Mr Jones came back to his lodgings after work.
Man and woman who owned the house sat down to evening meal with him.
Their name was Johns. Mrs Johns said to him: ‘What’s the matter Bert? You’ve been that restless these last two days.’
‘What’s up with ‘im?’ husband said. ‘It’s nothing but one of you women’ve got hold on ‘im.’
‘Then what’s your young lady been sayin’ to you?’ asked Mrs Johns smiling.
‘It’s what ‘e said to her’ cried Mr Johns, ‘that’s what ‘as caused the rumpus. You women can’t never take a thing right.’
‘Yes I dare say but then men never could tell which was right or wrong. But I’m not talking to you, I’ve spoke enough to you these thirty years, I’m talking to Bert and I don’t like to see ‘im low like ‘e is.’
‘Take a tip from me young feller, don’t do it, don’t go and marry. I know.’
‘Marry, why shouldn’t ‘e marry?’
‘That’s it, go on, ten bob down and fifty bob a week for the rest of your life, nothing wrong with that is there? That’s why women are so keen on marrying, and I don’t blame ‘em seein’ men is such fools. But I don’t know where all the money goes.’
‘I’d like to see you managing this ‘ouse.’
‘Oh well’ he said winking, ‘I aint never regretted it when I married you.’
‘ ‘Ave some sugar candy,’ Mrs Johns said to Mr Jones, ‘oh my listen to my ‘usband.’ Husband and wife laughed but they both looked at Mr Jones who did not laugh, and they grew serious.
‘I don’t reckon to meddle in any man’s business’ said Mr Johns ‘but seein’ you’ve been ‘ere some years you won’t take it wrong if I ask ‘as anything bad ‘appened.’
‘No it aint nothing that you can call bad, but I’m fed up, that’s all.’
‘Fed up, are yer? Yes, we’ve all been fed up in our time, and it’s not a thing that gets any better as you grow older either. ‘Ad a set-to with the foreman?’
‘No, it was this way. I ‘adn’t put down the six inch file I was using about twenty seconds, just time to blow my nose and the old man — we call ‘im Tis ‘im in our place — was all over me and threatens to suspend me. Well that’s not treatin’ you right. I tell you I’d like to get out of that place. It’s old fashioned and there’s no getting on in places like that. Tell you the truth I’d been thinking of clearin’ out into a new country.’
‘They aint no places for a woman’ said Mrs Johns.
‘She’s more keen on going even than what I am.’
‘Ah, that’s all very well,’ said Mr Johns, ‘but what if she wants to come back after a month or two out there. Females is funny things.’
‘You don’t know ‘er,’ Mr Jones said. He spoke like he was sorry Lil was as she was.
‘Women’ll tell you there’s nothin’ they want more but then when it comes to doin’ it they won’t ‘ave it.’
‘Oh yes’ said Mrs Johns, ‘but who eats the ‘ouse up, tell me that.’
‘I’d go alone if I was you,’ said Mr Johns, ‘and then ‘ave ‘er come out after if you’ve fell on yer pins.’
‘That’s what I’ll do’ said Mr Jones triumphantly.
‘ ‘E don’t seem any too sorry to get away from ‘er,’ said Mr Johns to wife who said: ‘but when’s this comin’ off, not any too soon is it? I mean we shall ‘ave you stayin’ on here a month or two yet, will we? We don’t want to lose you, you know.’
‘No, missus, it won’t be for a month or two.’
‘Where would you be thinkin’ of going if I might ask,’ said Mr Johns.
‘Well she, I don’t rightly know yet,’ he said and Mr Johns looked at wife and winked. Jones went on to say Mr Herbert Tomson had gone out to Australia and just because he had not found job there except on the land, which he was not taking, it was no argument why you mightn’t go to Canada. Then for a time they fell to talking how wrong it was to expect men who had worked in factories to go back to work on the land.
‘It aint fair on the females,’ Mr Johns was saying.
‘No, my young lady wouldn’t stand that,’ Jones said.
Later, when they were alone, Mr Johns said Bert would never go out and to look at way he told Lily Gates he went to technical school in evenings when he never went after first three times. Mrs Johns said no, he would never go. He hadn’t the stuff in him, she said.
When they had had supper and again Mr Craigan was reading Dickens and Joe Gates was gone out, Dale stared at Lily washing up. (She washed up now because this was not evening for going out with Bert Jones.)
Mr Craigan smoked pipe, already room was blurred by smoke from it and by steam from hot water in the sink. She swilled water over the plates and electric light caught in shining waves of water which rushed off plates as she held them, and then light caught on wet plates in moons. She dried these. One by one then she put them up into the rack on wall above her, and as she stretched up so her movements pulled all ways at his heart, so beautiful she seemed to him. Mr Craigan would never have windows opened at evening so was a haze in that room, like to Dale’s feeling. When she had done and was drying red hands, he said would she care to go to the movies with him again. He was so humble, and then Bert and she were saving, Jim would pay for her into movie, why yes why not, she had had hard day’s work, (it had been washing day), yes she would go. ‘I don’t mind,’ she said, and went to change her clothes.
He thought of her face shining from the steam, and if it were his to touch it. Feeling of confidence rising in him he thought he would bite it. Yet when they came to cinema again helplessness came over him. Sitting next her in intimacy of the dark and music yet she was far from him.
This film was of the tropics and again as when she had seen that black man in the streets all her muscles softened under the influence of dreams and imagination of that warmth. She felt in her heart it must be a soft thing, not the cruel beating heat it is.
And he did not understand her, and how sitting beside felt her hard and cruel, and hating him. He did not see she was all dreams, all her own dreams.
But Mr Craigan saw this. Little Dorrit laid on his knee, he thought it was selfishness that was all of Miss Gates, like it had been with her Aunt Ellie. He began talking aloud to himself. ‘Yet she’s a good wench,’ he said, ‘there’s not many of her age would keep the house so clean.’ Was a silence. ‘An’ she aint been out so often with Bert Jones,’ he said. He fell to picking at his coat. Then he held up finger and squinted at it. He chuckled. ‘Her blubbered when I told ‘er of her Aunt Ellie’ he said in whisper. ‘Ah’ he said ‘but as the tree leans so the branches is inclined.’
Suddenly he broke out into loud voice: ‘I wouldn’t educate my son above the station ‘e was born in,’ he said and then whispering ‘what is there in it, old Dupret ‘ad to work twelve hours a day to keep ‘is money I’ll be bound ‘e did.’ Was a silence. ‘An’ a motor-car, aint we better on the feet our mothers bore us.’ No, he thought, she was good girl, and this trouble would go by. She’d see Jones hadn’t the making in him to work. She would go back to Dale that was an honest lad.
And indeed, now tropic film was over, she said two words to Dale. She was grateful to him again, this time again for keeping quiet. Kindness in her voice bewildered Mr Dale.
‘Well if we do go’ he said in a bad temper, ‘where’ll we go to.’
‘If that’s the tone of voice you’re using, Bert, to think of our goin’ away in, well then,’ she said, ‘we’d better talk of it some other day.’
Sunday. They were walking out along road into the country. Air was warm and moist. Silence was between them then.
‘Go on, dear,’ she said. ‘I didn’t mean any ‘urt.’
‘It’s this weather gets on my nerves.’
‘Yes, I’m sure when I came out I didn’t know what to wear yes I didn’t at all. But I brought the old gamp,’ she said and made a little wave with umbrella at clouds above.
‘Don’t you like our goin’ to Canada?’
She said yes in undetermined sort of way.
‘Yes or no,’ he said.
‘Aint I said yes. I don’t know what’s been the matter with you lately I’m sure, no I don’t.’
They squabbled then a little and she dragged gamp behind her more and more, most mournful thing to see. Her face paled to sicklish colour. Her mouth grew stiff and grim like that umbrella looked. He said didn’t she want to come, was she going to draw back, was she afraid of work he said. She smiled. ‘Work,’ she said, ‘why you’re a wonderful worker to be suspended twice in six months.’
He got very angry. He said he hadn’t been suspended but the once and didn’t he go to technical school so many nights a week, was it his fault he’d been suspended it being all along of Tupe, that her father went about with now. If she didn’t want to come he didn’t want her.
‘You don’t want me,’ she said and she went paler. ‘Don’t want me,’ she said and she began crying. Large tears came down from eyes down her still face. He turned. He saw these and as the sun comes out from behind clouds then birds whistle again for the sun, so love came out in his eyes (at the victory, at making her cry) and he whispered things senseless as whistling birds. Lastly he said, ‘and what would I do if you weren’t coming!’ She clung to him — aching tenderness — and she thought how could he be so cruel.
Mrs Eames said to husband had he noticed Lily wore woollen stockings quite often now and he said no did she? Lily was in love, Mrs Eames said; she knew, she knew. Then it would be Jim Dale Mr Eames said, and Mrs laughed at him. ‘Observant, lord save us!’ she said and went on about Bert Jones saying he was the one Lily was after and he worked in Dupret factory. ‘Works at our place?’ said Mr Eames, ‘ah, I know the one you mean. Given up silk stockings for ‘im? Well that’s not many of ‘em would do that nowadays, goin’ to work of a morning you don’t see nothing but these art silk stockings.’
‘No, I don’t reckon you would! Yet what these girls put all their money on their legs for I don’t know,’ she said, ‘seeing how some are made.’
‘It’s a bloody marvel to me they’re alive all of ‘em, getting their legs wet coming to work and going back of an evening.’
‘Don’t you go thinking about things like that my man. You’ve never told me about getting my feet wet. But what I like about Lily is she’s got the spirit to do what’s in ‘er mind.’ Mrs Eames said were not many girls would have courage to go out in woollen stockings and not paint her face, to go against the tide like she did to save money. Real pity was she did not dance, Lily, she said, had met too few men. What’s this Bert Jones like? she said.
‘I can’t say I’ve spoken to ‘im more than two or three times in the last year. ‘E seems like a lot of the other young chaps, you know, he don’t seem to ‘ave much interest in nothing. But ‘e’s good at his job I’ve been told. ‘E’s one of them that are always smoking cigarettes.’
Mrs Eames said she would laugh if Lily married him instead of Jim Dale as old Craigan intended.
‘ ‘Ow’s that? Jim’s all right, there’s nothing wrong with Jim, he’s as steady a man as any woman could wish.’
Mrs Eames said she would like to see the laugh on old Craigan. Mr said so that was it was it, but what had she got against Mr Craigan who was most respected man in the works. He never interfered in anyone’s affairs and there was nobody didn’t like him. Well, said Mrs Eames, it was Joe Gates really. She didn’t like that man. Once a bird had got caught between windows over at their house and they had sent for her to come over. It was one of first times Lily had been out with Bert Jones. Well after she got tired out, that Gates had started telling her dirty stories like she wasn’t respectable.
‘I’ll go over an’ ‘ave a bit of a talk with Joe Gates now,’ he said.
‘Now don’t you go and get quarrelling. There ain’t nothing in it to be worrying over, or to act foolish, it was all months ago.’
Mr Eames was angry. But at last, when she told him it was really nothing, he said he never could cotton to Joe Gates. ‘I don’t like the way he goes about with Tupe,’ he said, ‘who’s no better than a low down spy of Bridges’. And seeing he lives in Craigan’s ‘ouse ‘e’s no business to go about with Tupe. There’s no love beggin’ between old Mr Craigan and ‘im. The dirty ‘ound, the names he’s called ‘im before now, and to his face.’
‘Oh well I expect you know the old man best. But what’s ‘e keep that girl shut up for like he does?’
‘It’s none of my business what ‘e does,’ said Mr Eames, ‘but if I ‘ad a daughter of her age I don’t say I wouldn’t do the same.’
‘Then you’d be a fool, my lad.’
‘Maybe I would but I wouldn’t ‘ave things going on in my family like there is in houses no farther’n this street.’
‘Listen to you!’ cried Mrs Eames. ‘Well, and d’you know what’s goin’ to ‘appen to them all. You listen to me and I’ll tell you. She’s going to marry Bert Jones and Craigan’ll go and live with ‘em, while Gates goes off and lives with Tupe most likely.’
‘Most likely the best place ‘e could be,’ said Mr Eames. ‘but what exactly did you say ‘e’d said to you.’