. Battersby to 'orspital. She'd been poorly all the week. 
It's the old trouble, they say, sir." 

5 

Father Bengs, Father Wilkinson, and Father Lewis were 
having a hurried fish lunch in Saint Aidan's Clergy House, 
Crawley Street, E. 14. 

" There's a gentleman to see you, Father," said Herbert, 
the young servant. 

" Who is he and what does he want ? " 

" He won't give no name, Father, and says it's an 
important personal matter." 

" The usual, I suppose," said Father Simpson. " Who's 
going to see him ? It's your turn, Father." 

Father Lewis went to the clergy house door which was 
also the door to the church. 

" I am a gentleman, sir, and a good churchman. Through 
no fault of my own, sir, I am temporarily out of employ- 
ment. Rather I should put it down to ' eheu fugaces ' 
if one may say so. I should be obliged to you, sir, if you 
would inform me whether you are in need of someone to do 
clerical work." 

" I am afraid not. I advise you to try your local employ- 
ment exchange. You should have read the notice in the 
church porch, you know." 

Father Lewis was not an unkind man. But one must be 



MOVE WITH THE TIMES 59 

practical. In the church especially it is essential to move 
with the times. The notice in the church porch ran : * The 
Vicar regrets that he is unable to offer financial assistance 
to any but parishioners.' Luckily Mr. Battersby's sight did 
not permit of his reading that notice. 

" I always mistrust the ones that try to put over the 
gentlemanly act." Father Lewis returned to his cooling 
fish-cake. 



DOUGLAS BOYD 

* 

The Gospel Chariot 



I WAS born in 1902. My earliest, most vivid recollection 
of association with books is my father standing for long 
periods at the second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross 
Road, with me, a very small boy, hanging patiently to his 
coat-tails. My father was then contributing to such well- 
known periodicals as Chambers^ Journal. My first venture 
into the realms of literature was with a short article, for 
which I received fifteen shillings, printed in The Weekly 
Telegraph. 

In the ten years following I wrote frequently till four 
o'clock in the morning, going to bed to snatch a few hours' 
sleep when farm labourers were on their way through the 
fields to bring the cows to the milking sheds, but nothing 
that I wrote was published. I made the mistake common 
to would-be authors, writing of things of which I knew very 
little when material for countless stories was close at hand. 

Meanwhile, I lived for one year in the East End of Lon- 
don, renting one small room, my furniture consisting of a 
camp-bed, a table, one chair, and a gas-ring. Returning 
to the Midlands, I passed from being a leather sorter to a 
position, in a boot manufacturer's office, that combined all 
the qualifications of an office-boy to that of a secretary, 
and, to some extent, manager of the factory as well ; for 
the principal of the firm was travelling for orders five days 
of the week. 

But at night I always returned to the little village in which 
I resided, exchanging the heat of the factory and the smell 
of burning oil for the cooler, sweeter air of the country, 
leaving behind me shining shoes still on the last for the sight 
of the muddy boots of the villagers returning from the fields. 

I then contributed to the Northamptonshire County Magazine 
a series of short stories dealing with county characters, but 
I did not receive higher recognition until one of my short 

63 



64 UNDER THIRTY 

stories was accepted by the editor of one of the best literary 
monthlies. It was acclaimed to be one of the best stories 
published in that year. Since then my stories have twice 
been included in Best Short Stories of the Tear, edited by 
Edward J. O'Brien, and others have been included in five 
anthologies. I have contributed to many of the leading 
literary weeklies and monthlies and to newspapers in all 
parts of the country ; and some of my stories have been 
published in Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, and Australia. 
I am now engaged on a novel, the scene of which is laid 
principally in a small, pretty village in the midst of the 
Northamptonshire uplands. 

In a criticism of my work Edward J. O'Brien says : 
* A native of Northamptonshire, his deep sense of the 
land is instinctive. He is a faithful imaginative chronicler 
of that county and its people. He shares with H. E. Bates 
the distinction of being one of the two most distinguished 
story writers of English rural life.' 

DOUGLAS BOYD. 






THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 

was a restful stillness in the air, a silence broken 

_ only by the sound of the steel bit between the pony's 
jaws and the occasional rattle of the harness as she shook 
the flies away from her glossy skin. The sun had gone down 
behind Galloway Hill, throwing around it all the splendour 
of a golden sunset before it reached the horizon ; for to the 
south it still spread with a soft warm glow over the lowlands, 
touching the fields with yellow, burnishing the harsh green 
of the tree-tops. 

The pony stood patiently between the shafts of a small 
trap just outside the gabled porch of the Bull Inn. The 
innkeeper was at her head, loosely holding the reins and 
gently stroking her neck with his free hand. 

A man, wearing a shabby suit of black and a shapeless 
black hat, was walking toward them on the cobbled pave- 
ment. He was a little over average height, but his back 
was slightly bent as though continual stooping at some task 
had permanently curved his spine. About his shrunken 
neck the brown coarse skin was loose ; and he held his 
head forward from his body with his thin face raised, 
so that he had the appearance of one always peering 
anxiously ahead. As he approached, the innkeeper smiled 
a welcome. 

" Here ye are, an' the Gospel Chariot all ready." 

" Aye the Gospel Chariot." 

" All ready for its journey," said the innkeeper, giving 
the pony a final caress. 

" Thank'ee, Silas. Here's a bunch o' watercress for your 
wife. Thought she'd like some for her tea." 

'* Very good on you, I'm sure. How's the beds ? " 

" Lookin' fine." 

65 



66 UNDER THIRTY 

" Where are ye makin' for to-night ? " 

" Upper Wreyford. Parson Gilchrist should ha' gone, 
but he fell sick an' he called on me at the last moment. 
Now, I maybe c'n sing a bit, bein' accustomed to lead the 
singin' in chapel, but he knows I can't say owt. But he 
would ha' none on it. ' Put your armour on,' he says ; 
which I 'ave done, as ye c'n see ; ' an' pray to the Lord 
that He put His precious words into thy mouth.' An', by 
Jimmy, that He will 'ave to do, for though I c'n praise Him 
in song wi' all me heart an' all me soul, it looks like as if 
my tongue will be dumb to-night." 

He put his boot on the step and pulled himself into the 
trap. He took the reins the innkeeper held up to him. 

" Thank'ee, Silas. Good evenin'." 

He shook the reins and the pony started off at a walking 
pace, but when they had left the village and reached the 
high road he gently slapped her back with a loose rein and 
she broke into a steady trot. Within a few minutes they 
reached a point where another road crossed. 

Standing beside the sign-post were four men, watching 
the approach of the trap. 

Three of them were also dressed in black. One was a 
small, thin man with a quick, bird-like expression, and he 
wore a black cut-away coat, buttoned high on his chest 
and falling away from his hips into two tails, and when he 
walked he looked like a strutting blackbird. The other two 
were short, stout men, with small eyes set in thick, heavy 
features ; one had steel-rimmed spectacles balanced un- 
evenly on the large bridge of his nose, and the other had a 
massive gold chain drooped twice across his broad chest ; 
both wore straight frock-coats with silk facings. They were 
square-jawed and austere, but the thin man had an air of 
nervousness. 

The fourth man was sturdily built. He wore a dirty 
tweed jacket, one pocket of which bulged. His bowed legs 
were clothed in corduroy breeches, brown leather gaiters, 
and heavy brown boots. When he opened his mouth it was 
to its widest extent, exposing large white teeth. His neck 
was a dark purple colour, and his red face with its robust 



THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 67 

health and good-humour contrasted oddly with the other 
faces about him, stern and aloof. 

" Ah, here we are ! " he bawled, slapping his gaiters 
with his stick. " The Gospel Chariot ! Gum, I'm in good 
company to-night, eh ? " The thin man started as a thick 
thumb was poked into the small of his back. " Fust time 
I've ever travelled with the cloth, so to speak. An' what do 
you think my wife'll say when she sees me a-steppin' outer 
this 'ere ? ' Bill Pike ' that's my name, for the hinforma- 
tion of you reverend gentlemen ' Bill Pike,' she'll say, 
' what's come over ye ? ' What'll I say ? I'll pull her fat 
leg, see if I don't. I'll say, sanctimonous-like, ' Martha, I've 
turned over a new leaf, an' all. A man is known by the 
company that he keeps.' An' what do you think she'll say 
to that, eh ? " 

He looked at them, waiting for them to betray some 
sign of interest, but they stood stiffly erect, with faces 
unmoved. 

" What do you think she'll say ? I'll tell'ee," he said, 
solemnly. " ' Bill Pike,' she'll say, ' I'd almos' believe 'ee 
if I didn't know ye fer such a lousy liar ! ' And he burst 
into a loud roar, doubling up with mirth and slapping his 
gaiters with his stick every time he straightened himself. 

The man with the gold chain turned quietly to the driver 
of the trap. 

" Where is Samuel Gilchrist ? I thought he was coming." 

"So he was, Mr. Burbidge. He took sick an' sent for 
me this afternoon, just as I was off to take a walk an' a 
look over my watercress beds. It's too late, 'e says, to get 
anyone else, an' I must go instead. But what, says I, o' 
the singin' in chapel to-night ? Who's goin' to lead 'em ? 
They must do without 'ee, 'e says. But, says I, thee knows 
I can't talk, though maybe I c'n sing a bit. Pray, 'e says, 
an' the Lord'll put His precious words into thy mouth. 
None o' them has come into my head yet, an " 

" Where are you going, then ? " asked the man with the 
spectacles. 

" Upper Wreyford, Mr. Shaw, sir." 

" Then that means you will have to drive. I'm preaching 



68 UNDER THIRTY 

at Nenbury, John Burbidge at Borbrooke, and William Dunn 
at Lower Wteyford." 

They climbed into the trap, seating themselves one beside 
the driver, the other two opposite. Placing a heavy boot 
on the step, the man in the tweed jacket plunged after them 
and stood between their knees, looking down on them. 

" It's real good of you genelmen to offer me a lift. Now, 
which side o' this 'ere tub am I to sit ? There's barely room 
for more than two aside, is there ? Tell you what," he said 
cheerfully, " let me sit on the shafts an' drive. I'm used 
to it, I am." 

One of them glanced up and said shortly : 

" There is no need. The one who goes the farthest always 
drives the horse." 

" Oh, that's the arrangement, is it ? An' a very good 
arrangement it is, too. An' the gent driving now is going 
to Upper Wreyford, which is near where I'm going. Well, 
it's heads this side, tails t'other." He took a coin from his 
pocket and tossed it. Then he grinned at the two seated 
opposite the driver. " 'Tis hard luck on ye, sure," he said ; 
and squeezed himself on the seat. " Right away, ma 
beauty ! Step it out ! " He leaned back as far as he was 
able and relapsed into silence. 

They turned off the high road, taking the narrower road 
to the right. The church clock in the village behind them 
struck five ; then, as though its quick clear notes were a 
sign to them, others in neighbouring villages began to chime 
the hour, but sleepily, as though they would have forgotten 
but for that sharp warning. 

On the right the gentle slopes of the hills with their 
scattered clumps of gorse became more and more indistinct, 
leaving only dark ridges sharply outlined against the purple 
sky ; on the left the valley spread, the hedges losing their 
shapelessness, becoming vague black lines drawn across the 
smooth pasture land. The river parted the meadows, 
twisting and turning between marshy banks, its silver light 
interrupted here and there by shadowy drooping willows. 

Bill Pike stared about him, seeing everything that was 
to be seen, every now and then giving cries of encourage- 



THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 69 

ment to the pony : " Gee hup, lassie ! Step a-long, ma 
beauty ! Gome now, pick 'em hup ! " Cries to which she 
instantly responded. 

His presence seemed to take away from the others any 
desire for conversation between themselves. The man with 
the gold chain fingered it unceasingly, the one with the 
spectacles sat with his hands clasped over his stomach, and 
the thin man sat with his fingers splayed on his trousers just 
above the knees as though that attitude would assist him to 
rise at any moment. Only the driver's voice was heard, a 
low muttering not distinguishable to his companions and 
sometimes accompanied by the raising of his right hand as 
though in benediction on the pony's jogging buttocks. 

" Nice pony you've got," said Bill Pike suddenly. " She 
steps like a thoroughbred. An' talking o' mares, do you 
know where I've bin to-day ? You don't ? Well, I'll tell 
you. You know old Carson Carson the grazier 'im what 
lives down on that farm near Upton well, I've bin there. 
On a errand o' mercy, like. His mare was sick an' he sent 
fer me to see if there was anything the matter an' to see if I 
could do anything for her. There was. I shot her. An' do 
you know fer why ? You don't ? Well, she'd got something 
in her belly a disease, genelmen, a disease. Do you know 
what it was ? You don't ? Well, I'll tell you, if you 
like." 

He looked round at the other men, but they appeared 
not to have heard him. 

" Well," he went on, " perhaps it ain't of no concern 
to you genelmen, horses not 'avin' souls. It 'ad bin getting 
worse fer some time, but old Carson is old an' he either 
didn't see it or didn't want. Cried like a babby when he 
knowed what I'd done. But in pain, she were, tumble. 
Very 'umane o' me. Errand o' mercy." 

He relapsed once more into momentary silence, and then 
continued animatedly, as though he had thought of a topic 
that would be of greater interest. 

; ' What might be the meaning o' this 'ere Gospel Chariot, 
Mr. Burbidge, sir ? When you said you'd be pleased to 
give me a lift in it, I thought you meant a gilded car, like 



yo UNDER THIRTY 

on a merry-go-round, pulled by four white horses an' going 
up to Heaven." 

The man with the gold chain looked at him. 

" There are four occasions in the year when all ministers 
and local preachers in the district pay a visit to one another's 
chapels, a practice begun ten years ago and which has been 
faithfully kept up. My friends, here, and the Reverend 
Samuel Gilchrist, who, unfortunately, is not with us to- 
night, hire this trap to convey us to the chapels at Nenbury, 
Borbrooke, Lower and Upper Wreyford, with whom we 
are accustomed to exchange pulpits. We call this trap 
' The Gospel Chariot ' for that reason. It is known as such 
in all the neighbouring villages." He lifted his eyes and 
looked over Bill Pike's head. " It carries four ministers of 
the Gospel, whose mission it is to lead sinful men into the 
paths of righteousness." 

" That means you'll be getting off, one here and one 
there, like. But what about the pony ? " 

" As we have told you, he who goes the farthest drives 
the horse and sees to it that she is made comfortable during 
the service. Afterward, he has to harness her, and pick 
us up on the return journey." 

" An' a very good arrangement it is, as I said afore. 
Especially," Bill Pike added, with a sly wink, " for you other 
genelmen." He was quiet for a moment ; then his face 
widened into a grin and suddenly he broke into another 
roar of laughter. Louder and louder it grew, until he could 
not restrain himself and he threw back his head in uncon- 
trollable mirth, the tears welling to his eyes and dropping 
down his red cheeks ; for it seemed to him that nothing 
could be so funny as the picture of Bill Pike sitting solemnly 
among four hymn-singing parsons. 

" What'll my wife say when she sees me ? I c'n see her 
I c'n see her coming outer the cottage an' staring at me 
like as if I was a blasted angel. ' 'Tis only me, your own 
Bill Pike,' I'll say, flapping me wings ! Oh, Lord ! " he 
shouted, slapping his coarse big hands upon the knees of 
his breeches. 

His laughter was a strange sound on the lonely road, 



THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 71 

now almost in darkness. It went on in front of the trap, 
echoing beneath the overhanging branches of the trees 
frightening the birds from the hedgerows, so that they flew 
in short sharp spurts farther behind them, and startling a 
hare from the ditch, so that it sped swiftly along the side of 
the road ahead of them, and then vanished as though it 
had not been. 

The three preachers looked at him with frowning, hostile 
faces. His laughter ceased abruptly. With an apologetic 
expression he glanced from one to another. 

" No irreverence intended, genelmen, begging your 
pardon, I'm sure." 

The man driving appeared to have no interest in what 
was going on behind him. It seemed that his thoughts were 
concerned only with the task he had undertaken, his faith 
in himself becoming less with every mile they covered. 
Sometimes his indistinct muttering ceased and then he would 
speak in a louder, protesting voice. 

" Lord help me I don't know what to say ! It was 
wrong o' Parson Gilchrist to ask me. I can't do it I 
know I can't. Maybe I c'n sing a bit, but I can't preach. 
I can't think o' nothin' nothin' at all ! Lord help me ! " 
And then he would resume muttering, and it sounded as 
though it came from an entirely different person. 

Bill Pike's hand moved cautiously to the bulge in his 
pocket. With a look of surprise, as though he had hitherto 
forgotten what was there, he pulled out a black bottle. 

" Hoping you don't mind if I takes a pull at this 'ere," 
he said, hesitatingly. He received no answer, and taking 
their silence for acquiescence he took out the cork, lifted 
the bottle to his lips, and gulped, rapidly. As the trap 
rolled with a hollow sound over a stone bridge and the road 
widened between thatched cottages, the smell of beer 
mingled with the cool sweet air. He replaced the cork and 
put the bottle back in his pocket. Then he breathed heavily 
and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand carefully, 
as though it were expected of him by the kind of people 
with whom he was travelling. The man with the spectacles 
touched the driver on the shoulder. 



72 UNDER THIRTY 

" I get out here," he said ; and, when the trap stopped, 
he alighted. 

" God be with you," he said. 

" God be with you, Adam," they answered. 

" Shaw ! " grinned Bill Pike, affably. 

The pony went off at a trot again, but Bill Pike suddenly 
stood up and shouted : 

" Hi ! There's a woman there. Rein the pony in. Give 
'er a lift, what ? The woman, I mean, not the pony." He 
laughed excitedly. " Whoa, ma beauty ! Whoa, there ! 
Steady, steady." 

At the sound of his voice the pony stopped obediently. 
Near the foot of a giant oak stood a woman. So heavy with 
leaf were the branches that, although all other shadows had 
long since merged into the darkness, there it seemed darker 
still. Bill Pike sprang down and walked up to her. 

" Why," he said, " if it ain't a gel ! An' a babe ! Where 
may you be going, lassie ? " 

The girl glanced at him fearfully, and drew the scarf 
about her head a little closer. 

" I'm walking to Upper Wreyford," she said in a low 
voice, as though her words were meant for him alone. " To 
my aunt's." 

" That's a bit beyond where I'm going to, but I believe 
'im as is driving is going that far. Gome on, hup you git," 
he said in louder tones, as though to kill, before it was 
uttered, any protest from those in the trap. " I'll hold the 
babby." 

" Thank you, sir." 

" My name's Pike Bill Pike. An' 'ere," he added, as, 
with one hand clasping the child, he pulled himself into 
the trap with the other. " I'm more used to holding horses 
than holding babbies." 

With rough gentleness he laid the bundle in her arms. 

" Tickle, ickle, pickle," he said, with an approaching 
forefinger. " Oh, it's asleep." He withdrew his finger 
hastily. " Fancy me not noticing that." 

The young woman sat beside the driver, sheltered a little 
by his black hunched-up back from the slight breeze caused 



THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 73 

by the motion of the trap. She was huddled in the corner 
with the scarf covering her face. The child was so closely 
wrapped in its soft woollen shawl that none of it was visible, 
and she held it tightly to her breast so that she might 
impart to the child the warmth of her own body. In her 
occasional sidelong glances at the two preachers there was a 
look of mistrust and a certain apprehension which their 
apparent indifference to her presence did not allay. 

Bill Pike, sitting in the corner opposite her, with the 
two preachers beside him, seemed unable to keep either his 
hands or his voice still for very long, slapping his knees and 
frequently calling to the pony : " Git hup ! Git hup ! 
What's the matter wi' ye ? Pick 'em hup, old gel ! " 

They passed a church, a long low structure built of 
crumbling, damp-marked sandstone. From its low square 
embattled tower the tenor bell peeled once, and then twice, 
quickly ; was followed by other bells one after another, all 
jangling and wrangling ; then slowly they sorted them- 
selves out of the muddle, one late apologetic bell hurrying 
into a perfect single run. Gradually their pealing grew 
fainter ; but over the dark fields came the sound of other 
bells breaking clear but harsh, then fading softly and sweetly, 
as if a gentle wind had caught them up and was bearing 
them farther away. 

" Talking o' mares," said Bill Pike, " did you hear about 
that gel in Peverel ? You didn't? Well, I'll tell you. 
She 'ad a kid a bastard." He turned to the man beside 
him and tapped him on the knee. " An' it turned 'er 'ead. 
What was 'er name, now ? Ann Ann Collis, that was it." 

At the mention of the name the two preachers stiffened. 
They looked quickly at each other, and even the driver 
ceased to mutter and half-turned his head so that he could 
hear ; whilst the girl gripped her warm little bundle more 
tightly and shrank into her corner. 

" I never knowed 'er," went on Bill Pike, " but you 
know how these 'ere things git around. They say it was a 
man name of Matthew Bray. We was a-talking about it 
in the ' Live an' Let Live ' not long back, and strong was 
the argivement we 'ad, too. She 'ad it in a hovel one 



74 UNDER THIRTY 

evening, where some old witch belonging to the village, 
roaming about the fields, found her labouring an' 'elped 
'er. It turned the young gel's 'ead, they say, an' got 'er 
religious-minded, if you knows what I mean ; thought she'd 
committed a very turrible sin, an' was doomed to everlasting 
hell-fire if she wasn't forgiven an' 'er babby blessed in the 
Lord's name. Bad case, that, genelmen, bad case." He 
nodded, pursing his lips. 

" When the girl got better, she began to wander about 
the village o' nights wi' the babby in 'er arms. She used to 
hang about the chapel, waitin' for when the gates would be 
unlocked. An' then, one night, she saw lights there. They 
was holding a prayer-meeting, an' the Rev. Samuel was 
leading 'em in prayer, when all of a sudden she blundered 
in, right down the aisle, 'er 'air down an' 'er eyes all staring 
wild. Everybody looked astonished, an' when the Rev. 
opened his eyes an' saw 'er standing there, he couldn't speak 
for a moment. Then he started holding forth, pointing to 
'er, saying that she was a woman sunk from grace an' that 
'er soul was damned. He pushed 'er outer the chapel, 
calling 'er a wanton, who'd brought misery an' shame on 
'er family. We o' the ' Live an' Let Live ' was all o' the 
opinion that he oughter be ducked in the river." 

The man with the gold chain turned to him haughtily. 

" Mr. Gilchrist is a righteous man. He acted as he 
thought was right. The young woman was a member of 
his own congregation and one in whom he was particularly 
interested. That she should be having intimate relations 
with a man whilst on the Sabbath worshipping the Lord 
and knowing all the time that for her to do so was blasphemy 
was something he could not forgive. Her very presence 
there was desecration of the House of God." 

For some time Bill Pike was silent ; and when he spoke 
again it was slowly and thoughtfully. 

" Blas-pheemy, disecration them are things I know 
nowt about, save when a man swears against God or laughs 
loud an' drops 'is spittle in church or something like that. 
But if I'd bin parson, I'd 'ave not bin hard-spoken, but soft 
an' gentle-like, an' pitied 'er." 



THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 75 

" We must not condone her weakness," answered the 
other in a harsh voice. " She would not even divulge the 
name of the man who was the child's father. She was 
not truly repentant, and she must suffer before she finds 
redemption and remission of her sins." 

Again the road widened between thatched cottages, 
encircled a large mound on which stood a tall elm, the 
branches of which stretched widely out beyond the mound, 
almost touching the steep roofs of the cottages. They passed 
a low, brick-built public-house, with a newly painted sign, 
and approached a square box-like building. The man with 
the gold chain rose from his seat, and the girl covered her 
face with her scarf and shrank back still farther, gathering 
herself up as though to avoid all contact with him. The 
trap stopped. He brushed by them and stepped down. 

" God be with you," said Bill Pike, solemnly. But there 
came no reply and the trap went on its way, its wheels 
grinding harshly the grit of the road. 

There was left beside him only the thin nervous man, 
who either had not wished or had not the courage to say 
anything at all. With the departure of his two friends had 
gone also the feeling of moral strength their presence had 
given him. With Bill Pike's eyes intently on him, his 
nervousness increased, and he looked anxiously and often 
ahead, where other lights were twinkling ; and as they 
approached them, Bill Pike suddenly leaned sideways and 
shouted in his ear : 

" Find what ? Redemption ? She'll be finding the river, 
that's what ! An' as fer the father o' the child, I tell 'e 
they say it was the son of Ezra Bray, whoever 'e be, that was 
part cause on it. An' who says it was sich a tumble sin, 
after all ? She was only a woman wi' a 'ealthy woman's 
instinck." 

The thin man sprang to his feet. 

" Pull up ! Pull up ! " he cried. 

They had reached a lane and at the far end were the 
twinkling lights. Almost before the trap stopped he clam- 
bered out of it, but to his dismay Bill Pike followed him, 
keeping pace beside him. Their figures were soon lost in 



76 UNDER THIRTY 

the darkness of the lane, but Bill Pike's voice could still be 
heard raised in protest. 

" 'Ere's a poor gel going fast outer 'er mind. One kindly 
word would 'ave saved 'er. She'll be jumping in the river 
an' drowndin' 'erself, that's what she will." 

But the trap did not resume its journey. The girl was 
standing with the child in her arms, looking after them with 
bitter anger, until Bill Pike's indignant tones and the sound 
of his striding feet keeping pace with the thin man's hastening 
ones, grew fainter. Then hot tears of self-pity ran down her 
cheeks. 

" Ann Collis." 

She turned and stared at the driver of the trap. He, 
too, was standing, his shoulders a little more bowed, his 
head thrust forward. Beneath his black hat his eyes peered 
at her. 

" They say 'twas my son, Matthew, Ann Collis. Wherever 
I go, they say 'twas 'im as done it. They say nowt to me, 
it is true, but they look at me an' their eyes say it. I know 
it, an' I ain't 'ad no peace o' mind for weeks. Matthew 
denies it ; but how am I to be sure 'e speaks the truth ? 
him 'avin' bin so familiar with 'e in the past, an' when he 
refuses to name the father." 

He waited. She said nothing ; only stared at him with 
wide eyes, and held the child more closely to her. 

" Ye 'ave brought dishonour on yourself, an' reproach on 
me an' mine," he went on. " But I pity ye I do, indeed, 
Ann Collis, an' whether 'twas my own son or not, I will not 
condemn ye." He took off his black hat. " Come, bring 
the child." He stretched out his arms. " Come, bring the 
child, an' I will bless it in the name o' the Lord." 

As she made no movement to do so, he leaned forward 
and placed his hand on the child's head, but the girl sprang 
from him with a low cry, clambered wildly from the trap, 
and, her scarf blowing from her face and her burden 
swinging awkwardly in her arms, she ran back along the 
road and was lost in the night. 

Long after she had gone, he stood looking after her, 
wondering. Then he began to speak, at first with a 



THE GOSPEL CHARIOT 77 

low muttering that gradually rose into loud, passionate 
speech. 

" For what, breathrin, was her sin ? She gave birth to 
a child. 'Twas in the night in a hovel, mark ye, shelterin' 
from the wind. No stable that, wi' sweet-smellin' hay, but 
a cold stone an' mud hovel, wi' only the earth, soft an' 
moist, beneath 'er. No frankincense an' myrrh -just the 
dung-laden air an' the stench o' cattle. No evenin' star 
above it, but black storm-clouds a-driftin' across the sky, an' 
the wind whining an' the trees creakin' an' the bushes an' 
hedges a-shudderin'. But 'ers was the everlastin' miracle 
an' she offered 'er gift in the service o' the Lord. Is the 
givin' o' life thus a greater sin than that o' takin' it 
away ? 

" Was her unworthiness greater than that o' those who 
condemned 'er ? Were they without sin that they should 
cast at 'er the badge o' infamy ? Were their souls so free 
from all taint that they should write the word ' defiled ' 
across 'er forehead ? The owl looks grave an' solemn, but 
'e fastens cruel talons on his victim, an' after 'e 'as swallowed 
it whole, he spews out the skin an' bones in little round 
pellets. Breathrin, fer shame that ye should fasten your 
talons on 'er, taunt 'er with 'er wickedness, an' then spurn 
'er away from ye as though she were somethin' vile from 
outer your mouth ! Be ye merciful to the sinner, breathrin, 
an' judge not, condemn not." 

The church bells long ago had ceased their call to service. 
In churches with spires and churches with towers, people 
were mumbling responses to intoning, surpliced clergymen. 
In small, square chapels congregations were singing heartily 
of wretched sinners plunged in the depths of dark despair, 
or were listening to men in black preaching of hell-fire and 
of the eternal damnation that lay in store for the wicked. 
But in the chapel at Upper Wreyford the worshippers still 
waited, whispering among themselves. 

For on that lonely country road the pony stood patiently be- 
tween the shafts. The tall trees were motionless, and soundless 
save for an occasional creaking ; the stars shone through 
the overhanging branches ; the hedges were still and silent, 



78 UNDER THIRTY 

too, save for the quiet fluttering of sparrows nestling in the 
dark hedge-bottom. 

And on the floor of the trap, as though it were a pulpit, 
stood Ezra Bray, the night air cool and sweet on his brow, 
his eyes alight with inspiration, unaccustomed words 
pouring in rough, uncultured tones from his lips ; with 
no one to hear him but the black, tall shapes that were 
about him, and the wild creatures that moved unseen and 
unheard in the fields beyond. 



WALTER BRIERLEY 
* 

Transition 



BORN at Waingroves, Derbyshire. Middle son of five, all 
miners. Father a winding engineman at the same colliery 
for forty-five years. Elementary school education to thir- 
teen, then the pit. Worked underground at Waingroves 
Colliery until it closed as a result of the 1921 strike. Went 
to Denby Hall Colliery as a surface-man. There till 
December 1931, then told to * stand off.' Did not get work 
again until i January 1935. McEvoy, the racing motorist 
and son of the artist, took me on at his engineering works in 
Derby as Timekeeper. There for eighteen months, then 
was appointed Children's Welfare Officer under the Derby 
Education Committee, a job that I was made for. Still 
there. 

In 1926 gained a Miner's Welfare Scholarship tenable 
two days each week at University College, Nottingham. It 
was renewed until 1930-1. Got London Matric., failed in 
Inter, and was discarded. Out of work, then, I had no money 
to take it on my own. 

In 1928 and 1932 won the * Arthur Markham ' memorial 
prize for an original narrative in prose. Wrote Means 
Test Man while unemployed, and during that time and 
since have contributed articles to the Listener, Spectator, 
London Mercury, and stories in a few magazines. Sandwichman 
was written last year, of course. In it is embodied a good 
many of my own experiences but I had an excellent 
father, and was never a sandwichman. 

I was married, too, without a hitch, in 1924, and have a 
son ten years of age. My wife was a school teacher. 

WALTER BRIERLEY. 



81 



TRANSITION 

IN the school playgrounds the girls and infants one 
side of the wall, the boys the other there was swift 
movement and quick, shrill voices. Girls stepped to the 
turn of skipping ropes and tossed balls with fine judgment, 
infant pulled at infant ; boys swerved and darted, bending 
bodies from the brushing, clutching fingers of the one who 
was ' on,' or who was ' it.' A youngster of ten, in desperate 
effort to evade capture, slipped round a group of senior 
boys and clutched at the last to help him turn more sharply. 
The senior, Jack Parker, clouted him as he dashed away, 
then spoke again to his two companions. 

" Yes. I s'll be comin' down there this time on 
Monday." 

"Wish I was leavin' to-day,, as well," Sam Lester said 
with faint envy. " I'm goin' to the pit an' all, when I 
leave. My mam wants me to try for t'Co-op 

" Co-op," Jack broke in. " My mam wanted me to try 
an' all. I'm bein' no counter-jumper." 

" I don't want to go to t'pit," the third lad said. " I 
s'll try for t'Co-op." 

" Ber," sneered Jack. " Look at 'em comin' 'ome from 
t'pit." He pointed over the school wall, across two fine 
meadows where the chimney, headgear, and screens of the 
mine stood perched on a small hill, dead-black in the 
glowing afternoon sunshine. Tiny figures moved down 
the steep pit bank on to Pit Lane, which led into the village. 
" Comin' 'ome, an' not three o'clock yet. An' you'll be 
stuck in t'Co-op till seven." 

" An' they never 'ave many 'ol'days, either," Sam Lester 
was beginning. 

" They don't," Jack took up the cue. " An' when they 

82 



TRANSITION 83 

'ave 'ol'days at t'pit they get dole for 'em. An' do Go- 
oppers ever see Derby County play at footba' ? " 

" They don't," Sam helped. " They at work all Sat'day 
afternoon. I'm not goin' to any shop. I'm goin' to t'pit 
when I leave at Christmas. Like Jack." 

A whistle blew and Sam and the other boy turned at 
once and walked towards the lines forming at the school 
door. Jack stayed for a moment and watched the steam 
shoot from the exhaust and foam in the still air over the 
winding engine-house, watched the wheels in the headgear 
twinkle and slow to rest. Then he hurried to lines. 

" Don't think because this is your last day at school, 
Parker, that you can slink into lines five minutes after the 
others. Stay at my desk when you get in." 

He left the desk and went to his place with tingling 
hands ; he sat and glared until the teacher looked at him, 
then he dropped his gaze. 

" I'll make the devil look out when I've left," he muttered 
to his neighbour. " I'll come down when 'e's takin' drill 
an' shout " 

The master's eyes stayed on him and Jack was silent. 
He got out his library book and opened it the last half 
of Friday afternoon was always silent reading but he read 
nothing, sitting with empty eyes, thinking and sometimes 
thrilling. 

When he reached home his tea was ready and he sat 
down at once, eager to get it over. His mother sat at the 
table while he ate ; she would clear away the tea things 
and carry the pots into the kitchen immediately he had done, 
then straighten round and go shopping to Pirley. Every 
Friday she did this, for it was every Friday that her husband 
and their two sons brought home wages from the pit. 
They were home now ; the father was in the garden 
watching his pigeons peck up the>,corn he had scattered, 
Tom dozing and starting in the chair under the narrow 
side window, Harry snoring on the sofa. They were still 
in their pit clothes. Mrs. Parker looked from Tom to Harry 
with faint disgust. 

" Tom ! Harry ! " Tom murmured in reply. " Come 



84 UNDER THIRTY 

on. Get washed. Lyin' about in your pit-muck till bed- 
time. House's never tidy." 

" You won't forget to bring my pit trousers, will you. 
mum ? " Jack said across the table. " White moleskin. 
Don't bring me them cord'roy things. 'Ad I better go with 
you ? " 

" I shouldn't go to t'pit, Jack, if I was you." She had 
glanced at the other two, one drooping and jerking in the 
chair, the other sprawled in ugliness across the sofa. " Stop 
at 'ome a bit an' find a job in a shop or somewhere." 

" I'm not. I'm not. My dad got me on at t'pit an' I'm 
goin'. Don't start that again, mum. I want to go to t'pit." 
She did not answer but began clearing the table. " I s'll 
want a strap, as well." 

" You've got two or three cricket belts." 

" Oo. Them won't do. I want a leather strap. I'll go 
with you to Pirley." 

They walked to Pirley and he would have her buy the 
moleskin trousers, the blue linsey shirt, the nailed boots, 
and leather strap, before she pursued her regular line of 
shopping. He carried the parcels and waited outside 
grocery and provision shops, he followed his mother from 
stall to stall on the market, impatient of the jostling and 
noise. When he complained that he was tired and wanted 
to go home, his mother was angry. 

" I told you to wait till I'd finished shoppin', didn't I ? 
You must wait, now." 

He brightened when they were walking back over the 
fields. 

" Mum. Could I 'ave long trousers for Sunday, wi' my 
next suit ? " 

" I'll see." 

" I don't think I s'll go to t'chapel on Sunday mornin' 
again, mum," he said after a while, and his tone asked 
that she would agree. 

" Oh. An' why not ? " 

" Well. Not many go who goes to t'pit." 

" Well, you'll go. So get that into your 'ead." There 
was some disgust in her voice. " I should think you want 



TRANSITION 85 

to lie in bed till dinner time every Sunday, then rake about 
t'fields for the rest o' the day. Well, you're not." 

" Our Tom an' 'Arry does." 

She was silent in face of that. Her teeth pressed together 
and she did not speak when he offered another remark. 
She changed the full basket from one hand to the other 
that the physical effort might steady her wild thoughts. 
He'd be the same as the others. If only his dad would 
make him have something different. Still the dad hadn't 
much go in him, just a collier ; never known anything but 
the pit and the village. Well, Jack hadn't, so how could 
he be expected to want something he knew nothing about. 
She brightened and moved again to the boy. 

' You must keep goin' to the chapel, Jack. Mester 
Poole's 'ead deputy at t'pit, an' if you go to Sunday School 
well, 'e's sure to look after you down t'pit. You go. I 
should." He did not offer anything and she began again : 
" An' I should go to night classes, if I was you. They 
don't get to be deputies an' under-managers wi'out studyin'. 
I should." 

" I think I shall go to night school. They don't boss you 
about same as at day school. I should soon chuck it if 
they did." 

" Now, don't be too big a man. You'll wish someday, 
perhaps, that you'd learnt more at school." 

As soon as they reached home, Jack tore open the parcels 
and was soon clattering about the kitchen floor in the nailed 
boots, looking down at the white moleskin trousers imprison- 
ing his legs. Until now he had been free in shorts and light 
boots ; the thick cloth rubbing about his knees and the noise 
he made at every step brought a sheepish look to his face as 
he met the eyes of his parents ; he felt strange and less certain 
of himself. 

The pit was idle next day, Saturday, and Jack hurried 
out as soon as he had had his breakfast to find Joe Lynam. 
Joe had worked at the pit for a year and had said he would 
take Jack the first morning. But Mrs. Lynam said her son 
had gone to an aunt in Pirley and would not be back before 
dinner. Jack turned away in anger and disappointment, 



86 UNDER THIRTY 

nor did he feel any more at ease when Sam Lester called 
and invited him to play in his back-garden. He didn't 
want to play in schoolboy fashion, now ; they ought to 
know that. Did Sam ever shout to Joe Lynam and ask 
him ' to play ' ? Still there was nothing else to do until 
dinner. 

" I've got some pit things ready for Monday," he told 
Sam at once. " Moleskins, and boots wi' clinkers in. An' 
a thick leather strap. I wish it was Monday." 

Neither boys got pleasure out of the morning's play ; 
when Mrs. Lester called Sam in for dinner he went at once, 
usually she had to come out three or four times and get 
from him : ' I'm comin',' or 'Just another minute.' But 
he was utterly sick of Jack's talking of the pit and left him 
eagerly. Jack was not unwilling to break away, either, 
for although he had enjoyed talking about Monday and the 
pit, there had been no response from Sam, who had tried 
all the time to slide the conversation to the games they 
agreed to play. 

Immediately after dinner he went to his mother in the 
kitchen where she was washing up. 

" Gi'e me threepence, mum," he pleaded in a whisper. 

" Threepence ! What do you want threepence for ? " she 
cried. 

" Shut up," he said quickly. " Dad'll 'ear you." His 
tone slowed again. " I'm goin' to t'cricket match wi' 
Joe." 

" It's only a penny to go in, isn't it, for you ? " 

" Well but Joe'll 'ave some to spend." 

She wiped her hands and gave him three pennies from her 
purse, and he went at once along the street to Joe's house 
and waited there until the Lynam family had finished 
dinner. 

" You're goin' to t'pit, are you, my duck ? " Mrs. Lynam 
asked, and Jack nodded in smiling agreement. " I thought 
your mam wanted to make sommat else of you. She said 
she'd enough wi' two lads at t'pit." 

" She doesn't want me to go, but I'm goin'. My dad's 
got me a job, so I s'll 'ave to go, now." 



TRANSITION 87 

" Pit's as good as any other job," Mrs. Lynam sniffed. 
" Them women who thinks their lads are better 'cos they 
work in a shop " 

She broke off when she found no one listening, her hus- 
band had left the table and gone into the garden, the elder 
son was deep in the sport page of the newspaper, and Joe 
and Jack were talking quickly. She left her chair and put 
the kettle on the gas ring to make herself a cup of tea. The 
two boys went out. 

" Not time for t'match, yet," Joe said as they walked 
down the street and came to the small shop in the middle 
of the village. " Say, Jack. 'Ave you ever smoked ? " 

" No. I 'aven't. No. Why ? " 

" I 'ave." He was silent a moment watching the other. 
" I say. Fetch a packet from 'ere. They'll think it's for 
your dad." Jack looked startled, then laughed nervously. 
" Go on," Joe urged. 

Jack took the two pennies and waited until the shop was 
empty, then fetched the five cigarettes and furtively trans- 
ferred the packet to Joe. Jack seemed immensely relieved 
to be rid of them. 

" We'll go down Stoney Lane to t'park, eh ? " Joe said. 
" We've plenty of time." 

They walked over Pit Lane, then turned down the narrow 
Stoney Lane hemmed in by tall, thick hedges. Joe pulled 
out the cigarettes and offered one to the other boy. 

" No. I'd better No." 

" Come on. Get 'old o' one an' light it. Everybody 
smokes who goes to t'pit. Come on." 

Jack was glad when the park entrance came in sight and 
he could throw away the cigarette ; each time he had taken 
the thing from his mouth to expel the smoke he had drawn 
in, he had looked at it between his fingers and swallowed 
hard, shuddering inwardly at times. Joe seemed to throw 
his away with as much relief, though he attempted a gesture 
for Jack's sake, which was by no means a success. 

Inside the park gates, Jack put down a penny on the table 
at which two cricket club officials sat, and passed on. Joe 
did the same, but one of the men caught his arm. 



88 UNDER THIRTY 

" Come on, young Lynam, twopence more. You go to 
work." 

Joe forked out two more pennies and came up to Jack 
mumbling in his throat, his mouth pushed out. 

" I've never paid above a penny before. It's that sod 
Kelly. I'll bet their Bill's come on for nowt. Ber ! " 

They walked on towards the playing pitch and sat down 
with a group of youths who sprawled about the grass on 
the top side of the wicket. One greeted Joe, who at once 
joined in the quick, vivid conversation. Most of the youths 
were gangers like Joe, and the talk rarely moved from that 
particular section of pit work. Jack listened but could get 
little sense from the chatter about 'osses, stints, lockers, 
doggers, couplers, drags he wouldn't ask Joe, though, it 
would all be plain to him when he had been at the pit a 
week. The youths were smoking and Joe looked stealthily 
around, then fetched out his cigarettes. Jack looked about, 
too, when he saw Joe get on to his stomach and elbows and 
light up, and moved away to sit among some schoolboys. 
His father was coming from the gate, he mustn't let him see 
him with that swearing, smoking pit gang to-day. It 
wouldn't matter next week. 

He watched the play for a while, saw his brother Harry 
get fifteen runs and catch out one of the other side, then he 
went with two boys climbing the oak trees standing about 
the wide park. An ice-cream man came on to the field and 
they bought a cornet, then went into the long wood at the 
bottom of the park to play cowboys. 

Sunday was an excruciatingly painful day. He went to 
Sunday School in the morning and afternoon much against 
his will ; Joe Lynam had asked him to go a walk after dinner 
but Jack's mother had been at the gate when the invitation 
was put out and she had told Joe firmly that Jack wasn't 
going to rake about the fields on Sunday afternoons, he was 
going to Sunday School. Joe had gone off at once and 
Jack had walked into the house scowling and muttering in 
an ugly tone. But his mother went to chapel in the evening 
and the two boys did get an hour together in the fields, 
coming again into the village with pale faces and somewhat 






TRANSITION 89 

guilty looks. Jack went to the tap at once and had a long 
drink. 

" Don't forget to call in t'mornin'," Jack said seriously 
to Joe when they parted. A sudden dread seized him. 
What if he was too late the first morning, and them at the 
pit got a job all ready for him. They wouldn't have him 
if he put them in a mess like that. " Be sure, Joe," he cried 
as the other merely nodded. 

" Oh, I s'll call. 'Alf-past six." 

Jack sat on the sofa from nine till half-past watching his 
mother put up the food for to-morrow's shift two slices of 
bread with bacon between, two of jam and an apple pasty 
went into each snap-bag. Then she brought in the pit- 
clothes from the kitchen where they had been drying and 
put them in heaps on the rug about the hearth. She left 
Jack's on the chair by the dresser, they were clean and new- 
smelling ; after to-morrow they would be another heap on 
the hearth. When he had seen his mother wash out his 
water drum and put it with the others on the sink near the 
tap, he went to bed. He was a long time dropping off to 
sleep, and twice during the night he wakened suddenly 
and lay listening with eyes held wide open. His mother's 
voice brought him from a deep sleep and out of bed in quick 
bewilderment, and fear swept to his eyes when he ran down- 
stairs and saw that his father was about to leave for work 
and his brothers had finished breakfast. 

" Am I late ? " 

" No," his mother said firmly. " Get your clothes on, 
it's only quarter-past." 

" Now, be'ave thisen," his father said as he slid the tape 
of his snap-bag over his arm and turned to the door. " Don't 
let gaffer 'ave to come to me wi' any tale about thee actin' 
monny, an' playin' t'fool. Look after t'job tha'rt sent to, 
an' tha'll be all right. Mornin', mother." 

He went and the two other sons followed him. Jack 
drank the tea his mother had poured out and began 
the boiled egg but turned from it before he had half 
eaten it. 

ik Cnn't eat any more, mum," 



go UNDER THIRTY 

" Come on. Get it eaten. Tha'll be no good at work wi' 
nowt in thee belly. Come on." 

" Gimme another cup o' tea, then." 

" Ner, Jack ! " Joe was at the door. Jack jumped from 
his chair and pulled on his coat, took up his water drum 
and snap-bag. 

" Be a good lad, Jack. Be careful, an' do as tha'rt told." 

" A' right. Mornin'." He was at the door, away from 
her completely. She moved to the small side window and 
watched the two pass out of sight down the street ; Joe was 
bending to look at the strap Jack had pulled up his coat to 
show, then Jack bent to see how Joe's fastened. 

They clattered down the street in the still morning, 
turned over Pit Lane and climbed the steep bank to the 
pit head. Bells jangled, the cage crashed up and rested 
on the props, men filed on and it crashed down again. The 
ropes whirred and whipped about the shaft, steam roared 
through the exhaust over the engine-house. Jack appeared 
less certain of himself now, the noise and throng of men 
bewildered him slightly and he kept very close to Joe. 

" 'Ave you to see t'gaffer before you go down, or what ? " 
Joe asked when they were passing the under-manager's 
office. 

" No. I signed on when I was 'ere last week." He 
motioned towards the office window. " 'Ee said I 'ad to 
see Mester Poole when I got down." 

" Oh. That's a' right, then. Come on." They walked 
to the lamp-shed. " Four, six, one," Joe called and a lamp 
was poked through a small window. " Eh ! " A face 
peered through. " 'Ee wants a lamp. First mornin'." 

They crossed to the timekeeper's office and Jack said his 
name and received a motty with a number on. Jack had 
hung the lamp on his strap as he had seen Joe do, but as 
they walked along to the pit-head it banged against his 
knees and he had to take it off again and carry it in his 
hand. With nine others he filed on to the cage, the bell 
rang and he clutched the hand-rail suddenly as he felt 
himself jerk up, stop, then begin to fall. Steadily down 
from sunlight to a grey daylight, faster now into lamp- 



TRANSITION 91 

light. Jack's stomach seemed to rise sickeningly, he clenched 
his teeth. The empty cage sighed towards him, rattled in 
passing, sighed away. He looked up suddenly, startled, 
grasped Joe who stood by him. 

" 'S all right, Jack. We're not goin' up again," Joe 
whispered. " Seems like it, though, doesn't it ? " 

Mr. Poole was with the other deputies in a room cut out 
of the rock and he came to the door when Jack asked for 
him. 

" Oh. It's young Parker, is it ? Tha can go an' learn 
to 'ang on at bottom o' double-road jig. Young Cooper'll 
show thee. Go in t'stables, 'e'll be theer." Jack was turning 
away with "Right, Mester Poole." "Eh." The boy 
turned again. " I 'ope tha won't be too big to come to 
Sunday School, now." 

" No," Jack said, and went into the pit bottom again 
where Joe was waiting. " 'E says I've got to go wi' Cooper 
an' learn to 'ang on at bottom of oo, where did 'e say ? 
I've forgot." 

" Cooper's at bottom at t'double-road jig ' 

" That's it. Double-road jig. Mester Poole said Cooper'd 
be in t'stables." 

They crossed to an opening in the wall and passed 
between rows of ' standings ' where gangers were putting 
bridles on their horses. Jack kept his mouth closed and put 
his handkerchief to his nose, but he could not keep from his 
mouth, throat, stomach, the hot, thick stench of manure. 
They came to a group of youths at the top of the stables. 
Joe was peering about all the way up. 

" W'eer's Cooper." A small youth pushed forward. 
" Oh, Fred. Jack Parker 'ere's got to learn thy job. Poole 
says." 

' 'Ooray ! " cried Cooper. " I s'll go gangin' to-morrer. 
Come on, Parker, let's go. Tha can learn t'job in a day." 

Jack followed him from the stables and they walked down 
the mile-long rope-road to a wide junction where three 
roads diverged. They went to the right, along a double- 
road stint. 

' That long 'ill we came down," Cooper said, " was 



92 UNDER THIRTY 

t'incline. Where them roads met was main turn-out. 
This's double-road stint ; ganger goes back'ards an' forrards 
ower 'ere bringin' empties an' takin' loaden'ns from us to 
that big turn-out." They came soon to where the road and 
the two sets of rails rose steeply at an angle of about forty- 
five degrees. " We're 'ere. Take thee jacket off an' put 
it in this seat-hole." 

Jack looked about him. Nine full trams were on the right 
track, the left was empty ; six-foot props, each with a bar 
resting on it, lined the walls. To one of the props a wire 
was fastened and it reached into the darkness of the jig, 
running through staples sticking from each prop. Cooper 
had sat down, his chin rested on his hands and he was 
yawning. Jack leaned against a loaded tram, listening and 
looking down the stint where a faint rumbling sounded. A 
steady point of light grew brighter as the rumble increased 
and broke gradually into the plodding of hooves and the 
clicking of wheels over rail-joints. The ganger began 
singing, sang all the while he turned his horse from the front 
of the three empty trams he had brought and hung it on 
the first of the loaded ones. He clicked his horse to start 
when he had coupled three together, then leapt on the front 
of the first and rode away singing. 

" This's w'eer we start, now," Fred Cooper said. " Come 
on." Jack followed him to the three empties. " Bring one, 
I'll take two." They pushed them to the foot of the incline. 
" Couple three on, like this." He picked up two couplers 
from the floor and fastened the three trams together. " Then 
'ang this rope on, like this." The end of a rope lay in the 
track where the first empty stood and Fred cottered it to 
the tug-hole. " Put t'drag on." He hung a long piece of 
iron to the back of the last empty. " That's to throw 'em 
off road if they run back if rope breaks or a coupler." 
He went to the front of the trams again. " Ner. Just ring 
t'bell." He took hold of the wire running through staples 
and swung on it, swung almost to the floor. A bell chinked 
away in the darkness. There was a dry sound of the rope 
tightening, then the empties moved, were pulled upwards, 
were lost in the darkness, A niighty roaring sounded, the 



TRANSITION 93 

darkness was thick with noise ; Fred had turned away 
without interest, Jack stood clenching his hands, afraid, 
swallowing hard. But soon there was a definite line of 
sound, the heavy running of wheels over metals, now the 
clicking over joints, then into the little world of light his 
lamp made, three loaded trams ran, the long smooth pieces 
of coal gleaming brilliantly black. Fred came to them at 
once. " Take rope off these an' throw it ower on to 
t' empty road ready to 'ang on to next empties ganger 
brings." He threw over the rope as he spoke. " Then 
uncouple these loaded 'ns an' push 'em down out o' t'road 
of next three landin'. See. Come on, push these down." 
They banged the three into the other six and the line of 
nine ran down to where the ganger turned his horse. 

" Another ganger's comin'," Jack said. 

" Well, thee 'ave a try, this time." The ganger came and 
left three empties. " Gome on. Ner, push 'em up. One 
at a time if tha can't manage any more. Couple 'em 
together. Put drag on. Ner the rope. Be sure that's on 
right. Let me 'ave a look. Good. Ner ring t'bell. Go on, 
swing on it, it'll not break. That's it." 

The bell chinked faintly, there were sounds at the top of 
the jig, then the empties began to move. The darkness 
roared, then came the smooth running sound, the clicking 
over joints, the slow gliding of the black brilliance into the 
room of light. 

'' Take rope off an' throw it ower. Uncouple 'em an' 
push 'em into t'others. Bang 'em. That's it. Why, tha 
can do t'job a'ready." 

Jack was eager, now, and flushed with sense of achieve- 
ment, he waited impatiently for the gangers, he hurried 
about, strained at the empties and the loaded trams. Fred 
Cooper sat all the time in the seat-hole, encouraging, prais- 
ing, making certain Jack had coupled the empties, put the 
drag on, made secure the rope. 

" Say, kid," a ganger said to him, " doesn't young Cooper 
'elp thee? Come on out o' that seat'ole," he shouted, " an' 
let 'im 'ave a minute." 

Cooper came out and the ganger went. 



" Don't 'ave owt to do wi' 5 im," Fred said, with a leer. 
" 'E'll sneak to t'gafFer. Oh. I must tell thee. When tha 
sees a light comin' up stint or down t'jig an' tha'rt not 
jiggin', clean this place up. If there's nowt to clean up, tha can 
scrape thy shovel about floor. Don't let gaffer or t'deputy 
catch thee doin' nowt. 'Ere's ganger again. Gome on." 

They worked on, at eleven sat in the seat-hole and ate 
the food they had brought, then began again. Jack slowed 
down, his efforts at pushing the trams were noisy and big, he 
visited his water drum more often, asked the time frequently. 
" Last gang, 'e says," Fred told him as a ganger left. 
" Come on, let's jig these, an' go." He marked the boy's 
effort. " Tired ? " he asked, and Jack nodded as he pushed. 
" Let's get these off, then, an' we'll look sharp into t'turn- 
out an' get a pull up big incline." 

The three loaded trams slowed to rest and immediately 
Fred pulled five times at the bell- wire. 

" That'll tell 'em it's last jig. Come on." They hurried 
along the stint into the wide turn-out where four gangers 
were ungearing their horses. " Get 'old o' one o' 'osses' 
tails," Fred said as the horses began moving towards the 
incline. He himself grasped one and motioned Jack to 
another. The ganger of the horse moved his hand a little 
as Jack reached out to hang on with his hand. The horse 
pulled willingly, towards the stables, towards food and rest. 
Jack hung back wearily, merely picking up his feet and 
putting one forward as the horse pulled. In the pit bottom 
when he let go as the horse turned into the stables, he almost 
fell down, so weak his legs seemed. But he strengthened 
when he saw Joe Lynam waiting for him on the pit-top, 
and walked briskly to the lamp-shed and the time-office. 
' 'Ow 'as tha gone on ? " Joe asked. " Like it ? " 
" I do. S'll do it mysen to-morrer. I've done it most of 
to-day. That Cooper sat in t'seat-'ole nearly all time." 
" Tha shouldn't 'ave let 'im." 

They walked over Pit Lane and up Main Street ; children 
shouted and played, happy that they had a whole month's 
holiday before them. Some of the older boys called to Jack 
and he moved his head to one side in recognition ; to girls 



TRANSITION 95 

who laughingly pointed out to others his black face and long 
trousers he showed an ugly, threatening countenance and they 
ran from him a little distance and called louder than ever. 
' 'E's a man now 'e works at t'pit. Where's your knees ? " 

"I'll sock that Nellie Bates when I catch 5 er." They 
walked slowly up the street, their nailed boots slurring on 
the smooth pavement. " Wat time are tha comin' out ? " 

" Oh," Joe said brightly, " I s'll be out by four. 'Ave I 
to ca' for thee ? " 

"Yes. I'll be ready." 

Joe crossed to his home, Jack continued more slowly 
now. His mother stood at the gate and went in with him. 

'' Well, 'ow 'as tha gone on ? Ready for some dinner ? " 

" Mm," he affirmed with closed lips. He pulled off his 
coat and dropped it on the kitchen floor, then went into 
the middle room where the table was laid. " Not very 
'ungry, though." He sat heavily in a chair and leaned an 
elbow on the table. 

" Now get thee washed an' changed," she bade him 
immediately he had done eating. " Come on, tha'll feel 
a lot better washed." 

" I'll sit on t'sofa a minute an' look at t'paper." 

His brothers came in and chaffed him a bit, then they 
turned to the food. The mother watched Jack nodding 
over the paper. 

' Ner Jack. Get washed. Is Joe comin' for thee ? " 

" In a minute," he said irritably. 

The father came in, saw the boy fast asleep. 
1 'E's bottled, is 'e ? " He laughed, but the mother made 
an impatient sound. 

At four o'clock Joe Lynam came on to the yard and called, 
: ' Is Jack ready ? " and Mrs. Parker went to the door. 

' 'E's asleep, Joe. Not washed or changed. I'll tell 'im 
you've been." 

She came back into the room with tense lips. 
' 'E'll be t'same as t'rest. Lozzin' about in 'is pit-muck 
till bedtime." She glanced at the boy, saw the pain of 
weariness in his features, and her mouth softened. " T wish 
wi' all my 'eart 'e'd been a gel." 



ARTHUR CALDER-MARSHALL 

* 

Pickle My Bones 



I LEFT Oxford eight years ago, after twenty-one years of 
preparation for life. About fifteen hundred pounds had 
been spent on my education. But the only use to which I 
could put my knowledge was teaching. Classics, philosophy, 
and ancient history equip the student for nothing else. My 
only asset was that I had got a second-class degree instead 
of a first. A third would have been even better, as I found. 
The only time my B.A., second class, meant anything to 
me was when I was turned down from a job for being too 
highly qualified. 

I hoped to live by writing. I had edited a paper 
in Oxford. But there were no openings in journalism, 
daily, weekly, or monthly. I wrote a novel in three 
months and tore it up. Five months after leaving 
Oxford, I took a job as schoolmaster and taught for two 
years. 

I began to drop the cocksure omniscience that Oxford 
fosters through contact with adolescent students and 
emotionally retarded dons. I knew a lot, I realized, but 
not everything. 

Writing my second novel, which I ought to have torn up 
but didn't, I discovered that I knew nothing about fiction, 
and I learnt the way to write sentences. 

Teaching boys of all ages, I discovered that I knew almost 
nothing about other people or myself. What little I knew 
about myself showed me that I was as bad a teacher as the 
other teachers I met. 

Some find school life a sanctuary from the outside world : 
but it was a prison to me. Edward Charles wrote to me 
at this time : ' There you are, wasting your own youth, 
teaching others to use theirs.' I didn't even have the satis- 
faction of believing that. 

I chucked teaching as soon as my second novel was 

99 



ioo UNDER THIRTY 

accepted. I was prepared to risk the danger of a swelling 
overdraft, and I expected my second book to be a success. It 
was a succes d'estime, selling twice as much as the first, but still 
under a thousand copies. I cadged reviewing, hawked 
short stories, ghosted autobiographies. 

Almost immediately on reaching London, I got psycho- 
analysed. I knew that my failure as teacher and my unhap- 
piness were due to infantile problems. During analysis, 
I wrote At Sea, succes d'estime 2, which was more a cuspidor 
than a novel. 

In July 1 934 I married Ara Sales and we went to Spain 
and Morocco, during which time I made my last two offer- 
ings to the past, Dead Centre and Challenge to Schools, an 
analysis of what schools are like and why. In Fez, I col- 
laborated with Ara on a play, emotionally excellent, 
technically lousy. 

To be full, a man's life must have a threefold relationship ; 
firstly, to his wife and children, secondly, to his work 
whatever it may be, thirdly, to society as a whole. 
This third relation was the latest to grow in me as 
in many other bourgeois writers, only springing to full 
activity under the threat of Fascism in the last three 
years. 

Dead Centre was succes d'estime 5. But its successor, Pie in 
the Sky, translated me from being what is almost technically 
known as a ' coming ' writer to a ' successful ' writer. Now 
instead of my begging for work, editors begged me. I had 
the luxury of turning down jobs. And finally came the 
Hollywood contract, which all friends who had no Holly- 
wood contracts, assured me would mean ' aesthetic 
suicide.' 

Meanwhile in England appeared The Changing Scene, a 
full-length non-fiction book which Mr. Evelyn Waugh 
deplored as another good writer gone Marxist, until he had 
to review A Date with a Duchess, a collection of my short 
stories, a few weeks later. Then he revised his opinion. 
He didn't like Marxists. He liked the short stories. So I 
am an anarchist. 

Eight years is a short time to unlearn the training of 



PICKLE MY BONES 101 

twenty-one. But bit by bit the structure collapses. This 
snobbery, that prejudice splits and falls. Maybe before I 
die, the litter will be cleared up, and I shall be able to write 
the book I want. If not, somebody else will. 

A. CALDER-MARSHALL. 



PICKLE MY BONES 

" T KNOW," Charley said, taking Bimbo's arm in a firm 

J. hand. " If they don't want us, I know where we'll go." 
Split from the others, they turned downhill. " You met 
Ted Slaughter, didn't you, that night, Bimbo ? " 

" I know Slaughter," the young man answered, Bimbo 
the hawk, sweating beneath the eyes. " And his brothers, 
Plague and Pestilence. Not one of that family I haven't 
met. Huh ! " His voice barked a laugh-cough. " Huh ! 
huh ! that's funny, a joke, see ? " 

Street lamps revolved and stopped, reversed and stopped, 
swung back again. Night nibbles at faces. Take gin and 
shake it off. " That's no joke, but symbology you're talking," 
said Charley, fat, white-skinned, with a voice that, coming 
from the coarse body, sounded rare and gentle. " But what 
I say is fact most wonderful, most curious fact, stranger than 
all fiction. Slaughter's the undertaker, a man setting his 
name to rights." 

The sky was pricked out with stars, the roadback netted with 
frost. " I knew a man in Lagos," Bimbo said. What song the 
sirenssang. "Yes, Lagos it was." Bathing in memory. "Name 
Christmas, a missionary by profession. Was that chance ? " 
Hark, vault of heaven, was it chance ? Discuss celestial bodies. 
Mars, are you warlike ? Venus, true planet of love ? 

" What's in a name ? " the older man propondered. 
" Why's Bun the baker, why the Doctor Dose ? Bim, boy, 
I tell you this. Mark it before I die. Should you want to 
plumb the profundity of profundity, interrogate the games 
of childhood. Explore Tom Tiddler's Ground and cogitate 
the symbolosophy of Catch-as-Catch-can. What's Hunt the 
Slipper but what we all do, calling the slipper happiness, 
calling it truth ? " 

102 



PICKLE MY BONES 103 

" Gall it booze, Charley, and you're right. This Slaughter, 
has he got a cellar ? " 

The white face turned towards hawk's eyes. " That's our 
reason. The purpose of our envoy. An's a fine chap, 
Slaughter, stands drinks with the best." 

Swaying silence. Footsteps hammer tones in eternity. 
Silence stirred by street lamps. Sprang from a hoarding. 
ANDREWS THE LIVER SALT. Must have left it behind. Laugh, 
folks, at the fat man's bottom and he scratching his head, see. 
If he scratched his arse, he'd find it. Behind the hoarding 
was a broken house, cellars and rooms laid open like hollow 
teeth. The wind whipped at the sodden paper peeling from 
the walls. Where the December draught blows, men once 
warmed cold hands before a fire and women sewed in 
comfort. 

" When you're dead, son," Charley said, " be balmed by 
Slaughter. His granny was Egyptian." 

Bimbo stopped and separated himself from Charley as he 
swayed. His eyes stared down the light-pooled street, but 
they saw nothing. ** The Egyptians drew the brain down 
through the nostrils." He hunched his shoulders, gestured 
with his hands. " Think, Charley, think of the hooked metal 
probing your dead cold nose to yoick the grey stuff 
down. Think of death, Charley. A man might blow his 
nose and see his cerebellum lying in his noserag. Ugh ! " 
He shivered. 

" Come along," said Charley. " I know you're going on 
the stage. You told me all that once this evening. It's not 
I don't believe you, but I just don't want to hear it over 
again." 

A car, two cars, roared into, shot down the " Cheerio, 
boys ! " street. Headlights piled up against a " See 
those lights, Bim, that's Slaughter's " shop-front. Then the 
cars wheeled, one behind the other, brakes grinding, turned 
right-angled down another street, humming away, away. 
The sound a dying lamp glimmering, leaping up, down, up 
but always farther down. 

' You mustn't say that, Charley." Bim's voice trembled. 
" Y"'i mustn't make fun of that." 



104 UNDER THIRTY 

" I didn't meant it." Charley pressed his hand. 

" You mustn't say it. You're my friend. There's some 
things sacred. . . . I'll be a great actor. But if you don't 
believe it, then who ..." 

" You'll be fine, Bimbo. You've got it in you. I know 
that." 

The young man pushed him away. " You're just trying 
to comfort me." My God, how sad my voice, how sad the 
world is under a shivering sky. Harshening, his voice rose. 
" You don't believe hi me. What you're saying now is just 
to comfort me." 

" Slaughter's ! " Charley distracted, pointing to the shop 
front. " What monumental masonry ! What venereal 
piles ! " In the moonlight a blind angel stared at them 
winding a soundless horn. Before her feet were tussocks of 
immortelles. MY GOD HOW WONDERFUL THOU ART nsr LOVING 
MEMORY OF ... Inverted grave vases of porcelain. THE 
LORD HATH GIVEN. ... I wish he'd take away. 

Staring up at higher stories, Adam's apple ripe in his 
throat, " No lights ! " Charley gargled. " No one in." 

Bim gazed at the vision in the dark shop, the rich coffins 
stacked behind glass along the walls until : " Try the side, 
Bim," Charley jerked his arm to follow. His knees were weak 
but his mouth was parched, tingling for liquor. 

Through an arch slant-shadowed from a wall-bracket, 
they now one mass, now two linked by an arm, lurched to 
where the backyard was trellised about. Here, concourse 
of angels and marble cherubs balanced on the balls of their 
feet like a frozen ballet class, stretched to but never touched 
God perhaps knew what paradise. Yearning maybe merely 
to see a name sculped after IN LOVING MEMORY OF, ambitious 
only to stake first claim in the cemetery. 

" No lights here, either," Charley said. 

But Bim, " What matter ? Come on," scrambled over 
the trellis sooner than wrestle with the gate latch. 

Charley hesitated, cupped hands, " Hoy there. Anyone 
awake ? " But no one answered. 

" Found a door," called Bimbo. " But's locked." He 
pushed against it. 



PICKLE MY BONES 105 

" No lights." Charley crossed the shadows of the angels. 
"No good. No lights." 

Bim took a loose brick and " You can't, Bim ! " 
smashed, the glass fell and clattered, the brick fell. " Can't 
do it, Bim."' He got his hand through " It's illegal." 
Bimbo turned the key in the lock and bending drew the bolt. 
" Oh, can't I just ? " He swung the door back on a passage. 

Pale in shadow, his face turned. " Come on, Charley." 
Blood welling clotted his hand and stuck his fingers together. 
" I've done this. Think I'm going back without a drink 
now ? " He bound his handkerchief round the hand. 
:t Enter the Slaughterhouse." 

The older man followed, and they felt their way along in 
darkness. The sole noise was their footsteps on the brick 
floor. Then Charley's soft voice, *' Here's a door." When 
he turned the handle, a grey rectangle dawned on the 
passage. He pushed down the switch and from the white 
shade light shot in a cone on to the floor. " Office," he 
said. 

They looked round, dazzled and silly. A desk, a chair, 
a flask of water and a glass. A safe, three filing cabinets, 
a hardwood bookcase with account books and, on a shelf, 
" Bottles," said Charley. Bim said, " Booze." 

Bim got on a chair and handed down a couple of bottles. 
Embalming fluid. Superior quality. 

" What's good," Charley said. " I'm not dead yet." 

" You will be soon. Jest pickle my bones in al-co-hol. 
It's alk. Got a corkscrew ? " 

" Use paper-knife." Charley leant against the side of the 
desk. Bimbo looked round. Charley flicked the knife 
with a finger. It swung on its shoulder. " Cut self? " he 
said. " You look white. Maybe's deep." 

' 'S not deep," Bim said, shivering. " 'S cold. Not 
enough alk. Cam get cork out." 

" Get in then. Push home." 

The young man tried, but his handkerchief got in his way. 

" Here, give it to me." Charley took the bottle, shoved 
the cork in, and smelt the bottle. " It's alk," he said, " and 
smells good." He raised the bottle and swigged. 



io6 UNDER THIRTY 

Bim felt faint. Took glass off flask and said : " Fill." 
Charley poured glass full and Bim drank it down. "Jest 
pickle my guts in al-co-hol." 

" Doan make that row," said Charles. " You'll wake the 
Slaughter household ." 

" Pretty funny idea getting pickled in pickling fluid." 

" 'Member Nelson ? England expects every man to do's 
duty. British Navy did theirs by un. Pickled him in rum 
and when they got to port, there wasn't a drop left. They'd 
tapped un." 

"Was Colet, Dean St. Paul's. Know that story?" 
Bim said. " My God, room's cold. Give some more. 
'S got kick." 

He raised new brimmed glass and gulped half down. 
" Wha was I savin' ? " 

Charley stared at his right foot. It moved up and down. 
Cracks in the toe were a toothless old man's face and the 
movement made him talk. St. Peter's bell chimed and 
struck once. "Last words, 'Room's cold,'" Charley 
answered. 

Bim brushed hair back with hand. Flask on desk tilted, 
stood straight and tilted. He rubbed eyes. " Yes and Colet, 
Dean St. Paul's. Now I remember, 'member. Fire of 
London. Think of Great Fire, Charley. Think St. Paul's 
each stone of which was boun' wi' lead and gutterpipes 
were lead. Know that ? Know it melted in Great Fire 
and flowed down Ludgate Hill in molten stream ? " 

" Bottle's dead," Charley yawned. " Open other." 

" You open. I talking. You listen an' open." Cigarette 
fell from fingers on to floor. Groped feeling for it. Hand 
tangled with leg. " Gig ? Thanks, Charl." But didn't 
light, it stayed between fingers. " After Fire, two chaps 
came to Cathedral. Colet's coffin split, part melted in heat 
maybe. Poked body with sticks. Bubbles came out." 

" What's got to do . . . ? " Charley held up bottle. 

" Wait for point," Bim said. " Doan be impatient. No 
man ever got anywhere by impatience. Ole man pickled 
in liquor. They drank it. That proves it, doesn't it ? " 

" What's prove ? " 



PICKLE MY BONES 107 

Cigarette dropped Bim's fingers. Head sang what song 
sirens sang, sunk. " 'S liquor's good, course." 

" Drink't, prove't." Charley thrust bottle forward. 
But's head was sunken, drunken. " Drink." Charley 
pushed bottle at Bim's lips, " Drink." 

Bim raised hand, held it in lax hand, dropped it from lax 
hand. It spilled across his legs. 

** Wet here," Charley sprawled forward. " Where come 
liquor on trous ? " 

" Ge' 'way," Bim said. " Gray actor. Doan' b'lieve." 
What song the Sirens singling, circling sangled. Here we 
go roun' and down an' "... Raised eyes glazing, jutting 
lower lip forth. Slaver dried. 

Charl clutched Bim roun' neck. " Ole man, sorry, ole 
man. Kiss me, Bim. Kiss. Kiss." 

Both fell, heavy coats, on wood floor. Fell and lay. 
Charl tried rise, sank, on Bim's belly, pillowed his head. 
" Great actor, Bim. You'll act like . . . like some grey 
actor . . . name forgotten." 

When Charley opened his eyes it was so dark that he 
could see nothing. His feet felt as if they were frozen and his 
fingers were numb. He shut his eyes again and tried to 
sleep. His head ached. Everything turned in his brain. 
He put his hand down and touched something wet. As he 
fell into half-sleep, he began to think, ' Why is there water 
in my bed ? ' He thought, * It doesn't matter. There's 
water in my bed. It doesn't matter.' 

His brain swung round and he wanted to sleep, to stop 
feeling the pressure in his head. He thought, ' Why in my 
bed ? ' When he opened his eyes, all was dark. He felt 
the mattress and it was wood. It was a floor. He felt his 
pillows. It was a warm coat. It was Bimbo. 

" God, I've a head, Bimbo," he said. But Bimbo didn't 
answer. " Doesn't matter," he muttered. " 'S still dark." 
He went to sleep. 

When he woke it was still dark. He struck his last match, 
but it gave no light. He threw it away. 



io8 UNDER THIRTY 

He felt a bottle on the floor. It was so dark he couldn't 
see it. " Hold it up against the window." But there was 
no window. He lifted the bottle towards his eyes and hit 
himself on the nose. " Damn," he said, and put the bottle 
down. 

His head was still splitting. There was a queer smell. 
He wanted to get back to his bed and sleep the blind off. 
" Bimbo," he said, " we'd better be going." 

There was no answer. He pushed the body and said : 
" Wake up. Don't lie ther dead drunk." 

Bimbo did not move. 

Charley groped in the darkness with his hand. He felt 
the shoulder and then the face. He drew his hand back. 
The skin was frigid. 

He groped out again and touched Bimbo's lips with his 
fingers in the darkness. They were chilled stiff. 

" Bimbo," he called, " wake up." He caught the boy's 
shoulders in his hands. " Wake up, for Christ's sake," he 
shouted. But the body was heavy and when he released his 
grip, it fell with a thud against the floor. He stood up 
staring into the darkness. " You're not dead, boy," he 
whispered. " Say you're not dead." But no sound came, 
no movement, no noise even of breathing. 

Terror struck him, his pillow the cold body at his feet. 
He cupped his hands and bawled with his full lungs : 
" Ted ! Ted ! Ted ! Come down here. Come, for God's 
sake. Ted ! Ted ! " 

He heard a noise, a chair drawn back, a shout. " Who's 
there ? " 

" It's me. It's Charley. Come, for God's sake." 

Footsteps hurried downstairs. " Where are you, 
Charley ? " 

' This way," he shouted. " In the cellar." 

" Coming," the voice said. He heard a door open and 
Ted call : " You there, Charley ? " But the voice was 
farther distant. 

" Here," he shouted, " in this cellar place." 

The sound of footsteps. A door open close to him. "My 
God," said Ted, " what are you doing here ? " 



PICKLE MY BONES 109 

Charley's voice trembled. " Turn on the light, Ted. 
I've got something awful to show you." 

Ted did not speak, but Charley heard his breathing. 

; ' Turn on the light, Ted. It's something. You can't 
think how terrible." 

" I can't turn it on," said Ted softly. " It is on. And the 
sun's shining through the window." 



H. A. CARTER 



Another Day 



H. A. CARTER was born, in September 1914, in a Derby- 
shire mining village. After attending elementary school, 
and by scholarship, secondary school, he entered the local 
government service eight years ago. ' Morning,' his first 
published story, appeared in the London Mercury in 1934, 
and ' Another Day ' was published by New Stones in 1935. 
After a long period of barrenness, and, he admits, unlor- 
givable idleness, he is again becoming active. He has 
recently written several short stories dealing with the leisure 
hours of the miners among whom he lives, and he is also 
working on a novel dealing with the working-classes in a 
manner in which he believes they have not hitherto been 
presented. He finds difficulty in getting anything but the 
vaguest impression of a story * in his head,' and finds it 
utterly impossible to write in longhand. He works fairly 
quickly straight on to the typewriter, finding two drafts 
to be usually sufficient preparation for the final product. 
He has no political affiliations, and believes that the writer, 
whilst not living in an ivory tower, should remain as free 
as possible from entanglements, political, social or personal, 
taking the whole world as his oyster. He dislikes writers 
who deal with the working-classes sentimentally, romanti- 
cally, or as political figures, or as * comic element ' in the 
manner of the country yokel or village bobby. He disagrees 
with the view put forward in Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza (by a 
character, Anthony Beavis, although he thinks Huxley might 
himself subscribe to the view) that proletarian literature 
will, indeed must, deal with exceptional proletarians. He 
is of opinion that just as a painter can take an orange, a 
banana, and an empty bottle and produce a work of art, 
so a writer can take plain common-or-garden Mr. Smith, 
Mrs. Jones, and Miss Robinson, and by his treatment 
produce a work of literary worth. H. A, CARTER, 



ANOTHER DAY 

E still ! " she hissed, snapping. " Bistill ! Yer Dad 
and me's commin' ter bed now and we want ter goo 
ter sleep. Yer know what yer Dad'll do if yer dunna shut 
yer row. Now remember. Good night." 

The boy, aged seven, and his sister, aged five, closed their 
eyes and lay innocently enough, their black heads shadowed 
largely on the torn dirty wall-paper by the flickering candle- 
flame on the chair-bottom. 

" Good nigh', Mam." 

She took the candle and carried it carefully erect, shielding 
it from draught with her fingers. Darkness came across the 
little bedroom with the low angle-roof like the slow drawing 
of a dark curtain. 

As she sat on the edge of her own bed removing her worn 
stockings, she heard her husband downstairs locking the 
kitchen door, closing the pantry door. He stumbled noisily 
against the table : he had turned out the gas. She had left 
the candle on the top landing of the stairs to light him up ; 
it cast a dying gleam into the room, expiring before it 
reached and could expose the crumbling wall and damp 
plaster under the window. 

His stockinged feet padded up the bare stairs. The light 
gave a leap and approached further into the room. He 
placed the candle on a chair near his side of the bed. In 
the uncurtained, unshaded window-panes the room was 
darkly reflected. The small mirror on the red-wood dressing- 
table cast a light rectangle on to the cracked ceiling. 

He shivered as he removed his socks. She silently clam- 
bered into bed, her face looking even paler above the pale 
night-dress. The light from the candle threw fantastic 
shadows on her face, elongating the shadow of her nose 

114 



ANOTHER DAY 115 

and making her right eye a black hole. She stared unseeingly 
at the window through half-closed eyelids. 

He kept his shirt on and arranged it after he had clam- 
bered into bed, but even so he knew his legs from his knees, 
and his feet, would be cold before morning. He laid his cold 
right foot on his wife's feet, which were close together. She 
started but said nothing, and he moved back again. 

They lay a few minutes, lying motionless. The grey 
blanket under them was rough, and uneven here and there 
with patches. The thick ' navy blanket ' was warm, but 
tickled. On top of that was laid an old plush table-cloth, 
and finally two overcoats stretched across the bed, their 
empty arms reaching and clasping the shape of each body. 

He coughed, moved warily, so as not to drag the bed- 
clothes across the bed, and leaned over. The candle flick- 
ered, fought for life, and then went out. He settled himself 
again in bed, wriggled further down so as to wrap the edges 
of the clothes about his neck and chin. 

They lay silently, until the dense darkness following the 
loss of the candle light diminished and they could make out 
the outline of the window panes against the starless sky. 

They heard the clock downstairs strike nine. They came to 
bed early so as not to burn more gas than was necessary. Gas 
was expensive. And they came to bed because there was 
nothing else to do. No papers, no magazines, no cigarettes, 
no sweets, no wireless, no piano. Nothing. 

He shifted on to his side and stretched out his arms to 
fumble for her shoulder. He felt the thinness of her flesh, 
the exaggeration of her collar-bone. His fingers moving 
downwards felt the strengthless frailty of her arms. 

Lightly, teasingly, he caressed her. 

" Ain't yer gooin' ter say nowt ? " She remained silent. 

He wormed his finger-tips under her armpit and tickled 
her. Unable to stand this she moved irritably and thrust 
his hand away. 

" Don't act like a fool." 

Mocking, he pleaded : " Oh, Mama ! " 

She said tensely, between her teeth : " God, I wish you 
could get a job ! I'm neerly beat." 



ii6 UNDER THIRTY 

Still cajoling : " Well, I've tried, ain't I ? Ain't I ? " 
' You should try more. You should get out on yer bike. 
Surely somebody could give you a job. But you don't want 
one. You're comfortable enough. You don't 'ave ter 
rack yer brains out thinkin' what ter get in fer food." 

" Oh, Christ ! 'Ave we got ter 'ave all that agen ? 
Any'ow can't we 'ave the same food every week. That needs 
no brain-racking once you've figgered it out, does it ? 
Don't make out yer job's so 'ard." 

" I suppose we 'ave shoes and clo'es for the kids every 
week an' all, don't we ? 'Ow der yer think we can buy 
them wi'out missin' something else ? You don't know and 
yer don't care. As long as yer've got a coat and trousers 
and boots ter goo and sign on and then ter get ter the centre 
yer don't worry. D'yer think I sit on the sofy all day 
wonderin' what ter do wi' miself ? Y're 'ardly in the 'ouse 
except fer a bit o' summat ter eat and then off yer go 
agen. . . ." 

:< Well, I mend the boots and shoes at t'centre, don't I ? 
And I goo and gather coal from Throttle Outcrop." 

" Yes, and yer 'angs about at t'centre piecing cards an' 
dominoes and readin' t'papers. The lot on yer's comfy 
enough up theer wi' a fire. Yer can ferget about the 'ouse 
then. The centre does none on yer any good, on'y ter mek 
yer idle and satisfied. It's the wives what feels all the 
pinch stickin' in t'ouse all dee." 

" 'Arf a mo ! I were 'ardly out o' t'ouse one night last 
wik." 

" I know all about that. But what did yer stop in for ? 
To plee about wi' that owd trumpet thing. I thowt as tha 
were gooin' ter ride all over t' county this week pleein' it in 
the streets. But yer don't intend nowt o' sort. Yer were 
all raight last wik amusin' thissen wi' it an' rousing all the 
neighbours wi' thi rows. But tha'll take care as tha doesna 
march a yard or two on t'street wi' it, tryin' ter get a bit 
o' munny." 

He burst out angrily and loudly. " Dammit. Look 'ere. 
What's the bloody good o' makin' a fool o' missen wi' the 
thing ? Tha knows I canna plee it properly. If people 



ANOTHER DAY 117 

didna laugh at me they'd run me out o' district fer making 
a noise. Tha seems ter think as I ought ter be able to plee 
it like a perfessional a'ready. Tha wants ter shut thi gab 
a bit. Tha does nowt but complain. Anybody 'ud think 
as I were livin' i' luxury an' leavin' thee and t'kids ter 
starve. Tha mun be a bit fair. There's very little fun fer 
me nowadees, I can tell thee. There's no pints o' beer and 
on'y fags as I can borrow. And as fer stoppin' at t'centre 
when I should be at whome, well tha knows I should on'y 
be in t'road 'ere. . . ." 

" I don't care. Tha should try ter get a job. Tha'rt 
gerrin' idle. Tha doesna want work. Tha'rt like all t'rest. 
As long as tha'rt not raight starvin' yer dunna worry. 
An' I'm about fed up. . . ." 

" Oh, go ter bloody 'ell," he shouted. There was a 
silence. 

" Mam ! Mam ! " came from the back room. 

She whispered fiercely at him. " Theer. Tha's frightened 
'em." 

" Shut yer bloody row," he called angrily. The cries 
ceased. 

Noisily and angrily she turned on her side with her back 
towards him. He lay quietly. Gradually he cooled down 
and his sense of humour returned. He thought smilingly 
of the pointed turning of her back on him. He remembered 
a remark made by one of the miners some time ago : " Yer 
'ave ter take yer wife ter pictures or summat now and then. 
YerVe got ter 'umour 'em or else they'll on'y turn their arse 
on yer when yer get ter bed." He smiled. 

He felt himself getting drowsy. From a queer sense of 
duty he fought the desire to sleep. He knew that his wife 
lay at his side almost every night sleepless until the early 
hours. Sometimes he was wakened by her restless moving. 
But he could not keep awake. It was no good. It brought 
no more money into the house. It was a matter of waiting. 
The social centre didn't do much, but it had been able to 
get them permission to pick coal free from Throttle Outcrop, 
and they could buy leather cheaply to mend footwear. 
And gifts of clothes were taken to the centre and distributed. 



UNDER THIRTY 

Nobody could do anything. There was no work. The mines 
were being closed one by one. His children were poorly 
fed and clothed. They were not happy. They were pale. 
And his wife was getting thin. Himself too. And he felt 
dead inside. He didn't really care about anything. He had 
passed the first stage of resentment. Resignation, that was 
it now. Wait and see. Trust in God, if there was one. He 
heard several cars and a bus pass the house, and the confused 
gabbling and short laughter of people in the street. The 
deadness he felt inside him all day began to spread all over 
his body. It reached his brain and he forgot what he was 
thinking about. His body relaxed. His mouth opened a 
little and soon he started a rhythmical snore, rather quiet 
and apologetic. 

As his wife heard it, she sighed and moved her body 
restlessly. 



PETER CHAMBERLAIN 



Shrimps 



PETER CHAMBERLAIN was born in Edgbaston in 1903 and 
educated at Clifton. He comes from a well-known Birming- 
ham family. His maternal grandfather, Sir James Smith, 
was the first Lord Mayor of that city, while his paternal 
grandfather, John H. Chamberlain, was curator of the Art 
Gallery and a great figure in Birmingham life. He was 
architect, painter, educationist, and poet, and perhaps it 
is from him that his grandson has inherited his literary 
qualities. 

Peter Chamberlain is author of a collection of short stories, 
What the Sweet Hell /, published by Chatto and Windus in 
this country, and Henry Holt in America. I. A. Richards, 
of Magdalene, Cambridge, described one of the stories from 
this book as the finest thing in English he had read for six 
years. Chamberlain's first novel, Sing Holiday, appeared in 
July last from Arthur Barker, and deals with motor-racing 
in the Isle of Man. V. S. Pritchett, writing on Sing Holiday, 
said that the author had ' revived the traditional humour of 
the English novel.' 

Peter Chamberlain was at one time the most famous 
motor-cycling journalist in the country ; he is Vice-Chair- 
man of the Auto Cycle Union which controls all branches 
of motor-cycle sport in this country, and Chairman of the 
British Selection Committee of the A.C.U. Chamberlain 
has contributed short stories to most of the leading literary 
periodicals, and is a member of ' The Midland Group,' 
a name given to some half a dozen young writers who lived 
in and around Birmingham. 

PETER CHAMBERLAIN. 



SHRIMPS 

TRUE to his methods, Old Joe, long a traditional figure 
in the streets of the midland city, did not at first look 
up from his perch of sacks on the pavement, when, 
one bitter morning with the wind driving dirty smudges of 
sleet-filled clouds across the dark February sky, he sub- 
consciously noticed that a pair of legs had remained 
stationary before him for some moments. Accustomed to 
judge the world from the knees downwards for even when 
pennies rattled into his dirty cap, he seldom raised his head, 
believing clients found pleading eyes an embarrassment 
he knew that these neat black shoes represented a gentleman 
who had passed his pitch twice a day for years, with never 
a glance at him or his pictures ; but, as the blue trousers 
stayed motionless in front of him, eventually Old Joe peered 
up, raising a finger in salute. Yes, it was the old familiar 
gent right enough, and he seemed in a bad temper. 

" Here, you," he almost shouted. " Here, you, I've never 
given you anything all this while and it's getting on my 
nerves. Take this ! " He thrust a crumpled piece of paper 
towards Joe and hurried off. 

So taken aback was the old man that he nearly put it in his 
cap ; then, realizing that something altogether out of time 
had happened, he hastily shoved it in his pocket. After 
a little, taking care that no one should see what he was 
doing, he secretly examined the gift. A quid ! God 
Almighty, he thought, a quid ! 

Unable to grasp the true significance of what had 
occurred, Old Joe continued crouched on the ' foot-walk,' 
as he called it, automatically raising a grimy finger to his 
forelock when coppers fell into his cap, turning the matter 
over and over in |his mind. Beside him were the six 

122 



SHRIMPS 123 

bedraggled pictures of patriotic subjects, which, with his 
evening occupation of ' car-minding,' earned him his living 
two battleships, a soldier in khaki, another in hospital blue 
smoking a pipe, and portraits of Their Majesties the King 
and Queen, doomed to remain woebegone smears for, as 
with the two medals he wore, they had been acquired from 
a one-legged sailor who had died in his doss house. As an 
unbroken succession of feet blurred past him, he sat on 
with his problem ; he digested it whilst morning feet, 
already slightly mud-stained but purposeful, changed to 
more casual, shopping feet, and back again to rushing legs 
with never an instant to spare, in a whirl to reach the nearby 
suburbs and be back within the hour. 

A gent had given him a quid ! Several secret glances had 
proved that beyond all doubt, and at last he began fully to 
appreciate his luck. Slowly in the vacuum of his mind 
was born the germ of an idea. Painfully he cogitated, until 
all at once he remembered a pet theory he had held for 
years. One moment his fortune meant nothing to him, 
and the next this scheme was rocketing through his head. 

In the pubs which he frequented when in funds, often 
there appeared a very spruce and spry young man, who, for 
reasons best known to himself, always wore shiny black 
leggings, carrying a wicker basket on his arm, from which 
he sold oysters. Under a white cloth was a pile of ' blue 
points ' and ' natives,' and there was also a large bottle of 
vinegar, which his customers sprinkled liberally over the 
shellfish. 

With great skill the young man opened them, one after 
another, in the twinkling of an eye. He was very gay and 
did a brisk trade, and people would buy him drinks. The 
pub-keepers liked to see him, for those who sampled his 
oysters almost invariably wanted some stout to go with them. 
There was a couple of music-halls close by, and flashy 
youths in tight-waisted, many-buttoned coats and cloth 
caps or conical bowlers, accompanied by their young ladies, 
having a drink on coming out of the first performance, or 
going into the second, liked to lap up half a dozen oysters, 
as a prelude to, or a fitting conclusion of the evening. 



124 UNDER THIRTY 

" A fair treat," the dashing young man said they were ; 
and a treat his customers seemed to think them. So every- 
body was happy except Old Joe, who could not abide the 
taste of the things, even had they not been much beyond his 
means. He loathed the young man and his oysters. 

But, he had often thought, if only someone started the 
same game with shrimps, a delicacy he particularly fancied, 
and one which many more people could afford, there might 
be some sense as well as profit in the business. It had long 
been hidden away in a far corner of his mind that, given a 
little capital, shrimps would be an excellent line. 

Now, as he sat dumbly on the pavement, head sunk in a 
greasy old army greatcoat, looking mechanically at the feet 
of the passers-by, he began slowly to work out the details of 
his plan. He would invest this terrific sum of money, more 
than he had had at one time since he could remember, in the 
shrimp business. So engrossed in his dream did he become 
that he hardly noticed the penny which was placed in his 
cap ; the ugly, worn boots told him it came from an elderly 
woman, one of his most regular patrons, and in his sleep, 
his hand rose. 

As the leisurely tea-time feet twinkled past, he sat with 
no thoughts but of shrimps. Vistas of little pink fish floated 
round and round in his mind, shoals of shrimps swimming 
in placid oceans of beer. Majestically they navigated glass 
bowls filled to the brim with mild beer. He pinched their 
heads off and spat out their tails ; they tasted of the sea 
and of malt. He squeezed the meat out with a finger and 
thumb, and bubbles of beer oozed out as well. Shrimps 
seemed to frolic in the wash about the bows of the painted 
cruiser by his side, so boldly ploughing its way across the 
fierce winter seas. 

At five o'clock he came to a decision. Before what were 
often the two most profitable hours, when the crowds, thank- 
ful that another dreary work-day was over, were most likely 
to drop him coins ; before the release from offices and 
warehouses, he packed up the pictures in their sacking and 
shambled off. 

Half an hour later he was in the market. His first purchase 



SHRIMPS 125 

was a basket ; not, perhaps, quite as large and grand as 
that carried by the oyster man, but a very splendid and 
satisfying basket for all that. He was immensely pleased 
with it. Hooking it importantly over his arm, he glanced 
at it proudly from time to time as he proceeded to the 
fish market. 

Buying the shrimps, themselves, was not quite such an 
easy matter. The dealers were inclined to crack jokes, in 
voices hoarse from shouting their goods, at the expense of this 
dirty, shuffling old codger, who seemed to think that he was 
going to obtain a monstrous quantity of shrimps for a dollar. 
But Joe handed them back as good as they gave and the 
job was done at last. Chuckling to himself with delight, he 
set off, his precious basket containing ten shillings' worth of 
shrimps and a bundle of old newspapers thrown in by the 
fishmonger. 

It was a bleak evening with the promise of a sharp frost. 
A harsh city wind scurried dirty straw and litter from the 
gutters into his face as he hesitated where to go to prepare 
his shrimps for sale. Sitting on some steps in a quiet corner, 
he started to parcel up the fish into twisted newsprint 
packages, taking a soiled handful as the measure, which, 
if sold for a tanner, should, he reckoned, insure a handsome 
profit. Soon he had a good number of little bags in the 
basket and felt he could allow himself a few ; for the first 
time he remembered that in the excitement of the fortune 
his usual midday hunk of bread and cheese had been 
missed. 

The shrimps popped as the old man tweaked off their 
heads and tails ; their delicate pink flesh was just what he 
had been imagining. Once started, he sat in perfect content, 
eating, only moving on when he found a policeman 
regarding him with a look of pained disapproval. 

The unfamiliar and pleasant chink of money in his 
pocket reminded him that he still had a substantial amount 
of ready. Although it was too early to begin visiting the 
pubs, which were just opening, professionally, where was 
the harm in having a good drink, quiet like, before he 
commenced work. 



126 UNDER THIRTY 

It was a part of the city he seldom visited, and he was 
unrecognized in the bar which he entered. After his glass 
of beer he could not resist the temptation to eat a few more 
shrimps, and as he wandered off he quickly scoffed a couple 
of handfuls. 

Gradually he made his way to the district in which he 
was at home and where he hoped to sell his fish. 
* H-I-P-P-O-D-R-O-M-E ' ; the electric lights spelt out the 
words slowly and carefully like a little boy at his lessons. 
Crowds were waiting in queues outside the picture houses ; 
the doors of the brightly illuminated pubs swung con- 
tinuously. Youths, cigarettes hanging from their lips, 
lounged about in front of the steaming windows of a fried 
fish saloon, exchanging brutish cross-talk with the sharp, 
undersized factory girls, who paraded up and down the 
pavements, arm-in-arm, giggling in high-pitched, hysterical 
tones. They knew well enough what the boys wanted, and 
they knew equally certainly that they were likely to get it 
only for the price of a night's entertainment. 

Suddenly becoming self-conscious, Old Joe paused at the 
door of one of his favourite ports of call. The music-hall 
patrons would soon be arriving, but, for the first time, he had 
a momentary doubt whether they would fancy his shrimps. 
Hesitating at the entrance to the Smoke Room, he finally 
went into the Public Bar and ordered a half of mild and bitter. 
" What you got in the portmanteau, Joe ? " asked Harry, 
the barman. 

' Shrimps," he replied. " 'Ave some ? Tanner a go." 
Sez which ! " the barman laughed. " What you got ? ' 
Shrimps, I say, and shrimps they are and bloody all." 
What's the game then ? " 
Sellin' 'em, on course." 
' Straight ? " 

Ain't I a-tellin' you ? " 
' But what's the game then ? " 

' S'truth, like the young bleeder what takes the oysters, 
on course." 

" Good Gawd Almighty ! " the barman put back his head 
and laughed again. " Well, I'll go to our 'ouse ! You 



SHRIMPS 127 

don't say ? Shrimps ! Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs. 
Shrimps, eh ? You'll be death of me, you will straight, 
Joe ! 'Ere, let's 'ave a dekko." 

Putting the basket on the counter Old Joe experienced 
another second of doubt, for the newspaper balls did look a 
bit scruffy and uneven. But on lifting some to show the 
heap of unpacked fish beneath, gleaming a tasty pink, all 
his pride and confidence returned. 

' There you are, me lad. Tanner a go." 

" Well I be god-damned ! " exclaimed the barman, 
departing in peals of laughter to serve another customer. 

Fascinated by their pearly freshness, Joe was eating 
once more when Harry came back. 

" And 'ow do you eat 'em, Joe ? " he asked. 

" With your bloody mouth ! " growled the old man, 
suddenly cross again. " 'Ow does they eat oysters ? " 

The barman ceased laughing. " 'Ere, you're not reely 
serious ? " he asked. 

Old Joe exploded. " Chri " he started. 

" All right, all right, all right," soothed Harry. " That's 
all right, so long as we know. No need to create. But 
shrimps ain't the same as what oysters are, Pa. The young 
bloke loans 'em a fork, don't 'e ? Opens 'em up all fresh 
like, and makes a posh class affair of it, don't 'e ? " 

" Well, these 'ere shrimps are fresh." 

" Ar, maybe. But they don't look so tasty like, and you 

can't go round and set 'em out neat and new, so who's to 

know? Then the tarts like the oysters. You know what they 

say ? Who's a-going to make theirselves all of a muck and 

stinkpot with these 'ere shrimps ? 'Tain't the same as 

oysters. I give you my early bird it ain't. 'Tain't in reason." 

' 'Ere," he added, seeing the old man looking strange. 

1 'Ere, give us a tanner's worth, old timer. I can't only die 

but once." 

Heartened by his first sale, Joe went into the Mixed 
' Smoke ' with his basket on his arm. But Harry had been 
right ; they laughed a good deal and he only sold one packet, 
to a prostitute who, like the barman, took pity on the old 
man's blank look of amazement at his failure. 



128 UNDER THIRTY 

The ' Gaffer,' the boss of the pub, thought it a first-class 
joke and told all his cronies as they came in. " Heard the 
latest ? Old Joe a-hawking shrimps round the town ! Did 
you ever ? Shrimps ! It's sure to be right ! A fair knock- 
out. Can you beat it ? " 

Joe could not understand what there was to laugh at. 
' They're all fresh- o ! " he proclaimed to the room at large, 
as he remembered the oyster man did. They seemed to find 
this extravagantly funny ; everyone roared, even the woman 
who had bought the packet, and no one else showed any 
signs of sampling them. 

But they did buy him drinks, the * Gaffer ' himself setting 
the ball rolling by giving him another half-pint. Several 
others asked him what he would have and, emboldened by 
this unusual amount of beer, he had the audacity to ask for 
whisky. It was difficult to call to mind when he had 
last had a drop of spirits. Things weren't so bad, even if 
the shrimps were selling slow, he thought. 

After a while he went along and entered the next house. 
Almost exactly the same scene was enacted ; first they 
laughed incredulously ; then they laughed again and as 
often as not gave him a drink. Once or twice a sympathiser 
purchased a packet, but, if the sales were negligible, there 
was an astonishing quantity of free booze about. 

From being quite cheerful, a period of acute depression 
overtook him. The problem of the shrimps beat through his 
head, and suddenly confident pride in his theory burst out 
once more in a last expiring flame. He'd show 'em ! 

Striding boldly into another pub, he shouted his fish 
loudly and courageously, until the more than usually brutal 
remarks of a Jew- boy tailor, bent on impressing his girl 
that he was a man of the world, finally brought home to him 
the fact that these people, for some reason he could not 
comprehend, simply did not fancy his shrimps. 

All at once he gave in. All right, God rot 'em, if they 
didn't want 'em, they bloody well needn't 'ave *em ! He 
was fast growing fuddled and lumbered off, away from the 
lights and noise, with only a vague idea where he was going. 
As he lurched along he munched contentedly, crunching off 



SHRIMPS 129 

heads and tails, and pressing the firm meat into his mouth 
between his fingers. 

Closing time found him sitting in a small out-of-the-way 
pub, buying drinks all round, giving packets of shrimps 
away, and attempting to fight those whom he accused of 
saying they were not fresh. Now he was drunk, and when 
he was bundled outside he had no idea in which direction 
his doss house lay. Paying no attention to the wind, which 
had risen to half a gale and carried a sprinkling of frozen 
snowflakes, on uncertain feet which plodded automatically 
one in front of the other, his basket still on his arm, he stag- 
gered off, blindly, intent only on finding a refuge where he 
could finish the shrimps in peace. 

Mumbling to himself he went, until he came to some steps 
leading to the canal bank. Slithering down, he sank to the 
ground, back against a factory wall, and stared at the dead 
water, on which ice was beginning to form, lying greasy in 
the light of the street lamps on the bridge above, associating 
it in some shadowy manner with his pictures. 

Then he began to eat the remaining shrimps, grumbling 
and complaining, and boasting of their excellence in a 
confused jumble of words. When he had finished the loose 
fish he set to work on the others, ripping the newspaper, 
and stuffing whole handfuls into his mouth, not stopping 
until the basket was empty, when he felt he had reached the 
successful conclusion of an important business affair. 

For a while he appeared asleep ; then clearly and loudly 
came the words ' all fresho,' as someone else in the same 
line of trade used to say. His task seemed well done and his 
characterless features relaxed into a happy smile, which, 
by some trick of the frost, was still on his face when they 
found the body in the morning. 



RUPERT CROFT-COOKE 

* 

Rough Island Story 



BORN 1904, at Edenbridge, Kent. 
Educated Tonbridge School. 
Paris, as private tutor, 1922. 
Buenos Aires, 1923-5. 
Germany, 1929. 
Lecturer in English at Montana Institut, Switzerland, 

'93 1 - 
Barcelona, 1932. 

Buenos Aires, 1936-7. 
Central Europe, 1938. 

* * * 

Has been schoolmaster, stable-hand, journalist, first- 
edition bookseller. 

* * * 

Novels : Troubadour, Give Him the Earth, Night Out 
Cosmopolis, Release the Lions, Picaro, Shoulder the Sky, Blind 
Gunner, Crusade, Kingdom Come, Rule Britannia. 

Commentary : God in Ruins, How to Get More Out of Life, 
The Man in Europe Street. 

Short Stories : Pharaoh with his Waggons. 
Plays : Same Way Home, Banquo's Chair. 
Autobiography : The World Is Toung. 
Poetry : Twenty Poems from the Spanish of Becquer ; Some 
Poems. 

RUPERT CROFT-COOKE. 



ROUGH ISLAND STORY 

XCEPT for purely literary purposes, people are not 
often cast away on desert islands. Yet that is exactly 
what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. They were on 
their way to some port in British Guiana. Or was it farther 
south ? Somewhere quite remote and tropical, where Mr. 
Jenkins was to take over a branch of the bank by which he 
had been employed in England. And for motives of economy 
they had booked their passage on a small cargo steamer. 
Unfortunately, Mr. Jenkins had not taken the precaution of 
inquiring whether the company which owned her was 
solvent or not. He did not know that the ship was fully 
insured and no longer very useful. So that he was quite 
surprised when the Captain, whom he had always considered 
a most pleasant man, though by no means English, called 
him aside one evening and pointed to a rather small island 
nearby. 

" See that ? " said the Captain. 

" What ? " said Mr. Jenkins. 

" That island," said the Captain. 

" Why, yes. Charming, isn't it ? " smiled Mr. Jenkins, 
who had been enjoying the trip and thought the tropics were 
very nice. 

" I'm glad you think so," grunted the Captain rather 
rudely, " because that's where you're going." 

" Oh, no," smiled Mr. Jenkins quite good-natured and 
patient with the Captain, although the latter was being 

rather obtuse. " I'm going to R ," and he mentioned the 

port where his new post was. 

" You're going yonder," said the Captain, nodding across 
the water, " and think yourself lucky I don't send you down 
with the ship. Can you row ? " 



ROUGH ISLAND STORY 135 

" I can paddle," said Mr. Jenkins, " and I can punt. 
I've never tried rowing. It looks quite easy, though. Why ? 

Is there much of that sort of thing at ? " and once more 

he mentioned the port for which he was bound. 

The Captain walked away, but at nightfall Mr. and Mrs. 
Jenkins were placed in a small boat and told to row for the 
shore. 

Mr. Jenkins, who was a member of a tennis club in 
Leamington, where he had lived, prided himself on not being 
namby-pamby, and soon learnt to move the small boat in 
little jerks towards the island. He was a grey-haired man, 
with a pointed moustache and glasses with thick lenses. 
He dressed neatly, as a rule, and now unbuttoned his jacket 
for the effort of rowing. 

" Rucks it up under the armpits," he explained with a 
smile to his wife, who sat opposite him. 

" You do it very nicely, dear," she said amiably. She 
was a stout, complacent woman, very devoted to Mr. 
Jenkins, and fond of cooking. " But why are we in this 
small and inconvenient boat ? " 

Mr. Jenkins smiled encouragingly. " Oh, it is the sort of 
thing that frequently happens in these extremely foreign 
places," he replied. " Those sailors intend to scuttle the 
ship, and will receive their share of the insurance money. 
They did not want us to be witnesses, of course." 

Mrs. Jenkins took her knitting from her bag. " I see," 
she said, " and will it delay us much, do you think ? " 

4 That remains to be seen," said Mr. Jenkins. " If this 
island is inhabited we shall soon be able to communicate 
with the mainland. If uninhabited, the usual thing is to 
light a fire in a high place and attract the attention of a 
passing steamer." 

Mrs. Jenkins nodded. " Quite exciting, isn't it ? " she 
said, quickly manipulating two plain and one purl. 

" Well," replied Mr. Jenkins, who had read a great deal, 
" Mr. Conrad has related far more stirring events. But it 
will provide some variation from banking. I'm quite 
enjoying this exercise, after being cooped up on board." 

They drew the boat up on a sandy beach, and Mrs. 



136 UNDER THIRTY 

Jenkins, who had a louder voice than her husband, called 
" Oo-oo ! " to attract the inhabitants. But there was no 
response. 

" We will explore in the morning," said Mr. Jenkins. " In 
the meantime, my dear, let us see what supplies have been 
given to us." 

They were disappointed to find that the only food in their 
boat was a large quantity of ship's biscuits. " Well, well," 
said Mr. Jenkins, showing, for the first time, a little irrita- 
bility, " these will have to serve until to-morrow." And they 
ate heartily of them. 

Mrs. Jenkins had brought a travelling-rug, so they laid 
this on the soft dry sand and prepared to sleep. 

" It reminds me," Mrs. Jenkins said, " of that time, 
just after the war, when we went to Hastings and COULDN'T 
find accommodation. Do you remember, Edgar ? " 

" Yes, dear," said Mr. Jenkins rather curtly. 

" Only then we had a breakwater to shelter us. I wonder 
if we could find one farther along the beach ? We never 
thought of looking, did we ? " 

But Mr. Jenkins, exhausted by the effort of rowing, was 
already asleep. 

In the morning, after they had eaten some more biscuits, 
they set out to explore the island. Mrs. Jenkins had thought- 
fully brought her parasol and Mr. Jenkins wore a sun- 
helmet. They found that the island consisted of two hills, 
and not very much more. They walked along the beach 
for about two and a half hours, but found neither breakwater 
nor pier, as Mrs. Jenkins seemed to expect. 

" It's a very quiet little place," she said with some dis- 
appointment, for in England she had always chosen the more 
populous resorts. " Not a soul in sight." 

The island, in fact, was uninhabited, even, it seemed, by 
birds. But they found a stream of fresh water running 
lackadaisically seawards and were glad to stoop and refresh 
themselves. 

Another half-hour's walk brought them within sight of a 
boat, lying high and dry on the beach. They were very 
pleased at this until they approached it and found that it 



ROUGH ISLAND STORY 137 

was their own. They had made a complete circuit of the 
island and returned to their landing-place. 

" Really," said Mr. Jenkins quite peevishly, " it's very 
vexing. There seems to be no one on this island at all." 
He drew out his watch. " Lunch-time," he added sharply. 
So they ate some more biscuits. 

In the afternoon they explored what Mr. Jenkins jocularly 
called the ' hinterland.' Mrs. Jenkins went first, with her 
parasol, and Mr. Jenkins followed. There was the semblance 
of a valley crossing the island, but even between the hills 
the ground rose to a considerable height, and they found 
walking rather slow and painful. 

" I like the country," Mrs. Jenkins said, " but I always 
say you can have too much of it. Oh, look at that yellow 
and black creature, Edgar ! It reminds one of the reptile 
house at the Zoo ! " 

" Best not to prod it, dear," said Mr. Jenkins, " it might 
have a sting. You never know. Let's sit on this rock for a 
little while and enjoy the view." 

" It's really very lucky," said Mrs. Jenkins, complying 
heavily, " that there are no savages or wild beasts here. We 
at least have no danger from anything of that sort." 

" No. On the other hand there is the question of food. 
It is going to be very awkward when the biscuits are 
finished." 

" I hadn't thought of that," said Mrs. Jenkins. 

:c Well, I don't think you need, dear. We will light a fire 
on this eminence to-night and no doubt some passing ship 
will send out a boat to take us on board." 

Suddenly Mrs. Jenkins looked disturbed. " But, Edgar ! " 
she exclaimed almost fearfully. " Suppose the ship were 
going THE OTHER WAY ? It might be weeks before we got 
to R " 

" So it might. But don't let us anticipate trouble. And 
now, dear, if you're rested, we had better be getting back. 
It must be tea-time." 

They started their descent. " In a case like that," said 
Mrs. Jenkins presently over her shoulder, " who would bear 
the cost of the second passage, Edgar ? " 



138 UNDER THIRTY 

" I really scarcely know, dear," said Mr. Jenkins. " But 
cannot see that I should be liable, having paid it once." 

" I should think not ! " said Mrs. Jenkins as they sat down 
to more biscuits. 

* * * 

A week passed and brought great changes, for Mrs. 
Jenkins ran out of the brown wool with which she was knit- 
ting a pull-over and Mr. Jenkins got more tired of biscuits . But 
they found no means of replenishing their supplies. Mrs. 
Jenkins said with resignation that she supposed she would 

not be able to get any more wool until they reached R . 

She explained that this was of a special colour which had 
cost her some trouble to find in Leamington, and she hoped 
there would be no difficulty about matching it when they 
arrived. And although Mr. Jenkins made one or two 
attempts to catch fish with a bent hairpin they were not 
successful. 

Every evening he climbed towards the summit of the 
hill and lit a large fire to attract the notice of a passing 
ship, and one of Mrs. Jenkins's garments was hung on a pole 
as a signal in the daytime. She was at first a little unwilling 
about this. She reminded Mr. Jenkins that she had never 
allowed the servants to hang the more intimate portions of 
their laundry on the clothes-line at home, and wondered 
what the sailors of their relief ship would say about it. 
But Mr. Jenkins explained that it really could be considered 
an emergency, and the sailors would understand this. So 
she gave way at last and helped him to hoist their distress 
signal. 

But still there was no sign of relief, and the monotony of 
their diet began to tell on Mr. Jenkins's nerves. " Really ! " 
he said, " it's too bad ! " And on the eighth day, " I don't 
feel that I can eat these much longer." On the morning of 
the ninth day he said savagely that if he didn't have some- 
thing else to eat soon he didn't know what he would do, 
and on the tenth he told Mrs. Jenkins that he was getting 
desperate. 



ROUGH ISLAND STORY 139 

It was the morning of their eleventh day ashore that Mrs. 
Jenkins noticed something very strange in her husband's 
demeanour. " Didn't you sleep well, Edgar ? " she asked. 

" I slept quite well, thank you, dear," he returned 
sharply. 

He was eyeing her fixedly. His eyes travelled over her 
ample contours with a new interest. 

" Whatever's the matter, Edgar ? " asked Mrs. Jenkins. 
" Really, you make me feel quite jumpy ! " 

" It's these biscuits," said Mr. Jenkins. 

" I know it's trying," said Mrs. Jenkins placidly. 

For a moment he was silent. Then he said : " My dear, 
I'm very sorry, but there is only one thing for it. This island 
provides no other food. I'm afraid, I'm very much afraid, 
that I shall have to have a change of diet. And you will 
have to provide it." 

" Well, Edgar, I should be only too glad to cook anything 
you please. But I don't see what there is. I can't catch 
fish." 

" I wasn't referring to fish," said Mr. Jenkins, " but 
meat." 

" Meat, Edgar ? " asked his wife, for the first time growing 
nervous. " What meat ? " 

" There is only one kind of meat on this island," said 
Mr. Jenkins drily. 

" Edgar, you . . . cannot be proposing to turn cannibal ? " 

Mr. Jenkins shifted uneasily. " Of course, it is all very 
unfortunate," he observed, " and the Captain was greatly 
to blame for his inadequate supplies. But there you are." 

Mrs. Jenkins began to cry softly while her husband 
continued. " I think it rather selfish of you," he said, " to 
make things more difficult than they are by those tears. 
The situation is trying enough as it is. And I shall envy 
you for being out of it." 

" It's . . . not that," sobbed Mrs. Jenkins. 
' Then what is it ? " 

" I think . . . you might have waited until the biscuits 
ran out, Edgar ! " 



i 4 o UNDER THIRTY 

It was on the thirteenth day that Mr. Jenkins's patience 
was finally exhausted. 

" It's no good, my dear," he said resolutely, laying down 
his breakfast biscuit. " I can eat no more of these." 

Mrs. Jenkins nibbled on. " I don't know how you'll 
manage alone, Edgar," she said rather sentimentally. 

" Nor I. But I see no help for it. There is one suggestion, 
however, which I might make. Since we are likely to be 
relieved shortly, it would be a pity to be unnecessarily 
premature. I mean, we might start with a leg, perhaps, 
and in that case you yourself would benefit also in some 
measure. . . ." 

Mrs. Jenkins shuddered slightly. " No, dear," she said, 
" I should prefer to leave the whole matter to you." 

"Just as you wish," returned Mr. Jenkins with a con- 
ciliatory smile. " Then, if you are quite ready ? " 

Mrs. Jenkins rose to her feet. " It's quite an important 
step to take, isn't it ? " she said hesitatingly. 

It would be kinder perhaps to Mrs. Jenkins and also more 
delicate to leave unexplained the method chosen by Mr. 
Jenkins to achieve his unwilling object. Suffice it to say 
that the method was both simple and humane. On this 
point he gave his wife the most earnest assurances before 
he began tactfully and cheerfully to distract her attention 
by more general conversation as they crossed the island. 

But when they reached the appointed place, and the 
prearranged moment, he hesitated. A sudden doubt had 
occurred to him, and in order to remove it he was forced 
to return to the subject which he had been avoiding. 

" My dear," he said after clearing his throat uncomfort- 
ably. " Er . . . how long does one give it to cook ? " 

The housewife rose bravely in Mrs. Jenkins's bosom. 
" Twenty minutes to the pound, dear," she said. 

And those were her last words. 



Mr. Jenkins lives a few doors down the road from me and 
is a pleasant neighbour. We often walk to the station 
together in the morning. It appears that he was picked 



ROUGH ISLAND STORY 141 

up by a passing steamer some three days after the incidents 
described, and feeling that he had seen enough of the 
tropics, he returned to the service of his bank in England. 

He has married again, and is very happy with his wife, 
who rarely speaks of the past. Only once has she shown any 
curiosity about the cause of the first Mrs. Jenkins's decease, 
and her husband was quick to satisfy her. 

" Oh, she died of consumption," he said briskly, and, in 
a way, of course, it was true. 



A. W. DODD 

* 

The Opposition 



MY father, who is a blind music-teacher in Birmingham, 
encouraged my earliest effort at writing. I seem to remember 
a long play carefully typed on a very old Blick machine 
which my father sometimes used. It was so full of symbolism, 
a la Maeterlinck, that it is doubtful whether any real plot or 
meaning emerged from it when the curtain rang down on the 
third act. However, I sent it by registered post to the 
famous Belgian playwright, and was, I believe, at some 
pains to decipher his kind and well-meaning letter. But it 
did start me on the right path. I began to write in my 
spare time, though I never sent the stuff anywhere, for- 
tunately perhaps ! I had my living to get. Our family 
numbered six, and as far back as I can remember, were 
always in poor circumstances. My mother battled valiantly 
for us by taking in sewing and by working in a munition 
factory during the War. When I was fourteen I went 
in a factory too, though from the very beginning I felt that 
there was something numbing and degrading in the job. I 
had many jobs after that, choosing clerical work of some kind, 
and never being able to earn what I should call a living wage. 
I sought release from the monotony and boredom of these 
jobs by endeavouring to create a world which was certainly 
pleasant, but unpractical. I read to my father a great deal, 
and then, during a very long stretch of unemployment I 
took up again the idea of writing plays. I read innumerable 
books and studied subjects which, without lack of training, 
I could never hope to master. But it pleased me to think 
that, with only an elementary school education at the back 
of me, I possessed the power to absorb them in an intelligent 
manner. I began contributing musical articles to a Birming- 
ham evening paper, and felt that future success was assured. 
At this time I sent one of my efforts to Walter de la Mare, 
whose books and self-created world I felt very much in 

'45 



146 UNDER THIRTY 

sympathy with. From him, too, I received words of 
encouragement that helped me to persevere. He has since 
praised stories of mine and has also given me the personal 
interest and friendship which I had been so sorely in need of. 
My hobbies are the pianoforte and drawing wriich latter 
subject elevated me above my fellows during my last (and 
not very brilliant) years at school. But now that I am 
writing, and am also a married man with a daughter 
twelve months old, it is obvious that I have little time to 
spare for these. 

A. W. DODD. 



THE OPPOSITION 

VICAR LAWSON was amazed at the unexpected streak 
of generosity in the man before him. Tentatively he 
had dug the ground, but in his wildest dreams he had 
never hoped to unearth pure gold and one hundred pounds 
was pure gold. What was more, such a gift helped consider- 
ably towards the solution of a difficulty that had worried the 
Vicar for many months. Holding the cheque in his hand, 
he smiled with downright pleasure, scarcely knowing how to 
thank the grocer. 

Mark Onzell smiled too, enjoying a situation that placed 
him in the position of a benefactor to the church of St. 
Michael's. He was able to experience, too, perhaps for the 
first time, the pleasure of giving something which offered 
neither interest nor return. He spread out the palms of his 
hands hands which the Vicar had always thought carried 
with them the distant aroma of roasted coffee in a depre- 
catory fashion. This gesture was accompanied by the 
raising of both lip and little moustache, and betrayed his 
Jewish origin. 

But it also suggested to Lawson that the hundred pounds 
only tapped an inexhaustible source. However, time would 
tell. What perplexed him after he had recovered from his 
astonishment, was OnzelPs request that the gift should 
remain anonymous. Said the grocer, in a voice that 
removed all doubt of his sincerity : " You see, my dear 
Vicar, a gift made public is not a gift ; it is an advertise- 
ment, and my wife would never have agreed to it being 
that. Of course you remember my wife ? " The Vicar 
nodded thoughtfully. Only too well did he remember her ! 
She had always seemed to him the meanest and most 
ungracious of women. 

M7 



i 4 8 UNDER THIRTY 

"Jane had peculiar ideas, I'll admit," continued the grocer. 
" She had her ups and downs too, moody, if you understand 
my meaning ; but one had to know her, Lawson, and that's 
what our neighbours in Briscott-Abett did not do : not a 
soul among them. I guess she never set much store by money, 
except as a definite means to an end and that end you 
now know of. This money she left in my keeping for St. 
Michael's, should the old church ever be in need of it. Now 
that the need has arisen, I am only too glad to place the 
money in your hands, as long as you keep my name out of 
the business." 

" If you will pardon my saying so, it is a matter of surprise 
to me that Mrs. Onzell should have shown such sympathy 
towards our church. To the best of my knowledge she never 
entered it or evinced any desire to do so. I am quite at a 
loss to understand her, Mr. Onzell." 

" Don't try, my dear sir ; I never did, and now that she's 
dead and gone these six years, no amount of worrying will 
do any good. I can tell you, for what it is worth, that she 
loved the building the stones, the old spire more than she 
did the folks who went into it. That may not be natural from 
your point of view, but there is a grain of sense in the 
idea, if you agree that buildings can't help becoming 
rotten." 

Lawson coughed gently. He was determined not 
to feel annoyed with the little grocer, or pass any 
judgment on the strange, unsociable views of the late 
Mrs. Onzell. 

" About your desire to remain anonymous," he said, not 
without an anxious note in his voice, " there will be diffi- 
culties in the way. As you may know, I have gone the 
rounds of the village in my search for donations, and these 
amounts, however small, are to be posted on the notice- 
board outside the church. I am afraid that the absence of 
your name may cause a reactionary feeling in my parishioners 
which may be detrimental to your shop. Is there no other 
way out ? " 

" Don't let that worry you," replied Onzell, plunging his 
hands into his trousers pocket, " whatever their feelings 



THE OPPOSITION 149 

may be, they won't get better value anywhere else in the 
village." 

Lawson walked leisurely home, tapping every now and 
again the pocket which contained the cheque. He was 
thinking of Onzell, perhaps rather guiltily. He remem- 
bered the time when he had approached the grocer and his 
wife concerning their faith, and had received the somewhat 
disconcerting reply that they had never been churchgoers 
and never would be. " Did they follow the Jewish faith ? " 
" No, they were Christians." Jane Onzell didn't look 
Jewish, but her husband did, especially when he became 
excited. That visit had been followed by others equally 
unproductive, until the Vicar ceased to pursue them. Now 
he realized that his psychology was at fault, and that he had 
approached them in the wrong way ; it should have been 
through the door of understanding, not of condemnation. 
Neither himself nor the rest of the villagers had seen the 
Onzells in the right perspective. It was a most uneasy 
thought, and he decided, as he crossed the road towards the 
church, that he would visit his benefactor's grave, kneel down 
in the deep grass, and express his contrition. He was over- 
awed too, because it seemed that after all he knew so little 
of human nature, and that he had failed, in his capacity of 
Vicar in the sight of God, to bring understanding to his 
flock. Reaching St. Michael's, the Vicar paused for a 
moment beneath the shadow of its ancient porch, sighing 
heavily as he gazed critically at the dilapidated guttering 
and crumbling gargoyles. It had always saddened him that 
such a fine church should be so little appreciated by present- 
day Briscott-Abett. At the same time he felt cheered by his 
new knowledge of one woman who had worshipped its 
declining glory in silence. 

' OnzelFs Stores ' commanded the largest shop in High 
Street, boasted a young man assistant, and a girl at the 
cash-desk. For a village shop it was kept meticulously 
clean and well stocked. The cleaning was usually done by 
the girl who also acted as cook-general for Onzell now that 



150 UNDER THIRTY 

he was alone in the world. Onzell had a great fondness for 
Ruth, who, he would often say, had been sent to him by 
providence. The villagers, it must be added, were rather 
sceptical of providence, since Ruth resembled her employer 
in a marked manner. Many cups of tea had been sipped 
during discussions of Ruth and her possible paternity, 
gossip which could not fail to reach Onzell, or even the girl. 
But if they heard, they ignored, and no word of it ever 
passed into the back-parlour of the shop. 

Some few weeks after Lawson's visit, Onzell noticed a 
gradual slackening off in his trade. Never very popular with 
his customers, who, he well knew, patronized him solely 
for economic reasons, the old man was now being openly 
ignored. A small, inferior shop in Market Street, owned by 
a man named Mostyn, gathered in by degrees some of his 
best customers. Evidently Mostyn had sent in his donation 
in the approved manner, not forgetting, of course, his name. 
Onzell did not know. He had never even glanced at the 
church notice-board. It was all very annoying because, 
whatever his faults, Onzell was a grocer born and bred. He 
knew the trade backwards, having been apprenticed as a 
boy to one of the largest wholesalers in Birmingham. Even 
the Vicar's wife had to admit that no man blended his tea 
quite so successfully, or roasted coffee to such a nicety. 

Ruth, ever considerate, sought for a reason for bad trade, 
which she suggested to her employer on numerous occasions 
there had been much illness in the village because of the 
indifferent water and drainage system, the crops had been 
poor because of a persistent drought, Mostyn had begun the 
practice of giving dividend for all purchases. Onzell merely 
smiled, and patted her gently on the shoulder. 

" Don't you worry your head about it, Ruth," he said. 
" It isn't the drought, or the illness that's keeping them 
away : it's sheer priggishness and obstinacy. They don't 
know when their bread's buttered. You leave it to old Mark. 
He knows just what to do." 

But within three months the young man had been dis- 
pensed with, and Ruth herself served in the shop. Not- 
withstanding the added burden placed upon her for 



THE OPPOSITION 151 

Ruth would not allow the old man to do more than she 
thought necessary the shop still remained as clean and 
orderly as before, and although its stocks were noticeably 
less, their quality never deteriorated. Onzell, for the first 
time in years, stood often at the entrance to the shop, clad 
in speckless white apron, seeming to be always deep in 
thought, gazing moodily at the antique dealer's opposite, 
speaking to few people, and seldom smiling. 

Gossip again flourished over a cup of tea, but this time it 
was purposeful, and intended that the grocer should know 
exactly how feeling ran in the village ; but again it was 
ignored. What business was it of anybody's whether or not 
he should make a donation to the St. Michael's church 
restoration fund ? 

Sometimes Onzell took the 2.30 from Briscott-Abett, 
his destination unknown even to Ruth. Neither was the 
most prying and persistent villager able to discover a single 
thing that would enable him to build up a case, on moral or 
mental grounds, against the grocer. 

Perhaps Onzell had got wind of the arrival of Waldings ? 
Perhaps he had tried to stop them buying the antique 
dealer's shop opposite ? Whatever his efforts, they were 
doomed to failure, for within a short time Briscott-Abett 
was able to boast of a grocery store much superior to OnzelPs. 
It was the last word in modernity, with its marble slabs, its 
bacon-cutting machine, and huge patent coffee roaster. And 
what was perhaps deeply significant, its prices were cut below 
Onzell's. 

For the villagers the shop was Heaven-sent. Almost 
immediately they transferred their custom from Mostyn, 
looked triumphantly dignified as they crossed the road 
from Onzell's, and generally behaved as though Waldings 
knew of their personal grudge against the Jewish-looking man. 

Ruth, when she had finished the housework and dusted 
the shop with her usual care, was determined to get to the 
bottom of the mystery. She had long thought that lack of 
trade was due to the malign gossip of certain of the villagers ; 
she was also certain that her employer knew the cause. She 
chose a time when the shutters were up, and Mark was 
M 



152 UNDER THIRTY 

lingering over his newspaper. " There must be a reason, 
Mr. Onzell : there must," she persisted. 

" Of course there's a reason, my dear. The villagers 
don't approve of me. They imagine that all subscriptions 
to the fund should be placarded outside the church. To 
them a man who just gives is either a fool or a rogue. For 
this very reason I refuse to publish the amount I willingly 
gave to the fund. And as for Waldings, you will see that 
they will soon raise their prices when they know that all 
my custom is gone." 

"We could at least do something about it," said Ruth. 
" Couldn't we sue Waldings for taking our customers away 
from us ? " 

" Nothing can be done, I'm afraid, except close the shop. 
I can always go into respectable retirement, you know ! " 

Ruth's anxiety was relieved, her love and respect for 
Onzell increased by the knowledge of his good deed. 
She felt that, more than ever, she must stand by the old man 
whatever happened. The word that might have altered his 
destiny she never spoke. She believed that Onzell was 
perfectly right, that he should risk his shop before breaking 
his word to Jane. 

As Onzell had predicted, Waldings did raise their prices 
as soon as the opposition failed. 

The Vicar regarded the closing of OnzelFs as a major 
catastrophe. It weighed heavily upon his conscience, and 
prayers on behalf of the grocer became a daily necessity. 
Added to this, he made vague references to the shop in his 
Sunday evening sermon, speaking with some severity on the 
lack of brotherly love and understanding in the village. Then 
he decided to pay Onzell a further visit in order to get his 
consent to a public announcement. Surely the old man 
would not force him to remain silent any longer, even though 
the damage had already been done ? 

He was led into the parlour where Onzell sat in a high- 
backed wooden chair, smoking his pipe. A look of pleasure 
passed between the two men as they shook hands. Ruth 
sat on the couch knitting. 



THE OPPOSITION 153 

As Lawson had feared, the grocer refused to have anything 
to do with the announcement idea. For the first time in 
many weeks he smiled, went to a drawer in the sideboard, 
and handed an envelope to the Vicar. 

" Here, take this, and think no more about it," he said. 
Then to Ruth : " Do you think we might have a cup of 
tea, my dear ? " 

Lawson was silent ; overwhelmed. He saw, when he 
opened the envelope, a further cheque for one hundred 
pounds, made out for the St. Michael's church restoration 
fund. 

" You are a man of God," said Onzell, patting the Vicar 
familiarly on the shoulder, " and I'll let you into a little 
secret. You see, when I knew that Onzell's stores was 
done for, I determined to open Waldings. The success of 
that shop has far exceeded my expectations." 

Onzell glanced fondly at Ruth, who had laid aside her 
knitting. Then a whimsical smile played at the corners of 
his full mouth. 

" Somehow, I think Ruth could handle that shop very well, 
don't you ? We all get old, my dear Lawson ... we all 
get old." 



RONALD MACDONALD DOUGLAS 



The Corporal 



BORN Edinburgh ; educated nowhere ; Gaelic enthusiast, 
and when not writing English signs name Raonul Domhnullach 
Dubhghlas ; owns property in the north and in the south of 
Scotland, and is a company director, but despite that looks 
on literature professionally, and is a Socialist. Is an ardent 
Scots Nationalist and hopes that out of the chaos of the next 
war an independent Scottish Socialist Republic will arise 
. . . and so on ! 

RONALD MACDONALD DOUGLAS. 



157 



THE CORPORAL 

" T EFT, left ; left, right, left. Pick 'em up ! You, on 

J_> the left of the rear file, you're saggin' at the knees. 
Left, left. . . ." 

Corporal Alan Macpherson, the smartest N.C.O. on the 
square, kept his men on the move, up and down, and across 
the parade ground, entirely oblivious of the fact that the men 
had scarcely rested all the morning, and that the hot morning 
sunshine of the southern English summer was wearing them 
out. 

" Left, left ; left, right, left. About tu'n ! " The rolling 
Scottish R was almost unheard in his last command. The 
movement stirred a red cloud from the heated gravel 
beneath the feet of the men. 

" About tu'n ! " again. Then : " Left, left. . . ." 

Backwards and forwards the corporal moved the squad 
of recruits, but more as a man plays draughts than as a 
man plays chess almost without thought, for the corporal's 
thoughts were not on his squad. 

He looked at his wrist-watch : ten minutes to twelve ; 
ten minutes yet to go. He cocked his Glengarry forward. 

"Left, left. . . ." 

That blasted English quarter-bloke, in his riding-breeches 
and spurs, had crossed along the top road not three minutes 
ago. 

The squad was almost on to the grass verge. 

" About tu'n ! " 

Breeches and spurs ! Why the hell did a corporal of a 
Scots regiment have to wear slacks on a drill parade ? He 
had joined the Army to wear a kilt always 5 . 

" Left in cline ! Left, left. . . ." 

158 



THE CORPORAL 159 

In any case English slacks looked daft with a Glengary 
and a cut-away tunic. 

Breeches and spurs ! He'd give him breeches and spurs, 
quarter-bloke or no quarter-bloke. 

" At the halt, on the right, form squad ! " 

The wearied recruits thought a rest was coming : but, no. 

" By the left, quick march ! " 

Would she be looking out of the window of their quarters 
to see the swine pass in his breeches and spurs ? Oh, God, 
but he was tired and weary of it all. Tired ? And so must 
these fellows be tired, too. 

" At the halt, on the left, form squad ! " 

The recruits thought they knew this trick. 

" Order a'ms ! " A sigh of relief seemed to come from 
every man in the squad. 

" Stand at ease ! Stand easy." 

The corporal looked at his watch again, as the men 
mopped their faces, and flexed their limbs : five minutes 
still to go. There was a staff-major on the square, talking 
to the captain. If the captain had been on his own he 
might have made an excuse to get away. After all, he was 
the best drill instructor in the depot ; but one or two of the 
officers had looked at him queerly in the last week or two. 
Maybe, though, he was just imagining. 

Oh, why had he ever joined the Army ? And yet . . . 
No. Why, had they ever sent him south ? Why couldn't 
they have kept him at Inverness or in Edinburgh ? Why 
send Scots troops to Aldershot, or anywhere in England ? 
Keep them at home in Scotland, or else send them abroad. 
That's what they should do. If only they'd kept him in 
Scotland this wouldn't be happening at all. He would 
never have met her. He would never have married her. 
Five years now, and ' on the strength,' too. She didn't 
know when she was lucky. Married quarters, and spliced 
to the smartest N.G.O. on the square ; singled out for 
promotion ; if all went well, he'd be sergeant in six months 
from now. If all went well ! And he was only thirty. He'd 
be sergeant-major, maybe a warrant-officer before he 
was forty if all went well. And he was a good-looking 



i6o UNDER THIRTY 

chap, too. There wasn't a man in the depot in the whole 
mob for that matter, officers included who could carry the 
kilt so well. 

But she didn't know when she was well off. If only he 
could have married a Scots lass ; but she was English, and 
as soft as muck. An English doll, who couldn't let another 
man go past her without simpering at him. Particularly a 
cavalryman. Breeches and spurs ! But, Lord Almighty, 
this thing wasn't even a cavalryman. He was only a blasted 
Cockney A.S.C. quarter-bloke. Oh, hell ! 

Better get these fellows on the move again for the last lap. 
The staff-major was looking at him. The captain was 
nodding towards him. They were talking about him. 

He cocked his Glengarry, and flicked his leg with his stick. 
The men knew the signal. 

" Squad properly at ease everywhere. Squad shun ! 
As you were ! and put some jip into it ! Squad shun ! 
Slope a'ms ! By the left, quick march ! Left, left ; left, 
right, left. Come on ! Pick 'em up ! Left, left . . ." 

He glanced at the officers. What the devil were they 
saying about him ? He knew how to drill recruits. Better 
than they did by a long chalk ! 

If she thought that. ... If that blasted quarter-bloke 
with his breeches and spurs. . . . 

" Come on ! What are you playing at ? Left, left. . . . 
Right incline ! Left in cline ! About tu'n ! " 

He'd gut the swine. Gralloch him like a deer. And her, 
too. 

" Squad, mark time ! About tu'n ! Quick march ! 
Left, left. . . . You, in the middle there, that's a rifle, not 
a stick o' sugarolly. . . ." 

The staff-major was grinning. That was all right. He'd 
show them ! 

" Come on ! Snappy now ! Your mothers'll be proud o' 
ye yet ; if only you'll forget the hills, and get the heather oot 
o' yer ears. . . ." 

The hills and the heather ! And here he was stewing, 
far from the north, on this hot Aldershot square. And she 
. . . She was his wife. Married. ' On the strength.' 



THE CORPORAL 161 

" Left, left. . . ." 

A bugler appeared at the edge of the square nearest the 
guard-room. Twelve o'clock. The bugle rang out. 

" Squad halt ! Mind yer dressing, there. Come on, 
heads up ! Squad dis miss ! " 

The men turned to the right, brought their hands across 
to their rifles in salute, and broke ranks. 

Corporal Macpherson, the smartest N.C.O. on the square, 
took a pace forward in the direction of the two officers, 
snapped his stick beneath his left arm, clicked his heels 
and jerked his hand up in regimental salute. 

Now, he thought, now he'd see what she was up to, but 
she was cunning enough to know that it was time for him to 
be leaving the parade ground. 

He swung round on his heels, preparatory to marching 
off the square, conscious of the fact that the two officers 
were watching him. 

" Corporal Macpherson ! " It was the captain's voice. 

" Damn ! " The corporal halted, and turned about. 

The officer beckoned him. 

He went across the square at the double, halted two paces 
from the officers, and saluted, standing a rigid six feet of 
magnificent Scottish manhood. 

" Sir ? " 

The captain glanced at the staff-major before he spoke. 

" Oh, corporal, report to the orderly-room at two-forty- 
five, will you ? " 

Orderly-room ? What was wrong ? But the officers were 
smiling both of them so it was all right. 
' Two-forty-five ? Right, sir." 

It was the staff-officer, a little more human than the 
majority of his type, who answered the corporal's uncon- 
sciously querying eyes. 

" Good news for you, corporal," he said. 

" Er ? Thank you, sir. That all, sir ? " 

; ' That's all, corporal for the present," the major 
dismissed him. 

" Right, sir." The corporal saluted again, turned smartly, 
and marched from the square. 



1 62 UNDER THIRTY 

News good news ? What could it be ? Something out of 
the ordinary to treat it like that. A staff- wallah, too. What 
was it ? a special course ? special promotion ? Two- 
forty-five. 

He reached the roadway, bordering the parade-ground, and 
broke into the double as he made for the married quarters. 

He ran past his own place about a hundred yards, and 
then doubled back, stopping to peer between the barrack 
blocks. 

The master-tailor, standing at the door of his workshop, 
grinned at him. 

" What's come ower ye, Mac ? " he asked. " Touch o' 
the sun ? " 

" No." The corporal, unsmiling, answered him quite 
seriously. He took a couple of paces forward as though to 
interrogate the tailor ; but suddenly changed his mind. 

There was no sign of the breeches and spurs. 

The tailor chewed his heavy moustache, and shook his 
head. Queer devil, Macpherson. 

The corporal went in. 

She was sitting by the window, pretending to read a 
magazine. He wondered if she had seen him go past, and 
if she had seen his other movements. 

She was dressed in her best, and with her blonde hair 
frizzed elaborately about the pink and whiteness of her 
made-up face. 

He looked at her, but did not speak. Cheap, that's what 
she was. Why hadn't he seen it years ago ? A cheap doll. 

He flung down his Glengarry, and sent a piercing glance 
into each corner of the little room. Then he went hurriedly 
from it, searching each of the other two rooms of their 
quarters. He came back. 

She looked up from her magazine with a sneer. 

" Wot you looking foah ? " she asked, in her flat Hampshire 
accent, with an affectation that she thought were the tones 
of a lady. 

" Nothing." 

" Ho, reely. Couldn't look for much less, could yer ? " 
She thought that was funny. 



THE CORPORAL 163 

Suddenly he snapped out : " Has that A.S.G. quarter- 
bloke been here ? " 
'That ?" 

" Quartermaster-sergeant Higgins of the Royal Army 
Service Corps." There was a bite in every word. 

" Ho, yes " 

" Oh ? " 

" I mide a complaint about some of the rations, and, of 
course " 

" That's only an excuse." 

" Reelly ? " she sneered. 

" Yes, really." 

" Oh, for Gawd's sike shut up ! " She threw down her 
magazine. " You mike me taihd, you do." 

" Tired ? " he repeated wearily. " Yes, I am tired." 

He turned round and went out, picking up his Glengarry 
as he passed the chair on which he had thrown it. 

Not too loudly, but loud enough for him to hear it, she 
flung * Lousy Scotch pig ! ' after him, as he passed the 
open window. 

He stopped. For a moment he thought of going back to 
smash the words down her throat. But that wouldn't do. 
He had to report to the orderly-room at two-forty-five. 
He had to keep calm. 

The master-tailor, still at his door, had heard her words. 
' Bloody cow ! ' he muttered, and watched the corporal 
as he crossed the road and disappeared between the 
barrack-blocks. 

The corporal went into what had once been the dry- 
canteen, now known to the troops as ' The Naffy.' 

He asked for coffee and a pie. 

The girl behind the counter grinned, and, as the boiling 
liquid bubbled from the tap of the urn, she asked : " No 
dinner at 'ome to-day, corp. ? " 

He did not answer. He merely glared at the girl, confirm- 
ing her suspicions that the ' Scotch ' were all balmy. 

He took his coffee and pie to a corner of the empty canteen, 
and sat down. 

He tried not to think of his wife. He wanted to forget her. 



1 64 UNDER THIRTY 

He had to keep calm. Orderly-room, two-forty-five. 
Good news. What was it ? Did it mean a shift ? Abroad, 
maybe, to the battalion. He could leave her in England. 
She could go home, where she belonged, on allowance. 
She could do what she liked. She could go to the devil ! 
He wasn't going to spoil his career for her. That's what she 
wanted, of course : a hell of a row in quarters. Get him up 
for the high-jump. Queer everything. Abroad ? He could 
forget abroad, and get on more or less free of her. Abroad ? 
But it couldn't be that or, at least, not just that alone. 
That wouldn't need a staff-major on the square, smiling, 
and almost friendly. What was it ? Special promotion 
of some kind ? P.T. instructor ? No. What then ? The 
authorities had him taped, he knew that. They knew he'd 
been at the Glasgow University before he enlisted at twenty- 
one, because there was nothing else to do. And he'd got 
on all right. And there were big chances. He'd queered 
some of them, of course, by marrying. Damned fool ! 
Orderly-room. A staff-major. A cadetship ? By God ! 
Was that it ? Sandhurst a commission ? Oh, but that 
needed a preliminary exam., and he hadn't bothered. 
Should have done that five years ago or more. No. 
Besides, he was married too true, he was married. And 
nearly thirty. Too late for a commission now. And yet 
you never knew ! The Army could play steam with its own 
regulations if it wanted to. The Army could muck you 
about to your good, as well as to your bad. And, after all, 
wasn't he the smartest young N.C.O. in the whole - - : 
AND with special qualifications ? God ! A commission. 

Then he laughed, bitterly ; he laughed at the folly of it, 
and he laughed at the thought of HER as an officer's wife. 
But what was the good of worrying ? He'd soon know. 
Two-forty-five at the orderly-room. 

He bought a picture post card at the counter, and 
addressed it to his mother, telling her he would have good 
news. He smiled at that. Why not wait until he knew what 
the news might be ? His mother wouldn't get it any 
sooner. Och, well, she'd be pleased to get the picture, 
anyway ; and he would write a letter afterwards. 



THE CORPORAL 165 

He went across to the post office in the lines, and sent off 
the card. 

It was only one o'clock : an hour and three-quarters to 
wait. The lines were deserted. It was too hot for the troops 
to be wandering about after dinner. In any case, most 
likely, they wouldn't have finished. But he wanted someone 
to talk to. No, he didn't. He wanted a drink. No, that 
wouldn't do. He was sleepy enough as it was. Sleepy 
and tired and sticky. 

He strolled down by the garrison church. It was open, 
and he went in. He knelt down. . . . 

At half-past one he came out, crossed the road, and went 
into one of the barrack-rooms. He borrowed a towel, and 
went to what is euphemistically designated the ablution- 
bench. He filled a tub, and washed, then held his head 
under the tap and turned the water full on. He felt better 
after that. As he returned the towel to the lance-jack from 
whom he had borrowed it, the man wanted to know if his 
quarters had been blown up. He told the fellow to go to 
hell, and then begged the loan of a comb and a brush. 

At five minutes to two, as he was going on parade, he saw 
the breeches and spurs : he looked right into the little 
pig-eyes of the quartermaster-sergeant. He thought the 
man smirked as he passed. He wanted to run after him, 
and to smash into him, and to beat him to a pulp to hear 
him screaming for mercy. He wanted to but, no ; there 
was too much at stake. Orderly-room at two-forty-five ; 
and the man wasn't worth it, and, after all, neither was she. 

The parade was drawn to attention. As he reported, the 
captain spoke to him : 

4 You'd better hop it, corporal," the officer advised. 
" I'll have Sergeant Fraser take your squad." 
' Yes, sir. Very good, sir." 

Er I mean you'd better be properly dressed this 
afternoon, corporal." 

Properly dressed ? That meant the kilt. What WAS on 
the go ? 

" Yes, sir." 

" All right, corporal." 



1 66 UNDER THIRTY 

The corporal saluted, and left the square. It was five-past 
two. Properly dressed ? That meant returning to his 
quarters. She wouldn't know he was coming in. She'd 
think he was on the square. He wouldn't take any notice 
of her. He would just go straight through, and change, 
He had to keep calm. 

The door was locked. She would be out. And he hadn't 
a key. That was like her what the hell did she care if he 
did want to get in ? He would have to go in by the window. 

As he pulled himself up to the open casement, with his 
body poised half inside the room, he heard her voice in a 
loud whisper, followed by the lower rumble of a man's 
tones. 

The corporal dropped quietly into the room. 

He listened. 

They were in the bedroom. The bedroom ! Here ? 
Here in quarters ! Rations ! Rations ! 

God ! 

Something seemed to snap in Macpherson's brain. 

He wanted to scream, and he wanted to laugh : to scream 
at the foul outrage, and to laugh at their colossal impudence. 
But he stood still. 

Then his limbs trembled and stopped. His teeth 
snapped, and the noise of their coming together seemed to 
create some strange division : he was the soldier still trained 
and disciplined ; but he was, too, another man a man 
moving in a hideous dream. He was a man apart, watching, 
yet playing in the dream, and knowing in advance what the 
outcome of it all would be ; but the man watching was 
powerless to stop the man acting. 

He removed his boots. He removed his tunic. He looked 
round the room. He took his bayonet from its scabbard- 
cold steel. He found his rifle be prepared for anything ! 
He found a clip, and quietly slipped it into the rifle-magazine. 
He snapped on the bayonet. 

Noiselessly he crept along the short passage to the bed- 
room. He listened at the door. It was open an inch or 
two, and he could hear everything ! 

He touched the door, and it moved quietly six inches 



THE CORPORAL 167 

a foot a foot and a half two feet. He slipped, unheard, 
into the room. 

For a moment he stood watching unable to realize fully 
the truth of the horror before him. 

Suddenly, the man on the bed turned and saw. But his 
yell died before it had begun ; his movement was stopped 
before thought became action. 

The corporal leapt, and the bayonet crashed to the 
work it had been fashioned to do : through flesh and bones 
and blood it went through the living body of a man 
right through and beyond driven by a demoniacal power 
right through, and through the woman, too pinning their 
bodies in sudden death to the bed they had been desecrating. 

The rifle stood straight up, held by the flesh-embedded 
bayonet, rearing from the dead man's back like a fantastic 
pylon. A river of blood ran round the man's waist, pouring 
down on to the whiter flesh beneath him. 

The corporal stood back and then he laughed. For a full 
minute he laughed. 

LEFT, LEFT ; LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT. . . . 

A voice, half-muffled by the heat, came from the barrack- 
square. 

The corporal stopped. 

AT THE HALT, ON THE LEFT . . . 

Then he remembered. 

Orderly-room. Two-forty-five. Properly dressed. 

He found his kilt, his sporran, his spats, and his shoes. 

LEFT, LEFT ; LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT. . . . 

Without as much as one glance at the bed the bodies 
might not have been there he changed. 

He went through to the other room. He buckled his belt 
with the empty bayonet scabbard about him. He put on his 
Glengarry. 

He went out. 

LEFT, LEFT ; LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT . . . 

At two-forty-three he was marching stiffly, up and down, 
outside the orderly-room door. 

Twelve paces up. 

ABOUT TURN ! 



1 68 UNDER THIRTY 

Twelve paces down. 

LEFT, LEFT ; LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT. . . . 

The orderly-room sergeant came out. 

HALT ! 

The corporal went in. 

The captain was there, and the staff-major sat at the table. 
Inwardly, the corporal laughed. They didn't know. 
They didn't know that he had just come straight from battle. 
They didn't even know that war had been declared. 
Victory ! And easy he alone. One movement only. No 

LONG POINT, SHORT POINT, IN, OUT ! No ! One JAB ! 

The officers smiled at him. The major spoke : 
; ' Well, corporal- 
" I have come, sir, to report 

The major looked at him keenly. There was something 
strange and queer about the man. 
And from outside, from the square, the voice went on : 

LEFT, LEFT ; LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT. . . . 

" I have come, sir, to report," the corporal repeated, 
" that at two-fifteen, or thereabouts, single-handed and with 
the bayonet, I defeated and despatched two of the enemy." 

Then the six feet of him swayed, and crashed. . . . 

AT THE HALT. . ! 



DAVID GASCOYNE 
* 

Death of an Explorer 



I WAS born at Harrow, near London, in 1916, and spent my 
childhood first near Edinburgh, then in Bournemouth, then 
in Fordingbridge, on the edge of the New Forest. When I 
was nine years old, I became a choirboy of Salisbury 
Cathedral, and remained at the Choir School until my 
voice broke, when I was fourteen. My family having 
moved to a London suburb, I was then sent to the Regent 
Street Polytechnic, where I stayed for two years, supposedly 
studying for an exam. ; but the headmaster having made it 
clear that I should never be able to pass any exam., no 
matter how long I stayed there, I was removed, to my great 
relief, when I was just over sixteen. I had already published 
a few poems, and had finished an adolescent semi-auto- 
biographical novel, the MS. of which, owing to the kind 
help of Mrs. Alida Monro, was accepted by a London 
publisher a few months after I had left school. My parents 
became resigned to the idea that I was only good to be a 
writer. 

With the money I received for advance royalties on Opening 
Day I was able to satisfy a long desire to visit Paris. I 
continued to write poetry, with moderate success, and prose, 
with less success ; and became very interested in the 
Surrealist movement, which by that time was no longer 
young, but which seemed to me to correspond to certain 
instincts of non-conformism and revolt which I had always 
recognized in myself. In 1935, my publishers were per- 
suaded to commission me to write A Short Survey of Surrealism, 
one of the first books in English on a subject which, the 
following year, became a leading topic of conversation and 
newspaper gossip. I was a member of the organizing 
committee of the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936. 
At about the same time, I became very preoccupied with 
politics, and in the autumn went for a while to Barcelona, 

171 



172 UNDER THIRTY 

where I worked in the Propaganda Bureau of the Catalonian 
Government. On returning to England I continued to do 
a good deal of Left-wing political work ; and also became 
connected with the formation of the movement now famous 
under the name of ' Mass-Observation.' For eighteen 
months I was unable to write a line of poetry ; and did little 
other work except the collecting of material for a book on 
Arthur Rimbaud (to be published in 1938 under the title 
Diabolic Angel). 

Now, at the age of twenty-one, having passed through 
surrealism, communism, mass-observation, etc., I no longer 
have any desire to be connected with any particular group, 
ideology, or programme, but wish to be entirely free to 
develop my own individual preoccupations, which centre 
round the inner problem of modern man : the necessity for 
greater consciousness of himself : as a social being, as a psycho- 
logical being and as a spiritual being a problem too great 
to be perceived from a single, fixed point of view. 

My present work includes Diabolic Angel, Hb'lderlin's 
Madness (also to be published in 1938), a new collection of 
poems, three nouvelles, collectively called Quiet Minds, 
and a series of short stories to be called The Midnight Sun (of 
which * Death of an Explorer ' is one of the first written, and 
the first short story I have ever had published). 

DAVID GASCOYNE. 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 

' U enfant Septentrion dansa sept jours. . .' 

MR. PARKER was a middle-aged, undistinguished- 
looking man, who worked for a firm of insecticide 
manufacturers. His job kept him at the office most of the 
time, but occasionally his employers would call upon him 
to go and demonstrate their products in towns in some quite 
distant part of the country, or even abroad, so that after a 
while he became quite used to making journeys and seeing 
strange places, although the previous positions he had 
occupied had never given him the opportunity to travel. 
He did not like to be referred to as a traveller, though ; 
his salesmanship was in a higher class than that. 

He woke up one Sunday morning in a strange bed, and 
remembered that he had arrived the previous night in a town 
he had never visited before and where he had an appointment 
for the following day with a large firm of wholesale 
gardeners. He had been giving demonstrations the day 
before in another town in the same county. 

He lay in bed enjoying a vague feeling of pleasure at the 
thought of having nothing to do all day except take his 
meals, read the newspaper, and perhaps explore his strange 
temporary surroundings a little in the afternoon. He 
always liked to wander about and see the local sights, even 
in the most insignificant of the places that he visited. When 
the landlady came in with his breakfast, he did in fact ask 
her whether there was anything of interest in the neighbour- 
hood which, in her opinion, a traveller ought not to miss. 
He asked this in a half-jocular way, although his curiosity 
was quite genuine. The landlady looked at him with a 
puzzled expression, fingered the back of her head, and 
answered that she couldn't exactly think of anything. 



174 UNDER THIRTY 

" Well, yes," she said, after a short pause, " there' re the 
Municipal Gardens, of course. And then there's the Corn 
Exchange, that's an old-fashioned sort of building, a gentle- 
man once painted a picture of it, I believe. And, oh ! " 
she added, " I was quite forgetting, there's the house where 
A used to live, they say you can still see the blood- 
stains on the staircase." She named a murderer whose 
sordid crime had filled much space in the newspapers 
a few years before. 

Mr. Parker thanked her for her information, and thought 
no more about it until after lunch. He had read all the 
Sunday papers, it looked as though it were going to be a 
beautiful afternoon, he was feeling in a very good mood ; and 
as he was not particularly interested in the architecture of 
Corn Exchanges, and was even less interested in crime (he 
used to say he thought the papers should be prohibited from 
publishing reports of murder cases) , he decided to go for a 
walk in the Municipal Gardens. He did not omit to take 
an umbrella with him as, in his experience, it always came 
on to rain just when one least expected it to. 

" It's not far to go," said the landlady, as he was leaving 
the house. " You go straight down the High Street, and 
over the bridge, then turn to the left and go down past the 
new cinema until you reach the cross-roads. You'd better 
ask a policeman when you get as far as that, I can't quite 
explain, but it's not much farther." 

Mr. Parker set off down the High Street with a jaunty air, 
twirling his umbrella, which marked him out as a stranger 
among the people who, dressed in their best Sunday clothes, 
were slouching aimlessly along the pavements and gazing 
at the windows of the shuttered shops. He crossed a bridge 
over a rather dirty little canal, turned down past the new 
cinema, a hideous erection, and soon found himself at the 
cross-roads, where he asked the constable on point duty 
whether he could direct him to the Gardens. 

The constable looked him suspiciously up and down 
before he answered ; then he said, speaking very slowly : 
" The Gardens ? Ah, yes ! the Gardens. You'll have to 
go along this road you see in front of you until you come to the 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 175 

end of the shops, then go through the alley beside the Library, 
and you'll find yourself nearly opposite the gates." 

Mr. Parker thanked him pleasantly enough, and went 
on his way ; but he had an unpleasant feeling that the 
policeman's eyes would be fixed upon his back, instead of on 
the traffic, until he was quite out of sight. Nevertheless, he 
continued to twirl his umbrella nonchalantly. So much for 
all officials ! 

Having noticed that the Library clock said ten to three, 
Mr. Parker turned into the alleyway to which he had been 
directed. It was narrow and dark and smelt of dustbins, 
and he was glad to emerge at last into a spacious road lined 
with tall Victorian houses set back behind railings and strips 
of weed-infested gravel. The light seemed stronger here, and 
the sky higher. On the other side of the road, making a 
break in the line of houses, stood a high brick wall topped 
with broken glass and with a high ironwork gateway in the 
middle of it. He made his way over to the gate and tried 
to push it open. It was padlocked ; the grounds inside 
did not look much like a public garden ; there was no one 
in sight. And then his eye caught the notice that was fixed 
to the wall on the right-hand side of the gate : STRICTLY 

PRIVATE MENTAL HOME. 

He turned indignantly on his heel, and looked up and 
down the road to see whether his discomfiture had been 
observed. So the policeman had tried to make a fool of 
him, had he ? What impertinence ! He would have the 
man reported ! But perhaps, after all, it was a mistake ; 
perhaps if he went on a little farther up the road, he would 
come to the Gardens still ? The whole prospect was extra- 
ordinarily deserted ; it seemed as though all the inhabitants 
of this part of the town were submerged in sleep. He walked 
slowly on, no longer swinging his umbrella, and wished 
there were someone of whom he could ask once more the way. 
There was only a miserable white dog sitting beside a gate, 
who growled at him as he went by. 

He walked for what seemed a long time, past interminable 
houses, but saw not the least sign of any garden. He 
eventually found himself in the neighbourhood of the station ; 



176 UNDER THIRTY 

the road went under a railway bridge ; and it was here that 
he met a passer-by at last. 

" Excuse me, but can you tell me whether I am going in 
the right direction for the Public Gardens ? " he inquired. 

The man, who was carrying a small case, looked at him 
vacantly and shook his head. " I'm sorry, sir, but I'm 
afraid I'm a stranger in these parts," was his reply. He 
touched his hat to Mr. Parker and went on. 

' Well, at any rate,' said Mr. Parker to himself, ' I am 
getting a bit of a walk, and that's the main thing.' He was 
glad he had brought his umbrella with him ; the sun had 
retired by this time behind a heavy film of cloud, and there 
was a certain sultriness in the air. 

Beyond the railway bridge there were stretches of allot- 
ments behind the hedges on either side of the road. On the 
edge of these allotments rose the railway-line embankment. 
Mr. Parker kept his eyes open for anything that might be 
of interest. When he got home again after one of his 
business trips, he always liked to describe everything he had 
seen and done in minute detail to his wife. It somehow 
increased his sense of his own importance to do this, and his 
wife was always impressed, even by the most trivial things, 
since she herself had never travelled in her life. But this 
time, he reflected, there would be singularly little to tell her 
about. He began to regret not having gone to see the 
Corn Exchange. He remembered, also, how much interest 

his wife had displayed in the A murder case at the time 

of the trial. . . . 

The allotments gave place to fields, in which stood 
enormous hoardings advertising cars and pills. After the 
fields, he came to a large nursery garden full of green- 
houses, and was delighted to discover that the name on the 
placard beside the gate was that of the firm to whom he had 
to demonstrate his insecticide on the following day. This 
made his walk seem thoroughly worth while after all, for 
now he would not have to waste time in looking for the place 
the next morning. 

He stood still in the road to take a long look at the 
nurseries. They were hardly any different from the many 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 177 

others he had visited in the course of his expeditions. In 
one corner of the grounds there stood a lofty water-tower ; 
and it was whilst he was glancing at this tower that he 
noticed a couple of men who were standing at its foot, 
nodding to one another and pointing in his direction as 
though they suspected him of something. Then a third 
figure appeared from behind the tower and the others 
spoke to him hurriedly and again pointed towards the road. 
Mr. Parker immediately resumed his walk. Did they 
imagine that he was loitering there with some ulterior 
motive, he wondered ? Two ragged children were wander- 
ing towards him down the road ; it might just as well have 
been at them that the men were pointing ; there had 
perhaps been cases recently of fruit or flowers being stolen 
by urchins, and that was the explanation. 

Although he had a feeling that the men by the water-tower 
were still watching him with interest, Mr. Parker stopped 
the little boy and girl, and asked them, just to set his mind 
finally at rest, whether he would be likely to find any 
Public Gardens round this way. The children looked at one 
another, and then laughed. 

" Yes, mister," said the boy, " there's some sort of gardens 
way down yonder. Yes, mister." 

" It ain't far," explained the little girl, whose face and 
hands were extremely dirty. " You just keeps straight on." 

Mr. Parker, even though he thought it not impossible 
that they were pulling his leg, gave them each a penny, 
and left them gazing after him, with their fingers in their 
mouths. It did not occur to him till afterwards that his 
behaviour must have seemed rather peculiar to the watchers 
in the nurseries. He would have to try to remember to 
speak to someone about it in the morning ; they would be 
very amused when he explained. 

When he had walked considerably farther, he came to an 
abrupt turning in the road, a cluster of houses and a pub. 
Three motors passed him, leaving a cloud of dust behind. 
After the dust had cleared, he saw that on the opposite side 
of the road there was an imposing stone gateway sur- 
mounted by carved lions holding shields, and a wall enclosing 



178 UNDER THIRTY 

numerous trees through which, in the distance, part of some 
large building was to be discerned. At that moment, a 
casual group of people emerged from the entrance. They 
looked like tourists. Mr. Parker crossed the road. ' This 
must be the place,' he thought, as he glanced in between the 
gate-posts. He walked inside. There was certainly no one 
to stop him. 

The place was more like a park than a garden ; paths 
stretched away in all directions among the trees ; in the 
grass here and there stood clumps of blossoming shrubs and 
one or two weather-stained statues. It was obviously open 
to the public, because there were little receptacles and 
drinking-fountains placed at the corners of the paths, and 
fixed to the tree trunks were various notices, such as : 
' Bird's-nesting is Strictly Forbidden ' ' To the Kiosk '- 
' This Way to the Ruins.' Mr. Parker also saw a notice 
saying : ' This Way to the Palace,' but when he looked in the 
direction in which it was pointing, he could no longer see 
anything of the building he had observed through the trees 
from outside the wall. Very varied-looking groups of people 
were strolling carelessly about. 

But, Mr. Parker asked himself, what was this mysterious 
Palace ? Were these the Municipal Gardens that his land- 
lady had mentioned ? If so, why had the policeman 
attempted to lead him so deliberately astray ? Perhaps 
there had been some misunderstanding perhaps he was 
quite a new policeman who did not know the district any too 
well ? It had taken him a long enough time to reach the 
place, and it was certainly some distance from the town. 
But it was not so far away that the landlady would not have 
mentioned it as being among the attractions of the neigh- 
bourhood, supposing it were not the Municipal Gardens he 
had come to. On the other hand, she had said nothing 
about a Palace. And whoever heard of a Municipal Palace ? 
It was most confusing. 

It occurred to him to speak to one of the many other 
visitors who were wandering about the paths, and to ask for 
some enlightenment. But every time he was about to stop 
someone, either the person was too engrossed in his friend's 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 179 

conversation or his own thoughts to notice him, or he was 
unable to think how to phrase his question. Among the 
people he passed without being able to attract their attention 
were a couple of Cinghalese ladies wearing saris (he could 
not imagine how they had got there), an elderly clergyman 
with a long white beard, and a number of foreign-looking 
young men who might have been students of some kind. 
He began to swing his umbrella round again, more out of a 
feeling of disquiet, this time, than of good humour. He 
looked up at the flat grey sky : Was it going to rain ? 

At this moment, he was confronted by a door set in a wall. 
Passing through to the other side, he found himself in a more 
open space, rather like a field, in the midst of which there 
was a wide oblong stretch of ornamental water, bordered 
by avenues of elms. Here, again, there were many people 
walking on the foot-paths ; a number of men sat fishing 
along the edge of the water ; and in the distance, which was 
indistinct, Mr. Parker thought he could see animals of some 
kind moving about, most probably cows. 

To one side of the foot-path which Mr. Parker decided to 
follow, there was a wire enclosure, inside which a number of 
schoolboys were playing cricket on a ridiculously short pitch. 
They were all dressed in immaculately clean white flannels 
and were wearing white caps ornamented with gold braid. 
He paused to watch them for a few moments. 

'' I say, that's rather a short pitch that you're using 
there ! " he called out cheerfully. 

One or two of the boys turned round and looked at him 
with deepest scorn, as though he had offended some sacred 
convention ; while the rest disregarded him completely 
and went on playing their game with an air of intense 
concentration. 

Mr. Parker shrugged his shoulders and moved on, feeling 
rather hurt. He sat down presently on a bench near the 
edge of the lake, beneath the elms, and watched the fisher- 
men who were sitting not far away from him. They appeared 
to be absolutely motionless. Turning his head, he suddenly 
saw the front of the Palace, which faced the lake, for the 
first time. 



i8o UNDER THIRTY 

It was a fine building in the best Georgian style, much 
larger than he had expected it to be, rather like a mon- 
strously over-developed country mansion. With this 
grey and melancholy sheet of water stretching away in front 
of it into the distance, it had something of the appearance 
both of Versailles and of Hampton Court. As Mr. Parker 
was not acquainted with either of these places, he could not 
make the comparison. He just sat and gazed in wonderment, 
quite unable to make out how it came to be there, on the 
outskirts of such a completely unimportant little town. 

He sat gazing at the building and trying to make out the 
tiny human figures that were moving about on the steps 
leading up the main entrance. Was the Palace open to 
the public too, then ? He thought he could see lights being 
carried across the rooms behind the great uncurtained 
windows of the upper floors. At one moment he even had 
the fantastic idea that there was someone moving about 
among the forest of chimney-stacks on the roof. 

On either side of the facade there stretched a wall ; the 
summit of a fountain could be seen glittering just above the 
top of the wall on the left-hand side. Everything was 
smothered in a silence broken only by the click of bat and 
ball. Mr. Parker was beginning to find this silence oppres- 
sive, when he heard the voice of a man on the other side of 
one of the trees behind him, saying : " You'd better be 
careful, it's the mating-season ! " 

He was wondering what in the world this might mean, 
when he heard a noise of violent clattering and snorting 
going on in the avenue a short way away ; and turning 
round, saw a couple of stags, their antlers interlocked, 
engaged in furious combat, stumbling every now and again 
against a great dead fallen branch of an elm. He rose 
hurriedly to his feet, and just as hurriedly moved away 
towards the Palace. 

The nearer he approached to the vast building, the more 
curious he became as to its interior. Beyond the entrance 
hall, through which people were continually moving in and 
out, one could catch a glimpse of a shadowy courtyard, 
with farther wells of light and shadow stretching inwards 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 181 

beyond that. At the top of the front steps, beside a little 
orange tree in a pot, stood a tall, ferocious officer of some 
kind, wearing a sky-blue uniform which made him look 
exactly like the commissionaire of an hotel. Mr. Parker 
made his way up to this figure, and somewhat diffidently 
inquired what the name of the palace might be, and to whom 
it belonged. The man told him the name, but it conveyed 
absolutely nothing to Mr. Parker, he had never even heard 
of it before. 

The officer managed to convey by his glance that he con- 
sidered Mr. Parker to be an idiot. " All further information 
at the Kiosk," he snapped. " Straight along to the left, 
turn to the left again." 

Mr. Parker walked along the frontage of the Palace, 
noticing with disappointment that all the ground-floor 
windows were heavily shuttered. He passed through the 
door in the wall from which he had emerged before, and 
found himself among the trees and gravel paths again. He 
caught sight of the Kiosk in the distance and hurried towards 
it. He was too late ! Just as he had got to within a few 
yards of it, someone inside pulled down the shutter behind 
the inquiry-desk with a loud crash. He loitered about for 
some time, swinging his umbrella round impatiently, in the 
hope that the attendant would shortly emerge ; but he or 
she had either already made an exit unobserved, or had 
decided to stay the night inside. Mr. Parker moved slowly 
away. 

Just then, a clock in the vicinity struck six o'clock : the 
deep-toned chimes wavered oddly in his head. How the 
time had flown ! He would have to be getting back, he 
thought, but he wanted to see just a little of the inside of the 
Palace first. He went through a door in a wall, and dis- 
covered at once that it was the wrong one : he had come 
out somewhere at the back of the Palace, or at the side 
perhaps, and was in a long-deserted-looking mews. There 
were apparently people living here, for there were curtains 
and bright flower-boxes in the first-floor windows. He 
perceived a shadowy archway in the distance, and began 
to stroll towards it. His feet made a surprisingly loud 



1 82 UNDER THIRTY 

clatter on the flag-stones ; a number of dogs began to bark 
savagely somewhere quite near to him. But at that moment 
he heard voices just above his head and, looking up, caught 
sight of a young woman in a dark dress with a broad white 
satin collar and with beautifully waved dark hair leaning 
out of one of the windows. His heart gave a sudden jump, 
not because she was so beautiful, but because he immediately 
seemed to recognize her : it was surely young Mrs. Fitz- 
gerald, who had once lived next door to him at home ! 
He could remember her very clearly ; his wife had been 
quite friendly with her ; she was known to be very clever 
at telling fortunes with tea-cups and cards. 

" Oh, Mrs. Fitzgerald ! " he called up to her, but she had 
already disappeared. 

In his excitement he noticed that there was a small green- 
painted door beneath the window, with three bell-pushes 
and brass name-plates beside it. Fitzgerald was not, 
unfortunately, among the names engraved on the plates ; 
but that did not matter ; she was probably just staying 
there with a friend ; or she was perhaps related to one of the 
officials connected with the Palace, and that would make the 
visit all the more interesting. He pushed the lowest bell and 
waited. Nothing happened. After several minutes he 
rang again, and began to feel uncomfortable. Supposing 
it hadn't been Mrs. Fitzgerald at all how foolish he would 
look ! Shortly after his third ring he heard footsteps, the 
door opened slowly, and a pale, half-witted-looking servant- 
woman peered suspiciously out at him. 

" Does Mrs. Fitzgerald live here, please ? " 

The woman shook her head without replying. 

" Do you happen to know the name at all by any chance ? " 

Again the woman shook her head. Was she dumb, he 
wondered ? 

" You are quite sure ? " 

The woman nodded. She was obviously incapable of 
speech. She closed the door abruptly in his face, leaving 
him standing there like a dummy. 

He retreated a few steps, and again stared up at the 
window where the young woman had appeared. It was no 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 183 

use, someone had drawn the curtains now. Anyway, he had 
most probably made a mistake. The invisible dogs had 
begun to bark again, more loudly than before. He walked 
hurriedly away towards the arch that he had seen. 

The archway led into a dark, tunnel-like, damp-walled 
passage. A distant glimmer of light indicated the farther 
end. Other passages branched off on either side here and 
there, but not knowing into what forbidden precincts they 
might lead, Mr. Parker decided to keep straight ahead. ' I 
shall certainly have plenty of things to describe to the wife 
after all,' he thought to himself as he paced towards the 
light. 

He came out into the daylight once again on the opposite 
side of the Palace, among the lawns and flower-beds of the 
garden where he had seen a fountain rising. There were 
not so many people about here. It was very quiet. He 
wondered which path to take, there were so many ; he 
wanted to return to the main entrance so as to be able to 
take a look at some of the rooms inside before he went away. 

A group of three people passed beside him ; and as he 
guessed from their determined gait that they were probably 
going home, it occurred to him to follow them, as they 
would surely have to go round in front of the Palace on 
their way out ? They were an old woman in black, a younger 
woman, and a tall young man with untidy hair, a torn, 
dirty jacket, and shapeless dark grey flannel trousers that 
were too small for him. They did not speak to one another. 
Mr. Parker fixed his eye upon their backs so as not to lose 
sight of them. Strangely enough, he found himself worrying 
as to what the young man's face must look like, his shoulders 
had so disconsolate a droop. 

After a time he realized that he had been mistaken in 
following these people : they were going quite the wrong way 
round. They passed through a low gateway and crossed 
a gloomy, brick-paved courtyard, Mr. Parker trailing after 
them. He suddenly felt tired ; but he was determined to 
see the inside of the Palace before he went back to the town. 
With the next turning taken by his untrustworthy guides, 
he found himself once more in the long-deserted mews. 



1 84 UNDER THIRTY 

Was he ever going to find his way out again, he wondered ? 
It was surely getting late, the place would be closing soon. 
Once more the dogs set up their furious clamour. Mr. 
Parker tried to remember which was the window where he 
had seen the image of Mrs. Fitzgerald, but every window 
looked exactly like the rest. By the time he had directed 
his gaze in front of him again, the trio he had been following 
had completely disappeared. 

Once more he made his way beneath the arch into the 
passage, and decided that he would turn off down one 
of the side corridors this time. What ages seemed to have 
passed since lunch-time ! He had missed his tea and was 
now beginning to feel ravenously hungry. 

Half-way down the passage he turned to the left. A dim 
light led him on, emanating, he discovered a few moments 
later, from a lofty-ceilinged hall into which the daylight 
entered through a single stained-glass window. There were 
a number of doors, and a broad oak staircase, which he 
began to climb. The light was so bad that he did not 
notice the official seated on a chair on the landing half-way 
up until the man rose to his feet as he was passing, and said : 
" You'll have to hurry, we're closing in another ten minutes 
or so." At least, Mr. Parker thought that was what he said, 
but he could not be sure ; the man spoke very indistinctly. 
He could hardly see his face. 

At the top of the staircase, he entered yet another corridor, 
where the light was even worse than before. This led him 
eventually to a narrow balcony running round beneath the 
roof of an enormous banqueting-hall lit by a skylight. 
From what he could see of it, the floor-space below was 
taken up by a single massive table enclosed by a rail of 
crimson cord, as in a museum. The hall was quite empty, 
except for an official seated on guard beside the farther 
entrance. 

He went on through a series of half a dozen or so empty 
rooms, the windows of which appeared to look out into an 
inner courtyard, and at last reached a wide open landing 
at the top of another broad flight of stairs, which were 
railed off to prevent anyone making use of them. ' This 



DEATH OF AN EXPLORER 185 

Staircase is Unsafe,' said a hand-written notice propped up 
against the banisters. On the wall facing Mr. Parker was 
another notice, which said : ' This Way to the Torture- 
Chamber.' 

* I'll just go and see that,' he thought, ' and then I really 
shall have to be getting home.' 

The finger on the notice-board pointed down a lengthy 
gallery hung with tapestry. On his way, Mr. Parker paused 
for a few moments to examine the design. He found it rather 
disturbing. It appeared to represent a scene in Hell, and 
though the colours were rather faded, the effect was 
sufficiently vivid to cause the most light-hearted spectator 
to shudder slightly. ' What morbid imaginations they used 
to have in the old days,' thought Mr. Parker. The most 
striking thing about the tapestry, and undoubtedly that 
which gave it its particular local interest, was the fact that 
the background of the scene was obviously based upon 
the Palace and its grounds, only horribly transformed : the 
ornamental water was a lake of brimstone, in which the 
naked souls of the damned were eternally writhing, while 
the Palace was being consumed by flames that burnt away 
for ever and yet never destroyed the fabric of its walls. 
Mr. Parker shook his head, said, " Teh, tch, tch," and 
moved away. 

The room at the end of the gallery was apparently the 
torture-chamber, for there was a notice beside the door to 
the effect that children were not admitted. But there 
was nothing in the room which could have alarmed even a 
child. Its whitewashed walls contained only an old broken- 
down wooden bedstead. On the stone-paved floor lay a 
few pieces of rusty chain and a sort of metal horse-collar. 
That was all. 

Mr. Parker stared about him, then went over to the 
window. Outside lay the grounds, exactly as he had left 
them, except that it was perhaps a little darker now. The 
schoolboys were still engrossed in their game of cricket, 
the fishermen still sat motionless by the lake, the stags were 
still fighting beneath the elms. He even thought he could 
distinguish the bench on which he had sat down, and 



1 86 UNDER THIRTY 

wondered whether anyone would notice this small, 
insignificant window from that distance. 

When he turned back to the room, his eyes fell upon a 
door which he had not seen before. It was half-open, 
he wandered through, and found himself in a dark inner 
chamber illumined only by the smallest grille. After a 
moment, he caught sight of a large circular hole in the 
centre of the floor. He moved a little nearer, so as to be able 
to see it more clearly. It appeared to be a sort of well, 
though there was no bucket or chain to be seen. Somehow 
wells always had a mysterious fascination for him. He 
peered into its depths. Supposing it were bottomless ? 

He was standing perilously on the very edge. At that 
moment, he thought he saw an indistinct figure moving in 
a corner of the room, and simultaneously, an official came 
suddenly running through the door behind him, shouting : 
" Hey ! Get out ! You're not supposed to come in here, it's 
absolutely forbidden ! " 

The combined shock was sufficient to cause Mr. Parker 
to lose his balance. He toppled, threw up his arms and, with 
a faint cry, still clutching his umbrella, fell sidelong into the 
gaping pit. He was never heard of again, and neither his 
landlady, his employers, nor his wife ever knew what had 
become of him. 



R. G. GOODYEAR 

* 

Valse des Fleurs 



As with most people, the really significant events in my 
life are the concealed ones. These will be found presented 
obliquely in my work. 

For the rest, it can be said that I was born in Luton, 
Bedfordshire, on 26 November 1905, to exceedingly well- 
chosen parents. Two or three years of my extreme infancy I 
spent having operations. Then I went to a Dame School, where 
for the fee of a shilling a week, paid every Monday morning 
in advance, I learned to write my name and play Sally Go 
Round the Moon. After that, a co-educational elementary 
school (where my ' compositions ' were frequently shown 
to distinguished visitors) . 

My education commenced when I went out to work at 
fourteen, and attended night-schools. First, I was a clerk 
in a gasworks, and then worked on the staff of a group of 
local newspapers, finishing up as sub-editor on an evening 
newspaper. I married, and went to live in London, where 
I wrote my first novel, called / Lie Alone. This was published, 
after one rejection, by Boriswood, in May 1935. It was 
followed, a year later, by The Mirtle Tree. There is more to 
come. 

ROBERT GEOFFREY GOODYEAR. 



189 



VALSE DES FLEURS 

? I \HE drawing-room was empty and silent. There was 
JL not even the sound of a clock in it, for Clothilde had 
stopped all the clocks in the house except that in the kitchen. 
If they knew, said Clothilde, what it was that clocks said, 
as they ticked in the house all day long, they, too, would 
wish them silent. So they had acquiesced. Their day was 
measured now by dawn and sunset, by the gong for meals 
and the appearance of candles. 

By a coincidence, the thin dead hands of the cupid- 
wreathed clock, glass-domed on the marble mantelpiece, 
stood at half-past three, which was almost the exact time. 
Through the two tall windows poured slanting beams of 
gold October sunlight. 

It was like a room seen in a mirror, fixed, remote, unreal. 
And then suddenly, with drama, the high white doors 
opened, and Ernestine stood there. With her hands on the 
cut-glass door-knobs, arms outstretched, she surveyed the 
room with hauteur, her head held high. Smiling slightly 
to left and right, as though the room was full of people, 
she entered. Her movement was attended by a rich sweep- 
ing sound, for she wore a white satin ball-dress with a long 
train. 

The dress had a low-cut bodice which her shrivelled breasts 
did not fill. A ripple of light played on the diamonds in 
her necklace. From the narrow waist the dress swelled out 
and fell in copious white cadences over the bustle into the 
pool of the train. The satin of the skirt was caught up in 
the front into heavy horizontal folds. From her left shoulder, 
diagonally across the dress ran a trail of ivy leaves made of 
green velvet. A spray of real ivy bound her faded blonde 
hair. The yellow flesh of her arms showed between the top 

190 



VALSE DES FLEURS 191 

of her long kid gloves and her puffed sleeves. Her feet were 
not visible, but she was wearing white satin slippers worn 
into holes. 

She was playing a game. She was acting a play in which 
she was the heroine. She stood before the cheval glass and 
took up her pose one hand raised to touch the diamonds at 
her throat, and the other holding her dress. Between 
narrowed lids she looked at herself, turning her head, raising 
her chin, lifting an eyebrow, curving her mouth in a com- 
posed, disdainful smile. Then elegantly she moved to the 
grand piano, opened it, touched a yellowed key with a 
gloved finger. 

The note sprang with surprising sharpness into the room's 
stillness, vibrated with a thin ringing, and was gone. She 
unbuttoned her gloves and thrust out her hands, rolling 
back the white kid over her wrists. And kicking back her 
train, and arranging her dress in graceful folds, she sat 
on the velvet-covered piano stool. Sat with her hands poised 
over the keys, glanced up once coquettishly as though some- 
one was leaning on the piano and looking down at her 
admiringly. 

Down the wide oak staircase came Lucian into the 
soundless, shadowed well of the hall. He had his hands 
thrust into the corded pockets of his wine-coloured velvet 
jacket. He wore lavender grey trousers. An air of 
excitement and purpose surrounded him. 

At the stair-foot he paused as a high thin note of music 
came wavering across the hall from the closed doors of the 
drawing-room. That was Ernestine. He had seen her go 
down, wearing an old white dress. She was in there at 
the piano playing one of her endless games of make-believe. 
What did she imagine herself to be this afternoon ? 

Lucian walked with quick noiseless steps across the faded 
Persian rugs in the hall to the morning room, and through 
there to the conservatory. 

The humid air met him, closed round his mouth and nose, 
clung damply like cobweb to his skin as he entered and shut 
the door. Greedily he looked round at the flowers. 

The glass of the roof and half-way down the walls was 



192 UNDER THIRTY 

whitewashed to shade the brightness of the sun. So that the 
circular place was filled like a tank with a radiance white 
as the light from snow. From a mound in the middle 
sprang tall palms, brushing the roof with their great dark 
plumes. 

All the flowers were white. White waxen roses, huge 
glistening chrysanthemums, madonna lilies, white cyclamen- 
like butterflies among the dark metallic green of their leaves, 
heavy plumes of white lilac green-tinted. 

Slowly he walked round the conservatory examining all 
the flowers. He stretched out his hand over a chrysanthe- 
mum, lowered it until the cool tight ball of petals caressed 
his palm. He restrained his fingers which longed to close 
round the flower, plunge deep into the white petals and tear 
them asunder. With a voluptuous circular motion of his 
hand, he repeated the caress. He bent and brushed the 
flower lightly with his lips, turned his cheek to its exquisite 
texture and breathed its subtle perfume. 

As he moved on, a toad plopped heavily across his path 
and disappeared under the ferns. Now he paused by a 
bush of white roses climbing the wall. Raptly he stood 
before it, and suddenly put out his hand, thrusting his 
finger deep into a half-opened rose. He closed his thumb, 
and thrilling to the satin skinlike feel of the petals, slowly 
tore the rose to pieces. With a faint lustful smile on his lips, 
he looked down at the torn, bruised petals, white on the 
dark mould. 

And now Clothilde appeared at the top of the stairs, 
looming there with the bleak north light of the landing 
window behind her. Her grey hair was plaited and wound 
in two coils round the crown of her head. She had a heavy 
fat face and large grey eyes under thick dark eyebrows, like 
Madame Blavatsky. On her hand, resting on the banisters, 
a large moonstone shone palely. 

Motionless, she listened, staring down into the hall with a 
brooding expression, to the sound of the Waldteufel waltz 
which Ernestine was playing in the drawing-room. 

Ernestine's foot in the white satin slipper tapped on the 
carpet ; her shoulders swayed to the swing of the music. 



VALSE DES FLEURS 193 

She pouted, smiled, glanced sideways. Gaily, the tune 
quickened to its end. 

Clothilde stepped back quickly as a door opened down 
in the hall, and Lucian came out of the morning-room. 

He has been with the flowers, she thought, and returned 
to her room, her gross body in its dingy grey draperies 
moving with surprising softness and speed. A trail of 
cedar-wood perfume followed her. 

On the table by the window, the Tarot cards were spread. 
Near them on its ebony stand stood the crystal a bubble of 
white light. One card in the row of the Tarot trumps was 
misplaced, standing out from the others. Number Sixteen, 
the Stricken Tower. 

Death, disaster, destruction, thought Clothilde, and swept 
the cards into a heap, shuffled them and dealt again. 

Pressing the final chord in triumph, Ernestine looked 
up and saw herself again in the long mirror. Silently the 
triple rhythm of the waltz pulsed on through the room. 
She could see beyond her image in the glass, the window, 
and through that the lawn bordered by the dark trees and 
shrubs which hid the house from the road. The sun had 
gone : shadows invaded the garden, and across the empty 
sky a bird went flying so swiftly that she could not be sure 
she had seen it at all. 

She rose in consternation, and stooping to gather up her 
train, went quickly out of the drawing-room, closing the 
white doors behind her. 

Long after midnight the mechanism of the grandfather's 
clock on the stairs suddenly started. Untouched, the 
heavy pendulum began to swing, sounding through the 
silent house where white pools of moonlight lay on the 
floors. 

Clothilde heard it, sitting at the table where the Tarot 
cards were spread, and pressed her hands to her ears in 
terror. 



LESLIE HALWARD 

* 

The Doll 



BORN Birmingham, 1905. Educated, five years council 
school, five years grammar school. At fifteen became an 
apprentice to a die-sinker and toolmaker, and remained one 
for seven years. Got a job in a factory. At the end of the 
second week was informed that I knew next to nothing about 
the trade and given the option of clearing out or working 
as an improver for thirty-five shillings a week. Worked for 
thirty-five shillings a week. At the end of eighteen months 
was sick of factory life, so got a job in the building trade. 
Started to learn plastering and was paid sixpence an hour. 
After six months had a rise of a penny an hour. Remained in 
the building trade for two and a half years, then fell out of 
work. On the dole. Had been trying to write for about 
four years without success. In 1932 had a story accepted by 
John o y London's Weekly and decided that I was a writer. 
Acceptance of story coincided with my receiving a bit of 
money, left by my mother who died a year before, and 
also notice from the Ministry of Labour that I was to be 
subjected to the Means Test. Informed the authorities that 
I was now working on my own account and have been 
writing ever since. Have contributed stories to thirty-five 
different anthologies, magazines, periodicals, and news- 
papers, including The Best Short Stones, 1934, 1935, 1936, 
and 1937, The Faber Book of Modern Stories, New Writing, 
New Stones, London Mercury, Life and Letters To-day, Listener, 
New English Weekly, Left Review, Fact, Manchester Guardian. 
My collection of short stories, To Tea On Sunday, was published 
by Methuen in April 1936. In the spring of 1938 my 
autobiography, Let Me Tell You, was published by Michael 
Joseph, and my second collection of short stories will follow 
from the same publisher. 

LESLIE HAL WARD. 



197 



THE DOLL 

A CHILD of seven or eight years sat on a little three-legged 
X~\. stool before an almost burnt-out fire. She sat quite 
still, with her elbows on her knees and her small, oval white 
face firmly held between her cupped hands. So tiny did 
her huddled body appear that one would have judged her 
years to be no more than five. 

Yet the child had a woman's face. Her eyes were a 
woman's eyes : large and dark and heavy as if with sleep. 
Her mouth was a woman's mouth, firmly set, the lips thin 
and pale. Shadows lay in the bowls of her hollow cheeks. 
She had the face of a woman who has suffered and all her 
life has looked on suffering. 

She was dressed in a cheap blue cotton frock, much too 
small for even her frail body ; thick worsted stockings, a 
hole in each knee, held to her thighs by lengths of soiled 
white tape that cut deeply into the flesh ; and a pair of 
hard-looking black boots with iron tips to their heels. 
For comfort the boots had been unlaced and the tongues 
pulled out, so that they lolled, like the tongues of thirsty 
dogs, over the sides of the boots, their tips touching the 
bare red-brick floor. 

The child was alone in the room. On the table, which 
was covered with cracked and peeling black American 
leather, stood a tarnished brass oil lamp that threw on to the 
low whitewashed ceiling a circle of pale yellow light. A 
torn and patched yellow blind hung crookedly over the 
window. Now and then the blind bulged inwards with a 
swishing sound, for at some time or other a pane of glass 
had been knocked out of the window and never replaced. 
Save for a chair or two and an old sofa, one of whose springs 
had forced its way through the seat like a crocus seeking the 

198 



THE DOLL 199 

sunlight, the room was bare of furniture. The wall-paper 
was faded and dirty and here and there hung from the wall 
in layers, like the curling leaves of a book, exposing the grey 
plaster. 

After a while the child stirred. She languidly raised her 
head and looked at the metal alarm-clock set on one corner 
of the mantelshelf. It was a few minutes to ten. The child 
sighed, then got to her feet and went into the pantry. In a 
moment or two she came out with half a loaf and some 
butter in a chipped basin. She cut off a piece of bread and 
spread some butter on it. Then she sat down on the stool 
again and began slowly to eat. 

When she had finished she wiped her fingers three or four 
times up and down the legs of her stockings, and then she 
resumed her former position. From time to time she glanced 
at the clock. Once she shivered and rubbed the tops of her 
arms. Only grey ashes now remained in the grate. 

All at once she dropped her hands to her knees and sat 
upright. She looked towards the door and cocked her head 
to one side, listening. She had heard footsteps in the yard 
outside, and the sound of a woman giggling and then the 
hoarse laughter of a man. She knew that the man was her 
father, but the woman's laughter she did not recognize. 
She did not get up from her stool, but still sat motionless, 
looking towards the door. No sign of pleasure or even 
curiosity was visible on her face. Her expression of weariness 
had not altered. 

After a few seconds the door opened and a man came into 
the room. He looked slightly drunk, but apparently was in 
good spirits. A cloth cap hung precariously on the back of 
his shining bald head. He held himself slightly backwards 
from the hips, and his chin was tucked in, so that he looked 
rather like a cockerel pecking his breast. His small, washy- 
blue eyes twinkled merrily, and a foolish grin creased and 
puckered his red face. His nose had once been broken and 
was twisted comically to one side, and from under it, like a 
small inverted fan, hung a tobacco-stained ginger moustache. 
He was still chuckling to himself and lurched unsteadily as 
he crossed the room. He carried a bottle of beer under one 



200 UNDER THIRTY 

arm and from each of his jacket pockets stuck out the neck 
of another. 

" Come on in ! " he called good-humouredly to the 
woman, who came in behind him. 

He set the bottles of beer on the table, blew out a great 
sigh, and sat heavily down on a chair. 

The woman, with a glance at the child, shut the door, and 
then took off her hat and coat and dropped them both on 
to another chair. The child, who had ignored her father, had 
not taken her eyes from this stranger. She was about thirty- 
five or thirty-six years of age and was tall and extremely 
thin. Her coarse blonde hair was artificially curled and 
frizzed in an attempt to give an air of youthful abandon. 
The skin of her face, heavily powdered, was drawn tightly 
over the bones, except under the eyes, where it hung in 
loose bags. Her arched eyebrows had been plucked until 
they were mere pencil lines, her eyelids stained blue, and 
her mouth painted a vivid scarlet and modelled into a 
cupid's bow. She wore a loose-fitting red silk jumper and 
a blue skirt so short that it reached barely to her knees. 

" Is this the kid ? " she asked, looking at the man and 
jerking her head at the child. 

The man beamed, hung one arm over the back of the 
chair, threw back his head and gazed fixedly at the woman 
from under lowered eyelids. Then he nodded rapidly 
three or four times. 

The woman took up a chair, set it alongside the stool, 
and sat sideways on it, facing the child. For several seconds 
the two regarded each other in silence and without movement. 

" Well," said the woman at last, " ain't you going to 
say how-do ? " 

The child did not speak. She continued to look into the 
woman's eyes. Then her eyes moved slowly downwards 
over the entire face, pausing a moment to stare a little 
incredulously at the livid mouth. The woman moved 
uneasily, wriggled her shoulders, and pushed up her hair 
at the back. She emitted a short laugh. 

" Quiet, ain't she ? " she inquired, turning again to the 
man. 



THE DOLL 201 

In the meanwhile he had gone to the cupboard and got out 
a couple of tumblers. One of these stood, full of beer, on the 
table. The other he was in the act of filling from a bottle. 
He did not bother to reply to the woman's question, but, 
having filled the glass, pushed it across the table to her and 
said : " Here. Drink this." 

The woman took the glass from the table, raised it to her 
lips, and began drinking the beer, at first in short sips, 
lifting her head after each sip, like a bird. Then she took a 
longer drink and set the glass again on the table. The man 
emptied his at a single draught and at once refilled it. 

The woman leaned again towards the child, quickly, in 
friendly fashion, and drew breath to speak. But again the 
look in the child's eyes held her back. There was something 
altogether too frank about that look. It was as if the child 
had divined the woman's business, knew the type she was, 
and was contemptuous of her kind. The woman sat slowly 
upright and clasped her hands about one knee. She 
attempted to smile, but failed even to part her lips. She 
swung her leg self-consciously and pointed her toe. Then 
she looked suddenly away from the child. 

The man, who was leaning back in his chair, his mouth 
open, one hand clutching the empty bottle that stood on the 
table, caught her eye. He winked at her, and, releasing 
the bottle, crooked his finger at her, and with his other hand 
patted his knee. 

" Gome here," he said softly. 

She made a face, shrugged her shoulders, and jerked her 
head again at the child. He pursed his lips and nodded 
wisely. 

" You'd better get to bed, Nellie," he said. 

He smiled and winked at the woman. 

The child at once got up and pushed her stool under the 
table. Then, in silence, she walked to the foot of the stairs. 
With a sudden thought the woman jumped to her feet and 
cried : " Wait a minute, Nellie ! " 

She strode past the child, picked up her coat from the 
chair, and felt each of the pockets from the outside. There 
was a crackling of paper. 



202 UNDER THIRTY 

" I've got something for you," she said. 

She took a small brown-paper parcel out of one of the 
pockets. She held it out to the child, smiling and nodding 
and waving her hand. 

" Go on. It's for you," she said. 

The child glanced at her father, who had fallen into a 
doze, and then looked again at the woman. She still regarded 
her with faint mistrust. 

" Go on," said the woman again, pushing the parcel into 
her hands. " Take it. It's for you. I bought it for you." 

The child laid the parcel on the near corner of the table 
and began to pluck eagerly at the string. When she saw 
what was in the paper her eyes widened and her lips grew 
round, though no sound came from them. She clasped her 
hands and stared down at it, as if it were something of great 
value and extreme fragility and must not be touched. 

" Go on," said the woman. " Pick it up. It's yours. 
I bought it for you." 

Then the child lifted out of the paper a small wooden doll, 
of the sort that can be bought at any bazaar for a penny or 
twopence. It had a round head and it lacked ears. For hair 
its scalp was daubed with black paint, its eyes were two dots 
of blue, and its mouth a red smudge. Its limbs were awry, 
and its joints creaked when moved. It was stark naked : 
not a stitch was there to hide its rough, ill-shapen body 
or its crippled arms and legs. 

" Like it ? " asked the woman, dropping on to one knee 
beside her. 

The child gazed intently at the hideous face of the doll. 
She pressed it to her breast and, closing her eyes, rocked her 
body gently from side to side. 

" Like it ? " repeated the woman. 

The child opened her eyes and nodded once. 

" That's good," said the woman, getting up again to her 
feet. " I'm glad you like it. Now you get off to bed." 

The child again turned to go. At the foot of the stairs 
she paused and looked back at the woman, who stood watch- 
ing her. Then she came to her. She stood before her and 
lifted up her face, pouting her lips a little. With a curious 



THE DOLL 203 

laugh the woman bent down and kissed her. The child did 
not move away. For a moment they looked at each other in 
silence. Then suddenly the woman caught the child to her 
breast and imprinted kiss after kiss on her mouth. As 
suddenly she let her go. 

Up in the bedroom the child lay with the doll on the 
pillow beside her. For a long time she talked to it and stroked 
it with her finger-tips. 

In the room below the woman giggled, and then came the 
hoarse laughter of the man. 

But the child did not hear them. She had fallen blissfully 
asleep. 



JOHN HAMPSON 

* 

The Harlot's Progress 



I WAS born in Birmingham. My parents had a family of 
three sons and four daughters. I was the youngest boy. 
My grandfather was the manager of the Theatre Royal. 
One of my earliest memories is of the drive from Perry Bar 
into town, for my first pantomime. Being delicate, I was 
taught reading and writing at home. By this time my 
grandfather was dead, and we were living in Leicester. 
My father had found himself a humble job, and life opened 
rapidly for me, now that nannie and governess had vanished. 
After a brief spell at school we moved into the country, 
my parents hoping there to find a cheaper rate of living. 
After a time of running wild, I was sent to the village school. 
My health improved slowly, and by the time we returned to 
live in town again I was much stronger. I left a fourth 
and final school gladly during the War years. My father 
found me a post with a solid, old-fashioned firm that had 
been in existence for nearly a hundred years. Finding it 
dull and dreary, I left it after twelve months, without 
consulting anyone. It took me ten years to find a job of 
the kind I was really looking for, but find it I did. During 
the search, I tried my luck in a wild and wide variety of 
jobs, including work in shops, hotels, warehouses, clubs, 
dance-halls, and munition factories. 

I like walking and swimming. I am interested in the theatre 
and films. 

Contributions to New Country, Charles's Wain, Best Short 
Stories, New Writing, New Letters in America, Story, Life and 
Letters, This Quarter, New Stories, etc. 

Books : Saturday Night at the Greyhound, Providence, Strip 
Jack Naked, Family Curse, Care of Grand Hotel, etc. 

JOHN HAMPSON. 
207 



THE HARLOT'S PROGRESS 

IN a top-story bed-sitting-room of a Paddington lodging- 
house, Clare Tapina sat considering the newly acquired 
points of her finger-nails. They were very smart, quite 
vampy, she thought, moving her fingers to and fro. She felt 
excited and gay. She was preparing for her first visit to a 
night-club. It was strange how things happened. It had 
been her name that did the trick. She smiled complacently 
in the mirror. 

" Of course," she had told her last night's friend, " I 
don't often go off with anybody who tries to pick me up. 
I'm a dancer, really, but I've not been in a show for nine 
weeks now. And I've got to get a bit of fun somewhere, 
haven't I ? " He had already given her thirty shillings in 
soiled paper money. So there was no risk in talking airily. 
It had been the right thing, too, for his waning interest 
revived. They talked stage affairs glibly. 

In spite of all ambition, Clare had never appeared behind 
the footlights. Her sole achievement was a stage name. Still, 
her knowledge of stage people gained from gossip columns 
always convinced her clients that she was connected with 
the stage. Her new friend was no exception. After a while 
he said admiringly : " You ought to join Lou's club. 
Crowds of pros go there. You might meet someone who 
could help you to get an engagement." 

Soon everything was arranged. He would propose her 
as a member. He would speak to Lou about her. Lou 
was an old darling. All that Clare had to do was to turn 
up at the club, give her own name, and mention his, then 
she would be a member, too. Clare thanked him, and hoped 
gracefully that they would meet again. Possibly at Lou's. 
And that was that. 

208 



THE HARLOT'S PROGRESS 209 

Clare had thought about the night-club all day. It would 
be a good thing for her. She could take men there. They 
would be impressed. Old Lou sounded rather dangerous. 
Clare laughed. After all, she knew how to take care of 
herself. She would have to be careful about her imaginary 
stage experience. If anyone asked point-blank, she would 
tell them it had been on the Continent. Paris and Brussels, 
and a few of the larger provincial towns. They would swallow 
that. She was cute enough to convince anyone. After all 
she could dance, and dance well. It would be nice to get 
in a show. She did not hope for that, really. It was too 
much to expect. If she could pick up clients of the right 
sort she would be quite satisfied. The stage could wait. 

Dressed in her only evening frock, Clare set out for the 
club. She was pleased with her appearance, and excitement 
brought an effective wave of colour to her cheeks. She 
dare not imagine what the club would be like, but she 
hoped sensibly that it would not be too smart. She was not 
ready for a smart place yet, but a few nights' experience 
would teach her all the tricks needed. The smart clubs 
would come later. It would be a lucky sign if she picked 
up a nice friend during the first night at Lou's. Say a five- 
pound touch. 

She found the place with ease. Over a blinded shop 
window in a Soho street was painted in white letters the 
name Lou. It might have been a modiste's or a corsetiere's, or 
anything. She walked into the entrance hall and looked 
round. Lou was not the only tenant. Many other names 
were painted on neat wooden boards like large visiting-cards. 
On the door to her left was written again Lou. Underneath 
the name was a bell-push. Clare looked at her face in a 
small mirror. She tidied her hair swiftly, then rang the bell. 

The door opened. A fat woman in a jersey suit smiled at 
her inquiringly. Clare gave her name. The fat woman's 
smile became benevolent. " Come right in, dear. We're 
all friends here. I'm Aileen." Clare walked into a smallish 
room and looked round. The furniture was plentiful, 
and enamelled bright green. Clare knew it was cheap. 
The room and the furniture had been decorated by unskilled 



2io UNDER THIRTY 

if eager hands. " I'm an Irishomerican," Aileen said. 
" Will you sign the register, dear ? " Glare did so, biting 
her underlip. " That will be five shillings, dear. Five 
shillings a quarter, dear, which is not much to pay for the 
advantage of getting a drink at any hour of the day or night, 
is it, dear ? " Glare said nothing, but smiled. " First 
door on your right, dear, is the bar," Aileen said, leaving 
her. 

Clare sat down on a wicker-work couch. She felt quite 
at ease. The club was not smart. It would have pleased her 
to find it smarter than it was. She became aware of an 
unceasing chatter from the bar. Two fat women came out 
from it towards her. She stared at them boldly, thinking : 
' Cows.' That's what they were, and she did not need any- 
one to tell her so. Both women smiled hardly. " I'm Lou," 
said the tallest one. " Glad to make you welcome at my 
funny little club." Clare smiled back. " This is Tina," 
Lou said, pulling her companion forward. " She plays my 
piano and sings hot songs better than most." Glare smiled 
again. Tina nodded, then walked to the piano. She sat 
down, commencing to strum. Her hair was cut very short and 
the back of her thick, masculine neck was shaved. Lou 
smiled too, then walked back to the bar. 

It was early yet. Clare sat awkwardly, smoking a cigar- 
ette, an illustrated paper open on her lap. She turned the 
pages slowly, pretending to read. Her mind spun quickly 
from thought to thought. She felt shy and uncomfortable 
now. It was not much of a place, anyway. What was the 
correct thing to do ? Should she sit still or go into the bar ? 
She would finish her cigarette first, and then decide. 

" What does that bitch think this place is ? " Lou 
demanded, whispering to the barmaid. " Go and ask her 
if she wants a drink, and bring the register back with you." 
Aileen nodded and went in past Tina. " Want a drink, 
dear ? " she called. Clare looked up swiftly. " I'll finish 
my cig. and come over for one," she said quickly. 

The two women looked at the register. " Looks foreign 
to me," Aileen muttered. Lou smiled. " Don't be green, 
kid. She has knocked the a off her first name to fasten it 



THE HARLOT'S PROGRESS 211 

behind her second, that's how." Aileen sighed with admira- 
tion. The electric bell rang sharply. Carrying the book with 
her, Aileen went to the door. 

Glare got up and walked into the bar. It was small and 
furnished with a counter and high stools. There were four 
men there, and an elderly consumptive-looking blonde who 
was whispering secrets to Lou. Everyone gave Glare a 
faint smile. She responded, choosing a stool. 

Aileen came in. " What's your poison, dear ? " Glare 
looked along the shelves, considering. " Whisky, plain," 
she ordered. " Whisky," echoed the barmaid. " Whisky's 
heating. You take my tip. Have a beer." Glare refused 
haughtily. Fancy suggesting beer. They must be a common 
lot. Served with a drink she sat forward, added a little 
water, and took a delicate sip. The whisky was tepid. 
She gave a disgusted shudder. 

The door-bell rang again. In less than ten minutes the 
tiny room was full of people. Clare disliked the look of them 
all. They were a cheap crowd. She carried the remains of 
her drink back to the first room. Tina still sat at the piano. 
Other people came into the room and commenced to dance. 
Soon the floor held several swaying couples, and one man 
who danced alone. His buttocks jerked as he shook his 
shoulders. Clare watched with disgust. She knew what 
he was. Fancy allowing anyone like him in. Tina played 
furiously, singing the choruses of her songs in a husky voice. 
She introduced guttural explosive noises. She was horrible, 
like an excited ape. " Um, da da ! Urn da da ! " The 
crowd grew more noisy. They formed a ring round the 
solitary dancer, clapping sharp hands and beating the 
floor with stiffened feet. Tina's voice roared : 

" Happy feet, he's got those happy feet, 
Do do do dodoo do do do dodoo." 

The man danced with frenzy. He shook and shivered 
Clare gazed with disgusted fascination. 

A young man came and sat by her. " Isn't Martie 
clever ? " he asked. " Of course his mother was a coloured 
woman." Clare nodded with a faint smile. When Martie's 



212 UNDER THIRTY 

performance finished, they danced together. He asked : 
" What are you doing when you leave here ? " 

" Nothing." 

" May I come with you and help ? " 

"It wouldn't be nothing we'd do, would it?" Clare 
inquired archly ; her brain worked furiously. " Well, I 
hope not. You are a darling," the man's voice thickened. 

" May I come then ? " The girl smiled. She was uncer- 
tain of how to proceed. " May I come then ? " he repeated 
tenderly. Glare had no intention of giving her favours. 
Men were all the same. She would not give any one of 
them anything for nothing. She made her voice light. 
" How much will you give me, eh ? " The man's manner 
stiffened. He looked at her through narrowed eyes, then 
said : " I've never given a woman money yet, and I'm not 
going to begin now." Clare laughed shrilly. It was funny. 
Already his body had ceased to embrace hers, and his hold 
had become delicate. They circled the room twice more, 
then the piano stopped. Clare went back to her couch 
alone. She took a tiny sip of whisky, then searched with 
hostile eyes for her late partner. Soon she saw him, talking 
eagerly to Lou and the puff-ball. She could guess what he 
was saying. 

Tina started to thump the piano again. The floor was 
crowded at once. Clare stared at the dancers scornfully. 
She finished her whisky. It was no use waiting any longer. 
A whole night wasted. " Oh, hell," she whispered half aloud. 
; ' To think I paid five bob to get in here." 

She edged quickly towards the door, and, passing out, 
slammed it loudly behind her. 



MICHAEL HARRISON 

* 

For Ever and For Ever 



LIKE Mr. John Betjeman, I cannot write about myself', 
however much, in moments of elation or depression, I can 
utilize myself as a subject for talk. 

My history ordinary enough : the usual progression from 
complete acceptance to as complete a repudiation of all that 
I was taught as a child. Heredity ordinary enough, God 
knows ! 

Of mixed English and Irish descent ; the latter having 
given me as ancestor, James Flood, member of parliament 
for Kilkenny (where the cats come from) and Vice-Treasurer 
of Ireland. His honesty in the conduct of this important 
position may be verified by examining my pass-book. He 
bequeathed me, for all that, the ability to express myself, 
both in speech and in writing. Now I am searching for 
something to express. 

Career : worse than ordinary. No pig-gelding, but 
damned nearly everything else. Now in a publisher's office ; 
the first job in which I have not had to fight hard against an 
almost overwhelming sense of degradation. 

No politics. An anarchist : the only description applic- 
able to one who still cares for the dignity of the human 
spirit. 

(And if that sounds too pretentious, bear in mind, please, 
that it's sincere. . . .) 

MICHAEL HARRISON. 



215 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 

IT was as much a surprise to me as to Mrs. Quill when she 
fainted : for although it was the first time I had ever 
spoken to her, yet I knew her well enough by reputation ; 
and in small towns like Wessenden it is rare indeed that one 
does not know all that there is to be known about one's 
neighbours, especially when they are as rich as Mrs. Quill. 

And, besides, when a young veterinary surgeon comes 
into a small community ; intending, with the help of God, 
a good degree, and a pleasant smile, to build up a practice 
that will keep him in some sort of comfort ; it is to the Mrs. 
Quills that he first directs his attention. 

The bank manager had been very kind ; showing me 
where the moneyed people lived ; so that I might leave my 
card ; and introducing me where possible. Little by little 
my practice grew. 

But my list of clients did not include Mrs. Quill. She 
kept horses ; but a London vet. came down to see them when 
necessary ; and her head groom usually managed to see 
to it that it wasn't necessary. 

Apart from the horses, there were no other animals, 
as far as I knew. I used often to see her walking in the 
High Street on Saturday mornings (which was our market 
day at Wessenden) and I never saw her with a dog. She 
may have owned one at some time or other, but I never 
knew anything about it. 

Mrs. Quill had been a widow for nearly ten years when I 
first arrived in Wessenden : a tall, handsome, well-built 
woman, who seemed born to defend the privileges of her 
class against all encroachment : the very embodiment of 
what a Communist would call ' reaction,' and what I 
always thought of as ' Rule Britannia ! ' 

216 






FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 217 

Naturally enough, until Mrs. Quill came one day into 
my small surgery (that had once been the conservatory) 
I had never met her on social terms. Mrs. Quill used to 
visit Wessenden Abbey, and Ormsby Hall, and the other big 
houses of the district ; but a struggling young veterinary 
surgeon, of no particular pedigree, was hardly likely to 
provoke her interest. And it didn't. 

So that, when Mrs. Quill came into my surgery : that was 
before the days when I had a maid ; and I always left the 
door ajar : she spoke to me for the first time. 

Now, I don't know whether the satisfaction I felt must 
have shown in my face, as I asked her what I could do for her. 
I rather feel that it must have done : for she suddenly smiled, 
as she put a small wicker basket on the table. 

" Mr. Benson, it's my cat. He's too old ; and . . . well, 
I want you to destroy him." 

I said : " Very well, Mrs. Quill," and she did not seem 
surprised that I knew her name. I wondered why the 
London vet. had not been sent for ; but I concluded, that 
for a small matter like this, it was considered hardly worth 
while to send for him. I reflected sadly that destroying cats 
would probably be all that she would ever call on me to do. 

But when one is young, one is always optimistic. Who 
knows, I thought, what she won't do, if I'm nice to her ? 
After all, I'm on the spot. . . . 

So I said, as pleasantly as possible, picking up the wicker 
basket, from which a series of squeaks and growls were now 
coming : " Very well, Mrs. Quill. I assure you that there'll 
be no pain." 

" Oh, nonsense ! " she snapped. " There's always pain. 
Death's always painful. It's unnecessary pain I object to." 

" Of course," I murmured ; rather annoyed at her 
brusque tones ; but deciding that an argument with this 
assertive and self-possessed woman could do no good. 
" It will be soon over." 

I had already observed her use of the word * destroy,' 
instead of the more feminine, euphemistic ' put to sleep ' ; 
but that was just the sort of woman Mrs. Quill was. Forth- 
right, unimaginative, careful of falling into indiscriminate 



218 UNDER THIRTY 

affections ; rich enough, and long enough rich, to be able 
to call tactlessness, ' honesty,' and get away with it. I 
could imagine her telling her friends : 

" Of course I like cats. Like all animals. (They're all 
God's creatures ; and everything was put in this world for 
a purpose.) But don't like all this fussing over animals : 
slobbering over them as though they were one's own flesh 
and blood. Some women make me sick ; the way they maul 
over animals ; kissing them, hugging them. . . . Pah ! 
Now my old Tim's always had a good home ; and he'd 
always rather have a basin of milk than a lot of sloppy 
baby-talk. He's had a good innings, and now he is going to 
retire ; before life becomes a burden to him. No good 
letting him get too old. ..." 

I was startled out of my reveries by Mrs. Quill saying : 
" Well, Mr. Benson . . . I'm waiting. . . ." 

" For what, Mrs. Quill ? " I asked. 

She shook her head, in an insolent amazement that I 
should be so dull. She said: " I want to see Tim destroyed." 

" Here ? " 

" Yes . . . why not ? I like to know a thing's properly 
done." She smiled, a little wintrily, as she observed my 
hesitation. " Oh, come, Mr. Benson ! I'm not a silly girl. 
I've seen worse things than a cat chloroformed." 

"Very well," I said ; something nettled at her tone ; "just as 
you like. Only . . . have you ever seen a cat destroyed ? " 

She said no, and (a little unfairly, I'm afraid) I looked 
concerned. I had the satisfaction of seeing a shade of 
doubt creep into those hard grey eyes. But all I said was : 
" They have enormous vitality that's all ... the old 
fable of the nine lives, you know. . . ." 



I went out in the back yard, and returned to the surgery 
carrying my little galvanized-iron lethal chamber. Mrs. 
Quill, at my suggestion, had taken the cat out of its basket, 
and was stroking it. Happy to be released from its captivity, 
its purring could be heard across the room. 

" Quieten it down ? " I said conversationally. " It'll be 



easier to deal with. Animals are uneasy in an atmosphere of 
death; and cats are the worst of all. . . ." 

" Why is that ? " she asked, idly. 

" Lord knows ! But the fact remains that they can smell 
death. Look," I said, opening the box, and laying some 
sheets of newspaper on the bottom, " if you will hold the 
lid open, I'll take care of the cat : these old toms are 
inclined to get a bit wild. I'll put him in, and if you don't 
mind closing the lid, it'll be a great help. I really should 
have an assistant for these jobs." 

She said amiably : " Oh, you'll get on, by and by. . . ." 

" Now," I said, loosening the stopper on my bottle of 
chloroform, and placing a pad of cotton wool inside the 
lethal chamber : " Now, I'm ready." 

Mrs. Quill held the lid by its handle ; and with both 
hands I grasped the cat around its middle. As I expected, 
its good-humoured lethargy dropped from it in a second ; 
and in my hands was a twisting, screaming, spitting mass of 
fur and sinew, whose claws raked at my wrists, and whose 
angry fury made its mistress start back in bewilderment. 

' Tim ! " she said. " Tim ! be quiet ! " 

" It's all right," I said, breathlessly, " I've got him." 

I lowered the struggling body into the box, and Mrs. 
Quill closed the door on my hands. 

" Now close it," I said, letting go. 

A claw shot out of the narrow gap ; but quite viciously, 
I pressed the lid down, and Tim was secure. We could 
see the whites of his eyes as he pressed his muzzle against the 
glass observation window in the top of the box. Then the 
box shook as the cat launched itself in a fury against the sides. 

I said : " It's not very old, is it ? " 

" Nine years. Quite old enough." 

I didn't argue. After all, what would have been the 
good ? And though I was making but half a crown by killing 
Tim, this introduction to Mrs. Quill's notice might have 
invaluable results. 

So that, without another word, I unscrewed the small 
opening in the lid, and poured some chloroform on to the 
cotton wool that lay directly underneath. 



220 UNDER THIRTY 

" It is quieter now," said Mrs. Quill, peering through the 
observation window. 

" For a bit," I said. " Won't you sit down ? " 

I pulled a chair up, and she sat, looking down at the box. 

" Do you really want to see it ? " 

" Yes," she said, " / do. Then I'll know it's properly 
done. . . ." 

The cat, by this time, had begun to realize its danger. 
It was turning round in the box ; rushing from corner to 
corner in the hope of escaping the suffocating fumes that 
were rising from the soaked pad. It would stop for a second or 
two ; then hurl itself against the sides : then relax, and stand 
on its hind legs ; with its nose against the vent of the box. 

Mrs. Quill said, a little uncertainly : " It's quieter now. 
Is it dying ? " 

" Yes," I said ; glad, in spite of myself, to have observed 
that faint tremor in her voice. It made her more human, 
I thought. 

" But it's quiet, because its instinct tells it that the quieter 
it stays, the longer it will take to be asphyxiated." 

Then together, Mrs. Quill and I watched Tim die : 
observed the lengthening intervals between the ever more 
feeble paroxysms of terror. Then the legs gave way : there 
was one agonized moan ; and breathing heavily, the cat 
collapsed. . . . 

I said, with an assumed lightness of tone : " Well, that's 
over . . ." and turned to Mrs. Quill. 

As I say, considering everything, you will understand that 
I was as surprised as she was, that she had fainted. 



We all react differently to the same situation. Most 
people, no doubt, would have endeavoured, with smelling 
salts or glasses of water, to persuade themselves that they 
had revived Mrs. Quill. 

But fainting is not Nature's weakness ; it is Nature's 
strength. Fainting is Nature's anaesthetic ; and women who 
can faint at will are less affected than wise. 

No, instead, I removed the cause of her distress. I 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 221 

picked up the lethal chamber ; carried it out into the hall ; 
and opened it. Tim's stiff body I gathered up in the news- 
paper on which it was lying, and put it outside the back door. 
When I re-entered the surgery, Mrs. Quill had recovered. 

She fumbled in her big black leather bag, and handed me 
my fee. She murmured : " I don't know what can have 
possessed me to faint like that. The heat, I suppose. . . ." 

I said : "It is not a very pleasant thing to see for the 
first time. . . ." 

" Oh, rubbish," she said, with a return of her old manner, 
" it's rather stuffy in here ; that's what it is." 

Mrs. Quill was a woman who had long prided herself on 
the lack of any ' nonsense ' in her spiritual make-up. 

I did not press the point. 



Now one must bear Mrs. Quill's self-confident nature 
very clearly in mind, in considering the curious events that 
followed my chloroforming her cat. 

When she left my surgery, there were other clients to be 
seen ; and I suppose it was about an hour and a half later 
that I answered the telephone ; to hear an excited voice 
that I hardly recognized as Mrs. Quill's. 

" Mr. Benson, what has happened to Tim ? " 

' To Tim . . . ? " 

" Yes," came the quick nervous tones. " What did you 
do with die body ? " 

;< I . . . I put it outside : in the back yard." 

" Mr. Benson . . . will you go and see what has happened 
to it ? " 

It was the most curious request that had ever been made ; 
but I went. 

I came back to the telephone in a thoughtful mood ; 
yet not unduly agitated. 

" Well, Mr. Benson ? " 

" It is no longer here, Mrs. Quill." 

" No," she said, " I realize that. And do you know where 
the cat is now ? " 

I{ I should say," I hazarded, " that it was at home." 



222 UNDER THIRTY 

She seemed to consider my remark ; for several seconds 
elapsed before she asked breathlessly : " How do you 
know ? " 

I said : " Well, what more natural than that it should 
go to its home ? " 

Another long pause ; then something happened for which 
I was utterly unprepared. She screamed down the tele- 
phone, so that the diaphragm danced and rattled in my 
ear : 

" Natural, Mr. Benson ? Natural, that a dead animal 
should come back to its home ! " 

" But, Mrs. Quill ! " I expostulated, " the cat cannot 
have been killed. I took it out of the lethal chamber ; and 
the fresh air obviously revived it. It was only heavily 
anaesthetized : that's all. . . ." 

She said, slowly : " Mr. Benson, how many cats have you 
known to revive like that . . . ? " 

I considered the matter, having (I regret to say) more 
honesty than tact. 

" Well . . ." 

" Yes . . . ? " 
" Well, curiously enough : none. But . . ." 

" None ! " she cut in, triumphantly. Then she added, 
with a curious intentness : " Of course not. Mr. Benson : 
I realize that something very strange has happened. I don't 
pretend to explain it : but when you took Tim's body 
outside, he was dead. And you know it" 



It was three days after that that I received a letter asking 
me to call at Mrs. Quill's house : three days in which the 
whole matter had been threshed out in her mind : enabling 
her to arrive at some surprising conclusions. The main 
difficulty, of course, was that her pride had needed assuaging. 
She had always believed that there was something rather, 
well, odd, about her having fainted like that, when she had 
never fainted in her life before. And then, when she had 
returned home to find the cat she had seen die, sitting in its 
accustomed place before the fire ; for all the world as though 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 223 

it had never been called upon to endure the horrors of the 
lethal chamber : well, then, she began to perceive a curious 
connection between her fainting and the chloroforming 
of the cat. 

Turning the matter over quite calmly in her mind (Mrs. 
Quill told me) she had realized that Tim, in some subtle and 
hitherto unrealized way, must have entered into the very fabric 
of her life. She had never understood, before this sudden 
frightening proof, that the threads of their existences were 
so commingled and entwined ; and in such a manner, that 
it was too late now to dream of separating them. 

" You mean . . ." 

" I mean, Mr. Benson, that as I watched Tim's struggles 
weakening ; as I watched him grow fainter and fainter ; 
so I felt my own spirit die within me. When that last awful 
moan came (you remember it) I felt something snap within 
me. I remember no more, until I awoke in your chair." 

" You fainted, Mrs. Quill." 

She shook her head, looking at me with a curious furtiveness. 
(Ah, how shall I explain that look !) Her old assertiveness, 
self-security, was gone. In front of me was a tired, 
bewildered, and . . . frightened, old woman. 

We talked for a long time in that pleasant drawing-room, 
whose tall bay windows overlooked the rolling uplands of 
the Weald ; and when at last I left, I knew many things 
about Mrs. Quill that had before been unsuspected by me. 

She told me, for one thing, that she had for many years 
been a Theosophist ; having joined the faith while living 
with her husband in India. 

And I began to perceive that, hard-headed though she 
undoubtedly was, the wayward beliefs of this mystical 
philosophy had exercised, all unknown to her, a subtly 
corroding influence on her common sense. 

The bookcases flanking the big Adam fire-place were 
filled with the multitudinous journals and pamphlets of 
her religion, and, though I am no alienist, I could not but 
realize that her life in the last ten years ; idle, companionless, 
remote ; would make her only too easily the prey of fixed 
and fantastic beliefs. 



224 UNDER THIRTY 

So that I asked her quietly, directly : " You think then, 
Mrs. Quill, that . . . that you died ? " I asked it seriously, 
and she did not search my face for mocking. 

She nodded. 

" Yes ... it must have been." 

" But," I said, " why must you think that ? Why should 
you ? Ladies have fainted before this, in witnessing 
unpleasant things . . . ? " 

" / never do," she said stubbornly ; so that of a sudden 
I wanted to shake her. 

I controlled my annoyance. 

" Mrs. Quill," I said, as patiently as I could, " what 
possible connection could Tim's death or Tim's life, rather 
have with yours ? " 

She shook her head. 

" I don't know . . . but, Mr. Benson, ' there are more 
things in heaven and earth ' . . ." 

" Yes, yes," I said impatiently, " but not that . . . ! " 

She stared blankly into the empty fire-place, before she 
murmured, in mild reproach : 

" Mr. Benson . . . how obstinate you are ! " 



Now before I proceed farther with this tale, I want it 
clearly to be understood that Mrs. Quill was labouring under 
an idee fixe. As I said, the nexus had been formed between 
two events ; and her brain, day by day, was strengthening 
the connecting link between two unrelated happenings, as 
she came more and more to regard them as cause and effect. 

Tim, as I persuaded her, was not dead : never had been 
dead. He had simply been heavily anaesthetized, and the cool 
fresh air had revived him. And I was surprised, that after 
a few half-hearted protests, Mrs. Quill accepted my word. 
She had never, as I now perceived, really believed that her cat 
had come back from the dead. 

I was relieved when I heard her agree that there was 
nothing unusual in Tim's recovery ; but, had I known it, 
I was preparing the ground for a belief still more foolish and 
tyrannical. 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 225 

For, one day, Mrs. Quill said to me : " I was only think- 
ing, yesterday, about Tim and that awful day. What little 
things stand between us and disaster ! " 

" Such as . . . ? " 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

" Only that ... if you hadn't taken Tim out of that 
box ... I shouldn't be here now. . . ." 

I stared at her in bewilderment, as I grasped her meaning. 

So that was it ! The link was forged : effect was joined 
to cause as prettily as you like ! and now, Mrs. Quill's 
life and the life of her cat were not two lives ; but a dual 
existence, where neither part might exist without the 
other. 

She explained it so well. Her husband was gone : children 
she had never borne : and Tim's love, in some mystical 
fashion, had been more important than she had realized. 
It was a sort of symbiotic union, where each was vitally 
necessary to the other : Tim depending on Mrs. Quill for 
food and protection ; and she on him for love. 

It was folly, of course ; but folly unassailable of argument ; 
folly safely esconced beyond the attacks of reason or ridicule. 
One could only shrug one's shoulders and accept it. 

Yet this simple role of spectator was not for me. I was 
forced (after all, I was building up a practice) to take an 
active part in all this farce : unless, indeed, I preferred to lose 
what promised to be a most profitable account ; in washing 
my hands of the whole childish business. 

For the logical conclusion (once the premises are 
admitted) was this : if there existed a connection between 
the lives of cat and woman ; so much so that the near death 
of one procured a similar condition in the other (by a sort of 
sympathy, not infrequently observed in identical twins, for 
an example) ; then the life of each was obviously dependent 
on the continued existence of the other. And, logically, 
one would not die without the other. 

Now, Mrs. Quill was (as I learnt later) about sixty when 
I first met her : healthy, robust ; looking a good ten years 
younger. She had no wish to die, and I perceived the 
conclusion to which she was arriving, even before she did. 



226 UNDER THIRTY 

But when she had arrived at that conclusion, she sent for 
me, and asked me to examine Tim for any signs of disease. 

" None, as far as I can see," I said, running my hands over 
him, and giving him a cursory inspection. 

" That's not enough," she said. " I want him properly 
examined : his blood, and so on, tested. I want to be sure. 
But that can wait ; there are other things I want to talk 
about now. Sit down, Mr. Benson. You may smoke if you 
wish. . . ." 

So I heard of the other things, and for the first time since 
we had met, Mrs. Quill learnt that I had passed my examina- 
tions, not very well, but brilliantly. She seemed pleased 
to hear it. 

" Then you will help me ? " 

" I'll do," I said diplomatically, " anything you wish 
me to do." 

" Very well. First of all, I want you to prepare me the 
dietary you talked about ; and I'll have the windows and 
doors wire-netted." 

It was at my suggestion that the order was given for an 
exerciser. As I explained to Mrs. Quill : if the cat were 
to be kept indoors, permanently, then something would 
have to be done to exercise him ; otherwise all sorts of 
organic upsets would come to trouble him. 

Finally we hit on the idea of a large box, whose floor 
(of rubber) revolved over mechanically driven rollers ; 
providing a movable platform, which demanded exercise 
with the undeniable authority of a treadmill. 

As I left her, she said : " We must take no chances, 
Mr. Benson." 



So for nine years we kept Tim alive. It became with me, 
I must admit it, a hobby of overwhelming interest, to see 
how I might enlist every modern discovery in keeping old 
age at bay. With balanced diet, and surroundings as clean 
as modern antiseptics would keep them, it was only that 
inevitable time when the life spark grows dim that we had 
to fear. 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 227 

But to my practised eye, that time was not far off. Already 
the cat slept through the day : its washing it had long 
neglected ; and both its glazing eyes, and its bad temper, 
told of an end not long distant. 

And at last I told Mrs. Quill so. I did not like doing it, 
but, somehow, I felt that she should know. 

She received the news quite calmly. 

She said : " Of course. I've been expecting it. How 
long do you think ? " 

I shrugged my shoulders. 

" One can never tell, really. But not more than two years 
at the outside. More likely, a few months. . . ." 

She nodded. 

; ' I see. Tell me, Mr. Benson, can nothing be done ? " 

" Very little, I'm afraid. After all, it's, let me see, eighteen 
years old. A very great age for a cat." 

She considered the matter before she said : "I was 
reading something in the paper the other day . . . rejuvena- 
tion : glands : I forget now . . . but," she fixed me with 
an eager look, " is there anything in it ? " 

" Something," I admitted. 

" Only something ? " she answered. " Why ? Tell 
me. . . ." 

I explained. 

;< Wonderful things have been done in gland trans- 
plantation : but what we don't know, is more important than 
all we do know. ' Rejuvenation ' is the right word : we 
can restore youth. But to add a year to life : that we may, 
or may not be able to do. At present, no one can say." 



" Chance ..." I shrugged. " Perhaps, in the newly 
restored vigour, more risks are taken ; or it's a case of 
new wine in old bottles. . . . Lord knows ! But these 
rejuvenated animals don't seem to stand the pace. . . ." 

' Yes," she whispered, gazing down at the sleeping 
Tim, " he's old. He'll die anyhow, soon." She turned 
to me, her hand clutching at the lapel of my coat ; 
and her mouth working in a frantic eagerness to have her 
way. 



228 UNDER THIRTY 

" You'll do it ? Mr. Benson, will you ? Oh, I know 
you will. . . ." 

* * * 

That night, as I worked alone in my surgery laying out 
my instruments and testing my cylinders, I wondered to 
what ultimate folly all this business of Mrs. Quill was 
leading me. 

Certainly, in the last nine years, her recommendations, 
quite apart from her own personal account, had been invalu- 
able to me, and from a struggling young vet. I had come to 
be one of the most esteemed members of my profession ; at 
least, as far as Kent was concerned. 

Yet I viewed what I was about to do with a distaste that 
no amount of professional interest could overcome. Not, 
indeed, that I had any sentimental qualms about operating 
on an animal when it was not entirely necessary. After all, 
the operation was going to be done under conditions of 
complete anaesthesia, and Tim would feel no pain. 

But there was something deeper than petty considerations 
of pain or sentimentality : there was, I felt, an impropriety 
about the business that was making me a little ashamed of 
myself. 

Had this operation been in the ordinary course of my 
work, I should have done it, taken my fee, and never given 
it another thought. 

But and here was the distressing point this was not 
(or should not be, rather) in the ordinary course of my work. 
I was serving, I told myself, no useful purpose in patching 
up this old cat : not even a scientific one ; for the operation 
I was about to perform had been invented by a very famous 
surgeon, and by him carried to a successful conclusion. 

I knew that what I should have done was this : I should 
have said to Mrs. Quill : " Why don't you pull yourself 
together, and stop all this nonsense ! Let Tim die a natural 
death, and live your life decently until your own time 
comes." 

Of course I should have said that. But . . . well . . . 
I sighed as I took Tim out of his basket, and strapped him 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 229 

into the frame we use when operating on animals. I opened 
his mouth with one hand while I drew out his tongue with 
the forceps, fixing it to the permanent forceps attached to 
the operating frame. 

Still sighing at my folly, I placed the props between his 
teeth, and placed the face-piece over his muzzle. Then I 
turned the tap on the cylinder, and the gas hissed into the 
mixing chamber. 



The details do not matter. The operation, which was a 
complete success, was the famous operation performed by 
Sand, of Copenhagen, whose only fear was mine : that the 
animal was patently so senile, that in ordinary circumstances 
one would have advised his destruction. He was now in 
that condition when he moved unwillingly and with 
difficulty ; and not infrequently, he would fall down. 

He exhibited, in short, all the symptoms attributable to 
the weakness of old age. 



I set to work. 

The anaesthetic had taken well, as might have been 
expected. He was too old to have given much trouble. 

I listened to the heart : it was quite steady. I picked out 
a scalpel, and made the first incision. 

Now, the rejuvenation operation devised by Sand is quite 
simple. I followed his technique exactly. 

First I removed three to four centimetres of the right 
epididymis (Tim was a very big cat), and I then ligatured the 
two ends, closing them with a Paquelin Cautery. 

From the left side I removed four centimetres of the vas 
deferens, and the operation was over. 

Tim stayed with me for a month, for a few days later, a 
certain amount of inflammation developed, with some 
suppuration. For a time, at least, he seemed to have been 
made worse, instead of better, by the operation, which 
was Sand's experience. 

But within two months a miraculous change had begun 



230 UNDER THIRTY 

to manifest itself. The legs straightened, the hair grew thick 
and glossy, the eyes clear and bright. Tim began to take 
an interest in the world around him. 

When I took him back to Mrs. Quill, he seemed like a cat 
of four or five years, but I prefer not to think of her face as 
she gloated over him. . . . 



A year later I left Wessenden to take up a practice in 
Holland Park, and I did not see Mrs. Quill again until 
sixteen years after that. In the year that had elapsed between 
the operation and my going to London, Tim had shown no 
signs of any falling-off, and my most careful examination 
failed to reveal any sign by which Tim's true age might have 
been detected. To all intents and purposes he might have 
been a cat in the prime of his life, with years of existence 
before him. 

I did not smile when Mrs. Quill told me how she had 
detected an improvement in her spirits ; and how her 
depression had been coterminous with Tim's former life, 
as she called it. It was to be expected, and I told her so. 
I did not add, of course, that there was nothing miraculous 
in her spiritual regeneration ; and when she insisted on 
making me a present large enough to make possible my 
purchase of a London practice, I decided that my tact 
had been justified. 

I had to tell her, naturally, that the operation could never 
be performed again ; but she only smiled, and murmured 
that perhaps it wouldn't again be necessary. . . . Mrs. 
Quill and I had grown to be great friends. 

As I say, I had not seen her for sixteen years, when I was, 
quite by chance, passing through Wessenden in my car. 
At first, after coming to London, we had corresponded with 
an admirable regularity ; but, little by little, the letters 
grew scarce, until, in the end, they quite ceased, and other 
things came to occupy my mind. 

So that it was with a little shock that I found myself passing 
Mrs. Quill's big house. 

I thought to myself : shall I go in ? And then I found 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 231 

myself wondering if she could be still alive ; whether, 
indeed, her imagination had been strong enough to kill her 
when Tim had died ; for, of course, as I told myself, Tim 
must have died long ago. . . . And then I wondered why 
she had never written to tell me. . . . 

But was she dead ? I began to be very curious about 
Mrs. Quill. 

I could see from the road that the house was occupied ; 
and the grass was clipped ; and the gravel of the drive 
smooth and weedless. 

I turned my car in through the open gate and drove up 
to the house, ringing the bell with a curiosity that had in it 
(as I admitted to myself) not a little of trepidation. 

Still, Mrs. Quill was not dead. It was a new butler who 
took my hat and led me into the drawing-room, but 
otherwise nothing seemed to be altered. 

" Mrs. Quill will see you in the morning room, sir. Will 
you come this way ? " 

On the way to the morning-room, I asked the man : 
" Mrs. Quill : is she well ? I'm an old friend, but I've not 
seen her for many years." 

" Oh, yes, sir," says he, " quite well, to be sure." 

But, as I came into the darkened room, it seemed to me 
that Mrs. Quill had grown unbelievably old. Perhaps she 
was well, . . . perhaps. . . . Anyhow, I said I hoped she 
was as I gave her my hand. 

A sidelong glance around the room told me that Tim was 
not there. 

I said : " How are you, Mrs. Quill ? " 

" Well," she said, her slowly moving eyes the only sign 
that she was alive. 

I said : " I was passing, and I thought I'd come in 
and . . ." 

" And see if I wasn't dead ? " she completed, with a sour, 
contemptuous smile. 

I shrugged. 

" None of us grow any younger, Mrs. Quill. ..." 

The sunken eyes seemed to close, as she considered 
that. 



232 UNDER THIRTY 

"No ... that's true." 

I said, gently : " You never told me that Tim had 
died. . . ." 

She looked at me for so many moments that I thought 
that she could not have heard me. 

But at last she said : " He ... is ... not dead. . . ." 

" Alive ? " I said, incredulously. Her face betrayed no 
emotion as I babbled on. " But how amazing ! . . . lasting 
all that time. Why, it must be ... let me see ... 
it's . . ." 

" It's thirteen years." 

" Thirteen years ! And he's still alive ? " 

" He's certainly not dead." 

" Well," I said, a little damped by her manner, and 
chilled by something, I knew not what, in the atmosphere 
of that room, " I'd like to see him. May I ? Is he quite 
well ? " 

" Perfectly. He's behind you." 

I think I must have started at that ; for there was nothing 
behind me but a big white enamelled cabinet that looked 
like a refrigerator, with its polished handles and electric leads. 
There was not a sign of Tim. 

" I don't see him," I said apologetically. 

" In there. Open the door." 

I opened it. 

So, for the last time in my life, I saw Tim. As Mrs. 
Quill had said, he was quite well. I did not see him at first 
(for the room, as I have said, was not well lit), but, as my eyes 
became accustomed to the gloom, I saw a dark shape behind 
a plate-glass window ; a dark shape, from which hundreds 
of wires and shining tubes ran to the ceiling of the tank. 
And as I observed this horror, I saw that the purplish fluid 
in which the body of Tim the cat was suspended, was 
pulsing, as though waves of energy were constantly radiating 
from the uppermost portion of the cabinet, while, loud to 
my ears now, and full of a dreadful significance, came an 
even, monotonous ticking. 

I stood awhile, gazing at what I knew I should never see 
in this world again ; while the dull, cold voice behind me 



FOR EVER AND FOR EVER 233 

said : " Two Russian surgeons did it ... five years ago. 
... It took a year to do. . . ." 

Silence. Then, a whining : " It was the only way . . . 
don't you understand ? " 

More quietly now ; with a sort of gloating satisfaction 
that I shuddered to hear : " It's so clever. No attention. 
Only a quart of blood from the butcher's every day, and 
some sodium chloride for the filters. . . . Oh, and, of 
course ... a little oil occasionally, for the motor. . . . 
Clever, isn't it ? " 

I looked at Tim for the last time. Then I turned, and 
gazed down at the shrunken shape in the arm-chair. I 
know that my face was white, and that my hands were 
trembling. 

I said (my voice must have sounded quite hysterical) : 
" Why, Mrs. Quill . . . provided you remember to pay the 
electric-light bill, you are immortal . . . ! " 

I can still hear the crash with which I slammed the door 
on her. 



TANGYE LEAN 

* 

Ballerina 



MR. TANGYE LEAN is a journalist 
and book-reviewer on the News 
Chronicle. 

M. H. 



237 



BALLERINA 

distant crescendo of the orchestra told her as soon 
J. as she came out of her dressing-room that there was no 
need to hurry, but she did hurry, fluttering down the passages 
as if she had already missed the entry and flicking at the 
creases of her skirt as though little Sonya had not gone over 
them twice with her long competent fingers to allay her fears. 
But that was what she distrusted about Sonya, her calmness, 
the competence she managed to suggest with every move- 
ment ; it was all directed to reassuring her as a doctor might 
reassure a panic-stricken invalid, whereas the only reassurance 
she wanted, she kept insisting, was the knowledge that her 
costume and make-up were perfect. Sonya was sometimes 
very dense. Cornered and picked on for some specific 
point, the cross tapes of her shoes, a strain on her tights, 
instead of seeing to it at once she surrounded her more 
generously than ever with unwanted words of comfort. 
It was maddening, and as she hurried round to the right, 
past the SMOKING FORBIDDEN notice, each flick she gave 
to her dress was a denunciation of Sonya's impertinence. 

The bass strings were still tumbling and lifting below the 
tumult of the brass as she reached the wings. The repetition 
of this moment over thirty years had told her exactly how 
long she had to wait before her rapid flight of steps should 
invade the silence of the stage. She liked to hold back till 
the last moment possible, the diver heightening the beauty 
of his plunge, vaguely conscious that out there in the black 
sea of faces people were whispering : " It's Natasha I 
think." 

And now the subject of her irritation changed from 
Sonya to something urgent and physical trembling in the 
air around her. It was as if the fierce white glare of the 

239 



240 UNDER THIRTY 

lights sunk in the stage fifty feet in front of her joined with 
the slowly swinging beams of the spotlights and the shafts 
which pointed down from the front wings, and all of them 
had become the eyes of the audience fixed mercilessly on her 
body. In her youth, knowing its perfection, that had 
tightened her limbs into a single coherent instrument, 
brought her already conscious of her power into the first 
steps of the adagio. But now it was more complex. Even 
in the soft yellow light of her dressing-room she could see 
the parallel lines coursing deeply below the powder on her 
forehead, and there was a queer limp look about the skin, 
as if the blood had been withdrawn leaving it fixed and 
unchanged for eternity. And she would close her eyes for 
a moment, to open them again suddenly, trying to look at it 
impartially as a stranger might who had no fixed ideas 
already on what he would discover. Then, for a moment, 
she was relieved and seemed to see the same features that 
had smiled out from the pages of European magazines for 
twenty years. But even while she looked and spoke sooth- 
ing words to herself she noticed that her eyes had caught 
a fresh detail on the reflected face ; she tried to avert them 
as from a horror, but something forced them back, bringing, 
now, her whole mind with them, so that she bent almost 
hungrily forward to see more closely. Then, slightly turning 
her head into a three-quarters profile, she noticed, perhaps, 
that a tiny group of downward-pointing marks like arrows 
had appeared where the skin of her cheek dropped 
downwards from the ear. 

So the glare of these lights that once had been a joy was 
now more dangerous. On bad nights when she was depressed 
she had almost to shout against them as if engaged in some 
nightmare argument with herself. Her arguments were 
true, part of herself knew that, but something else inside her 
stayed obstinately unconvinced. No doubt, she said to 
herself, the lights here were a hundred times stronger than 
in her dressing-room, but the audience was a hundred 
times farther away, even the front row of the stalls beyond 
the orchestra, beyond the fore-stage and the footlights, was 
two hundred feet from where she danced, and on her good 



BALLERINA 241 

nights it seemed as if the controlled uproar of the orchestra 
was in itself a tangible curtain of gauze which protected her. 
And her body, she thought to-night, it was there where the 
spotlights met the sidelights and the footlights, and her 
face was not isolated but merged into it like a limb. 

But more potent than these arguments was the ritual she 
was already performing with her legs. Raising first one, 
then the other, feeling the knee lifted high, turned outwards, 
then two deliberate beats with the foot which touched lightly 
the supporting leg like a reassuring caress. Her torso bent 
forward and back, and she seemed to stand aside and watch 
with a new calm as if she had satisfied some urgent demand. 
The orchestra's theme was now careering to its end and in 
a moment everything would be quiet. She pressed the little 
finger of her left hand against the gold crucifix which lay 
hidden between her breasts, and with the other slowly 
crossed herself as she always did, her eyes lowered, her mind 
all but free now from the weight oppressing it. 

Her time was now. The auditorium was tense and silent. 
On the stage she could hear the shuffling of the corps de ballet 
as they changed position. One moment longer she held 
back, then fled into the lights. 

The middle-aged music critic who leant slightly forward 
in his box at that moment had come in late. He came in 
late so regularly that the Press agent who watched over the 
fortunes of the ballet had found it necessary many years ago 
to safeguard the temper of the audience surrounding his 
seat by giving him a box. But A. A., as he signed his reviews, 
would have felt wronged if anyone had accused him of 
chronic unpunctuality, for he was aware of no general 
tendency in his behaviour, only of isolated situations which 
made a delay advisable that particular time. To-night, as 
an instance, he had been dining with his son. Twenty-two- 
year-old Miles, he suspected, had inherited none of his 
own somewhat uncreative but certainly artistic gifts. He 
worked solidly at the final examination which was to qualify 
him as a Chartered Accountant, and remained in many 
ways a mystery. A. A. found it more difficult than he cared 
to admit to understand him, partly because he had high 



242 UNDER THIRTY 

standards of understanding, and demanded of a person that 
he should be able to feel his way into them as he did into a 
symphony, exploring with a welcome feeling of uncertainty 
the development of a theme, recognizing the full and logical 
implications of a final movement. And in this he was much 
less successful with Miles than with a composer he scarcely 
knew, for some irrelevant gesture, a sharp movement of his 
hand, a redness about his face, would fix his attention and 
block the path. A peculiar state of relaxation was what he 
needed, a state which could not be commanded, but which 
sometimes, amid favouring circumstances, opened out in 
front of him like the dawn of a perfectly fine day in March. 
It had come this evening as they sat together over their 
brandy in the ' Coq Dore.' 

" We'll go behind afterwards and see Natasha," he had 
said, and felt a little sheepish because he was implying 
that they were free to go or not, as they wished, whereas 
he knew she required it of him. 

But Miles for some reason was sympathetic. " That'll 
be nice," he said. " I should like to meet her again." 

And A. A. was suddenly more relieved than he could say. 
For on the rare occasions that they agreed, it was as if some 
tension were relaxed at the inside of his throat. Normally 
he could hear Beethoven assaulted or Conservatism or Corot, 
and the arguments in their defence would stay paralysed 
at the root of his tongue ; he would refuse to talk about 
them, jolting the conversation off on to other lines, only 
retaining in himself the conviction, like a load of guilt, that 
their justification existed. But Natasha had a quite peculiarly 
unstable place in his loyalties. Coming out of the theatre 
to a bar in the interval, he would perhaps overhear some 
balletomane expounding her greatness, her historical posi- 
tion, to a new-comer. Then he swallowed the words 
eagerly, even pretending to be pushed against the speaker by 
the crowd, for he knew that his notice would be restrainedly 
enthusiastic, and what he heard seemed to cancel out 
the bias of his friendship. (Natasha kept Press cuttings, and 
twice had shown him the ecstatic enthusiasms that her 
influence had inspired in Latin critics.) But those words 



BALLERINA 243 

did far more than justify his reviews ; they restored her 
youth and prestige, annihilated the twenty years that had 
passed since a war-strangled Europe had raised her almost 
to the pedestal of a Madonna. It was true that she herself 
did everything she could to foster this vision by the indif- 
ference she showed to the number of bouquets in her dressing- 
room, the casual reference to an invitation from a peer 
but coming from her own lips and seeming to him evidently 
calculated, it had the opposite effect and could only remind 
him of the days when she frankly loved the profusion of a 
florist's shop which was her dressing-room. 

Yet the damage she might do her own cause by pleading 
it, was nothing to that wretched time when he had brought 
Miles (perhaps his motive had been that Natasha was not 
dancing that night so he risked no assault) and they had met 
her in the foyer at the first interval, standing like some 
posset hostess where the stream of theatre-goers debouched 
from the revolving door. Miles had not recognized her, 
and saw only in that expression of almost savage delight with 
which she greeted his father the irritating relief of a lonely 
and unattractive woman on seeing an acquaintance. Even 
when he was introduced, her name, prefixed by madame and 
devoid of Christian name, seemed unknown to him, and 
merely reinforced his impression that the acquaintanceship 
was slight. He had been barely civil, kept glancing away 
from her face at an auburn-haired girl behind her, and 
finally as they were going back to their box, said to his 
father as if to reproach him for his charity : " It's extra- 
ordinary how exhausting it is responding to the inanities 
of an unattractive woman ; I don't know how you manage." 
That had been such a shattering blow to Natasha's prestige 
that A. A. had not gone behind afterwards for a fortnight. 
For suddenly and overwhelmingly he accepted it, and doing 
so would have felt impossibly dishonest to talk to her on the 
basis of fervent admiration which was the only one she 
would tolerate. Beethoven, Corot, Conservatism he might 
not be able to defend them against Miles, but doggedly at 
the back of his mind they retained his faith. Natasha, 
on the other hand, had appeared to him in those few agoniz- 



244 UNDER THIRTY 

ing moments as the vain and stupid not even graceful 
woman that she seemed to Miles. In time she recovered, 
but only to renew this erratic alternation in his mind. 

" In any case," he said now, " we won't stay long. 
There's a last night party afterwards at Mitenka's, and she'll 
be coming on." A moment's uneasiness stirred his calm, for 
he noticed that he had picked on the most probable difficulty 
in front of them and declared its non-existence. Miles 
would be wanting to meet red-headed Irina, and not 
only her, but all that profusion of young women that the 
ballet offered him. Already he was smiling his thanks. 
And that was what A. A. had wanted, only the price, it 
occurred to him, might be dangerously high if Natasha 
perceived it. Her hatred of parties grew with her age. But 
he refused to pay attention to mere possibilities now. They 
sat on smiling over their brandy till long after the curtain 
had risen. 

As soon as she came on he could see that she was dancing 
unusually well. It was a thing that had always astonished 
him that the motive behind a great performance could be 
entirely trivial : a feud, perhaps, in which she might be 
more sinning than sinned against, would be settled to her own 
satisfaction by perfect dancing as a knight in the age of 
chivalry would have vindicated his honour by armed 
combat. Or a last night like this ; it must seem to her, he 
thought, that all the automatic gestures and faked steps of the 
season could be abolished by one brilliant performance. 
And it puzzled him, because one expected a vaster and more 
mysterious background as a prelude to genius ; it implied 
that Shakespeare might have written Hamlet because one 
morning he stubbed his toe. 

But Natasha was no longer aware of external motives like 
these. Her struggle had ended with those fevered minutes 
in the wings ; the ritual with her legs and arms had all but 
dispelled it, and now she was free, floating strongly in the 
drift of the music as a gull hangs in the sky, its wings fore- 
seeing the changing currents as they approach, touching and 
interpreting them with the certainty of a deep and impersonal 
intuition. There were nights when her contact with it was 



BALLERINA 245 

intermittent, when the boards below her feet seemed to take 
on a separate existence, and hostility threatened from the 
great black aperture where the audience watched. But now 
the music and the floor of the stage were as much in her 
power as the slow unfolding of her legs ; almost, she felt, 
they were part of herself, the boards rising obediently to 
receive the gift of her points, the music flung out around her 
like a dress ; and this certainty quivering through her body 
overflowed in her smile and held the audience poised 
spiritually with herself. 

But to-night, as she felt herself still gaining in control, 
she was aware dimly that something was different in the 
scene around her. Only in isolated flashes could she think 
of it, and at first could not discover what it was. Sergei, 
her partner, had come on in his usual costume, Landau, 
vaguely lit by the orchestra lights, was conducting normally, 
in the left-hand wings Sonya stood watching. Then in a 
spare second at the end of an enchainement she isolated it. 
In the wings opposite Sonya a man crouching slightly 
forward had his hands up to his face and pivoted round as 
she danced, pointing steadily at her with a metal cylinder 
which glinted in the light. She went into the pas de deux 
with the knowledge that twenty, fifteen, ten feet away she 
was being photographed. 

She tried at first to ignore it, shutting her mind against it 
like a door, but as she moved on about the stage the little 
tube shifted after her, now catching the light, now shadowed 
by the scenery. And although she still refused to acknow- 
ledge its existence, other things equally precise in the threat 
they bore pushed their way up : that Sergei, raising her 
from the arabesque, was only twenty-four was it twenty- 
four ? she wondered urgently as his face flew past and 
vanished, flew past and vanished, while she pirouetted 
beneath his upraised arm. For the question seemed to 
assume a gigantic importance, and for all she knew he might 
be only twenty-two, young enough, for certain, to be her 
son. She seemed to be back in her dressing-room peering 
hungrily into the glass, the downward-pointing arrows by 
her ears struck her, then the knowledge that her argument 



246 UNDER THIRTY 

in the wings about the distance of the audience was false. 
She remembered her sittings in photographic studios. For 
ten years past they had been getting longer, more carefully 
prepared, and the results were steadily more cloudy. " It 
is the fashion, Madame," they said, shrugging, and she 
accepted it, but only with part of her mind, for she knew 
that, too, was false. And now she felt hypnotized by that 
man with his features twisted up behind the camera, some 
tension seemed to exist between them that the cylinder 
pointed at her so steadily ; it was almost as though her 
movements were directed from outside. 

Suddenly her foot slipped, and for a moment she was off 
her points. It gave her mind a wrench, and she realized 
that she must hold fast to her surroundings or something else 
would happen. She began spending her strength on the 
effort to regain control, her eyes searching the patterns of 
the stage for danger, her mind looking ahead at the music to 
make certain of the final beat. But she did it in desperation, 
in the fear that she could not watch everything and aware 
that she was faking steps. Opposite Sonya once she began 
to blurt out a demand for the man's removal, but only the 
first words escaped her because she nearly tripped. And now 
she was like a tight-rope walker who has lost his balance, 
the only thought in her head the necessity to struggle through 
to the end, the gestures she made limp and uncertain under 
the cold eye of the camera. 

A. A., watching her, could see no reason for the gradual 
deterioration. He glanced at Miles, but Miles came so 
rarely that he seemed to see nothing. And obedient to the 
habit of his trade, A. A. began groping for intellectual 
terms to control his emotion. It's the same thing, he thought 
with immense weariness, if you go into a restaurant. Put 
masks on all the women present, and you'll still be able to 
tell their ages from the way they eat. Their gestures give 
them away, express age identically with the lines you can't 
see, because they're equal, if less hackneyed, symptoms of 
the same decay. But the effort of forcing these bits of theory 
together was too much. Underneath, more powerful 
feelings grew. He remembered that first morning after 



BALLERINA 247 

they had slept together in Berlin after the Armistice, her 
staggering coolness after giving herself for the first time, 
distant, self-contained, as if in some essential sense she 
still guarded her virginity. And she always did guard it. 
" I'm not going to marry nobody," she said in her ridiculous 
English when, a widower, he asked her to marry him. 
" Nobody ! " she shouted, " you might always have known 
it ! " Yes, he thought, I might, but I didn't, because 
I didn't quite realize quite how much passion her dancing 
absorbed, how stealthily, crazily, she looked around for 
people who were out to steal it. And that, he reflected, had 
been fundamentally unnecessary because she gave herself 
so completely to the audiences that there was little enough 
left over for individuals ; often you didn't feel like one when 
she was there, you were a pair of hands to clap, eyes to open 
wide with admiration. In the years after the War she had got 
her reward. The opera houses of Europe saw her dance with 
an emotion so concentrated that the smallest gestures 
acquired a mystery of their own ; she seemed in front of 
them to dissolve into something greater than herself, some- 
thing transcendental, beyond duration in time. And, 
reaching that point, A. A. was suddenly aware that he was 
looking at the wreck of her dancing through a veil of anger. 
For wasn't it all proved to be a lie ? What happened now 
to that background of eternity she had promised, which one 
saw sometimes unwaveringly, for minutes on end ? On the 
stage in front of him was a ferocious parody. If she had died 
or married or stopped dancing, at least the illusion would 
have been left ; to go on like this. . . . He felt sick, cheated. 
He turned suddenly to Miles there were about thirty bars 
to the curtain. " I think," he said, carefully tentative, " I 
think perhaps it was a bad idea going behind afterwards. 
Shall we go back to the ' Cock ' ? " 

Miles, to gain time, pretended not to hear. Sometimes, 
in places like this, there rose up through the layer of dull 
hard work which was his present life, memories, soaked with 
obscure significance, of his childhood. Three words had risen 
from the darkness while he watched. ' Gently she floats '- 
they curled around the box, rising tensely from some central 



248 UNDER THIRTY 

spark, the fine blue smoke of a cigarette, but less pure than 
that, a cigar ? he wondered. Was it a cigar his father used 
to smoke after dinner on Sunday ? Then it came. He saw 
the stub-end still spinning out its slender column from the 
ash-tray close to where he squatted on the drawing-room 
floor, and his mother her last year of life, and he was less 
than five was singing the ' Sunday song ' while his father 
played the piano. ' Gently she floats ' that voice, its 
throbbing passion contradicting the harmless message of its 
words, revealed to him something he had only suspected in 
her, something naked that appalled him. He could not 
look at her face, the straining open mouth, but kept his eyes 
fixed on the trail of smoke still rising from the ash-tray. 
When he had to kiss her good night, he closed his eyes and 
pecked at her, cramped with vicarious shame. After her 
death he wondered twice in bed at night whether her 
singing was not a disease which killed her. He had tried 
to get into the bedroom where she lay, wanted to look closely 
at the dead face as if that would solve an overwhelming 
mystery. But then he could remember nothing more. 
Had someone stopped him ? He didn't know, but watching 
now the indecent prancings of a dried-up ballerina he 
seemed at last to be confronting the same situation. For 
there was nothing indecent, surely, to those movements 
themselves, they were muslin words, the same face-value 
as the song, only they were performed by someone who for 
an obscure but imperative reason should not be dancing in 
public at all. And curiosity spread through him, fear, and at 
the same time relief that he would be seeing her face to face. 
When his father's question reached him again, he said : 
" But I'd like to see her I really would." 

" We could go straight to Mitenka's," said A. A. The 
lights were up and he was fumbling an unnecessarily long 
time to get his coat down from the hook. 

" I expect you've forgotten," said Miles. " I hadn't the 
foggiest who she was that time you introduced us. I'd like 
to see her now I know about her." 

His coat was in his hand now, and A. A. realized that he 
had to choose between revealing emotions to his son that 



BALLERINA 249 

he never revealed, and capitulating. " All right," he said. 
" Come along." He blundered out of the box. 

It seemed to Miles that they passed from one world into 
another. Here were red carpets and ornate settees past 
which they were drawn by the slow momentum of innumer- 
able and richly dressed women, their hands resting lightly 
on the shoulders and through the arms of identically clothed 
men. They went down some steps and through a narrow 
doorway. A draught swept the surface of the floor, trans- 
forming his socks into cold films of air. Buff-coloured dis- 
temper peeled off the walls of the corridor. A. A. went in 
front muffled up in his overcoat. He said nothing. Once 
he pointed back at a step. Like a mole, thought Miles, 
burrowing blindly into earth he already knows. They 
crossed the stage and suddenly a giant section of shadow 
rose from its resting-place on the boards and disappeared 
into the darkness above with a faint hydraulic hiss. They 
went into more passages past a gauntly lettered notice : 

SMOKING FORBIDDEN. 

Her dressing-room was ajar. A. A. beat a rapid little 
tattoo on it, his head bent closely over his knuckles in a 
habitual gesture of listening. 

" Qui est-ce ? " 

" A." He pronounced it as French, dreading, as he did 
so, the joke that must inevitably follow. 

" Oh, la la ! " it came. "Je vous permets d'entrer, 
monsieur, and there ees no need to speak French." 

She pushed her chair sideways and back from the mirror, 
waiting for him to come in. Only five minutes had passed 
since she had taken the final curtain, but in that time the 
fight against acknowledging the existence of the camera had 
at last been won. And it was won without that steady out- 
pouring of her strength it had claimed while her dance lasted. 
For overtaking the final chords of the movement, dropping 
sharply with the two released halves of the curtain, came the 
applause. Scattered at first, merging unsteadily with the 
confident strides of the music, then gaining coherence, it 
crashed around her like long successive waves against a sea- 
wall. She felt frail at those moments, tiny beneath the eiant 



250 UNDER THIRTY 

falls of the curtain, and impersonal within the movements of 
the orthodox bow. The dance and even the feel of it was 
gone from her, and she stood with her head bent forward 
helplessly, at the mercy of the audience. 

But at first she saw the applauders less clearly than the 
rise and fall of her own breasts (her breathing was getting 
convulsive, she npticed), and she made a quick movement 
with her hand to rearrange her skirt. She was conscious 
for the first time of hot wet patches at her arm-pits. But that 
massive approval which rose from the fluttering thousands 
of hands gradually penetrated her. It spread through her 
body like the warmth of a fire in front of which one stands 
after coming in from cold streets, and as she surrendered 
herself to it, the anxiety which had stiffened her muscles 
seemed to relax. A bouquet was thrust into her hands, and 
another. On the boards around her feet lay more in a mount- 
ing heap. She broke off the head of a carnation and handed 
it to Sergei with a smile. The applause continued in great 
broad waves which seemed, if anything, to grow. She 
bowed easily, with a confidence which implied this was her 
just desert, and the audience, sensing it, gave her more. 
When she came back from the fore-stage for the last time 
isolated bunches of enthusiasts still tried to recall her. 

Sonya was waiting for her, curious as to the interrupted 
command. " What did you want, Madame ? " she asked 
in Russian. " I couldn't understand you." 

A momentary anger seemed to threaten Natasha's good 
humour. " If you couldn't understand," she said sharply, 
" you'd better not try now. Pick up the flowers." 

" But you only said two words, how could . . ." 

" Bring the flowers" said Natasha, tapping with her 
foot. " Put them in my room, and you can go home. To- 
morrow will do for the packing." She stayed with her foot 
extended towards the heap of bouquets, as if to pin the 
girl's attention to them ; and Sonya, who was slowly 
learning that she must accept a world of unexplained and 
inexplicable facts, resigned the solution of this, too. Daring 
the faintest semblance of a sigh, she bent over the flowers. 

Natasha had come back to her room. Leaving the stage, 



BALLERINA 251 

she thought someone was still standing in the wings, and 
turned her head abruptly, but it was only the first of the 
' regulars ' coming behind. And as she went on down the 
passage the din of the clapping was still so loud in her ears 
that she could look back at her performance and consider it. 
She felt to begin with like a skater traversing ice whose 
strength was uncertain, but her early dancing that night 
stood out like a firmly planted post, and seizing its protection, 
she felt, looking gingerly around, that perhaps the whole 
adagio had been more impressive than she had thought. 
That applause . . . 

" Magnifique," said a director of the theatre, thrusting 
his head in at her door and grinning broadly. 

" J'ai su que vous seriez la," she said, giving from habit, 
but with unusual gratitude, the reply which could be 
repeated an indefinite number of times in the same evening. 
But the director had gone. 

Then it was A. A. She could tell by the knock, but a 
moment's delay was valuable. She had learnt to trust his 
opinion more than anyone else's, feeling that in him there 
was no need to suspect flattery ; on the contrary, in recent 
years he seemed even to withhold fair praise as if he owed 
her a grudge. So that she felt at this moment, between his 
knock and appearance in the flesh, as she did in those 
seconds in the wings before she submitted to the judgment 
of the lights. And pushing her chair away from the mirror, 
the little pat she gave to her hair and the stretch of her 
eyelids which disentangled the lashes at the corners, produced 
in her a feeling of something appeased and settled which 
would bias the trial in her favour. 

A. A. had motioned to Miles to stay outside for a moment, 
as if Natasha might be dressing, but really to give himself 
time to overcome the embarrassment he still felt on pene- 
trating her room. He found her leaning back in her chair 
with a smile on her face. It was the stage smile, the one which 
seemed infused at bottom by a feeling of uncertainty. But 
it was her eyes that made him hesitate before speaking, 
for they, too, showed fear, but at the same time a despairing 
plea that he should cure it, a suggestion that he could do 



252 UNDER THIRTY 

that with a word. Coming along the passage he had 
sworn he would be honest, but here were the hunger and 
thirst of someone who threatened suicide if she went 
unsatisfied. 

" Natasha," he began, as he had for twenty years, " I 
liked the start of that adagio, I ... I thought . . ." But 
the sound of his voice giving form and shape to the lie 
seemed to paralyse his tongue. Was it possible for her after 
a performance as tragic even as that to go demanding her 
toll of flattery ? 

" Well, my dear, tell me what deed you theenk ? You 
look confus and stupid to-night." She watched him. 

He shuffled one of his feet uncertainly, then : " But what 
didjyoM think ? " he almost barked. 

" I ? " She fell back in her chair and looked at him in 
mock astonishment. " Why, I'm not the creeteek ? " She 
heaved up her shoulders in a single big shrug. " I bigeen 
to theenk you may not have enjoyed yourself. . . ." 

With his lips closed together as if holding something in, 
he watched her turn back to the mirror and give three 
distinct and unnecessary touches to her face. Her eyes 
seemed peculiarly intent, but he knew that at the fringes 
of her vision it was himself she still watched. 

" Natasha," he began again, only this time faster and 
more loudly. " I've been wanting to say for some time, only 
I've hesitated and only say it now because no one else will 
I've been wanting to talk frankly about your dancing. ..." 

She had made a weary little gesture with her hand as if to 
brush the first words out of existence, but against her better 
judgment she started to listen, for a moment with her 
eyes fixed on his in the mirror, then, as he hesitated, throwing 
herself round in the chair and leaning avidly towards him. 

" Well," she said, tapping one hand fiercely against 
her thigh. " Please tell me what ees thess thing that you 
theenk and want so much to say." 

" It's difficult to say without hurting you." 

" What ees eet ? " 

There was a sudden knock at the door. 

Each of them, like lovers discovered in a guilty embrace, 



BALLERINA 253 

fell back into themselves. Natasha turned to the mirror 
and wrenched off one of the strips of sticking plaster which 
held her ears flat against her head. A. A. went to the 
door and half opened it on an apologetic Miles. 

" I almost forgot," he said, coming back into the room. 
" Natasha, young Miles wanted to meet you again." 

She looked up and smiled at him. Through her anger 
it seemed a sort of joke that A. A., as he had been twenty years 
ago, should be standing before her now. " Eet was nice of 
you," she said in a quiet voice. " Have you seen me dance 
to-night ? " 

He stood a little awkwardly in front of an ageing woman 
with fierce lines on her face. He nodded, but out of time 
with the question as though he would have assented, thinking 
of something else, to anything she said. 

" Did you like it ? " 

To A. A., as he anxiously watched them, this seemed 
another of those proofs that he would never understand his 
son. He realized that there was something hypnotic about 
Natasha's look which claimed flattery as unequivocally as a 
burglar's revolver demanded money. But Miles in his 
embarrassment, he thought, might fail to give it. Instead of 
that, his voice, when it came, seemed to flow with the far- 
away and detached cynicism of a practised courtier. 
Detached, because it seemed to have no relation to his 
eyes, which wandered over her face and clothes with 
ruthless fascination, exploring her like a corpse or museum 
exhibit. 

"Madame," he was saying, " it should not interest you 
whether I liked it or not, because I'm ignorant about danc- 
ing. All I know is that you put your breath and your blood 
into it and moved me more than anything since I was a 
kid." 

As if the flattery were a pane of glass, A. A. was thinking 
in horror and amazement an aquarium through which he 
could study the behaviour of newts. . . . 

But Natasha saw nothing odd. She flushed slightly and 
stayed quite silent, listening while the echoes of the sentence 
still lingered. They seemed to merge with the waves of 



254 UNDER THIRTY 

applause that came from the audience, to settle any doubts 
for good. " Eet is parteecularly nice of you," she said, " and 
I am charmed, because your father who once felt like your- 
self, now believes that I am too ancient to dance. I do not 
know preciselee why he thinks that. Perhaps eet ees I who 
am getting old. Or perhaps eet ees heem who ees getting 
tired." She spoke ostensibly to Miles, but had turned 
her full face on A. A. and the wide eyes jumped and 
sparkled. Then she took a step towards Miles and held his 
hand. " I theenk, my friend, eet ees now you who ees my 
admirer. ..." 

But A. A. could see that that protective sense of distance 
was vanishing between them. The touch of her hot hand 
seemed to melt it like an icicle in the sun, sending a dense 
flush of colour from his neck to the full extent of his forehead. 
His face dropped forward, trying to hide itself, the lids half 
closed over eyes which refused to meet hers. 

" But look at me," she laughed, suddenly snatching at his 
other hand as if something were being lost. 

Leadenly, his features tried to smile at the floor. " You 
funny boy," she said, and squeezed his hands. People were 
often shy when they met her, but she realized in alarm that 
he was twisting his hands to escape her clasp. She deserted 
the fact, and insisted, trying to draw him to the chair : 
" Sect down while I take off my face. You can talk to me 
because I find you deelightful." 

He broke his hands away by force. She was strangely 
motionless, because the thing she had been afraid of losing 
was gone. 

A. A. cleared his throat in embarrassment. " As a matter 
of fact we only came in for a moment. I've got to get 
back to the paper, and Miles is coming." He didn't look at 
her. 

" But he can stay ! " she blazed. 

" Would you like to stay ? " said A. A., fumbling anxiously 
for his handkerchief as if the question were without 
importance. " You could go on together to Mitenka's." 

But Miles had his hand blindly clutching the door-knob. 
His words were barely audible. " I've got to work, I'm 



BALLERINA 255 

N 

afraid." He refused to look at them, and when he forced 
himself to smile good night to Natasha the features of his 
face flickered and twitched with the effort. 

That was the last night Natasha danced, and A. A. and 
his son, driving home together, did not speak. 



JOHN LINDSEY 

* 

A Muffled Peal 



JOHN LINDSEY was born at Hadleigh, Suffolk, on 7 April 
1909. At the age of twelve, while still at a preparatory school 
at Frinton-on-Sea, he wrote the life of a race-horse in ten 
thousand words, which was published to the mingled horror 
and admiration of his relations. At his public school he 
tried for four years to persuade the Master who edited the 
school magazine to print some of his efforts, but never 
succeeded ; the Master's advice being that as he would never 
write anything worth reading, he had better go to sea before 
the mast. 

While still at school, however, he wrote an eighty- 
thousand-word novel that was accepted by the first publisher 
to whom it was sent, and had the distinction of being banned 
in the Irish Free State and Australia. 

At this time, despite the banned book, he intended to 
become a parson, and, to this end, went to a University 
and later a theological college where the ordinands appeared 
to him so incredibly wicked that he left and became a 
schoolmaster. 

After some years as an Assistant Master he opened a school 
in partnership, but left this to devote himself entirely to 
writing. At the age of twenty-eight he has published ten 
novels and two books of original historical research, over 
two hundred short stories, is a reader to two firms of 
publishers and reviews in four newspapers. 

He was married at the age of twenty-three, and his 
hobbies are horse-riding and growing tulips. 

Special interests are Prison Reform and talking. 

JOHN LINDSEY. 



259 



A MUFFLED PEAL 

OOMERS had always loved the bells. As a child, lying 
O awake on New Year's Eve, he had listened to their 
muffled farewell to the old year. He had, as the last stroke 
of twelve died away, heard, with a rush of gladness, their 
glorious cascade of greeting to the New Year. He had 
heard them on Sundays. He had listened to and rejoiced 
in the record peals that were rung on them by visiting cam- 
panologists. And, as the years had passed and he had 
grown from boyhood to manhood, it had been the bells, 
more than anything else, that had prevented him from 
accepting offers of employment elsewhere and persuaded 
him to carry on his father's old practice in the town. 

It was a dull enough practice. The townspeople did not 
frequently resort to litigation. Most of Somers's time was 
spent in drawing up wills, conveyancing property and 
attending to the investments of the few wealthy clients he 
had. 

But he did not mind that, because the place itself, the 
ancient customs of the place, the church and the church 
affairs kept him pretty busy. 

He encouraged the youth of the place. He persuaded the 
men to form a bell-ringers' club and, with himself as leader, 
they rang mighty peals of Bob Major and Bob Minor, so 
that the townspeople smiled and shook their heads : " It's 
a wonder the old steeple stands up to the racket Somers and 
his lads make." 

They laughed at Somers sometimes. But he did not know 
that ; and, knowing it, he would not have cared, so dearly 
did he love his bells. 

He neglected his business for them. Climbing up the steep 
steps of the tower in the dark for only he had the key he 

260 



A MUFFLED PEAL 261 

would sit for hours, watching the bells ; Great Tom and 
Gratia Plena, the Angelus Bell, Will Nollens, and Sweet 
Mary, finding great pleasure in their solidity and in the 
remembered music they had made. 

He would climb along the dust-covered rafter that lay 
between the two rows of bells, balancing himself with perfect 
ease where another would have been nervous, because he 
knew every inch of the way and the bells were his friends. 

He knew that. 

Alone, for he had cultivated no human friends in the 
town, he was never lonely, spending night after night, with 
pencil and paper, working out new variations that had 
never been rung on these bells, so that his men might practise 
them and wake Easter or Christmas morning with a new 
galaxy of sound. 

Confidently, standing on his rafter, Somers would stretch 
out his foot, tapping Will Nollens gently, while his whole 
being thrilled to the deep note that echoed around him, 
hurling itself against the walls of the bell chamber, powerless 
to escape while Somers, moving along the beam, would tap 
Sweet Mary to have her music joined to the other. 

Below him, beneath each bell, there were eight pits, one 
to each bell, into which the bells swung, just clearing the 
ground before, madly, they rushed up again only once more 
to fall back, an endless turning over and over, while their 
music passed through the town and to the fields beyond. 

Quite early Somers had been aware of the pits. Quite 
early he had realized that to make one false move would 
mean his precipitation into their depth, his frail body to 
be shattered and smashed by the falling tons of music until 
it was unrecognizable and there was nothing left of it save the 
spattered marks of blood on Will Nollens and Sweet Mary. 

But he was not afraid. The pits were not for him. He 
knew the place too well ever to make a false step. The pits 
were for those who did not love the bells, who needed 
correction. 

One day, he thought, he might need those pits. And then 
he would laugh at himself, for there was no one to whom 
he intended harm, no one who had hurt him. 



262 UNDER THIRTY 

But, as the years passed and as Somers's neglect of his 
business grew more frequent, he began to think of the pits 
more regularly. 

His income had dwindled ; but his expenditure remained 
the same, still living in the old red-brick house, retaining the 
same servants, giving lavishingly to anything connected 
with campanology. 

" He's mad," people said. " He's got bells on the brain." 
And they took their business away from him to a young 
solicitor who had set up his plate in the town. 

Outwardly Somers did not notice their desertion. He 
maintained the same staff in the office. He spent a great 
part of his time visiting famous peals in different parts of the 
country, so that his fame grew among bell-ringers and they 
were honoured when he suggested that he should take a 
hand with a peal. 

But the pits loomed more important. Now that Somers 
saw his clients leave him, all save a few, whose affairs his 
father and grandfather had handled ; now that he knew 
he could never forsake his bells for the sake of legal fees, 
he saw ever more clearly that the pits in which the bells 
dropped were the only way out. 

He could not economize. He dared not economize. All 
his resources, all the money on which he could lay his hands, 
were going to the compilation of his great work, the History 
of Campanology, that would be his justification. 

But, even in the middle of a complicated mathematical 
pattern of music, he knew that there must be an end. 

Larkin, whose affairs he handled, must grow suspicious. 
One could not hide what he had been doing for ever. 

Not that he had tried to hide it. He had not the time for 
that. He had not the leisure to make hit way safe when 
every moment must be given to the great work. 

But he knew what he would do. He had it all mapped out. 
He had no grudge against Larkin. He had no fear for him- 
self that, when Larkin made his discovery, he would be 
exposed. His only fear was that discovery might come too 
early, before his great work was finished. 

After that, they could do what they liked. 



A MUFFLED PEAL 263 

His managing clerk told him one day that Larkin had been 
on the 'phone. . . . Wanted to see him. Said it was 
urgent. His managing clerk looked at him curiously ; 
but Somers did not notice that, his mind filled with a glory 
of sound that had been rung that afternoon. 

He said : " Get him on the 'phone," and, when he heard 
Larkin's voice, agitated, angry : " Look here, Somers, . . ." 
he took the receiver from his ear till the voice stopped, 
because the music in his head must not be shattered by a fool 
wondering what had happened to his money. 

He said : " Yes, things are bad. Won't you come in 
to-night. We can talk better then. Come about seven. 
I want to show you a crack in Will Nollens before we have 
dinner." 

And then he forgot Larkin, absolutely forgot him, because 
he was unimportant and futile ; and Somers went home 
and wrote several thousands of words on the bells that had 
hung in Old St. Paul's. The book was taking shape. 
Another nine months would see it through. If Larkin had 
waited, he thought, how much better for him. . . . He 
need not have seen the crack in Will Nollens. He need 
not have climbed the tower to-night. He could have lived 
and his brains and blood not be spattered all over the bell 
chamber. But he had not waited. And the book must 
be finished. 

At a little to seven Somers went across to the Church. 
He left a message for Larkin to follow him. He was quite 
unemotional, quite undisturbed ; because, deep in himself, 
he knew he was doing the right thing. He had his work 
to give to the world. . . . And, high up in the bell-chamber, 
he stood on the beam between the raised bells, looking down 
into the pits. 

He stood by Sweet Mary, the bell he loved best. He 
stretched out his hand and touched her, cold and massive 
and ageless ; and read, for the thousandth time, the 
inscription carved on her, ' Sweet Mary, toll for the rest of 
sinners.' 

She would toll for him, he thought ; and was suddenly 
glad, because he asked for no better farewell from life than 



264 UNDER THIRTY 

this . . . that the bell he had loved should sound his 
passing. 

' Sweet Mary, toll for the rest of sinners.' 

He heard Larkin ascending the stairs, climbing heavily, 
his breath coming in gasps. 

" You up there, Somers ? " 

He called : "I am here," and seeing Larkin's head as it 
came through the door : " Come over here." 

He pointed to a place on the beam beside him. Larkin 
stared. " On that thing ? Not likely. You may like to 
risk your neck. . . ." 

" It's safe enough," Somers said, " if you keep your 
balance." 

He watched Larkin as he came slowly towards him. He 
saw the man's reddened face, heard his laboured breathing 
and, touching Sweet Mary, Somers knew that this man must 
never stop him finishing the work. 

Then Larkin stood beside him, bristling and angry. 
By heaven, he'd take his business away from this fellow. 
No wonder he'd lost money. The chap was quite mad. 
Still, better humour him. . . . You never knew with a 
fellow like this. 

" Well, what is it ? " he asked. " You mentioned a crack, 
though why on earth you spend so much time in this hole 
beats me. Bats and dust. Poof ! Let's see the crack and 
get down." 

Somers nodded. Now he hated Larkin. He hated him 
because he spoke like this of the bells, as though he did 
not know that the bells could hear him, that they understood 
and had seen life for hundreds of years. Again he touched 
Sweet Mary as though he would gain strength from her. 

He said, pointing with his finger : " Look, it's down 
there." 

Larking leaned forward, his stout body bent, the back 
of his neck bulging with fat. 

" I can't see anything," he said at last. 

And he tried to straighten himself and turn. 

But he was too late. As he moved, he heard Somers's 
voice, lucid and cool as though he were in the office he 



A MUFFLED PEAL 265 

neglected : " Look again, Larkin. Look again while you 
have time." 

There was the roar of a shot and all the bells leapt into 
anguished echo, Great Tom and Gratia, Will Nollens, and 
Mary weeping together as this new sound burst on them, 
a sacrilege in this place where none but lovely sounds were 
made . . . and Larkin's fat hands shot up, trying to save 
himself, and, failing, falling into the pit beneath Will 
Nollens who, as Somers watched him, seemed to quiver 
and shudder. 

He dropped the pistol now. He had no further use for it. 
It had served its purpose. The meddlesome fool had been 
silenced in time and he had been saved to go on with his 
work. He peered over into the pit where the body of 
Larkin lay sprawled, fat and ugly. 

And, suddenly, he became as one inspired. 

He was inspired. He knew that. He knew that he had 
done the right thing, the only thing ; and that now, with 
no fear of interruption, he could mould the rest of his life 
round the bells. 

They were his. He had bought them. Bought them with 
blood, the blood of that meddlesome fool who had worried 
about his money. 

He stared down at Larkin. 

Below him there were sounds, but Somers did not hear 
them. He was leaning over the pit, trying to extract some- 
thing from Larkin's pocket. ... A paper. Something that 
might hold evidence of guilt. And there must be nothing 
of that, he knew. Will Nollens would destroy Larkin, 
would batter him and smash him to pieces but Will Nollens 
could not destroy paper. 

He leaned farther forward. He was chuckling. He 
would finish his book and dedicate it to the memory of 
Larkin. . . . 

He chuckled again. To the memory of spattered blood 
and crushed bones and brains flung round the bell chamber. 

He had his fingers on the paper. But, even as he touched 
it, above him, he saw the bell begin to move. He heard the 
voices of the ringers beneath, whom he had forgotten. In 



266 UNDER THIRTY 

a moment, he knew, they would begin ringing the bells 
and the whole bell-chamber become a chamber of death. 

And Somers started back and stood, swaying dizzily, 
on his beam. 

He must get out of here. He must hurry down. He must 
leave Larkin. He must leave the paper. 

He put his foot forward, but, as he did so, he heard Great 
Tom sigh and saw the bell move, slowly at first, and then 
crash forward and over, to be followed by Gratia and Peter 
and Mary. 

He stood, trembling, cowering, trying to move. 

And, as he stood there powerless, he saw Nollens move, 
heard it, amid the tumult by the other bells, creak and 
groan, saw it turn over. . . . 

For a moment Somers looked down on Larkin's face. 

Then the bell crashed over and something warm and wet 
hit Somers, splashing his cheek, so that he jumped back and 
lost his balance. 

He hung, for a moment, his arms outstretched, clutching 
for something to support him. 

Then something else struck him. He sprang back again 
and lost his balance while Sweet Mary crashed forward to 
catch him. 



His housekeeper kept dinner waiting some time. 

She went out to the door to see if Larkin and Somers 
were coming. 

There was no sign of them. Above her the air was filled 
with the glory of the music that Somers had loved. 

For a little the housekeeper listened. There was something 
missing in the music . . . something for which she could not 
find a name. 

She looked up the street again. " It sounds almost like 
a muffled peal," she said. 



LAURENCE MILLER 

* 

Life is Like That 



LAURENCE MILLER was born in Manchester in 1909. At 
the age of seven he was stricken with infantile paralysis 
in its most virulent form, and nearly died. This illness 
left him so severely disabled that an ordinary school and 
university career was impossible. He was, therefore, 
educated at home by the masters of Bedford School, in which 
town his father is a doctor. The external-degree system of 
London University enabled him, while working at home, 
to sit for the B.Sc. degree in Economics of that University. 
At twenty he got his degree with first-class honours. 

Two years later, Laurence Miller decided he was interested 
in play-writing. He took a correspondence course run by the 
British Drama League, and in spite of the fact that he had 
not been inside a theatre more than half a dozen times in 
his life, became, at twenty-three, the youngest playwright 
ever produced in the West End by Sir Barry Jackson. 
His play, Head-on Crash, at Queen's Theatre, had a cast 
headed by Cedric Hardwicke, Flora Robson, and Ernest 
Thesiger. James Agate wrote : ' This piece is a failure on 
an extraordinarily high level, and worthier of respect than 
fifty abject successes." The author, however, would 
willingly have swapped it for even Jive abject successes ! 
In the Daily Telegraph, W. A. Darlington ' felt like some 
watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken.' 
The more general view, however, was expressed by The 
Star 1 Young Dramatist's Odd Piece of Work ' ! 

In 1935 his first novel was published. A. G. Macdonell 
wrote in The Bystander ' Again, I do not say that Gloomy 
Romeo is a great book. But I say very definitely that it may 
be the precursor of some pretty important stuff.' The 
public, however, showed a marked aversion to buying it. 

Since then, Laurence Miller has written three more plays. 
If none of them is produced, he is likely to come to the 

269 



270 UNDER THIRTY 

conclusion that novel-writing, which he hates, is far richer 
in possibilities for his highly individual talent than play- 
writing, which he loves. 

Watching Rugby football, detective-stories, films, and low 
comedy are among the things he likes. 

LAURENCE MILLER. 



LIFE IS LIKE THAT 

room at the bottom of the stairs in the boarding- 
A house was where Paul slept and received his friends and 
worked. Just now, he was bending forward in his shirt- 
sleeves, brushing his hair, trying to find his parting in the 
Wool worth mirror tacked to the wall. His large, healthy, 
plump face was scowling a little, because he was aware all 
the time of Eva behind him, sitting on the bed. It was just 
like Eva, he thought, to come early and catch him in his 
shirt-sleeves. But it gave him an odd pleasure to think that 
she was sitting on his bed, watching him brush his hair. 
And that annoyed him. You see, he was fighting against 
Eva. The more intimate they became, the more it annoyed 
him. 

So he whistled between his teeth and brushed his hair and 
scowled. His good-looking face seemed rather babyish 
until you noticed his eyes. Thoughtful, blue eyes that were 
focused coolly on the future. Paul worked in a wireless 
factory, and in ten years' time he expected to be manager. 
He was crazy about research and television and circuits 
things like that. It didn't seem at all improbable to him 
that in ten years' time he would run the place. Sometimes 
it didn't to the manager himself. 

" Come on, Paul," sighed Eva. " Are you going to keep 
me waiting here all night ? " Seeing that Paul had his lips 
pressed together in the funny way that meant he didn't 
choose to answer anything she said, she arranged her skirt 
and giggled. " I don't know what my Mum would say 
if I did stay out all night ! " 

" She'd probably say it wasn't the first time. I should be 
be surprised," said Paul, savagely buttoning up his coat. 

Eva shrank back on the bed a little, then jumped up and 

271 



UNDER THIRTY 

walked too calmly across to the mirror. " You'd better be 
careful what you're saying," she murmured, but she was 
thinking only of the mirror and her bright curls. Or so it 
seemed. 

She's got much blonder since I first met her, thought 
Paul. And she isn't a bad girl. She just isn't good for me. 
But who is ? His eyes took in the worn carpet and the mud- 
coloured paint and Eva's calf, swelling in gentle lines up 
under her skirt. Who is ? 

" I should have thought that anyone as smart as you say 
you are " 

" I don't say I am," said Paul mechanically. 

;< You think you are ! Look at all those books and 
things ! " she cried scornfully. " Anyone as smart as that 
ought to remember the time we went to the pictures and 
I walked out." 

" Why did you walk out ? " asked Paul innocently, his 
blue eyes round. 

" You know why," she said softly, coming up to him, 
and smiling into his eyes. " Because Somebody couldn't 
keep his hands to himself ! And yet you think I'm the sort 
of girl that stays out all night ! " 

Paul smiled and caught her by the elbow. It thrilled him 
to feel the thinness of it, to run his finger up to the rounded 
shoulder. It would be much easier for him if she was a bad 
girl. But she jerked away, looking mildly amused, surer of 
herself. And surer of him. 

For a moment, anger darkened Paul's face. Then, 
quietly, he said : " It's ten-past. We'll miss the big picture 
if we don't go now." 

" What big picture ? " asked Eva, coming very close to 
him now that she felt it was quite safe. It was always safe 
when he looked thoughtful like that. " What silly big 
picture is Paulie talking about ? " 

" The one at the Regal." 

" But it looks awfully dull ! " cried Eva, "and I don't 
like any of the people in it ! " 

" Frank Capra directed it," said Paul, " and I want to 
see it." 



LIFE IS LIKE THAT 273 

" Who on earth cares who directed the silly thing ! " 

" But it makes all the difference ! " he said, looking alive 
for the first time, looking as he looked at the factory. " The 
personality of the director makes all the difference." 

" I want to go dancing," murmured Eva. 

Paul was thinking about the film, and hardly heard her. 
She tap-danced lightly on the floor, humming a tune. 
" What ? " he cried. " But we went last night ! " 

" I want to go to-night, too. I love dancing ! Lots of 
fellows love dancing ! Why don't you ? " 

" I do like dancing," said Paul slowly, trying to be fair. 
" But not every night." 

" We're going to-night, honey," she murmured, nestling 
against him. " And we're going on Thursday." 

" Can't," said Paul curtly. " Got to work." 

Eva's voice rose a little harshly, meanly, as it would 
rise, thought Paul, when I've married her and she's putting 
the baby to bed, and I want to work. " Why do you always 
have to stew in here working, when all the other boys I 
know finish at five ? Sitting here, cooped up with a lot of 
lousy drawings and things," her hand nervously sketched 
in the old white- wood table that was his workshop. " You 
must be soft or something, working when you don't have 
to ! Do they pay you for it ? " 

" Of course they don't," said Paul quietly, " but it'll 
pay me in the end." 

" In the end," she mimicked him savagely. " You're a 
fool ! In the end, we'll all be dead. I want to have some 
fun ! Are you coming dancing to-night or aren't you ? " 

" I suppose so," said Paul quietly. " And I suppose I 
must be a fool," he went on to himself, looking for his hat, 
denting it, "to go about with anyone as cheap and stupid 
as you." 

Eva turned her back on him, and walked towards the 
bed and stood looking at the eider-down as if she'd lost 
something there and couldn't find it. Then she sat down, 
and fell back, crying with soft, low sobs that touched his 
heart. Under the electric light he saw her with merciless 
clearness. The silly little hat that had come half off\ 



274 UNDER THIRTY 

when she lay on his bed like that. The cheap, thin dress 
stretched tightly over her thighs, moulding them as her legs 
sprawled apart. The little pink hands touching her face. 
The light hair and the dark pained eyes. He had hurt her, 
saying that. He knelt down and kissed her, drawing her to 
him. One of his hands supported her head. The other 
wandered over her face and neck and breasts, lightly, 
tenderly, then more commandingly. She pushed it away. 
He groped for the light-switch over the bed, and plunged the 
room into darkness. 

And as he kissed her and caressed her, the darkness in the 
room was lighter than the darkness in his mind. She's 
no good for me, he thought bitterly, but I need her. He 
shivered. God, how I need her ! She's cheap and stupid 
and she'll never understand me. I'm going to marry her 
and I'm going to spoil my life. But I need her. 

He could see faintly the black iron-bedstead bars, and 
they seemed like a cage, imprisoning them as they lay, 
warm and furtively passionate. 

She's no good for me. But who is ? Who else is there ? 
He thought of all the other girls he knew, but got no farther 
than their names. Eva's arms were round his neck, this was 
what he wanted, this was what he was going to get all 
his life, and as he kissed her parted lips, at the back of his 
mind he hated her. 

The room at the top of the stairs in the boarding-house 
belonged to Rose. She had just come in, she was still a 
little breathless and excited. She had been, alone, to the 
Frank Capra film that Paul was so anxious to see. She had 
gone to see it because the film-paper she read had said it 
was interesting and she liked interesting films, although she 
didn't always understand them. Rose was twenty-four, 
tall and graceful, and she worked in a draper's for thirty-five 
shillings a week. 

She was going out to supper with Mr. Bennet and his 
mother. ' Mr. Bennet ' she blushed. How silly that 
sounded ! Of course he was * Fred ' now. At least, outside 
working-hours he was * Fred ' ! But she always thought of 



LIFE IS LIKE THAT 275 

him as Mr. Bennet. Perhaps it was because he was sixteen 
years older than she was. 

She'd better change her dress, there wasn't too much time. 
She had gone straight from work to see the film. She 
had hoped that Mr. Bennet would take her, but he didn't 
like the pictures. He liked a good old-fashioned variety 
show at the local theatre, with low comedians and lower 
jokes. He liked the noise and the lights and showing her 
off, parading about with her on his arm. He always tried 
to make her have a glass of stout during the interval. But she 
wouldn't. She always wished when she was out with Fred 
that she was back in her little room, back with the dingy 
carpet and the mud-coloured paint and the pathetic little 
pictures on the wall she'd cut out of film-papers and 
Christmas numbers. No, Fred didn't like films. So she 
went alone. 

She stood in front of the mirror and took off her dress. 
Her forehead was good, and she looked sensitive and intelli- 
gent. She was too kind, too modest, too patient, really ; 
she had a pure, fine face that contrasted oddly with the 
wanton way her hands undressed her, showing her off to 
herself in front of the mirror, until she stood naked, graceful, 
white, and a little shy. 

Her mind was still full of the ideas of the film, dimly 
remembered. She still felt full of the evening walk home 
through streets left shiny by a recent shower, golden with 
lights and thrilling with half-glimpsed faces. Dusk. She 
was young ! She was almost beautiful. She was lonely. 
And she was going to supper with Mr. Bennet and his 
mother. 

One of her proudest possessions was a little slip of paper. 
She had written a letter to the film-paper about Walt 
Disney and his imitators, and the editor had printed it. 
She had shown that letter to Fred. She remembered in a 
hurt way how he had laughed at it. He would have 
crumpled it up and thrown it away if she hadn't stopped 
him. ' You'll have other things to think about when we're 
married, my girl ! " She remembered how she hated his 
touching her. 



276 UNDER THIRTY 

As she dressed, something as near rebellion as anyone so 
patient could experience bubbled up inside her. Why 
should her parents live so far away, in South Wales, father 
unemployed, unable to help her ? Why should she have 
got a job at that very draper's, ' under ' Mr. Bennet ? She 
remembered the first day he noticed her. Going to tea 
and being approved of by his red-faced, managing mother. 
And later on, ' Of course, you and Fred '11 live with me 
when you're married.' The worst of it was that Fred was 
a real ' catch.' Everyone said so. He was ' comfortably 
off.' He was kind. He would probably be a far better 
husband than she deserved. If she threw him over, he 
wouldn't make a scene. She would probably lose her job, 
casually, as if by accident, a month or so later. Of course 
she would. But Fred was really a very nice man. She 
wished passionately that she could hate him. But she 
couldn't. She just prayed that she wouldn't marry him. 
She didn't dare to think of going to bed with him. 
But she knew she would marry him. She would be very 
foolish not to. Everyone said so. Lots of girls had tried 
to get him and failed. 

She looked at the clock and sighed. All this bitter 
argument in her mind was nothing new. What was new 
and it may have been the film that caused it, or the even- 
ing or the recent sight of her ripe, young body what was 
new was that she should voice her despair, aloud. As she 
fixed her hat and looked into her eyes, she spoke to herself, 
and it sounded eerie in that dim little room. A nice, 
wistful, heart-broken voice. " I suppose I've tried too hard 
to understand things. Boys don't like girls to be interested 
in things seriously. Not the boys I meet, anyway. And 
the boys that have taken me out haven't been my type. 
Noisy, silly, cheap. But I would give everything to anyone 
I could help. Are there any boys like that ? Boys who 
think and like to be quiet sometimes, boys who plan and 
talk sensibly. Who don't laugh at you for taking ideas 
seriously. You've been too serious, Rose. And yet, with 
the right boy, I could laugh a lot. But it's too late. It's 
never happened, it won't happen now." She bit her lip a 



LIFE IS LIKE fHAt 27? 

little. One day old Mrs. Bennet would die. And she and 
Fred would have the house to themselves. Fred, sixteen 
years older than she was, would be settled in his habits, 
then. Sleeping in the parlour on Sunday afternoons. 
Having his loud friends in. She would be lonely because 
none of them would understand Fred's quiet wife. She 
would only be happy reading, endlessly reading. Yes, they 
would all think her queer. Probably there wouldn't be 
any babies. Fred didn't like them. They were too much 
of a nuisance. 

Rose put out the light, and left her room at the top of 
the stairs in the boarding-house. She was on her way to 
supper with Mr. Bennet and his mother. 

And at that very moment, Paul came out of his room 
and stood at the foot of the stairs, waiting. He was waiting 
for Eva to tidy herself, to ' do ' her face. In a minute she 
would come out and confidently take his arm. He had a 
minute in which to escape. 

He gazed up the dark stairs, seeing nothing, yet seeing 
everything. He saw the last few minutes over again. He 
felt again the soft bed and heard his thick broken words, 
smelt Eva's scent and her hair, felt her warm, smooth flesh. 
But all that was nothing. In the darkness he had sensed 
most vividly her mind, calculating, cool, resisting him. 
He wanted her more than ever. And she had resisted him. 
Both of them knew what that meant. 

He saw the first six months of their marriage, intoxicating 
and exciting. And then the long years would set in, and 
he would walk out to meet them eagerly. But Eva and he 
would, by then, have shared all that they had to share. 
She wouldn't want to change, to learn. She'd resent his 
success because she wouldn't understand it. She wouldn't 
be happy, either. At the back of his mind he knew the 
whole thing was a mistake, a fatal mistake. She wasn't a 
bad girl, but she was no good for him. But then who was ? 
And all the time a voice inside him told him not to be silly, 
not to think too much, to marry Eva wasn't that what he 
wanted ? And he knew this false voice would win. 

Looking absurdly young and hopeless, Paul stood waiting. 



278 UNDER THIRTY 

Only a few seconds were left in which he could still escape. 
He suddenly realized that he could never set himself free. 
Only another girl could do that. And she must come now. 
Within the next three seconds. A girl he could really love 
and cherish. He smiled wryly as he heard Eva moving 
about in his bedroom. 
Unseeingly, he gazed up the dark stairs. 

And slowly Rose came down the stairs. She always 
walked slowly when she was going to Fred's. Her mind 
was full of queer, sad thoughts, like people in black, 
whispering. 

' It's awful only having one life. You make a decision, 
and if it's wrong, your chance of happiness is gone, at once, 
for ever. 

' I hope it's raining a little. Anything seems possible 
when your face is wet, and it's dark. 

' I didn't know I looked so nice undressed. 

' My whole life is being settled, now. If something's 
going to happen, it's got to be now. Now ! ' 

She reached the bottom stair but one. Paul stood at the 
bottom of the stairs. 

' Why haven't I met someone I could really love ? I'd 
do anything for him, learn anything. He might even love 
me. Why haven't I ? 

* Nothing will happen. You know it won't. I mustn't 
cry now. I can cry after supper on Fred's shoulder. He'll 
think it's because I'm so in love with him. 

* I'm never going to be happy. Only lucky people are. 
Oh, God, why shouldn't I have been lucky ? What did I 
do wrong ? ' 

She didn't see Paul. He didn't see her. You see, they 
weren't the same stairs. It wasn't the same boarding- 
house. Rose and Paul lived two hundred yards apart. 

They would never meet. 



DONALD MOFFAT 

* 

Doucement ! Doucement ! ' 



MR. MOFFAT has the shyness that is shared equally by 
Mr. Ernest Bramah and the Abominable Snowmen ; we 
know that these people exist, but how, it is not given us to 
understand. Mr. Moffat's literary agent informs me that 
his age qualifies him for inclusion in the present collection, 
and that was all that he could (or would) tell me. 

NOTE BY MICHAEL HARRISON. 



28 1 



' DOUCEMENT ! DOUCEMENT ! ' 

BY the time May was well upon them and spring had 
melted softly into early summer, the Mott family, no 
voice dissenting, packed their baggage and moved into 
Paris to bathe their vexed souls a while in the contentment 
of their familiar and beloved Hotel de 1'Universite, in the 
Faubourg St.-Germain. They hungered, after their winter's 
vegetation, for a taste of the fleshpots ; and, too, they 
wanted to be near their friends the Poulters, who had just 
arrived from home with their children. 

Among Mr. Mott's first acts, after helping to get his 
family settled, was to arrange to take possession of the small 
car which a departing American friend had left in France, 
and which Mr. Mott had bought from him by mail, sight 
unseen. He therefore wrote to M. Roux, proprietor of the 
garage in Nice where the car was stored, saying that he'd 
be down with his friend Mr. Poulter on the following 
Saturday to drive it back, and hoped to find it ready for 
them. He got no answer till Thursday, on which day 
M. Roux replied that the Renault was in good shape and 
waiting for him, but that before Mr. Mott could take 
possession he would have to get written authority from the 
actual owner of the garage, M. Meyer, who conducted a 
transport agency at a certain address in Paris. Mr. Mott 
was slightly annoyed, because time was short ; but he 
reflected that a day and a half ought to be ample to conclude 
a mere formality like this. 

Nevertheless it was with certain forebodings that he set 
out next morning in search of M. Meyer. There was no 
real likelihood of trouble, of course ; yet Mr. Mott knew 
from experience that it was just as well to take nothing for 
granted. The average Frenchman is disinclined to sign a 

282 



' DOUCEMENT ! DOUCEMENT ! ' 283 

paper till he has read all the fine print on the back. He 
knows that the fine print is put there not for a whim but 
for a purpose. He likes to conduct every transaction one 
step at a time, each step a logical successor to the one 
before ; and his advance is unhappy unless every footfall 
gives evidence of firm ground beneath him. He takes no 
sudden leaps, no intuitive short cuts. Logic guides him, his 
sense of reality sustains him, his self-interest beckons him 
on : and he gets there. And if the nervous systems of 
foreigners suffer in the process, sighed Mr. Mott well, 
whose country is it, after all ? 

Mr. Mott spent the customary hour locating the business 
premises of M. Meyer, marvelling, as he crept in and out, 
at the taste for small Parisian business men for hiding their 
offices behind dark courtyards and misleading stairways. 
M. Meyer was at home, greeted him with smiling politeness, 
led him to a dim inner office, and faced him across the flat- 
topped desk a gracious, round, and ruddy little man with 
a head completely bald. M. Meyer leaned forward in his 
chair, smiled sympathetically, and waited. 

Mr. Mott said : " My name is Mott, monsieur. I am 
the American who bought the little Renault of M. Wright- 
stoneham, which is now in your garage at Nice. I have 
come to ask you for a letter authorizing the garagiste to 
let me have the car. I go to Nice to-morrow." 

" Ah," said M. Meyer, " of course. A charming fellow, 
M. Vrigstonhon. He is well, I hope ? And madame his 
wife ? So you have bought his little car, monsieur ? " 

' That is so, monsieur. Permit me to offer my passport, 
for identification." 

M. Meyer examined every page of the passport with 
interest and care. Then he turned to the photograph, 
held it out at arm's length, and compared it with the 
original, feature by feature. " Well," he said at length, 
pleasure and surprise in his voice, " a good likeness. I 
compliment you, monsieur. And now ? " 

" A letter to M. Roux, if you will be so kind." Mr. 
Mott was congratulating himself on M. Meyer's amiability, 
and the simplicity of the little transaction, when M. Meyer 



284 UNDER THIRTY 

hesitated and fell to drumming on the desk, plunged in 
profound thought. After a minute of this, " Monsieur," he 
said apologetically, " pardon me, but in an affair of this 
kind it is not well to move too quickly. For both our sakes, 
care must be exercised. I shall therefore be so ungracious 
as to beg of you some further identification identification 
that is to say, of yourself as the actual purchaser of the 
little car. That you are indeed M. Mott is established 
beyond a doubt. But that M. Mott has bought the 
voiture of M. Vrigstonhon . . . ? " He paused, and smiled 
agreeably. 

" Certainly, M. Meyer," replied Mr. Mott. He took out 
the wallet sent him by Wrightstoneham and spread on the 
desk the keys of the car and the three licences, besides his 
own certificat de domicile and carte d'identite for good measure. 
M. Meyer passed them earnestly in review, while Mr. 
Mott wondered if he meant to put them under a microscope, 
then conceded, with a polite bow, that the defence had 
scored one point at least. 

" Parfait" he said. " All is in order ; mais " (oh ! that 
French ' but,' thought Mr. Mott) " you will forgive me, 
monsieur ? Papers like these, as you know, may easily be 
lost, and as easily be picked up by another, not the true 
owner. You will also agree that such documents are not 
difficult to steal, and although I do not, of course, suggest 
for an instant that such is now the case a thousand pardons 
you will appreciate that it is my unhappy duty not to 
neglect such a possibility. Also, monsieur " 

" I understand perfectly, monsieur," Mr. Mott inter- 
rupted, digging once more into his pocket-book. " As a 
man of business you could prudently follow no other course. 
But here is a copy of the letter M. Wrightstoneham wrote 
to the garagiste at Nice telling of the sale. If you will send 
for the original, which is doubtless in your files, you may 
compare them and so satisfy your praiseworthy scruples." 

M. Meyer rang for a clerk and sent him for the letter. 
And to Mr. Mott's surprise he was back with it before 
M. Meyer had finished Chapter I of his recitation on the 
ubject of ' Paris Weather, Past, Present, and Future. 1 



* DOUGEMENT ! DOUCEMENT ! 285 

M. Meyer compared the copy with the original word for 
word, then fitted them together, held them up to the light 
over his head, and gazed through them for signs of forgery. 

Finally he lowered his arms. " The letters," he pro- 
nounced " are identical. I congratulate you, monsieur. 
. . . Yet," he added, after a thoughtful pause, " how easy 
it would be for a clever man to make up such a letter, and, 
having dispatched it, to keep a copy to produce at the 
required moment. Of course," he went on, with a jolly 
laugh, " I know quite well that you have not been guilty 
of such villainy ; but you see my difficulty : I am compelled 
to act on that very supposition. You pretend to be M. 
Mott ; your passport confirms the assertion. You pretend 
to have bought an automobile from M. Vrigstonhon, and 
in support of this contention you show me these papers. 
But " here M. Meyer spread his arms wide, as if beseeching 
Mr. Mott's co-operation and charity " nothing to show 
that you have paid for the car except " shaking his head 
mournfully, and letting his arms fall " this letter, which, 
as I have logically demonstrated, is technically open to 
suspicion." 

Mr. Mott watched the performance with fascination. 
Then suddenly, cursing himself for his stupidity, he remem- 
bered the receipted bill of sale, his trump card. Once more 
he reached into his pocket, bulging with the accumulation 
of papers that always seemed to breed mysteriously in his 
clothes after a few days in Paris. He found the bill of sale, 
unfolded it. " Here, monsieur," he said, handing it to 
M. Meyer, " is M. Wrightstoneham's own receipt for the 
money, signed by his own hand. Examine it carefully, I 
beg." 

M. Meyer took him at his word ; then sadly shook his 
head. " It is obviously correct," he said, " but alas ! 
worthless. Tenez : I believe you to be M. Mott ; I believe 
that you actually bought the car from M. Vrigstonhon " 
(does no Frenchman ever make an attempt to pronounce 
or spell a foreign word correctly, thought Mr. Mott) 
" and paid for it. I am anxious to help you. It is my 
greatest desire to serve you. But this ! " Again he shook 



286 UNDER THIRTY 

his head. " As the world knows, monsieur, a receipted 
bill is valueless in the eyes of the law unless payment of the 
sales tax is attested by the affixation of the Government 
stamps, and countersigned by the vendor. On this paper, 
as you see, are no stamps whatever. Therefore, alas, the 
sale is not complete. It is unfortunate. ... I regret, monsieur, 
infinitely." 

" But, monsieur," Mr. Mott protested eagerly, " the sale 
occurred in the United States, where, by some strange 
oversight of the Government, the custom of taxing receipted 
bills has not yet been introduced. How could there be 
stamps ? " 

M. Meyer laughed in grudging admiration. " You argue 
well, monsieur, but ! We are not now in the United States. 
That, you will agree, is evident." On this point M. Meyer 
was polite, but firm. " We are in France. The little Auto, 
the subject of this affair, is also in France. Thus, you see, 
monsieur, there must be stamps. I am sure that you 
understand the entire friendliness of my attitude, and that 
I take these precautions, not from any doubt of yourself, 
but because such matters must be concluded in an orderly 
fashion. Indeed the fact that the principals in the trans- 
actions are both foreigners, Americans, makes my position 
all the more delicate. Consider the international com- 
plications that might arise if I did not take my responsibilities 
as intermediary au pied de la lettre" he paused. 

Mr. Mott said slowly : " Yes, I see, monsieur. . . . But 
these stamps ? Where may they be procured ? " 

" I do not know. It is not, strictly speaking, my affair. 
But if I may offer the suggestion, it is possible that your 
American Consul may be able to help you." 

Mr. Mott got up and held out his hand. " Thank you, 
monsieur, I shall go there directly." He congratulated 
himself, as M. Meyer escorted him to the door, on having 
kept firm hold of his own sense of reality as well as his 
temper. 

At the consulate, when Mr. Mott looked into the waiting- 
room, he found so many troubled-looking compatriots that 
he left at once, and went to a cafe to brood. His brooding 



' DOUCEMENT ! DOUCEMENT ! ' 287 

brought him an idea the idea that comes eventually to 
most Americans who get up against it in Paris. He went 
to the office of an American lawyer he knew, and asked for 
his chief of staff, whose name was Emily. 

" Emily," he said, " I'm up against it ; what shall I 
do ? " and he explained the situation. 

Emily told him. " What you need," she said, " is seals. 
Give me that paper." 

She took the receipted bill and left the room, and presently 
came back with a gorgeous seal, fixed to the paper with 
masses of wax and red ribbon. 

" What's that ? " Mr. Mott asked. 

" That's a seal," said Emily. " Take it to the Consul, 
tell him I sent you, and have him put on stamps." 

" What kind ? " asked Mr. Mott. 

" Don't be so fussy," Emily replied. " Good-bye." 

The Consul was young, bored, and, as soon as Mr. Mott 
mentioned Emily's name, obliging. He stuck on stamps 
what stamps Mr. Mott did not inquire cancelled them with 
a flourishing signature, and also gave Mr. Mott a letter to 
the Consul at Nice, in case ... It was then too late to 
return to M. Meyer. 

The next morning he packed his bag and left it at the 
Gare de Lyon, to be sure of having plenty of time to meet 
Mr. Poulter and catch the afternoon train in case M. Meyer 
had any further ideas. But he had none. His eyes lit up 
with pleasure when he saw the glorified document. He 
barely glanced at it. 

" Perfect," he said. " I am truly delighted. A moment, 
monsieur, and I will compose the letter to M. Roux." He 
wrote. :< There, monsieur, and forgive my precautions ; 
they have been troublesome for you, I know, but necessary. 
My responsibility in the matter is now removed. I wish 
you many happy days of touring under our sunny, smiling 
skies." 

They parted on the best of terms, with many gallant 
expressions of mutual admiration and esteem ; but as 
Mr. Mott turned on the stairs to bow a last farewell, he 
caught M. Meyer gazing inscrutably after him, in his eye 



UNDER THIRTY 

still glowing the living embers of doubt "not, Mr. Mott 
knew, of his personal honesty, but of the completeness and 
authenticity of his chain of evidence. 

At Nice, Mr. Mott and Mr. Poulter took a taxi and drove 
straight to the garage where M. Roux, huge, greasy, and 
jolly, greeted them with warmth, and thus dispelled Mr. 
Mott's secret fear that M. Meyer, in the last throes of 
suspicion, had cancelled the letter by wire. 

M. Roux led them to the Renault. " Voila, messieurs, all 
ready to drive away : essence, oil, water, battery charged. 
A fine little car." 

Mr. Mott thanked him, and offered M. Meyer's letter, 
explaining its contents. 

"Oh, that," M. Roux laughed. "Keep it. I don't 
need it. Any friend of M. Vrigstonhon is a friend of mine." 

" But you wrote me," Mr. Mott persisted, " that you 
couldn't let me have the car without it. Would you have, 
after all ? " 

" Of course. Those were the orders of the patron. I had 
to write to you. He is careful, that one. However " he 
shrugged " one must remember that he is not only a man 
of affairs, but a Northerner as well. What would you ? " 

M. Roux took the letter, and, without reading it, folded 
it small (the world-wide sign of the peasant) , put it in his 
pocket, and proceeded to think of other things. 



RICHARD PARKER 



Soup Kitchen 



UNTIL I was ten I used to play in a long garden with my 
sister. We had a tricycle, some planks and boxes, and 
a love of making bonfires. When these palled, we painted 
the garage doors with large brushes and water, and the 
sun dried them, leaving long muddy streaks. Then we 
painted them again. Outside the garden there were clever 
boys who played on the road we saw them sometimes 
and even cleverer ones who knew how to play cricket. Then 
my father lost all the money he had made during the War 
and I was saved from going to a good school. I began to 
learn a lot of interesting four-letter words at the council 
school. 

During the General Strike in 1926 I had to walk to school 
because the buses had stopped running. I hadn't imagined 
that those things buses, trams, trains could just stop. I 
discovered that, sometimes, really things happened for which 
I was not responsible. I forgot about this for a long time, 
and during the next five years took jobs as an office boy, 
reporter, fruit-picker, postman, farm-hand, library assistant, 
wood-cutter, commercial traveller, factory-hand, pig-cas- 
trator, and dole-collector. But it took me ten years from the 
General Strike to discover the link between the personal 
self I have been developing and what, in 1926, had seemed 
to lie outside it. 

I am now twenty-two and a Communist. 

RICHARD PARKER. 



291 



SOUP KITCHEN 

JIMMY came back with the empty bucket in his hand. 
" Everybody laughed at me," he said. " Everybody 
laughed because I didn't have no basin. And then they sent 
me away, and I didn't get no soup." 

We all went to bed then, and I was cold in the night. 
I slept in the middle as I was the smallest, but Janie kept 
crying, and saying she was hungry, so we changed places. 
A lot of cold air came in under the edge of the overcoat and 
I couldn't sleep any more. 

When it was light we got up, and mother said Janie 
must go down to the soup kitchen in Pad's Hole and explain 
to the man about the bucket. She told Janie to say that we 
hadn't got a basin or a jug, so would the man let us have the 
soup in the bucket, because we hadn't got anything else. 
Jimmy wouldn't go again because of them laughing at him 
before, so Janie took the bucket ; but she was crying all the 
time because she was hungry. Mother said perhaps the 
man didn't like cry-babies when she came back without any 
soup. The man was cross with her. He said that taking a bucket 
was being greedy, and did we want everybody else's share. He 
said we ought to think of other people sometimes and not just 
try to get as much as we could. He said if everybody thought 
that way there would be no more soup kitchens. 

It kept raining hard all the morning, but it wasn't quite 
so bad in the afternoon, and mother went out to see if they 
could lend us a bowl or something next door. But they were 
using theirs, and so was Mrs. Barnes. Then she went to 
Mrs. Sneath on the corner, and she was very nice even 
though she couldn't lend us a basin. She sent a pair of 
socks for Janie,that used to be her Alice's who was dead a 
few weeks before. 

292 



SOUP KITCHEN 293 

When mother got back her feet were hurting. When she 
had taken her shoes off she sat down by the fire and began 
to cry. Janie cried a bit too, but not very much because 
she had the new socks on. 

I asked mother if I could go down to the soup kitchen when 
it opened in the evening, but she said it was no good taking 
the bucket, not if we tried for a hundred years. And we 
didn't have anything smaller. But I went into the other 
room to see if we'd perhaps forgotten something that might 
do. The chamber-pot was like a basin. Mother thought if 
she cleaned it properly it would be all right. She boiled some 
water, and scoured it out with earth and sand. When it 
was wrapped up in newspaper you couldn't really tell what it 
was, so perhaps if I took that and didn't unwrap it the man 
wouldn't see. 

When it was nearly dark I put the chamber-pot under my 
coat and went down to Pad's Hole by myself. I thought it 
was something like the stories where the oldest brother 
tries to do a thing, like chopping wood, and then the next 
oldest only Janie wasn't a brother but they both fail, 
and the youngest one, who nobody doesn't think very much 
about, goes off and does it quite easily. 

There was a long line of people waiting for soup, but they 
pushed me up to the front because I was so small, and my 
feet were all blue with no socks on. But they weren't really 
cold ; only it was like I hadn't any feet at all. 

Then, when it was nearly my turn, I tried to take the 
chamber-pot from under my coat without the paper slipping 
off. The handle was showing, and a little bit of the pink 
flowery pattern on one side where the paper wasn't big 
enough. Nobody saw it because I held it close to me. 

The man behind the shutter kept grunting at the people, 
and asking how many there were in the family. He measured 
the soup out with a big spoon into the basins only most 
people had jugs, and Mrs. Boorman had a beer bottle. 
The man didn't say anything, but looked sort of thin and 
worried, like the coloured pictures of Jesus. Like he was 
doing something he didn't really want to do, but had to 
go on doing it because it was good. 



294 UNDER THIRTY 

When it was my turn the man told me to take the paper 
off, but I said it was so as not to burn my hands like mother 
told me to. He tried to take it away from me, but I held on 
tight, and then he snatched it away. I began to cry because 
I thought the people might laugh at me, but they didn't. 
Then when I looked up again he'd taken the paper off. 
His face was all red, and he was holding the chamber-pot 
with the ends of his fingers. He turned round and said 
something to the lady in a fur coat just behind him, and she 
looked too, and her eyes opened wide and she went red as 
well, but not so red as the man. 

" You dirty little boy," she said, " hasn't your mother 
any sense of decency at all ? " 

Mrs. Boorman, who hadn't gone away, shouted out : 
" Give the kid his soup, you bloody hypocrites." The rest 
of the people began shouting too, so perhaps the man didn't 
hear me telling him that it had been washed out and that we 
didn't have nothing else. 

The man wrapped up the chamber-pot as quickly as he 
could. He said that we were behaving like pigs, and that 
kind people were only wasting their time and their money 
trying to help us. We were biting the hand that fed us, he 
said, and that we didn't deserve helping. Then he leant 
through the hole and handed it back to me. But I suppose 
my fingers were cold, or he wanted to get rid of it quickly, 
because I didn't catch hold properly and it dropped on the 
stones and broke. I tried to pick up the pieces, but there 
were too many of them, so I just had the handle and a little 
piece with pink flowers on it, and I ran back to tell mother. 



JOHN PUDNEY 
* 

The Albions' Secret 



BORN 19 January 1909. 

Short period of highbrow education at Gresham's School, 
Holt. 

Began work in London at sixteen and a half years. 

About half a dozen odd jobs, including real estate and 
journalism. 

Now feature-programme producer, B.B.C. 

The Albions' Secret was adapted as radio play and produced 
to England and overseas, 1937, for B.B.C. National Broad- 
casting Corporation of New York produced it last month 
and are doing it again. It has also been done on the amateur 
stage. 

Married. One daughter. 

Games : Rugby and squash. 

JOHN PUDNEY. 



297 



THE ALBIONS' SECRET 

H, Mother, Mother ! Look at the elephant coming 
down the garden," cried Lily. 
Her mother was thinking just then, however, and dis- 
regarded Lily's remarks. Her mother was thinking about 
possessions. 

So Lily ran and opened the front door, ready to let the 
elephant in. She was thrilled at the unusual visitor ; though, 
judging by her mother's reticence, she should not have 
shown excitement. She had rarely seen elephants. Though 
she was receiving a normal education, regular nourishment, 
and a proper home environment, her opportunities of seeing 
them were almost negligible. 

Something had happened at last : she had always known 
that it would. She opened the door wide and smiled. She 
heard the gentle, rather ponderous breathing, and the 
muffled but eager tread. She was impressed by the physical 
dimensions. She noticed that the eyes were twinkling like 
raindrops. " I'm your Uncle Arthur," said the elephant. 

" Oh, Mother, Mother ! The elephant that has come says 
that he is Uncle Arthur ! " 

There was no reply. Her mother must be thinking. How 
rude. Lily smiled at the visitor, who was standing patiently 
on the threshold, completely filling it. Then she popped her 
head round the sitting-room door and interrupted her 
mother's thoughts. 

He says he's Uncle Arthur," she said. 
Who does ? " said Mrs. Albion. 

Sh ! " Lily made a polite gesture. " The elephant." 
What elephant, Lily ? " Her mother looked cross. 
' The elephant I told you about, who has just called." 
' Lily ! Come right in." Mother was wasting time, but 



THE ALBIONS' SECRET 299 

she was very cross. " Now tell me : who is at the 
door ? " 

" Uncle Arthur." 

Mrs. Albion winced. The child was imaginative, of 
course, that was the danger a misfortune, in fact. UNCLE 
ARTHUR. " I'll go to the door myself," she said . 

They found the elephant wedged. Mrs. Albion screamed. 
Lily felt sorry for him, and frightened. He was stuck fast, 
more in than out. 

" Help ! " cried Mrs. Albion. " A zoo's escaped. Help ! 
We shall be trampled underfoot ! " 

" Oh, Mother ! He's terribly stuck. What can we do 
for him ? " 

" Come away, Lily. Quick ! Run round to the Bridies 
and telephone. Call the police and its keeper. I'll come 
with you. What a horrid great ugly brute ! " For a 
moment she hesitated to convince herself that he was 
wedged. She snatched an umbrella from the hall-stand. 
She was outraged she would defend her home. She had 
half-turned towards the back door when the kindly voice 
of the elephant again declared : " I'm your Uncle Arhur." 

Mrs. Albion stopped. It was all very well for Lily, who 
was an imaginative child, to see elephants and hear them 
talk, but she was proud of the fact that she herself was 
practical. She had never heard elephants talk. She dis- 
believed them. There was no doubt, however, that an 
elephant was wedged in her front door. 

" I'm your Uncle Arthur," he repeated. 

A grey fear then enveloped her. When the Albions feared, 
it was grey and bleak in the house, just like a November fog 
outside in the streets. The sitting-room sweated an emulsion 
of mistrust from its scrolled, crenellated and patterned 
contents. The hall-stand wilted in abject submission ; the 
stairs looked weak and rickety at the first fearful thought. 
Then Mrs. Albion, in a grey voice, addressed the elephant. 

" Will you repeat that, please ? " she said through 
clenched teeth. She was desperate. One thought had taken 
the place of all others. It was a legend in the family that 
Uncle Arthur whose uncle he was had never been clear 



3 oo- UNDER THIRTY 

had been sent to prison for a long term, convicted of an 
unmentionable crime. That thought alone induced Mrs. 
Albion to address the elephant. 

" He's said it twice, Mother," cried Lily ; " and he must 
be terribly uncomfortable. ..." 

" Quiet, Lily ! I wish him to repeat that remark." 

The elephant eased his position. He regretted his haste 
in accepting Lily's invitation to come in. " I'm your Uncle 
Arthur," he repeated with some lack of enthusiasm. But 
Lily clapped her hands and danced round in front of him. 

" I'm Lily ! " she cried. " Little Lily ! " Her voice 
rang out bravely against the grey pallor of the lincrusta in 
the hall. The bead curtains danced with her. 

" But this is absurd. What will the neighbours think ? 
Stop dancing, Lily ! Go and play quietly out at the back." 
Mrs. Albion slammed the umbrella into the wickerwork 
stand. Her worst fears were realized, though she was 
satisfied now that she was in no danger of physical attack. 
" And, Lily ! Not a word of this, mind. If the Bridie kids 
are nosey, you had better ignore them. Now, out you go, and 
let me think in peace." 

" Good-bye, Uncle Arthur ! " She ran out into the cold 
afternoon sunshine. How rude Mother had been. Uncle 
Arthur was standing there so meekly. Probably he was most 
uncomfortable too. The least one could have done would 
have been to offer him a bun. Lily was a kind, sweet- 
tempered child in spite of Mrs. Albion's vigilance. It took 
more than a church-going mother and her rigid interpreta- 
tions of truth to discover, much less disturb, the child's 
convictions. Lily had always believed that an amazing event 
would happen one wet afternoon. Hundreds of times she 
had imagined visitors such as Uncle Arthur appearing at 
the front door. Now it happened, quite suddenly. A new 
truth had been added to life. While Mother was trying to 
fit the visitor into the anxious interior of ' The Croft,' she 
would run out of the ' Tradesmen Only ' and buy him a bun 
or two, for there was twopence in her savings-box. She 
was not afraid of Uncle Arthur being sent away, because 
there had been undeniable anxiety in her mother's voice. 



THE ALBIONS' SECRET 301 

It meant that the front door must be shut at once, before 
the Starks, from opposite, saw in. Besides, Uncle Arthur 
was wedged more in than out. It would be a job to get him 
out again. So Lily skipped off through the ' Tradesmen 
Only * and ran into the baker's shop, ignoring the Bridie 
children who called after her at the corner. 

Mrs. Albion stood alone with the elephant in the frightened 
house. She was trying to calculate. 

It was more difficult than calculating the hire-purchase 
terms of a mahogany radiogram (like the Bridies, only 
better) ; more difficult than finding the money for the 
motor-car insurance (the Starks had only a three-wheeler) ; 
more difficult than what to wear at the Garden Fete ; and 
more difficult, even, than entertaining George's important 
client to tea on a Sunday. Mrs. Albion was trying to 
calculate the exact dimensions of the rumour she remem- 
bered hearing in family circles concerning Uncle Arthur 
and his unmentionable crime. It had not been mentioned 
for ten years. George had always declared, looking down 
his nose, that there were ugly things in many families which 
need never come to light if they were never mentioned in 
any circumstances. One must never take a risk with a 
thing like that, he had said. It led to loss of prestige, good- 
will, and inevitably clientele. And then, of course, there 
were the neighbours. Look at Mrs. Carver, when her 
sister was divorced. She was hardly able to go out of the 
house : and everyone sent her anonymous letters. Mrs. 
Albion turned over in her grey-curtained mind the words : 
' I'm your Uncle Arthur.' There was something sinister, 
something irrevocably destructive, about them. From an 
elephant, too. 

She was now satisfied that the patient beast who had 
stood in front of her had said these words, and might say them 
again. She had heard, too, of elephants trumpeting, 
particularly when cornered. There was no time to be lost. 
The Bridies, the Starks, or (Heaven forbid !) one of the snooty 
Miss Carvers, might at any moment pass, and, looking 
through the laurels, see the elephant. Worse still, they 
might hear him repeat his declaration. 



302 UNDER THIRTY 

" Come in," she said, " if you must. I'll put you into the 
conservatory till George comes home from work." 

Wherever he had come from, Uncle Arthur could never 
have encoutered a less gracious invitation. The front door 
was pressed right back on its hinges as he strained to squeeze 
his hindquarters through. Mrs. Albion, her hands clumsy 
with fear and disgust, fretted with the bead curtains, and 
opened invitingly wide the double doors leading to the 
conservatory. It was fortunate that for privacy George had 
whitewashed the conservatory glass. The neighbours had 
seemed to live at one time upon the door-step of the sitting- 
room which could be seen through the glass. George had 
determined that there were limits to neighbourliness : 
there was a point when you must keep yourself to yourself. 
That determination, Mrs. Albion reflected, had arisen at 
the time he had become junior churchwarden. Now the 
whitened panes were to succour them in a situation which 
might imperil the very foundations of life at ' The Croft.' 
It showed, in a way, how guidance, and a little common 
sense, sometimes followed services unstintingly given, 
services which, at the time of their being offered to George, 
were considered to be of questionable value, as the Carvers 
were the only people in the road who went to church, and 
they alone were to witness the dignity of his duties. 

Mrs. Albion sighed. There were no plants in the con- 
servatory ; nothing but a few gardening tools and Lily's 
pram. She quickly moved these to one side. The elephant 
was still straining at the front door. Every moment jeopar- 
dized her position. The latter end of that elephant writhing 
in her front door, were any of the neighbours or the trades- 
men to catch sight of it, would give rise to endless rumour 
and speculation. Sooner or later Uncle Arthur's name would 
be mentioned. No. Emergency action was necessary. Her 
own hat hung upon the kitchen door. In another moment 
she had withdrawn one of its pins and was out through the 
* Tradesmen Only.' There she met Lily carrying her little 
bag of buns. 

" Oh, Mother, what are you going to do ? " cried Lily, 
waving her bag. " Oh, Mother, I am excited ! " 



THE ALBIONS' SECRET 303 

Sh-sh ! Remember what I told you about keeping to 
yourself. You'd better stay quietly in the kitchen till I 
call you." 

" But you're not going to hurt Uncle Arthur with that 
pin ? ' 

" Be quiet and mind your own business ! " Mrs. Albion's 
voice swept through the shrubberies like the grey wind. 

" Shan't ! " cried Lily defiantly. The shrubberies were 
lit with tinsel, like Christmas-trees. The ' Tradesmen Only ' 
swung musically upon its hinges, twinkling with iridescent 
red like a huge garnet brooch. Uncle Arthur was just 
round the corner ! 

" What, Lily ! " Mrs. Albion, half stifled by the heavy 
air of the frightened shrubberies, was suddenly at a loss for 
words. She turned quickly and ran to the front door, from 
which the straining bulk of the elephant's haunches still 
protruded. All was lost if anyone should see her now, or 
overhear the cries of Lily. She staked her all on the 
efficacy of the hat-pin which she jabbed into a soft part of 
the great mammal which was inflicting such terror upon 
her home. 

Immediately there was a roar, and the next moment the 
elephant was inside the house. With the voice of a church 
organ he emitted peal upon peal of sound. 

" I'm your Uncle Arthur Ouh ! " he trumpeted. " I'm 
your Uncle Arthur Ouh ! " Mrs. Albion slammed the 
door after him. He went through the hall into the con- 
servatory. But he continued to cry out. The neighbours 
could hardly fail to hear those cries from the conservatory. 
The elephant sat down on the place where she had jabbed 
him. 

" Can't you be quiet now ? " shouted Mrs. Albion. 

The trumpetings continued. 

What have we done, thought Mrs. Albion, that we should 
have been visited in this way. She thought of a dozen mean 
things she had done during the last few weeks. Not one of 
them seemed to justify the visitation of an elephant. 

The trumpeting filled the house. The glass of the con- 
servatory' rattled. Lily came running in from the kitchen. 



304 UNDER THIRTY 

Mrs. Albion made as if to slap her daughter for disobedience, 
for spending her pocket-money, and because she was afraid 
to slap the elephant. But Lily was too quick for her. 

" Poor Uncle Arthur," she cried, going into the conserva- 
tory. " But look what I've brought you. Buns ! " 

The trumpeting ceased. 

With a benign expression, Uncle Arthur reached out his 
trunk and took the buns. He was satisfied : he liked buns. 
" Run round to the baker's and get half a dozen more, 
Lily. No, get seven for sixpence." Mrs. Albion could not 
conceal her relief. Seven buns, though extravagant, was 
not an impossible price to pay for security, till George came 
home from work. " And if you meet anybody, and they 
ask you what the noise was, say it was the wireless." 

" Don't go and hurt him again while I'm gone, Mother. 
It's going to be such fun having him." The colours and 
shapes of a tropical jungle danced in profusion around her as 
she passed up the few yards of drive to the front gate. The 
late afternoon light which laved the tidy avenue in pungent 
ordinariness, swirled about her in magical effulgence. 
Something had happened. The avenue, the drive, the 
front door, the wicker hat-stand, and, most of all, the white- 
washed conservatory would never be the same again. An 
elephant had come. 

" Lily, dear ! " Mrs. Bridie leant over her gate. " Are 
you all right at home ? We thought we heard such a 
funny sound just now. I was just going to send to see. . . ." 

" Mother says it's our wireless." Nobody could tell an 
untruth and be aware of the glory of the afternoon. 

" Oh, a NEW wireless ? " Mrs. Bridie felt that she had not 
been kept abreast of local affairs. Lily skipped on towards 
the baker's. Uncle Arthur will have had nine buns, she 
thought : how satisfied he will feel ! 

But all was not well at ' The Croft.' 

George Albion, on his return from business, had not 
expected to find his wife conversing with an elephant. 

" You had no business to come here," she was saying. 
" I don't care whether you starve or what happens. I am 
not going to be made the talk and, of course, the laughing- 



THE ALBIONS' SECRET 305 

stock, of the whole avenue. . . ." George stood still. It 
was not an elephant : it couldn't be. 

" What ARE you talking about ? " he asked, ignoring the 
elephant altogether. 

" Can't you see, George ? " snapped Mrs. Albion. 

" Yes," he said, relieved that she saw it too. " An 
elephant." 

" I should think it is an elephant." 

"'But what made you get it?" George Albion was 
losing his self-control. All things considered, his business 
reputation, his authority, his office in the church. . . . 

" It came. It walked in." Hysterically she turned again 
to address the elephant. " I don't care whether you say 
you're Uncle Arthur or not. ..." 

" I am your Uncle Arthur," said the elephant. 

Mrs. Albion faced her husband as she would have faced 
death. There was no pride or arrogance or even cunning 
left in her demeanour. She looked sallow, rutted with 
anxiety : and all the Albions' fears emerged from their 
hiding-places behind the bead curtains. 

" Does anyone know ? " said Albion at last. 

" Only Lily." 

; ' Where is she ? " 

" Buying buns." 

Mr. Albion glared. Buns on Sundays, yes but on week- 
days it was just the kind of extravagance he was determined 
to put down. His small anger vented his huge quaking fear. 
" Why buns ? " he roared. 

" For the elephant." 

Mrs. Albion's words laid him like ashes. Nobody spoke 
till Lily returned. Nobody answered when she asked if 
she should give Uncle Arthur the buns. They watched her 
feed sixpennyworth of buns to the elephant. Then George 
announced that he would speak to the elephant alone. 
The legend about Uncle Arthur's crime had been unmen- 
tionable. 

When they had gone, he lit the gas and questioned the 
elephant for an hour. He asked every question that a 
careful business man could ask an elephant. There was no 



306 UNDER THIRTY 

reply at all. Then, looking closely at his visitor, he noticed 
that the small eyes were closed. The elephant was asleep. 

That night, the Albions came to the most critical decision 
of their lives : they decided to keep Uncle Arthur concealed 
in the conservatory. It was the only safe course. With 
constant attention and vigilance they would be able to 
protect themselves from a danger which both agreed would 
destroy those virtues more precious than life itself, the respect 
of their neighbours, financial stability, and the support of the 
church. In the course of time the elephant might be induced 
to explain himself. 

" Shall I buy some more buns for Uncle Arthur ? " said 
Lily at breakfast. 

' Yes, dear. Run and get seven more." 

With the sixpence warm in her hand, Lily ran out into the 
bright new morning. 

:< What, more buns ? " said the baker's wife. " You are 
a hungry girl, Lily." 

" We shall need plenty of buns just now," replied Lily, 
with joy in her voice which the baker's wife failed to 
understand. 

Plenty of buns were needed at ' The Croft.' 

During the next fortnight they tried every form of food, 
from dog-biscuits to rice-pudding. Uncle Arthur disliked 
them all. With anything but buns he grew restless, muttering 
to himself, and threatening to trumpet as he had done 
when Mrs. Albion jabbed him. He needed plenty of buns. 
It varied from three to four dozen. It was no good running 
and buying them by the bag. They were sent round by 
special delivery. 

" And the more buns they has," said the baker's wife to 
Mrs. Bridie, " the thinner they gets. Like a pair of shadows, 
though Lily don't seem to suffer. . . ." 

Mrs. Bridie nodded. " I shouldn't wonder," she said, " if 
there's not something going on. Just what it is, I can't get 
at. . . ." 

Everybody suspected something, but nobody suspected 
that the Albions were keeping an elephant. 

Uncle Arthur said very little for three weeks, but he 



THE ALBIONS' SECRET 307 

seemed to think his own thoughts, not snatchily as Lily had 
seen her mother think about possessions, but rhythmically, 
like rain on wet afternoons. He was a pleasure to watch. 

George Albion took to sitting by the conservatory door in 
the evenings, at first in order to carry on interrogation, but 
later because he, too, found pleasure in watching Uncle 
Arthur think. Sometimes he caught himself thinking him- 
self : and one evening he read a book to Lily and the 
elephant. 

Mrs. Albion did not join them until a week or so later, 
when the intensity of local gossip drove her out of the 
sitting-room. They gave up lighting the gas there because 
friends were always calling on some pretext or other and 
mentioning casually the subject of buns. 

Three to four dozen buns a day for three people. 

Every other evening one of the Miss Carvers would call to 
see if her cat had strayed. Young Stark would pop in 
to borrow insulating tape. The Bridies any pretext was 
enough for them. 

Mrs. Albion became much kindlier when she met them all 
in the street, however : and everyone agreed that Lily was 
radiant. Lily had lost her spots, and that couldn't be buns. 

Mrs. Albion found that sitting with Uncle Arthur calmed 
her. Sometimes she held Lily's hand, and sometimes when 
they were all sitting round together she sang rather senti- 
mental songs. The bead curtains clicked merrily and 
Uncle Arthur's eyes twinkled. Except for the expense of 
buying buns, fears and anxieties vanished from the Albions' 
home. They had sold the car and sold the wireless set, and 
were wondering what to give Uncle Arthur for Christmas, 
when they realized that they had very little money left. 

" Though we shall always be quite happy on what I 
earn," beamed George Albion. 

" I think it's time Uncle Arthur worked for his living, too," 
said Lily. " I'll tell him there's no more buns, and see what 
he does." 

" He's a lazy old thing, bless him," sighed Mrs. Albion. 
" It's a pity he costs us so much in buns ; but then, I must 
say I don't grudge it," 



3o8 UNDER THIRTY 

That night Lily told the elephant that there were no more 
buns, when she went to kiss him good night. They all 
laughed when she said it. They wondered if it would make 
him think of something new to say. But he thought 
ponderously that evening and went to sleep early. 

In the morning he had gone. 

" How he went through that door beats me ! " muttered 
Albion. 

" We shall have to tell the baker not to send the buns," 
sighed Mrs. Albion. 

Lily cried a little at first. But the world had not changed : 
it was still full of surprise. Something had happened. They 
bought her a small grey toy elephant for Christmas. But 
her father and mother laughed more often now, and they 
all agreed that it was not a good substitute for Uncle Arthur, 
so they burnt it. 

In the avenue and round the corner, the inhabitants dis- 
cussed the Albions' order for buns, whenever more than one 
of them was gathered together. Its sudden cessation did 
nothing to diminish speculation. It gave the story a finality 
which added to its relish. They discuss it still : and if the 
Albions overhear them, they just laugh. 



IVAN ROE 
* 

My Husband is 111 



I WAS born in London, and got into the habit of reading the 
Daily Express when aged four. I took a newspaper with me 
to the first private school I went to, but was so unpopular 
that I gave up newspapers for a long time afterwards. 

I had a conventional education in roughly twenty 
schools in different parts of England. I won a scholarship 
to a secondary school in Smethwick by accident, arriving 
late for the entrance examination. I completed my formal 
education at the age of fifteen by going to a girl's school. 

I wrote a string quartet and wanted to become a pro- 
fessional musician. I was teaching myself counterpoint 
when I was told to find work. When invited to present myself 
for an interview at the office of a firm of bedstead makers 
I burned their letter and said I had not received it. 

I received five shillings a week for learning to be a news- 
paper reporter. No sooner had I become fairly competent 
than circumstances (notably walking home in the rain at 
midnight six times a week) combined to undermine my 
health. I needed a holiday. I * married ' two people in 
a newspaper a fortnight before their time and was * sus- 
pended,' thereby earning a month's leisure in which I 
wrote a 150,000 word novel. 

I reported no more after that, but became a feature-writer. 
I wrote under about fourteen pen-names and sometimes pro- 
duced a million words a year. I live in Edgbaston (which is a 
bad imitation of Kensington or Hampstead) . I play the gramo- 
phone, collect material for several books, invent an instru- 
ment called the Glute, and like to drink beer when talking. 
I also like to sleep when it is possible. 

IVAN ROE. 



MY HUSBAND IS ILL 

HE began to sweat as he was walking one day along the 
hot pavement of the road in which he lived. Great 
beads of moisture formed on every part of his body, though 
it was late evening ; he was returning from his mistress. 
In a very few moments his clothes were sodden. Several 
times he raised a wet handkerchief to his head to wipe the 
blinding moisture from his eyes. He secretly cursed his 
flesh and toyed with the idea of becoming a skeleton, of 
feeling the air flowing through between the bones. . . . He 
looked blinded, pathetic, worried. 

He turned carefully and with relief into his garden and 
traversed the stone path which led to the door. There, as 
he fumbled in damp pockets for a key, a great quantity of 
sweat broke out over his eyes and rolled, warmly, down his 
trembling cheeks. He brought out with his key a handker- 
chief rolled into a ball and angrily mopped his face. Embar- 
rassed by the heat which made a cauldron of his head and 
by the shining of the sun in his eyes (it lay low in the west 
and shone along several hundred yards of white concrete, 
for the road was monotonously straight), he stuffed the 
handkerchief into the breast-pocket on his left-hand side. 

In the darkness of the house he had hoped to find coolness. 
But he encountered nothing but a sultry and oppressive 
warmth. He hung up his hat and passed through the 
house to the dining-room. His wife was sitting there : a 
woman of fifty, she was cool and quite still, seated at a 
window and yet seeming to be hidden in shadow. On the 
table lay a large bowl of green salad, untouched. He sat 
down without a word, reached for the bowl, and began to 
eat with his fingers at a desperate pace. As he did so a 
thousand thoughts passed across his mind. What had 

312 



MY HUSBAND IS ILL 313 

caused the remarkable heat of the sun at this hour ? Why 
did his wife remain silent ? Why as if made of wax in the 
window, quite cold ? Why was not she hot too ? And why 
his hunger, in spite of the heat ? In vain he attempted to 
get cool. And now he perceived that the moisture upon his 
face came not only from the pores of his skin but from his 
eyes. Salt tears of vexation and discomfort seemed to issue 
from every part of his body as he wept. 

Finally he gave up his attempt to eat and pushed aside 
the dish. He rose, snivelling, drawing his hands over his 
eyes with a curious motion, as though he were blind. In 
truth he could hardly make out the outline of his wife ; 
and the rest of the room was dissolved in the moisture which 
flowed from him. An exact knowledge of the house guided 
him. Every step seemed to be known a thousand times over. 
Without mishap he walked from the dining-room to the top 
of the stairs. There, for a moment, he looked about him. 
A woman's leg disappeared inside a bedroom door. He 
turned with a start. How could his wife have reached the 
top before him ? For a moment he toyed with the dangerous 
and thrilling thought that it was not his wife, but his mistress. 
. . . But surely it was a maid. Why, however, was not his 
wife there to help him in his distress ? Surely it was not his 
mistress who had come to his aid ; no, it was not his wife 
who had deserted him ? He entered the bathroom and 
turned on the cold tap over the water basin. Meanwhile 
the sweat flowed even more profusely. He made no attempt 
to undress, no attempt even to take off his coat. He thought, 
merely, of escaping the moisture. With shaking fingers he 
took the handkerchief from his breast-pocket and, as two 
great globules oozed from beneath each eye, clasped it to 
his face and plunged his head into the water in the filling 
basin. . . . 

There in the water, beneath his fingers, writhing in the 
floating handkerchief, he saw two worms six inches long, 
yellow, translucent, active. In the folds of the handkerchief 
stirred a third. 

Quite quickly the fear and horror which at first assailed 
him changed to cunning. He fingered his cheeks, now dry, 



314 UNDER THIRTY 

to find the pockmarks which indicated where the worms had 
made their escape. Quite quickly also, he realized that 
when he stood on the door-step, wiping the moisture from his 
eyes, he had been aware of the third worm, but had negli- 
gently, as it were absent-mindedly, placed the handkerchief 
in his pocket. Surely he had been aware of the worms 
beneath his face for some time ? Surely he had known that 
between skull and face the worms were at work ? But what 
if, multiplying or growing bold, more worms worked their 
way out from his skull ? What if his features became a 
Gorgon's head, what if concealment ceased to be possible ? 
Supposing one day he were in a roomful of people, when 
the worms emerged : they would turn from him with 
fear and loathing, afraid of the beastly change, and confine 
him, perhaps, in some hospital for diseases of the skin. 

The worm which had come from him while he stood on the 
door-step was crushed. He wrapped the three, still moving, 
in the handkerchief. He wiped his face carefully on a towel, 
making sure that no worms were transferred to that too. He 
went to the garden and buried the worms. 

His main concern during the days which followed was 
to conceal his loathsome disease from his wife. He could 
have borne anyone but her to see his suffering. He inspected 
himself in secret, relieved to find no open pores on his face. 
To make things doubly sure he applied an astringent. He 
did not walk in the heat, and on very hot days shut himself" 
up. As time passed by he became accustomed to the 
feeling that worms lay in the dregs of his cups and glasses, 
in the residue of his soup, underneath the cream on his 
strawberries. But the fear of discovery, especially discovery 
by his wife, was far more crushing than this disgust. Some- 
times he had to meet acquaintances and consort with them 
in warm drawing-rooms. On these occasions he trembled 
and smiled and sat quietly out of the way, striving silently 
to remain cool. He knew that the worms were at work, 
knew, too, that one day they were bound to emerge, leaving 
his skull naked to the air. His shame was not that this 
should happen, but that his associates, and in particular his 
wife, should see the parasites drip from his burning face. 



MY HUSBAND IS ILL 315 

The worms did not break through the mask of his flesh 
again. Long before his death (which was caused by exces- 
sive blood-pressure which led to a fit) he knew that they 
would. For years one could see him in drawing-rooms in 
a boiled shirt ; his face was quite smooth, his skin glowed, 
though soft, his eyes burned with a peculiar brightness, 
and his hands passed innumerable folded, newly laundered 
handkerchiefs across his face with a practised and cunning 
motion. 



PHILIP SCOTT 

* 

Mr. Mellows's Romance 



DESPITE the precedent of three generations in the Medical 
Profession, on leaving Marlborough College at the age of 
eighteen, Philip Scott went North for the first time in his life, 
where, having never previously seen so much as the outside 
of an engineering works, he became an apprentice to Vickers- 
Armstrongs. Here he gained unusually valuable informa- 
tion about the manufacture of naval guns by filing the 
rough edges off bolts at the rate of six per minute for forty- 
seven hours each week for nearly eight months. He there- 
upon complained vigorously about the distressingly vis-a- 
vis sanitary accommodation, turned Pacifist, and fell in 
love. 

The romance eventually ended in a desire to paint, 
coupled with mild exhibitionism and all the other usual 
symptoms of youthful desire frustrated, such as a loud taste 
in clothes and insipid Socialism. 

At the termination of his five years' apprenticeship, 
knowing a lot of dirty stories and a little engineering, and 
filled with visions of selling stainless-steel Blackpool Towers 
to rajahs, the now fledged engineer was sent to the London 
office for an estimated three months prior to his becoming 
Our Indian Representative. 

Every three months for over two years he was told that 
he would certainly sail within the next three months. 
Finally he did sail ; but by that time he had been so 
demoralized by waiting about with little or nothing to do 
that he had taken to literature. 

India turned out to be fifteen hundred miles of railway 
line per week, bad tempers, heat, food-poisoning, and 
malaria. Two years saw him on his way home again. 

He returned to England via China, Japan, Honolulu, 
San Francisco, and New York, to take a cottage in a 

319 



320 UNDER THIRTY 

Dorset wood, grow a beard, and write a life of 
Buddha. . . . 

Philip Scott is now an engineer again, with a naked chin, 
electric light, a wife, and adequate sanitary arrangements. 

PHILIP BODLEY SCOTT. 



MR. MELLOWS'S ROMANCE 

MR. SIMON MELLOWS hurried down the office steps. 
He was late. As he arrived in the street he pulled 
out his big silver watch and consulted it again. Ten 
minutes past six ! Late, but perhaps not too late ! He 
slipped the watch back into its chamois-leather case and 
replaced it in his waistcoat pocket, and buttoning his dark 
blue jacket and his black overcoat as he went, pattered 
along St. Anne's Gate and across Birdcage Walk into St. 
James's Park. He wished, fervently, that his legs were not 
so short. It would be too undignified to run, and this rapid 
walking made him very hot. 

" Most unseasonable weather ! " he muttered as he crossed 
the foot-bridge towards St. James's Palace, reflecting that 
an overcoat was an uncomfortable burden on such an 
evening. But it was only April, and Mr. Mellows always 
wore his overcoat until the end of May. 

Impatiently, he waited for the traffic to clear so that he 
could cross the Mall, wiping, as he stood upon the curb, the 
mist of perspiration from his pince-nez with a clean, cambric 
handkerchief which knew no other duty. Once more he 
was off. He unbuttoned his overcoat, then his jacket, and 
pulled out his watch again. " Oh, dear, oh, dear ! I shall 
miss her. I know I shall." But he hurried on, breaking into 
a run for a few paces, then back to a rapid walk again, 
looking about as though fearful lest someone should have 
noticed his unseemly haste. 

At the bottom of St. James's Street he stopped and peered 
up the hill ahead of him. " Not there ! " He turned and 
looked along Pall Mall. " Ah ! " He waited, his heart 
pounding wildly in his sunken chest, while a slim figure in 
a smart red hat and a well-cut grey coat with broad, military 

321 



322 UNDER THIRTY 

lapels, sauntered along the pavement in his direction and 
turned up into St. James's Street. After all, he was in time. 
A sigh of relief escaped from between his thin, half-parted 
lips, and at a more leisurely pace he set off up the street, 
keeping at a respectful distance behind the girl. 

They had not gone above a hundred yards, however, 
when the girl stopped, suddenly, and stamped with her foot 
as if angered by some passing thought. Mr. Mellows stopped 
too, turned, and with apparent absorption, gazed at the 
array of ancient and battered hats which decorated the shop 
window opposite which he happened to be standing. Out 
of the corner of his eye, dimly, for he dared not look round 
so that he could see through his glasses, he watched the girl 
turn and walk towards him. Nervously, he took out a hand- 
kerchief, a common, cotton one, and blew his nose. His thin 
knees shook. 

But the girl did not seem to notice the insignificant little 
clerk. There was a frown upon her usually so smooth white 
brow, and the corners of her little, cherry-tinted mouth 
drooped petulantly. Mr. Mellows watched her reflection 
pass his in the plate-glass window of the shop, waited a few 
seconds, then turned and followed her down St. James's 
Street and along Pall Mall. Was she going back to that dull, 
grey building in Whitehall ? He wondered. He guessed 
that she was, and smiled to himself and nodded his 
head, which was nearly bald beneath its well-brushed 
bowler hat, when he saw her turn down the steps 
at Waterloo Place. He followed her into the Mall, through 
the Admiralty Arch and round into Whitehall, crossing on 
to the other pavement when she drew near to the door-way 
which, for several months, he had known to be that of the 
office in which she worked. 

He saw her go in, then walked a little way along the street, 
hoping that she would not be many minutes. Mrs. Drenning 
liked him to be punctual for his supper and she was a good 
landlady. His thoughts strayed back to the girl in the red 
hat Miss Rosemary Fitzgerald, he called her. . . . 

Suddenly he was aware that she had come out into the 
street again, and under her arm was a neat brown paper 



MR. MELLOWS'S ROMANCE 323 

parcel. * It might be a pair of shoes,' Mr. Mellows 
reflected, * Or it might be ... But, no ! . . .' Angrily 
he checked the too-intimate trend of his impassioned 
thoughts and set off in pursuit once more. Back into Pall 
Mall they went, up St. James's Street, and into the bustling 
stream of Piccadilly. She crossed over, utterly calm and 
unperturbed by the traffic, concerning which her pursuer 
was so anxious on her behalf. He stood on the pavement in 
an agony of suspense until she was safely over and had turned 
up into Dover Street. Mr. Mellows sighed. All was well 
now, but he crossed the road after her. One never knows. 
... In Dover Street, in Berkeley Square even, or in 
Mount Street itself. . . . Anything might happen. 

Mr. Mellows followed the girl, watching her every move- 
ment until she was lost to sight behind the big, green front 
door in Mount Street. 

" Good night, Rosemary," he whispered to the empty 
street before he set off for his lodgings in the Pimlico Road. 

Mr. Mellows let himself in with the latch-key which he 
kept with his others in a small, leather wallet. The wallet 
contained four hooks, so there were four keys : the latch- 
key, the key of his desk at the office, and the key of his suit- 
case (which was only used for an annual holiday to Brigh- 
ton) : on the fourth hook was the key of his mother's sewing- 
machine. She had been dead for many years, but Mr. 
Mellows liked to have a keepsake always by him. He went 
up to his dingy sitting-room and found Mrs. Drenning laying 
the table for his supper. 

" I'm sorry if I'm a trifle late," he told her, " but Miss 
Fitzgerald kept me. After we had met in St. James's Street, 
she suddenly remembered that she had left some very 
important papers at the office, so, of course, we had to 
return for them." 

" Well, you certainly are gone on that young lady, Mr. 
Mellows. Every night you see her home. It takes me 
back to when my Alfred, as the War took, was courting me." 
A broad, motherly smile lit up her kindly face. " I shall 
be real sorry to lose you when you get married." 

" Ah ! " Mr. Mellows sighed and nodded his head from 



324 UNDER THIRTY 

side to side. " Do you know, Mrs. Drenning, I am beginning 
to wonder if she will ever answer yes." 

" Well, she'll be a fool if not. That I do say. A woman 
couldn't ask for a nicer husband than you'd be. You have 
tidy habits and are a pleasant-spoken gentleman." Mrs. 
Drenning cleared her throat and rearranged the neat [bow 
which decorated her ample bosom. 

" But Miss Fitzgerald is a lady of high birth, Mrs. 
Drenning." 

" She's a secretary. You told me so last week." 

" Ah, yes ! But, you see, she is employed by a very 
influential gentleman, a Cabinet Minister." 

Mr. Mellows sighed again, sat down in an arm-chair 
beside which his slippers were laid ready for him and 
began to unlace his boots. 

" Well, well ! I mustn't stop here gossiping or your 
supper will be burnt to nothing." And Mrs. Drenning 
shook her head sadly at the bowed form of her love-lorn 
lodger, then bustled from the room. 

Mr. Mellows pulled off his boots and thrust his feet into 
his old carpet slippers, fingering them fondly and admiring 
the skill with which Mrs. Drenning's needle had repaired 
the ravages of time. 

Sometimes, when despair ran high, he could not help 
wondering whether Mrs. Drenning would not make a more 
useful wife than the girl he called Miss Rosemary Fitzgerald. 
Rosemary ! It was a charming name, and he had given it 
to her only after many weeks of serious debate, long after 
he had lost all hope of discovering who she really was. He 
lived for her, and after he had gone to bed he would carry on 
little conversations with his pillow, pretending that it was 
she. He would laugh a little shyly as he pulled it to him. 
Then he would pour out his passionate, aching heart to the 
wretched thing, calling it a dozen different pet-names and 
telling it that it did not really love him. " Oh, Rosemary, 
Rosemary," he would cry, burying his thin face in the 
pillow, " what can I do to make you love me ? Ah, if only 
I could tell you how I worship you ! " And then he would 
sob himself to sleep, where, in vague, troubled dreams, 



MR. MELLOWS'S ROMANCE 325 

Rosemary would come to him and give him something of the 
love he craved. 

Night after night, some such pathetic scene would be 
enacted in that little bedroom over the Pimlico Road, and 
each evening at six o'clock Mr. Mellows would hurry across 
the Park to see that his beloved got safely home. 

He had seen her, quite by chance, when, instead of going 
straight home from the office as had been his custom, he 
had walked over towards Piccadilly to see if he could find 
some early daffodils as a surprise birthday present for Mrs. 
Drenning, for he knew that they were her favourite flowers 
and suspected that she would not consider his advances to 
be misplaced. In St. James's Street, however, he had 
chanced to pick up a girl's bag and return it to the owner : 
she had smiled and thanked him : the flowers were forgotten 
and his advances to Mrs. Drenning were left unspoken. 
The bag had belonged to the girl he now called Miss 
Rosemary Fitzgerald. 

The sad days had become weeks, the weeks months, and 
the months numbered close upon a year, when, one Sunday 
morning, the weather being fine and pleasant, the discon- 
solate Mr. Mellows set out across Belgravia to take a con- 
stitutional in Hyde Park. His once so sprightly gait was 
slow and halting : his little bald head was bowed in melan- 
choly thought. He hesitated for a moment to look at the 
horses in Rotten Row, but soon walked on, for they did not 
really interest him, and passing close by the foot of the 
Achilles Statue, he made his way along the path which 
leads thence to the Serpentine. 

Beside the lake, the little man sat down on a seat and 
watched an Airedale swim out to fetch the stick which a 
youth had thrown for it, then his eyes closed : he was 
worn out by sleepless nights of misery. 

" Peter, Peter, come back ! " Something vaguely familiar 
in the voice awakened Mr. Mellows. He looked up and saw 
that a small, white Sealyham was following in the Airedale's 
wake. He looked round for its owner. Rosemary Fitzgerald 
was standing within a few yards of him, and it was her 
voice that he had heard. 



326 UNDER THIRTY 

His chance had come. Solemnly he took off his bowler 
hat, put it carefully on the seat and walked into the water to 
retrieve the truant sealyham. The dog was no swimmer, 
and he caught it without difficulty. Holding it at arm's 
length, its legs still paddling frantically, he waded back to 
land and laid the offender at its mistress' feet. She was 
convulsed with laughter. 

" I'm terribly sorry," she exclaimed when she was some- 
what recovered. " It was awfully rude of me to laugh like 
that, but you really did look so funny and serious." She 
opened her bag and fumbled in its mysterious depths. 
" Please accept this in token of my gratitude. I really am 
very, very grateful." And she pressed a ten-shilling note 
into Mr. Mellows's hand. 

Mr. Mellows picked up his bowler hat and set off for the 
Pimlico Road, his sodden trousers clinging about his ankles. 
At Hyde Park Corner a man was selling flowers. He had 
no daffodils, but there were masses of red roses on the barrow. 
Mr. Mellows bought two large bunches of them and 
continued on his way. 



ANTHONY HECKSTALL SMITH 

* 

A Saucer of Milk 



SELF-EDUCATED by reading during school-hours at Malvern 
College and, later, while in Fleet Street. 

Editorial staff of The Field, under the late Sir Theodore 
Cook. Edited The Tackling World. 

A recognized authority on yachting and ski-ing. Writes 
fact and fiction for many papers and journals in Great 
Britain and the U.S.A. 

ANTHONY HECKSTALL SMITH. 



329 



A SAUCER OF MILK 

MRS. AGATHA CARTWRIGHT 'Aggy ' to her friends 
lunched every day at the Ritz, the Embassy Club, 
the Berkeley, Claridge's, or Prunier's, because she had to. 

If she did not lunch with her friends, which was seldom, 
she rather reluctantly paid for herself. On such occasions 
she ate sparingly, and told everyone who passed her table 
that it was her day for banting. But, in company or alone, 
Agatha Cartwright never failed to appear at one or another 
of these restaurants, between the hours of one-forty-five 
and three. It was her business to do so, for in these places 
she met her friends and enemies, and received orders from 
them to decorate their houses, mews, and flats. 

She had a shop in a Mayfair side street, and at the back 
of the shop was a cubby-hole (originally built for quite a 
different purpose) that served as her office. Sometimes, 
for months on end, Agatha never went inside this 
office, containing only a slightly battered escritoire 
a discovered fake once sold as genuine Louis XV a tele- 
phone, and a chromium plated chair of a design too 
grotesque to be stomached even by her greatest sycophants. 
In reality, her office was any one of the aforementioned 
eating-places, just as her shop-window was the house where 
she gave intimate little dinner and bridge parties, carefully 
mixing together the right and the wrong people, so long 
as the latter had money. It was said, rather maliciously, 
that after one of her more successful parties, Agatha sold the 
dining-room table complete with its appointments and the 
entire contents of her bridge-room to an American heiress 
who paid cash before leaving the house. 

There were countless stories of this nature told about 
Agatha Cartwright, some more spiteful than others,^but all 

330 



A SAUCER OF MILK 331 

of them spiteful because, being a success, she had many 
enemies who were charming to her and a few friends who 
told her the truth. 

Algy Cartwright had long since given up the struggle of 
trying to live with his wife. He had borne with her patiently 
for twenty years. Then, as is told in one of the countless 
stories, he came home one night from his club to find that 
his bedroom furniture had been sold, and the sight of his 
most secret possessions heaped upon the carpetless floor so 
distressed him that he left next morning for the south of 
France, where he took to painting in water-colours, and 
strange, unmentionable vices. Agatha never troubled to 
divorce him. She had grown so accustomed to parting with 
her personal belongings at a moment's notice that, some 
said, she never missed him at all. She even sold some of his 
exceedingly inferior and highly colourful paintings to her 
clients, generously sending him the money, less twenty per 
cent, commission on the sale. 

This buying and selling of furniture, however lucrative, 
was only a sideline to Agatha's more serious business of 
interior decoration. By the destruction of other people's 
houses she made quite a substantial income. By con- 
vincing her clients that a fire-place constructed entirely of 
broken bottles was infinitely more charming than one 
designed by Adam, or replacing their fine oak panelling 
with railway company's discarded posters, she managed to 
live comfortably in her little house off Knightsbridge, 
patronize an expensive dressmaker and go for a month's 
holiday every year, staying in the houses she had decorated. 

Originality was the keynote of her success. But she had, 
too, an inventive brain and an eye for free publicity. 

She kept open house to all gossip writers. There was no 
atrocity she would not commit in the name of art. Year 
after year, with studied cunning, she launched some new 
frightfulness upon the world of interior decorating. It was 
she who had been responsible for introducing varnished 
newspapers as curtains. The craze spread like the Fire of 
London. But the simile is too near to reality. For when 
Lady Entwhistle's house was burnt to the ground entirely 



332 UNDER THIRTY 

because of these newspaper curtains, Agatha's business was 
in jeopardy. 

Lady Entwhistle had gone to law with her insurance 
company, and had lost her case and her claim for several 
thousands, solely on account of those curtains. Agatha only 
saved her face and her fortune by springing multi-coloured 
asbestos furniture and metal wall-paper upon an astonished 
world the following autumn. 

But that all happened many years ago. Now, at forty-nine, 
Agatha Cartwright was established. Her clients were 
drawn from an exclusive circle and, under her tuition, they 
found it impossible to live with the same furniture, colour- 
schemes, and house-fittings for more than a year at a stretch. 
They paid, and paid handsomely, for their eccentricity, 
seeing nothing strange in the fact that for three months in 
every year Agatha's workmen took possession of their homes. 
Nor did they complain when the result of the redecorating 
in no way resembled the original plan, and the bill exceeded 
the estimate by one hundred per cent. 

" Dear Aggy," they said, " is so artistic. What can one 
expect?" 

" Exactly, darling," their friends replied. " No one 
knows what to expect from Aggy, the lamb. That's why 
she's so thrilling." 

It was all very profitable and simple for Aggy. So profit- 
able and so simple that the sharp corkscrew nose of Lady 
Honoria Pidworth, raised high, scented both these qualities 
and, as it did so, the first cloud appeared upon the horizon 
of Agatha's contentment. 

Honoria, who had been one of Agatha's closest enemies, 
submitting her house off Park Street to suffer the latter's 
craziest originalities, started her own interior decorating 
business and opened a shop not a stone's throw from 
Agatha's. Honoria, too, took to lunching daily at the same 
restaurants as her rival, to giving intimate little dinner and 
bridge parties, to selling her furniture (furniture, moreover, 
that she had bought from Agatha in the first place), and to 
hurling new frightfulness, even more alarming than 
Agatha's, at her friends. 



A SAUCER OF MILK 333 

Moving as they did in the same circle, the competition 
between the two women became terrific. 

Sometime they met at the same luncheon table, when one 
or another of their friends considered it diverting to bring 
two such hated enemies together for the entertainment of 
the rest of the guests. On such occasions Agatha and 
Honoria always kissed at meeting, and their conversation 
was freely punctuated with extravagant endearments that 
caused their fellow-guests to make odd noises with their soup 
and to do the ' elephant trick ' with their hock. The situation 
was delightfully embarrassing for everyone. 

But the strain of this competition was beginning to tell 
upon Agatha. Her slightly prominent blue eyes, questing 
the room in search of custom, took on a haunted expressioh, 
while the sight of Honoria talking to a rich acquaintance 
immediately affected her digestion, with the result that she 
became the victim of distressingly noisy hiccups. More 
than once these had caused her to depart from a luncheon- 
party with the knowledge that she was leaving behind many 
hundreds of pounds' worth of business. 

Working in underground ways, Agatha had done all in 
her power to frustrate Honoria's success. She had bribed 
away her best workmen, planted spies in her workrooms, and 
once, when she heard that Honoria was about to launch silver 
paper as a medium for mural decoration, nearly ruined herself 
in a frenzied attempt to corner the market in that commodity. 

Honoria, for her part, was not above stooping to particu- 
larly low forms of reprisal. She it was who told the gossip 
writers at a cocktail party that the lamp-shades Agatha was 
making for Lord ' Stuffy ' Paunchington were made of 
a material suited to that nobleman's distinctly lower-school 
wit. Agatha had brought a highly successful action against 
the only gossip-writing peer who had considered himself 
sufficiently well-born to publish this sultry piece of news, 
thus neatly turning the tables on her rival. 

But this guerilla warfare could not continue indefinitely. 
The common friends and enemies of both parties waited 
hopefully for the day when one or the other would step into 
the open and declare her hatred. 



334 UNDER THIRTY 

The climax fell far short of expectations. It came about 
in this wise. 

Agatha was lunching at the Ritz. It was one of her bant- 
ing days. Chewing her green salad, she was thinking out 
a new atrocity when the waiter told her that she was wanted 
on the 'phone. Struggling to swallow the salad, she hastened 
to the box. 

The secretary of the World's Most Glamorous Film Star 
wanted to know if Mrs. Cartwright could come right overr 
to the Sav-oy Hotel to tark overr the doing-overr of an 
apartment furr hur Mistress. 

Leaning against the wall of the box, for her knees no longer 
seemed willing to support her, Agatha said that Mrs. 
Cartwright would be delighted, and left without paying 
for her salad. 

All the way in the taxi she thought of her triumph over 
Honoria. This commission would finally spike the hag's 
guns. Her hand trembled as she lit a cigarette. Never for 
one moment did she doubt that the order was already hers. 
She had tremendous self-confidence. 

At close quarters, the film star was a little disappointing 
to Agatha, who was, secretly, one of her fans. Her hair was 
a most peculiar shade of red that reminded Agatha of the 
red-lead her plumbers used when fitting bathrooms and 
other things. It matched her long, varnished nails, which 
were shamingly dirty. She was still in bed and the heavy 
curtains were drawn against the daylight. The airless, 
centrally heated room smelt strongly of stale brandy. 

Agatha had to pinch herself and recall the stories she 
had read in the Hollywood magazines of the star's even 
more astral salary, of her collection of rubies and emeralds, 
and the crystal bath and lapis swimming-pool in the home 
in the Beverley Hills. Even then she was unable to recapture 
the illusion of the screen. 

To make matters worse, the star was tiresomely business- 
like. She wanted this and she wanted that, and she wanted 
it all in a hurry. She had a gentleman friend arrivin' next 
Tooesday-week on the NarmanddU t and she warnted the 
apartment done overr with somin quite noo by the time 



A SAUCER OF MILK 335 

he stepped arf the shirp at South-hampton. The carst didn't 

mateura gardam, but the goods did, yessir. 

(Agatha found the spate of strange words a little difficult 

to follow, and the fumes of the brandy were combining with 

the central heating to give her a headache.) 
After an exhausting hour she left with the contract in her 

bag, and, exhilarated by the bite of the east wind and her 

victory over Honoria, she walked the whole way back to 

her shop. 
For two days Agatha worked like a beaver, appearing 

only for a few minutes at the Embassy to let it be known 

that she and she alone had been selected to decorate the 

World's Most Glamorous Film Star's apartment. 

She was working against the clock, creating frightfulness 
as never before. Triumph gave her inspiration. She paused 

for neither food nor drink. For the first time in her life she 
realized the necessity of keeping her contract. She worked 
with a method and system that seemed incredible to 
her employees. She dashed in and out of overheated shops 
matching materials, and rushed through draughty ware- 
houses giving fabulous orders. She lived in a sea of satin, 
silk, American cloth, and cellophane, until the 'flu, 
raging in London at the time, possessed her. She continued 
to work until she collapsed, then summoned her doctor. 

It was useless, she bleated, to talk about going to bed. 
Her face was flushed, her blue eyes, more prominent than 
ever, sparkled dangerously. A little delirious, she raved 
about the World's Most Glamorous Film Star, and dollars, 
and baths made of black jet and walls hung with bicycle 
tyres. She must keep going until Tooesday-week. (She 
said ' Tooesday-week,' just like that, and heard nothing 
strange about it.) 

The doctor said that with the aid of a special tonic and a 
sleeping-draught, he might be able to keep her on her feet. 
The tonic must be taken at night. Sleep was very essential. 
Very essential. 

Agatha took the tonic at night, and the sleeping-draught 
four times a day. . . . Sleep was essential. She slept, off 
and on, quite peacefully until Tooesday-week. 



336 UNDER THIRTY 

Lady Honoria Pidworth did over the World's Most 
Glamorous Film Star's apartment. 

Two weeks later an excited world awoke to read in its 
morning papers that ' Mrs. Agatha Cartwright, the famous 
Mayfair interior decorator, has sold her business to Messrs. 
Blank. When interviewed by our reporter in the remarkable 
wattle and mud lounge of her Knightsbridge house, Mrs. 
Cartwright said : "I have worked hard at beautifying the 
homes of others all my life, I now intend to make a home 
beautiful for my husband somewhere in the South, where 
the sun always shines." Pressed to give her views as to the 
future of interior decoration, Mrs. Cartwright was at first 
reluctant to express herself. At length she said, with a sigh : 
' You may say that in my opinion the public's sense of art 
and beauty is being suffocated by the mass of inferior material 
that is being foisted upon it by mountebanks who, without 
art or inspiration, have set themselves up as interior 
decorators. They have prostituted my calling." 

For at least a week Mayfair could talk of little else but the 
sudden retirement of Aggy Cartwright. It was felt that she 
had cheated her friends of the denouement they had hoped 
to see. At the same time the last dig at Honoria was worthy 
of Aggy at her best. But why the flight to the South ? Some- 
thing very odd must have happened to send Aggy rushing to 
the unwelcoming arms of poor old Algy. 

Honoria gave a simply colossal cocktail party to answer 
these questions. The World's Most Glamorous Film Star 
was the guest of honour, but she had a hang-over, and never 
turned up. 



RANDALL SWINGLER 

* 

Mrs. Ponting's Victory 



Primrose Hill Road, 
N.W. 3. 

DEAR MR. HARRISON, 

I'm afraid this account of my life will be very dull. 
I am not a very unusual or exciting person, nor have I had 
a life of spectacular adventure, though it has been exciting 
and funny enough for me. 

I was born in 1909, and brought up in a Midland town. 
During the War it exchanged the manufacture of lace for 
that of munitions and prospered accordingly. I don't 
think I should recognize it now. My childhood was mainly 
taken up with making and acting plays and playing various 
musical instruments. At one time I wanted to be a profes- 
sional flautist. My so-called education continued along the 
same lines, acting, music, and producing scurrilous journals 
in the boot-hole. All efforts to make me into a scholar 
and a gentleman conspicuously failed, through no fault of the 
school. I was at Oxford for a short time, enjoying everything 
that had nothing to do with the University, and very little 
else. After that I was supposed to be ' teaching ' at pre- 
paratory schools for three years. Nobody has ever been able 
to say anything true about English private schools for fear of 
the laws of libel. During that time I published with Methuen 
a book of poems called Difficult Morning. Somebody told me, 
apropos of this, * to give up poetry and take to politics or 
prose.' The latter part of the advice I have since taken 
gladly, but not the former. I have since published quite a 
number of poems in various reviews, and in 1936 a novel, 
No Escape', with Chatto and Windus. Since then I have 
been writing hard. That's about all. What I hate most : 
intellectual snobbery, political hypocrisy, sadism, and 
exploitation. What I like most : people, simple jokes, 
music, etc. etc. 

339 



340 UNDER THIRTY 

On the whole very dull and ordinary, but I believe most 
good writers are quite dull and ordinary people, to anyone 
who is out for sensational details. 

Yours sincerely, 

RANDALL SWINGLER. 



MRS. PONTING'S VICTORY 

MRS. PONTING lived in the house on the corner of 
Alma Crescent. It was curiously conspicuous with 
its clean painted front and the windows bulging out pros- 
perously. Beyond it the rest of the crescent curved round 
like a cliff-face in its unbroken flatness and the scarred 
mouldering frontage of the houses. Mrs. Ponting's was the 
only house which was not a tenement, an outpost of respec- 
tability among the lower orders. Mr. Ponting had bought it 
when it was a bargain, the year before he retired, and after 
his death Mrs. Ponting lived on there in the tall rooms dark- 
ened with much furniture and heavy curtains, and the 
wall-paper with its enormous blotchy flowers. 

Nobody ever came to the house on the corner. Only the 
Vicar of St. Andrew's sometimes had to call and take stately 
tea with Mrs. Ponting, for she was a regular subscriber to 
his church funds. But in her twenty-two years of married 
life Mrs. Ponting had borne no children, and her barrenness 
had gradually shut her away even from that small circle of 
society in which she might have moved and had some 
artificial contact. She lived alone with one maid, in a house 
from which, even if she had any inclination, she would 
hardly have dared to emerge, because of its vulgar 
environment. 

Mrs. Ponting was haunted by the voices of the children 
who played in the alley beside her house. In the winter 
evenings, having nowhere else to go, they would cluster 
around the tiny front garden whose flourishing laurel 
bushes preserved the privacy of Mrs. Ponting's tall- windowed 
front room, and their cries would mix wildly in the brown 
foggy dusk. They would sit huddled below the railings on 
the little ledge of the low wall, like the flocks of sea-birds 



342 UNDER THIRTY 

clustering on the rocks around a desolate coast, chattering 
and clapping their wings, then suddenly flying off in vague 
circles with harsh weird cries, only to return again to the 
same rocks. 

Their noise was torture to Mrs. Ponting. It began at four 
o'clock in the afternoon, when Alice brought in her silver 
tea-pot and the little squares of buttered toast in a silver 
muffin dish, and she laid aside her book, putting her gold- 
rimmed spyglass between the pages to keep her place. Just 
as she began, sitting very straight in her high-backed chair, 
to sip her tea from the pretty cup with the birds painted so 
delicately on it, there was a rush and a shout and a shrill 
laugh and the feet clanging oddly on the flagstones all up 
beside the house. And Mrs. Ponting would put down her 
tea-cup and clasp her hands tightly together in her lap. It 
had begun. For the rest of the evening she would sit 
there, clenching her teeth and rubbing her hands harshly 
together. She could not concentrate on anything. The 
fearful ebullience, the sudden rushes, and the wild cries and 
the laughter, so eerie in the out-of-doors, shocked her and 
unnerved her with a sharp apprehensive pang, as if it were 
an invasion of her very privacy. Sometimes she actually 
found herself shivering with a fear she could not rationalize. 

At last she could not bear it. One evening at six o'clock 
she rang the bell for Alice. 

" Alice," she said, " go and tell those children to get away 
from the garden wall tell them to be quiet. I can hardly 
hear myself think for their noise." 

Alice was a stolid and sullen woman, and she had a tongue 
of leather. The children looked up at her in large-eyed 
bewilderment. They sat there in unnatural silence like a 
row of stupefied young birds. Alice raised her thick arm 
and jerked it outwards. 

" Nah then," she said, " get on with you this isn't 
no place for your screamin' and shoutin' this is a private 
'ouse, this is " 

And the children still gazed up at her with that uncompre- 
hending dazed look, and then suddenly, with one move- 
ment, with a ducking of their bodies, slipped from the ledge 



MRS. FOOTING'S VICTORY 343 

and darted away. When they were well across the road, 
about twenty yards away, they all started yelling at once 
and the noise fell about the house like a shower of stones. 
But they kept their distance for that night at least. 

Only Mrs. Ponting had now brought nemesis on her head. 
This house which had just been a headland under which 
they had been accustomed to perch and try to keep them- 
selves warm on cold evenings, had suddenly sprung to life 
for the children. They turned their attention to it with a 
fresh curiosity. Whenever they passed it now, a sort of awe, 
a sense of adventure, came over them as they looked up to the 
arrogant bulge of the bay windows, with their portly 
curtains standing like flunkeys on either side. They became 
aware of its peculiarity in their neighbourhood. It was 
invested for them with a legendary wonder, a house where 
one woman had seven or eight rooms, and spacious rooms, 
at her sole disposal, while they were living five or six to one 
room. They stood outside more quietly in the evenings now, 
gazing at the dark glaze of the curtained windows and 
wondering what Mrs. Ponting did in all the rooms. 

Always they were waiting in half fearful excitement for a 
new eruption from the mysterious house. But none came. 
Mrs. Ponting believed she had recovered something like 
peace once more. Until the children, growing bolder, 
decided to challenge the monster, as they might have poked 
a sleeping crab with a stick. The cries broke out anew in the 
evenings, but more piercing now, insolent, defiant, directed 
unmistakably at the house itself. Mrs. Ponting sensed that 
at once, with a quickening of the heart and a hardening of 
the spirit. She let them go on for a bit. The cries grew more 
jeering, little snatches of ribald song were lilted, and then 
there was a rush across the road. But still nobody came. 
At last, Ted Atkins, very bold, crept into the garden and 
crouched by the window, squinting through a crack in the 
curtains. 

" There she is I can see the ol' geyser " he whispered 

hoarsely to the others pressing against the railings, giggling 
with excitement. The whisper slipped like paper between 
the cracks of the window and to the ears of Mrs. Ponting, 
2 A 



344 UNDER THIRTY 

sitting by the fire and pretending to read. Trembling all 
over, she got to her feet. There was a boy in the garden. 
They were really invading her property now. Stiff with 
anger, but trembling with an unknown fear, Mrs. Ponting 
went to the door. 

At the first sign of her movement, Ted had darted out of 
the garden, and precipitated by his flight the others had 
clattered to a safe distance across the wide street. When 
Mrs. Ponting pulled open her front door and stood on the 
step, there was nothing to be seen but the dark bunch of the 
laurel bushes and the faint bronze glow of London in the 
sky. A man in a bowler hat walked briskly by and looked 
incuriously at the old-fashioned lady standing rather dis- 
traught on her door-step. There was nobody else to be seen 
in the street. The wind upset Mrs. Ponting's hair and 
rustled the laurel bushes. Suddenly in her helplessness, 
reacting to the excitement of her eruption, something like 
a sob climbed up in Mrs. Ponting's throat ; rather confusedly 
she closed the door and went back to her seat by the fire. 
For the rest of the evening she sat there looking into the 
flames that were hot on her eyeballs and twisting her tiny 
handkerchief in her hands. She knew now, war was 
declared. 

And truly from that night, Mrs. Ponting had no peace. 
Now that the monster had been revealed in its all too 
vulnerable human form, the impudence and audacity of the 
children knew very little limit. They came into the garden 
and tapped on the windows, they tore at the shrubs, and 
hammered on the knocker. They made up little rhymes 
about Mrs. Ponting and sang them to her through the 
letter-box. Then one evening, something heavier dropped 
through that letter-box and the bell rang, quite politely. 
Alice went heavily along the hall. When she got there, it 
was a large and long-dead rat. The next morning Alice 
stolidly gave in her notice. She was sorry to do it, Mum, 
but she couldn't stand it no longer. 

Mrs. Ponting became obsessed almost to madness by this 
persecution. She hovered for half an hour at a time by the 
front door, her thin hand shivering on the handle, ready to 



MRS. PONTING'S VICTORY 345 

pounce out. But always she was too late. She arrived on 
the door-step to hear the ecstatic clatter of feet on the 
tarmac of the street and a jeering cry of triumph tossed over 
to her from away under the saloon windows of the ' Duke of 
Maryborough.' Once, when she had stood behind the 
curtain for twenty minutes, she heard the crinkling steps 
on the gravel outside, and twitched back the curtain in 
time to see a little pale face floating in the blurred darkness, 
which was quickly lost among whoops of laughter and 
churning feet. But that was no victory. Only an added 
stimulus to the adventurers. At night she hardly slept at 
all. Her mind would not stop searching for a way to outwit 
them. There was nothing else she thought of now, by day or 
night. 

As Guy Fawkes' day came near, the children grew wilder. 
They blacked their faces with coal-dust and put on paper 
hats and their father's old coats, or a bit of an old skirt of 
mother's, and they paraded the gutters begging for coppers 
from passers-by. 

That distracted them for a little, and around Mrs. 
Ponting's house there was an ominous lull. When the day 
itself arrived, there were no expensive fireworks in spacious 
back gardens for them. Some had saved a penny or two 
and bought a packet of sparklers, but for the most part it 
was a question of hanging around until the market stall- 
holders closed down and began to pack up their remnants 
and dismantle the weary stalls on their carts, and leave the 
street littered and derelict as a canal that has been drained. 
Then the children would dash in among the carts and the 
canvas and the packing-cases and seize upon any piece of 
old wood that had been overlooked and dragged it away 
round a corner. They would throw it down on a pile of 
old papers they had collected in a gutter, and one would 
produce some matches from a squashed packet and light 
the paper. And in a little the flames would leap up, 
flickering alluringly over the front of their bodies and making 
them laugh and their blood leap daringly with its warmth 
and sharp splendour ; they grew wildly excited and began to 
jump over the flames, fiercely thrilled to feel them snap at 



346 UNDER THIRTY 

their bare calves. Then one got hold of a crooked stick and 
picked up the flaming box by one corner and began to 
whirl it around. The flames trailed like a red mane and the 
hot light shifted angrily over the scarred dirty faces of the 
houses. Then as their excitement mounted up until it must 
burst itself in some impossible action, they began to drag the 
flaming box along the street with sticks, shouting and leaping 
over it and dancing like dervishes in a sacred ecstasy all 
round it. It was vigour, it was heat, it was freedom, it was 
in one vivid dagger of movement the emotion of all that 
their circumstances denied them. And when they came 
opposite Mrs. Ponting's house, with a common surge of 
effort and with a shout of derisive rebellious triumph, they 
slung it over the railings into her garden. The rectangle of 
fire rustled through the air and was caught like a great 
chrysanthemum in the wiry twigs of the laurel bush. It 
rested there lightly a moment, then all in an instant the fire 
had caught up the whole dry bare bush. The flame jumped 
chattering like finches from twig to twig, then jumped away 
and then returned, quick and nervous. And then, with 
extraordinary speed the whole garden was a leaping tower 
of flame, leaping and tearing at the face of the house. 

The children stood in the road, their mouths gaping, the 
fire striking against the glaze of their eyes. They were 
paralysed a moment to see their game take on a giant and 
terrible life of its own. Then at last their terror escaped 
through their limbs, and in strange dumbness they ran as 
fast as they could, away, away from the responsibility of the 
deed. 

Mrs. Ponting, brooding by the fire in her little sitting- 
room upstairs, heard without noticing the strange angry 
roar of the flames, and before she raised her head and saw 
the mad light tossing and shuddering on the walls of her 
room, and felt the ramming pressure of the heat, the fire 
had already leapt through the windows of the drawing-room 
below, was already eating up the room and licking at the 
ceiling. Mrs. Ponting rose slowly and went to the window. 
Below her there was a sensation of giving and a heavy thud. 
Behind her dense smoke began to fill in the background. 



MRS. FOOTING'S VICTORY 347 

With steady staring eyes she looked out at the leaping wall 
of flame, shouting in her ear. Nothing could move her. 
Transfixed with an ecstatic triumph she was murmuring : 
" They've done it now. Now they've gone too far. They'll 
catch it for this." 



UVEDALE BARRINGTON TRISTRAM 

* 

The Disillusionment of Mr. Summerton 



AGED twenty-six, descended from bandit border lords on the 
Marches of Wales. Educated by well-meaning priests. 
Worked as an office boy at eighteen, has been publisher's 
reader, book salesman, editor of an aviation magazine, 
knowing nothing about aviation. He is now a partner in 
a literary and publicity agency. Has been described by 
his friends as poet, dreamer, literary racketeer, and several 
kinds of idiot. Wasted three years staving off another man's 
creditors, but says it gave him inspiration. 

Pet aversions : Fascism, Communism, modern democracy, 
patronizing publishers and overdone steak. 

Enthusiasms : The books of Mr. Charles Morgan, darts 
with beer, and the social doctrines of the Catholic Church. 

Clubs : ' Waggon,' ' Coach and Horses,' * Crooked Billet.' 

Hobbies : Avoiding literary young men and sentimental 
columnists. 

Sport : Riding, darts, and baiting critics. 

Ambitions : I'm afraid you'll have to wait for these. 

Publications : Dull industrial articles in all manner of 
journals. Political and literary articles in Catholic reviews. 

U. B. TRISTRAM. 



THE DISILLUSIONMENT OF MR. SUMMERTON 

MR. MARTIN SUMMERTON sat down at the bar of 
the Chien Noir Club in Shepherd Market. The 
Chien Noir is one of those little establishments, a few of 
which still exist in dark upper rooms in the backwaters of 
Mayfair. Mr. Summerton's bloodshot eyes gazed with 
some annoyance at the wet bar-counter. He was well on the 
way to becoming very drunk. He was, in fact, drunk 
already. The bottles on the shelves behind the bar danced 
a sinister little jig before him, mocking the drunken gravity 
of his face. He was in serious danger of losing his temper. 
He was not used to such. places. Why hadn't anyone told 
him what it was like ? 

He made a harsh suffering sound at the back of his throat. 
He hated being drunk. Moreover, he wished to be dignified. 
He wished to be very dignified. He had arranged to meet 
young Francis Edgar, and it was essential that he should be 
dignified at this meeting. It was imperative that Edgar, as 
an aspirant to literary honours, should be impressed with 
the stature of Mr. Summerton as a man and as a critic. 
It was most inconvenient that his dignity should be ruffled 
at such a time. He felt that providence was treating him 
unfairly. How could he continue to work in the interests of 
Truth and of Beauty, if his dignity, his self-respect, and his 
pride were upset ? 

He looked about him. He was feeling worse. Yes, he 
was feeling much worse. It was absurd, quite absurd. 
Why, there had been a time .... He sighed. His liver was 
not what it had been. 

He heard footsteps on the stairs, straightened himself on 
his stool, and in a slightly harsh voice ordered a small 

352 



DISILLUSIONMENT OF MR. SUMMERTON 353 

Guinness. The steps died away. Mr. Summerton slumped 
over the bar again, sipping disconsolately at his drink. 

A sudden idea seemed to give him new vigour. From his 
black, official-looking brief-case he carefully removed the 
yellow-backed copy of Advance Guard. Proudly he read the 
inscription on the cover : SURREALIST TENDENCIES IN THE 

MODERN NOVEL BY MARTIN SUMMERTON. He preened himself. 

He might be drunk, but, by God ! he was a critic. He 
placed the glaring journal tenderly on the counter. Mr. 
Edgar should see the kind of man he was. 

Mr. Summerton smiled into the mirror opposite him. His 
drunkenness seemed to be falling away from him like mist 
from a willow tree. He stared harder at his reflection, and 
was not unpleased by what he saw. He was an angular-faced 
man of about thirty-five, with thick wiry hair brushed away 
from a high forehead en brosse, and wide, rather staring blue 
eyes magnified to giant size by an enormous pair of horn- 
rimmed spectacles. His ears were very large, and the lobes 
seemed to have grown almost down to his thick red neck 
that rested in a self-satisfied roll upon his collar. ' Here,' 
he thought, ' is a man of substance, a man of no little 
weight.' 

He glanced at the girl behind the bar, his angry blue 
eyes forbidding her to speak to him. She had a whining 
disgruntled voice and spoke in an accent that was a mixture 
of ' refanement ' and Cockney. It was an accent with 
which Mr. Summerton's stomach could not cope that morn- 
ing. He looked up at her again, and ordered some dry 
toast. He sighed. Young Edgar was late. He took up the 
Advance Guard. A little light of happiness came into his eyes 
as he turned up his own article. 

He began to read : 

At last there is some serious work being done in the 
novel. It is a relief to read the deep symbolism of Miss 
Sicklehammer's PROMISCUITY. It is full of wisdom and 
rich comedy, full of an idealism, the tragedy of which is 
set to the rattle of machine-guns and haunted by the 
spectre of injustice, 



354 UNDER THIRTY 

Mr. Summerton coughed. He read on appreciatively, 
only pausing for a moment or two when he was served with 
his toast. That was criticism. That was the stuff to give 
'em. He became quite hearty in his exuberant apprecia- 
tion of his own work. He was in the middle of the article 
when he realized that Francis Edgar had entered the club. 

Mr. Summerton frowned. Mr. Edgar came forward, 
hand extended to greet him. " Are you Mr. Summerton ? " 
" Yes, I'm Summerton. How do you do, Mr. Edgar ? " 
Martin Summerton drew himself up to his full height. 
It pleased him to tower over this little man, with his tiny 
shrivelled hands, his queer screwed-up face, his curly 
ginger hair, and his uncanny resemblance to some little 
animal of the woods. Mr. Summerton clapped him on the 
shoulder, the waves of alcohol wafting away from him as he 
spoke : 

"I've just received the latest number of Advance Guard, 
which contains my article on SURREALIST TENDENCIES IN THE 
MODERN NOVEL. I presume you are interested in the 
development of the novel," he said, and without giving the 
little writer time to answer, continued : " Listen to this. 
You must FEEL its truth, its sheer forceful GUTS : 

" * At long last, the novel is climbing out of the centuries 
of decadence, into the finer, freer air of the brotherhood 
of literary art, into the world guild of the craftsmen in 
words.' ' 

Mr. Summerton stopped reading. He was conscious that 
young Edgar was not listening. He was going to speak. 
Looking up, Mr. Summerton met the pale watery eyes fixed 
upon him in a funereal stare. 

" I came to ask your advice," Mr. Edgar said in his husky 
voice that had a disquieting tremble in it. "I came to ask 
your advice about the finer points of Death." 

The Advance Guard fell from Summerton's hand into the 
mess of beer and cigarette ash on the floor. 

" Wh what did you say ? " he stammered. 

Mr. Edgar laughed, a high-pitched eunuch's laugh. " I 



DISILLUSIONMENT OF MR. SUMMERTON 355 

see you're interested. We'll be able to have a nice little 
talk." 

Mr. Summerton shuddered. ' My God/ he wondered, 
' am I still drunk ? ' 

" I feel," said Mr. Edgar, " that not enough has been 
made in literature, of the art of murder, of its matchless 
craftsmanship, of the mixture of love and hate, and the purest 
passion which must lie behind almost every murder, no 
matter what the motive." 

" But," said Mr. Summerton, " but ... but . . ." 

Mr. Edgar waved his left hand before him, a brown 
wrinkled hand, with a forefinger that was bent almost double, 
and shrivelled to the bone. 

" Can't you imagine," he said in a half-whisper, " the 
man who has tasted the devilish ecstasy of all the vice, of all 
the crime which this world has to offer and then why, 
then, he passes he must pass to the final thrill to MURDER ! 
It follows, doesn't it ? He can take nothing else from the 
world. He must sacrifice human flesh." 

Mr. Summerton brought his hand down with a crash on 
the bar counter, catching his glass with his hand, breaking 
it to smithereens. 

Mr. Edgar frowned. He was not to be interrupted. 
" Leave it, leave it," he said impatiently. " The girl can 
pick it up later." Mr. Summerton bent to retrieve the 
fallen Advance Guard, which was becoming sodden with 
Guinness, but hurriedly straightened again as he heard 
Edgar's cluck of impatience. He was so embarrassed, so 
acutely uncomfortable, that he did not notice that he had 
cut his finger on his glass. He put the Advance Guard gently 
on the beery bar counter. 

Mr. Edgar continued : " Yes, of course, it's madness. 
Murder is madness. But you can conceive the thrill of it, 
can't you ? " 

' Yes, oh, yes," murmured Mr. Summerton. 

" I know you are a critic of remarkable insight," said 
Mr. Edgar. ** A student of humanity. I feel you have 
great imagination. So I know you can realize the exultation 
of a murderea. He has smashed the poor fabric of humanity. 



356 UNDER THIRTY 

As yet he has not the secret of life, but he holds the keys of 
death." 

Mr. Edgar came closer. In spite of himself, Summerton 
was fascinated. The pale hypnotic eyes were fixed upon 
him, enveloping him in an incalculable atmosphere of evil. 
He thought he could detect the faintest odour of incense. 
Must be some scent the creature was wearing. 

" To hold the keys of death. Yes, that is the thrill," said 
Mr. Edgar. He leaned against the bar, plucking nervously 
at the buttons of Mr. Summerton' s jacket with his shrivelled 
fingers. 

" Yes, I could write a book about that. You see, I know 
all of it. I have felt it. I feel it now. It is an experience 
that is uniquely mine." 

" What do you mean ? " asked Mr. Summerton, staring, 
all his conceit driven out by an overmastering fear. 

" Oh, nothing, nothing. It's just my artistic conscious- 
ness, you know, just my artistic consciousness. Funny, isn't it? ' ' 

Mr. Summerton stared desperately at the door, praying 
harder than he had ever prayed in his life before, that 
someone might come in to relieve their loneliness, that 
something might happen to end the nightmare dialogue, to 
rid him of the repulsive creature. At last relief came. Mr. 
Edgar smiled. He said. " Will you excuse me for a few 
moments. I really must wash my hands." 

" Why, yes, of course." Mr. Summerton beamed Mr. 
Edgar out of the room, stretched his legs comfortably, tilted 
back his stool, shivered, stared fixedly at the wart on the 
barmaid's nose. It was strange and most unpleasant. To 
his drunken and fear-racked mind, that wart assumed 
gigantic proportions, and was somehow connected with all 
the talk about murder. He felt he would go mad if he stayed 
in that room another moment. He looked at his watch, 
scarcely knowing why he did. It was two o'clock. He seized 
his black Stetson hat, muttered something to the barmaid 
about making his excuses . . . very late for appointment 
. . . not feeling very well. The barmaid shouted at him 
that he had forgotten his magazine, but he was gone. She 
flung it contemptuously to the ground, 



DISILLUSIONMENT OF MR. SUMMERTON 357 

He ran down the narrow winding stairs, dashed through the 
market, and sighed with relief as he reached Curzon Street. 
London seemed a pool of deep quietness after the club. He 
felt much better, almost, he reflected to himself, as if he 
had emerged from purgatory to walk the streets of paradise. 
He was almost grateful to Mr. Edgar for having afforded 
him such a sensation. 

Mr. Summerton went into Piccadilly for another drink 
a whisky to steady his nerves. He chatted to the barman 
for half an hour or so, and then strolled into the Park. The 
sun was shining. He would sit there for an hour or so. 
Seated comfortably on a bench, his mind wandered back 
to the terrible little author. He couldn't do anything for 
him. No, of course he couldn't. But it had been an 
interesting experience, not nearly so bad as he had imagined 
at first. It would be something to tell people about. He 
began to choose the phrases which he would use to tell the 
story, the little touches of dry humour, the apt epigrams 
all those embellishments which he felt made him envied 
amongst his fellow-men, as a wit and as a raconteur. 

How long he sat there in the warm June sun he could not 
afterwards recall. He was overwhelmed by an almost living 
sense of fear that no pretence of an amusing story to tell 
could drive out. He felt that he was being watched, felt 
that his every movement was being noted with a kind of 
satanic amusement. It was twilight. The grotesque shapes 
of the tree branches, like gnarled and monstrous old men, 
seemed to beckon to him. He rose from the bench, shook 
himself. Ugh, the afternoon had unnerved him. He looked 
at his watch. It was nearly eight o'clock, and getting very 
chilly. He would take a brisk walk down to his club in 
Garrick Street before going home. 

At Hyde Park Corner, his eye was arrested by a poster. 

MAYFAIR MURDER 
BARMAID STABBED 

Now, as a rule, he never bought an evening paper. He 
had always felt that they were a trifle beneath him. But on 



358 UNDER THIRTY 

this occasion, something his curiosity, perhaps prompted 
him to buy one. Casually he gave his penny to the man, and 
glanced : 

MAYFAIR CLUB MURDER 

Police Clue 

In black print farther down the page, he read : 

No known motive can be found for the murder of the 
barmaid in the Chien Noir Club, Shepherd Market, this 
morning. The police have, however, a clue as to the 
culprit. 

The paper nearly fell from Mr. Summerton's hand. Good 
God ! So that was why Edgar had talked in that abominable 
way. He thought he had better report everything he knew 
to the police ; but then, he didn't want to be mixed up 
in anything. He felt dizzy and ill. He had better go 
home. He turned to go up Park Lane, and stopped under 
a lamp-post to read with fearful fascinated horror. 

Suddenly his eye got to the stop-press news at the corner 
of the page : 

BARMAID MURDER 

Police Statement 

The police state that they are looking for a man who 
is known to have been alone in the club for a considerable 
time this morning. He was wearing a large black Stetson 
hat, and had unusually large eyes protected by large 
spectacles. He was carrying a magazine of a vivid yellow 
colour. A blood-stained copy of this magazine, the 
Advance Guard, was found in the club. 

The lights at the end of Park Lane turned red. Mr. 
Summerton leaned against the Royal Air Force Club for 
support. He was suddenly very sober. He was tired out. 
He would go home. He stepped off the pavement to hail 
a taxi ; the traffic moved faster, the buildings swung around 
in swift circles. Mr. Summerton swayed and fell. Two 
taxis stopped. " Wot's the matter wiwim, mate ? " one 
driver asked the other. A crowd collected. 



ERIC WALTER WHITE 

* 

Off the Road 



I WAS born in igo^jit 6 College Green, Bristol, a house which 
is possibly the same as that immortalized by De Quincey 
in his Essay on Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts. I was 
educated at Clifton and Balliol ; but, as is generally the 
case, though I derived much essential instruction from public 
school and university, I owe my real education to my own 
inquisitiveness and obstinacy and to the untiring efforts 
of my friends. In 1928 and 1929 I taught English in 
Berlin and Potsdam ; and during the following four years 
I worked at the Secretariat of the League of Nations, Geneva, 
as minute-writer and translator. I spent most of my spare 
time in travelling, and at various periods I have visited 
and lived in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the 
Soviet Union, and Greece. During the last few years 
I have been employed in London by the National Council of 
Social Service. 

I was always devoted to literature and music ; from 
my undergraduate days dates my interest in painting and 
the cinema. It was my good fortune when living in Berlin 
to meet Lotte Reiniger, the celebrated German silhouette 
film artist, whose best-known film is probably The Adventures 
of Prince Achmet. I was so fascinated by her special type of 
trick film that I wrote a short essay on her technique, 
Walking Shadows (The Hogarth Press, 1931), and followed this 
up by a record of one of her silhouette films, The Little 
Chimney Sweep (White and White, 1936). At various times 
I have been able to collaborate with her : for instance, I 
arranged and instrumented the score of Harlekin in 1932, 
and three years later a suite extracted from the score of a 
comic opera I had written at the age of fifteen was used to 
accompany her Greek silhouette fable of Galathea. 

My interest in modern music led me to write the first 
full-length critical study of Stravinsky's music to appear 

361 



362 UNDER THIRTY 

in England, Stravinsky's Sacrifice to Apollo (The Hogarth Press, 
1930). For the last two years I have acted as music critic 
of Life and Letters To-day. Short stories of mine have appeared 
at various times in the Best Short Stories of 1935 and 1936, 
Story, Life and Letters, New Stories. * Off the Road ' won a prize 
offered by the Oxford Outlook in 1927, and was reprinted a 
few years later in the sixth volume of The New Decameron. 

To conclude : Although no Communist, I have spent 
some of the most stimulating days of my life in Leningrad 
and Moscow. Although no mountaineer, I have climbed the 
Gnifetti, Zumstein, and Dufour peaks of the Monte Rosa. 
Although no expert skier, I have been an active member of 
that select Genevese body, Le Club Gastronomique et des 
Sports d'Hiver, for an account of whose activities I would 
refer the reader to Francis Beeding's Pretty Sinister. 

ERIC WALTER WHITE. 



OFF THE ROAD 

road came from Paris and the North. Even in the 
J. days when dusty Roman legions had marched and 
countermarched through Gaul, the same straight white line 
had climbed the hills and divided the cornlands. After 
many centuries parts of the road fell into decay. Then the 
peasants' carts no longer lumbered over it ; and the two 
cornlands grew together and were united into one great 
shimmering field of grain. Yet an acute observer might 
have noticed that the shimmer was crossed by a sinister band 
where the grain grew shorter, for there its roots were 
constricted by forgotten stones. And so the roadway lay 
secret, until Napoleon forced his glittering regiments 
south, to the Pyrenees and farther. It was he who revealed 
it once more, splitting the cornfields in half, so that the 
yellowing grain bent backwards from the heat that shifted 
and quivered above the flat white stones. 

Bicycling through this corridor of burning air one after- 
noon in August came Monsieur Simoneau, the Protestant 
minister. It was not long since he had finished his midday 
meal and left his wife reading and his children playing in 
the garden. Yet here he was without giving himself a 
moment's repose for digestion pedalling steadily away from 
the town, but still bound to his house and family by the thin 
intertwisted ribbons that his tyres unrolled behind him in 
the dust of the road. This road was to lead him to here a 
farm and there a farm, where families of his scattered 
parishioners lived. These people were isolated from their 
Catholic neighbours, and as they lived so far from the town, 
it was impossible for them to take any active part in the 
ceremonies of their religion. Each family existed in a grim 
Protestant loneliness ; and it was Monsieur Simoneau's 

363 



364 UNDER THIRTY 

Sabbath duty to visit these dark households and breathe 
encouragingly upon the small persistent flame of their faith. 

And then there were the children to kindle so that they 
in their turn might hand on the precious fire. Little 
Toinette Decrouez (whom he would see first) was being pre- 
pared for Confirmation. He had given her an illustrated 
Children's Bible so that she might read of the life of Jesus 
and then they could discuss it together on his visits. He 
often wondered, though, if it wouldn't be better sometimes 
to discuss her instead. He saw her so rarely, and then she 
had always had her hands washed and her hair tied back 
with a ribbon. In fact, what did he really know of the lives 
of any of the good people he was to visit that afternoon ? 

He saw the road before him climb up to the skyline, 
where two trees marked the lane which led to the farm of the 
Decrouez family. On the other side of the hill the road 
continued its long straight line just the same and would lead 
him later in the afternoon to all the other farmsteads he was 
to visit. There, with each dark nucleus of people, he would 
establish contact for a moment, blow gently upon the 
glowing coal of their faith, and as soon as the flame began 
to flicker, depart into the light and heat again. In that short 
meeting, what could he get to know of them ? How could 
he really help them ? For a moment his work seemed futile, 
and the homes he was to visit, strung along both sides of this 
straight white road, more savage and unknown than the 
kraals of Africa. 

He suddenly noticed his front tyre. It was swollen all in 
one place. Bump bump bump he went over the road. 
He turned to the left by the two trees. Bump bump 
bump he went down the lane. The tyre was many years old 
and he had often patched it before. If it burst now, he 
would unscrew the wheel in a jiffy, rip off the tyre and 
replace it with the spare one that he always carried slung 
behind on his saddle. 

Presently he caught sight of Pierre working in the fields. 
Pierre was a man who lived and worked with the Decrouez. 
He wore a blue blouse and a wide straw hat, and at each 
sweep the corn fell over his sickle like a breaking wave. 



OFF THE ROAD 365 

" Hullo, Pierre," called Monsieur Simoneau ; " how's 
life ? " 

Pierre laid down his sickle and gazed towards the lane. 
" Oh ! it's you, Monsieur Simoneau," he cried. " Well, 
things aren't so bad. We've had no hail this year ; and the 
corn is strong and ripe." 

" And the others ? " 

" You'll find them at the farm. Toinette brought us our 
food at noon. But I think she's gone back now. They'll 
all be pleased to see you," he added, picking up his sickle and 
returning to his work. 

Swish, swish ; his blade cut through the grain, tumbling 
it down in curves. Near him a young woman clad in black 
worked at a parallel strip of corn. Monsieur Simoneau 
didn't recognize her : she had probably come from another 
farm to help Pierre in the fields. After standing for a minute 
watching their two strong bodies stooping under the sun, he 
got on his bicycle and went away. 

When he had gone, Pierre looked up and said gravely : 
" Tiens, so it's Sunday ! " 

The woman near him pretended not to have heard. 

" Still dumb ? " asked Pierre. 

" You're insufferable to-day," she snapped. 

Pierre laughed and shrugged his shoulders. 

In the distance Monsieur Simoneau was turning the 
corner near the sties. Another minute, and he had reached 
the farm. Wheeling his bicycle through the yard, he leant 
it against the house, taking care that the tyres should be 
shaded from the sun for the next hour or so. As he stepped 
to the door, three fat geese fled from him in panic through an 
untidy litter of cabbage stalks and other decaying vegetable 
gobbets. He knocked and went inside without doffing 
his straw hat. 



Toinette had felt most uneasy when she woke up that 
morning. No sooner did she start doing one thing than she 
decided it was not worth finishing and went on to something 
else. It was Sunday too the Sunday on which the minister 



366 UNDER THIRTY 

was coming to see if she had read the chapters he had set 
her and to talk to her about the Lord and Saviour, Jesus 
Christ. What the minister told her wasn't very interesting : 
it was all about Jesus many hundreds of years ago. She 
wanted to know what Jesus was doing now and what He 
thought of actual things : of her dog, who was very old and 
dirty, and whom her father said would have to be killed ; 
of the beautiful coloured grasshoppers that filled the fields 
and felt so tickly when she caught them ; and of Pierre. 
That especially she couldn't understand ; and she was sure 
Jesus could explain it all to her. For, after all, Jesus was 
alive. Hadn't Monsieur Simoneau said so ? " Though 
nailed to a cross that Friday two thousand years ago, He 
had not died then ; for, the third day after, He rose from 
His tomb to eternal life." And that meant He went on and 
on, living for ever. 

When Toinette was very young, she used to think that 
Jesus came to talk to the animals of the farms at night. So 
once she had got up while the household was asleep and crept 
outside. The geese stirred uneasily at her coming and then 
were quiet. There was just enough starlight to count them. 
One was missing. Perhaps, reflected Toinette, that one is 
with Jesus now. If only I could find him ! And she 
searched all over the stead, but found nothing and heard 
nothing except a tiny wind crooning to itself in the tree- 
tops. Chilled by the starshine, she had at length crept back 
to bed just before the vague white dawn, and the next morn- 
ing her mother had scolded her in the kitchen because her 
sheet was dirty. " You must wash your feet more often 
and not go staling my linen." But Toinette didn't hear 
because she happened to be counting the geese at the 
moment. They were all there, and she never knew whether 
one had spent the night with Jesus or whether in the dark 
she had merely discounted. 

But Toinette reflected, lying in the hot smelly grass, 
trying to catch grasshoppers the minister never talked 
to her about things like that, which were surely the most 
interesting and exciting in the world. He merely asked her 
questions about the Gospels which she didn't always 



OFF THE ROAD 367 

understand and tried to prepare her against a time when 
she should be dressed in white and go to the temple in the 
big town to be received into the church of her fathers. 

Suddenly she heard the voice of her mother : " Toinette, 
Toinette, where are you ? " 

What has mother found now ? Toinette wondered as she 
shouted back : " Here I am." 

" Pierre's meat and rice are ready. Take them to him 
and some bread and wine. Enough for that Suzanne too." 

" Oh ! All right." 

Toinette's heart sank. Pierre's lunch. Ugh ! She 
picked a long grass and stuck it in her mouth. She didn't 
know how to face Pierre after last night. It was he who was 
the cause of all her unrest. Because of him her very blood 
felt different and ran more hotly beneath her skin. 

He had come to her after supper, when work was finished 
and she was lazing about the farmyard, and had suggested 
a walk. This was unusual : but Toinette felt reassured when 
he began talking about a very large owl that had its nest in 
one of the two beech trees that grew on the edge of the high 
road. She had heard the call of that owl sometimes at night 
before going to sleep ; and now Pierre said that there might 
be young ones. Then he laughed loudly and put his arm 
about her waist so that his fingers pressed her just beneath 
the right breast which was curious, but also inconvenient 
for walking, because Pierre was much bigger and taller 
than she. However, she said nothing, and tried to keep 
interested in the owl. She supposed the little ones would 
be all small and fluffy like chicks ; but Pierre wasn't very 
helpful. 

By now it was getting late. All the coloured light was 
being drained out of the west, and the first bright star of 
evening had appeared. Beneath it the two beech trees stood 
black and windless. 

" Through here," said Pierre, plunging into a piece of 
underwood. 

Toinette followed without thinking and suddenly found 
herself caught in Pierre's arms. At first she thought it was 
a joke ; but Pierre was strong and held her for some purpose. 



368 UNDER THIRTY 

Then she was afraid and would have cried aloud at the 
strangeness of it all, had not Pierre stopped her lips with his. 
It was then that she first realized that unknown forces were 
at work in her. There was some strange new power in 
his lips and the touch of his tongue. Even the rub of his 
prickly chin, though repellent at first, fascinated her. 
Gradually she relaxed into a wise open passiveness and 
wondered at the joy Pierre found in her hair, her neck and 
her breasts, until she herself found joy in them and in her 
whole body too. And so they lay together in the dew-wet 
grass, and Toinette watched the pageant of the heavens 
wheel above her, at first with a distant wonder, but soon 
with a terrible new pain that burnt the image of the stars 
into her memory for ever. 

" Toinette, Toinette," shrieked the voice of her mother. 
" Why haven't you gone ? Take this food at once or I'll 
beat you, even though it is a Sunday with the minister 
coming." 

Toinette tumbled out of the past at a bound and ran into 
the kitchen to collect the food. She took it quickly to the 
field where Pierre and Suzanne from the metairie des trois 
nqyers were working. When the two reapers saw Toinette, 
they dropped their sickles and came into the shade. Suzanne 
seemed rather glum and ill-tempered, which was unusual, 
for generally she was in the highest spirits when with Pierre. 
As for Pierre, Toinette couldn't bear to look at him. She 
could only feel his presence, overwhelmingly near 
and hot. 

" Thanks, Toinette," she heard him say as he took his 
food. And then he turned to Suzanne : " Aren't you going 
to say a word to Toinette ? Look what a ripe, full-blooded 
girl she's grown. I'm going to save up to buy her some 
finery and take her to the fair." 

" You're insufferable," muttered Suzanne sulkily. 

" She won't prove sour and obstinate like you will 
you, Toinette ? " Pierre winked roguishly and flung his 
brown arm over her shoulder. Startled by this sudden 
movement and by the brave smell of sweat that came from 
his sopping blouse, Toinette broke away from his rough 



OFF THE ROAD 369 

embrace and fled. Behind her she heard a low bitter laugh 
from Suzanne. 

Furious and bewildered, she returned to her form in the 
hot grass and there wept through sheer incomprehension of 
what had happened between herself and Pierre and of what 
had probably happened between Pierre and Suzanne. 
She now saw how the men lost nothing except the sweat of 
their skin by working in the fields, but gained a new kind of 
strength which they stored up within them to wreak upon 
the women. She suddenly felt sorry for her mother poor 
woman, she must have suffered too ! and that only made 
her cry the more so that the tears ran down her face until 
she could lick them off the edge of her lip with her tongue. 
Oh, how unhappy she was she never remembered being so 
unhappy before ! And there seemed to be nobody to whom 
she could tell her tale or from whom she could get advice 
and sympathy. Somehow she shrank from telling her 
mother. Instead of answering kindly, her mother might 
become angry and tell her father, and then she would be 
beaten for being so wicked. No, that would never do. 
But perhaps she might tell the minister. They all said he 
was kind and good, for didn't he preach every Sunday 
morning in the whitewashed temple that was in the city ? 
He surely could give her ease and comfort. 

Refreshed by this resolution, Toinette went in quietly 
to clean her hands and tidy her hair. She also took out 
the Children's Bible from beneath her bolster and turned 
to the lesson he had set her. She was reading about the 
marriage feast at Cana when she heard a flutter among the 
geese and found he had arrived. 

He was talking to her mother when she came in. For 
some time he didn't notice her. Then, catching sight of her 
pale anxious face, he smiled and said : " Hullo, Toinette ! 
Shall we get to our lesson ! " She said " Yes " and sat 
down opposite him ; but she soon found she was still too 
dazed and stupid to answer his questions very well, so he 
perforce had to do most of the talking. And as he talked, 
her attention wandered. She could see her mother in the 
corner, mending clothes. Monsieur Simoneau had put his 



370 UNDER THIRTY 

straw hat down on the table. How yellow it was ! Some- 
times he propped his Bible against it, and sometimes a black 
fly crawled round the brim. She wondered at what point 
she could deliver her confession. Perhaps her mother would 
go out of the room, and Monsieur Simoneau would stop 
talking, and then she would say . . . What would she say ? 

Suddenly she realized Monsieur Simoneau had stopped 
talking to her and had turned to her mother. " Not a very 
bright lesson to-day," he said. " I think Toinette must be 
tired." 

" I'm sorry about that, Monsieur," said Madame 
Decrouez. " She's not such a bad girl when she does what 
she's told, but she needs someone continually watching over 
her to keep her up to scratch. Before you go, you'll drink 
some wine, won't you ? " She bustled to one side of the 
room. Glasses, a bottle, some pate, a plate, and bread. 
Toinette came and helped her. Madame Decrouez suddenly 
noticed how much her daughter had grown during the last 
year. Her dress was now too short in the skirt and her 
bodice too tight. Perhaps there was a natural explanation 
of her fatigue. 

" There, Monsieur Simoneau." 

The room was hot. Flies swarmed above the table, upon 
the table, and under the table, where Toinette's dog was 
lying panting in the heat, his fur too thick for him and his 
muscles too tired even to twitch away the flies. Monsieur 
Simoneau felt them crawling up his legs, and their tiny 
stings pricked through his socks. He looked at Madame 
Decrouez. They were thick like gems upon her wrinkled 
hands. It was no use trying to shake them away or to kill 
them. There were too many. 

The heat was almost insufferable. It came through the 
open door from the yard like a tide. Toinette gazed across 
the room at the two beds covered with thick black quilts 
and cast-off clothing and wondered whether she should tell 
him now, even though her mother was there. The other 
part of the room was a kitchen. There was a sink near 
the window. Water in two buckets ; and a tin scoop with 
a handle that served also as a mouthpiece. Perhaps better 



OFF THE ROAD 371 

not. Jars, crockery, and scraps of food were ranged along 
a shelf. The flies were there too. Oddments had dropped 
on the ground especially cabbage stalks. Madame 
Decrouez didn't feel the heat so much ; her skin was tanned 
to it. Nor did the flies worry her. But Monsieur Simoneau 
paused while drinking to flick away two that were buzzing 
together on the open page of his Testament. There was a 
sickening pause while they disentangled themselves, and 
then he read : " But Jesus stooped down and with his finger 
wrote on the ground as though he heard them not" Yes, Toinette 
is now the age, Madame thought ; I must keep an eye on the 
men from the metairie des trois noyers they're always on the 
look out for something new. " And Jesus was left alone , 
and the woman standing in the midst" I wasn't very much 
older myself, she continued ruminating, when . . . 

A hungry goose from the yard flapped in, snaffled up a 
particularly large piece of cabbage and waddled back 
comically on its flat feet. " Shoo," cried Madame, clapping 
her hands. " Shoo, shoo ! " And she ran outside 
brandishing her apron. 

Toinette's heart was beating fast. This was obviously 
the moment : while her mother was outside in the yard. 
There was not a second to lose. What was it she was going 
to say ? She pulled herself together desperately, found a 
form of words and took a strangled little breath. Her untried 
voice felt husky ; she was afraid to speak for fear of the sound 
she might make. Oh, why should it be so difficult ? 

" Monsieur Simoneau Monsieur Simoneau." 

But the minister didn't hear the low supplicating tones. 
At that moment, having finished his pate, he got up some- 
what noisily. " And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn 
thee : go, and sin no more" He closed the Testament and put 
it in his pocket. Toinette felt humiliated defeated. She 
couldn't possibly tell him now. She couldn't couldn't. 

Two figures were at the door. Madame came in, followed 
by Pierre sweating from the sunlit fields. Reaping was 
finished for the day, he said, and Suzanne had returned to 
the metairie des trois noyers. Unconsciously Toinette's eyes 
followed him round the room ; she saw him wipe the sweat 



372 UNDER THIRTY 

away with a towel and watched the slowly moving muscles 
of his throat while he drank. Monsieur Simoneau was 
going, but she didn't hear his parting words. Pierre was 
coming near her. She could smell the rich smell of his 
body and it excited her. As he reached over the table for 
some bread, his hand touched hers, accidentally, meaningly. 
She thrilled at that secret contact. Every trace of resentment 
had left her. 

She felt she could not trust herself alone in the room any 
longer, so she left him munching bread and went outside, 
perplexed and troubled. Why had she not been able to tell 
Monsieur Simoneau ? How was it that she now loved Pierre 
so much that she longed impatiently for the darkness of 
another night ? 

For the second time that day she flung herself down in 
the grass and wept. 



Monsieur Simoneau felt pleasantly well at ease as he 
turned into the main road by the two beeches. The wine 
and the pate consumed in the dark fly-filled room had been 
much to his liking ; and now, outside, the afternoon heat 
enveloped him comfortably, as in a blanket. After all, he 
meditated, he could hardly call his -work futile. . . . 

At the next village his front tyre burst. 



THE END 



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