Leaving house-party Mr Dupret went to Birmingham. When he heard Mr Bridges was already gone on leave he was glad. He did not want to see Mr Bridges. Indeed, now he knew it was not for him but Tom Tyler that Miss Glossop smiled and lilted, heart was out of him.
So when he came he sent for Mr Cummings and just said he hoped everything was all right. Mr Cummings made no impression on his mind. When he had gone Mr Dupret sat on in office. He thought, and slowly tried to gather up energy inside him. At last he went up into Mr Tarver’s office.
‘Very glad to see you sir!’
‘I’m sorry Mr Bridges is ill!’
‘Yes, it’s a shame he’s bad.’ (Mr Tarver was in great spirits this morning) ‘But you mark my words squire,’ he said, ‘they’ll all go together.’
‘What on earth do you mean, they’ll all go together?’
‘Well you see Mr Dupret’ said Tarver and he went red, ‘I meant they were getting on, you can’t be sixty-one and expect to feel on top of the world.’
‘I don’t want any intrigue Tarver,’ Mr Dupret said in tired voice, ‘we’ve all got to pull together or we’ll be nowhere in no time.’
‘You mustn’t take what I say wrong, sir, we all work for the good of the firm, we all pull together, though we’re all sorts and different sizes.’
‘That’s it,’ said Mr Dupret, and felt like he was nurse at school for infants and surely this man Tarver was mad. Why did he call you squire?
‘Mr Tarver, I thought when Mr Bridges came back I would suggest to him your having another draughtsman. And really if Bum-pus is always getting ill like this we had better part with him.’
‘Don’t take Bumpus from me,’ Mr Tarver said dangerously. He rose from his chair. ‘I couldn’t do without him, Mr Dupret, for God’s sake.’
This one was pleased. The man had spirit. ‘Right you are,’ said he, ‘I didn’t know if you thought a lot of him, that’s all. And I promise to get you another. Or rather you and Bumpus, and of course Mr Bridges will have to choose a further draughtsman between you.’
‘It’s been needed, I only said to the wife the other night I didn’t see how I could go on short-handed like this with the new machine I’m bringing out. But with another man we’ll eat it up colonel.’
Beaming he came up and shook Dupret by the hand.
Mr Dupret thought perhaps he was mad after all but enthusiastic anyway, not all words like old Bridges, and he was a young man, Arthur thought well of him. Yes, damn it, he would show them and give Tarver pat on the back. So he asked Tarver if he was coming round works with him, and together they went round, Tarver visibly glad.
As they went round works, Mr Dupret and Mr Tarver, behind them was Cummings. He dodged behind machinery and everything they did he noticed, every time they stopped to look at something he took it to be complaints.
Mr Milligan, standing in gateway of stores department, saw him following and said in his mind who would believe it who did not know? Who would be in position of authority now, even to be storekeeper? You had to be strong man, nerves of steel, or it was more than your health would stand.
Didn’t they make themselves ridiculous the way they behaved, look at Cummings, everyone in the place laughing at him so soon as he was gone by. That must have been a knock for him the young chap going round with Tarver. Yes, and their health couldn’t stand it, some of them. Andrew, foreman in iron foundry, many a time worry was too much for him and he’d go off and sit in a corner where none could see him with his hands over his face. Was many would not believe that but with delivery, delivery always being shouted at you, in tricky work like iron founding were many foremen took their lives and those that didn’t take them had their lives shortened by the worry. Andrew had been looking done up just lately, Mr Milligan said in his mind, and thought of when he himself was last in hospital.
Mr Dupret and Tarver came to iron foundry shop. ‘Have they had many wasters here recently, Mr Tarver?’
‘No, we’ve been very free of them for the last week or two. But they’re slow in this shop colonel, terribly slow.’
‘Well I suppose that’s all right as long as they don’t make bad ones.’
‘You’re right there Mr Dupret, but they ought to make sound castings quicker, like they do in other foundries.’
‘Sometimes these people don’t seem to be able to make good ones quick or slow. Do you remember a few weeks back—’ and they talked of job which had given trouble. Dupret used what he thought was Mr Tarver’s language.
‘What d’you put it down to Tarver, ought we to have another foreman?’ nodding to Philpots who was busy and yet watching them, in comer of foundry shop.
‘Andrew’s all right,’ said Mr Tarver, ‘no it’s the men he has to work with. You can’t get old men to work fast squire, that’s natural, and old men like Craigan keep the weight down.’
‘Then why do we keep him on?’
‘Mr Bridges says he couldn’t do without him.’
‘Well,’ said Mr Dupret, ‘I suppose Mr Bridges has his reasons,’ and they moved off and into machine shop.
Mr Cummings darted into iron foundry. He went to Andrew Philpots.
‘Did ‘e say nothing to you Andy?’
‘I didn’t like to go and speak to ‘im, I waited ‘ere till ‘e should come to me if ‘e ‘ad anything to say.’
Mr Cummings went off. What are they up to he asked in his mind. What is it?
‘Well dear’ Mrs Dupret said, ‘did you go down to Birmingham today?’
‘Yes,’ said Mr Dupret.
‘What’s the matter, Dick, aren’t you feeling well?’
‘No, I’m feeling quite all right’ said Mr Dupret lying, ‘but the works are so depressing, it’s all so incompetent. They are all such awful people.’
‘Well from now on it’s your own fault, darling, if you don’t like them, isn’t it? I mean you’re head of the business now. When your father was alive you had to do things more or less under his supervision but you are your own master now, aren’t you dear? Still I expect the more you look into it you’ll find your father right’
‘Yes. But it’s not altogether the works. The fact is, I’ve gone crazy over a girl again.’
After Mrs Dupret had said what was fit and appreciative and had let him tell her that it was Hannah Glossop — he had told her some months ago only he’d forgotten that — he described Tom Tyler and the way she did not seem to notice anyone else.
Mrs Dupret comforted.
Mrs Dupret said that sort of man exercised a fascination over girls which soon wore off. ‘He is young and fresh looking and full of spirits,’ she said ‘but they soon see there is nothing much in him after all.’ She told him to keep away from Hannah a bit, above all not to run after her just now, and she proposed that they should have that little dinner party for her which they were to have had before his father fell ill. Hearing little of what she said, he went on about how the thought of her was perpetually running through his mind, and sometimes the thought of her came in spasms upon him, it made him feel quite ill, physically ill. Mrs Dupret said, ‘poor darling,’ and ‘we’ll see if we can’t get her to dinner, shall we?’
Miss Gates. Now, as has been said, evenings were drawing in, now they could no longer go out in the evening, winter, or at most they allowed themselves one cinema in the week.
So it was often that she stayed indoors and Mr Jones began going to technical school where she sent him. Sitting at home with the family she darned their socks and mended clothes in the evenings, and Mr Craigan with her father and Jim Dale were there. Now again it seemed for Craigan like times when Lily had kept company with Jim. Their evenings were as they had been and that was comfortable for him.
She had begun saving and she made Mr Jones save. This was why she was so much quieter, but Dale thought perhaps those two were tiring of each other and soon they might quarrel, then she would come back to him again. So he took heart and went no more out in the evenings nor gave her much attention now he began to feel sure of her again, only Gates went more and more out and was often seen with Mr Tupe.
Mr Bridges put back receiver on its hook. He went back into sitting room of the lodging house at Weston. His wife asked him about the news. He said the young chap had just left works, he had had Cummings on the ‘phone. Mrs Bridges asked if he had done anything?
‘No, not a thing.’
‘Well that’s a bit off my mind.’
‘You know how I mean.’
‘It’s not what he does, he don’t do anything, it’s what ‘e means to do Janie. And now the father’s dead what’s to stop him doing it.’
‘How do you know what he means to do?’
‘You can see it in ‘is eye. He looks at me now and again with a look as if I’d murdered ‘is best girl or got her be’ind a hedge.’
‘It’s a vindictive somehow. That’s why I shouldn’t ever’ve come here. You’ll see he’ll use it some way against me.’
‘But didn’t Mr Cummings tell you nothing else just now?’
‘Cummings? Ah, I was keeping the best for the end. The young chap wouldn’t go round with Cummings, wasn’t good enough for ‘im, no he ‘ad to go round the place with Tarver for everyone to see. What d’you make of that eh?’
Mrs Bridges shook head over that.
‘Cummings said ‘e went round after them but couldn’t make out they’d said anything particular. That’s a good man, Cummings. I wouldn’t take £1,000 for ‘im, not if I ‘ad the choice. That’s where it is. I ain’t got the choice of me own men, I have to be told now if a man’s a engineer or not.’
‘Don’t get talking so, Phil, young Mr Dupret ain’t done nothing to you yet.’
‘Ah, but what’s ‘e going to do? There’s nothing that comes I can’t see coming, all my life or I shouldn’t be where I am. And Tarver? Aren’t I as nice and easy with him as a man could be, cooing like a dove to ‘im, yes, and I’d turn somersaults like other pigeons if that’s what he preferred. Ah Janie I’m glad we’re leaving for old Brum tomorrow. It’s got on my nerves sitting here. But there’s this to it, I feel grand, grand after this ten days.’
He went over and gave wife sounding kiss. She laughed: ‘you get ‘is girl behind a hedge!’ she said.