‘What’s in your mind then about where we’re going to?’ he said to Lily, on their Sunday walk, later. She rubbed his arm between palms of her hands. She said was nothing particular only instead of this Canada ‘e was always talking about why couldn’t they go East. He said what did she mean by that? She told him then of film she had seen.
‘A tea plantation?’
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘a tea place, a place where tea grows.’ He said would not likely be any factories there to work in. She answered him he would have to give up his trade. What chances were in engineering now she said. If they went to Canada it might only be out of the frying pan into fire. ‘There’s no money in that trade and won’t be for years. You chuck it up, Bert.’
‘Well if we did go out where’d we get the passage money from. It’s not like Canada, you’d have to pay the train fare to those places.’
‘Mr Dupret would lend it you.’
‘Oh would he, ‘ow’d you know? I ‘aven’t been at his place more than three years. Anyway what’s the hours and wages in a tea plantation.’
‘I don’t know for sure, but it’ll be more than in factories.’
‘Yes, but I don’t know the trade.’
‘They’d learn you. You see Bert there’s not so many white men out there, here there’s too many, that’s what keeps wages low. I say go out to where a working chap’s wanted, not where there’s too many already.’
‘Well and if we did go out, what about the ‘eat. Could you stand the ‘eat. It’s the tropics where tea grows you know.’
‘Oh yes I could stand it, yes I like it where it’s warm.’
‘Ah, but it’s hot out there. How’d you know you could?’
‘H.O.T. — warm,’ she said and rubbed arm between palms of her hand. ‘I know I could dear,’ she said and he kissed her while she laughed at him. ‘Crazyhead’ he kept on saying to her then.
Miss Glossop was downcast. We have seen her feeling, when she thought of Tom Tyler, had been like a tropical ocean with an infinite variety of colour. As her boat came near dry land you-could see coral reefs and the seaweed where in and out went bright fishes, as her thoughts turned to him so you could see all these in her eyes. Further out in the deep sea, in her deeper feeling about him when he was away, now and again dolphins came up to feed on the surface of that ocean. And in her passage she disturbed shoals of flying fish. These were the orchestration of her feelings, so transparently her feeling lapped him and her thoughts, in shoals, fed on the top, or hung poised for two moments in the shallows.
All this was so when he had come back only more so — the dolphins played more often and her boat, thrusting along, disturbed more flying fish. In the shallows was a greater activity, halcyon weather. Every day shone the sun, every day the sea took on new values. And every day at that time there was a look about her eyes of an excited stupefaction at these things.
Then, as we know, it was taken away. When he repulsed her it seemed she was on a boat surveying that discoloured feeling, that desolation in the sea when sky is grey and dark. And always the boat was circling round that land. Then, as we have seen, tropical birds came out and rested on this ship. One by one they reminded her she was on a particular sea, and near land very particular to her. Weeping, weeping, when she was reminded in this way of how bright her conceits had been, weeping she added to an ocean made up, as she was then thinking, of tears shed at the perfidy of man.
Her mother, seeing this, insisted that she must go out often, to be distracted. So when she came to dinner with the Duprets, that dinner which had so often been put off, she was still circling round her memory of Tom Tyler, only each day she circled a little wider, a little farther off.
But stretch this simile, and, having given Tom Tyler one island, make archipelago about him — though each day she circled farther from Mr Tyler yet she did not draw any nearer to where Dick lay. Nor any nearer to her mother’s island.
Mrs Dupret had told son she too had heard Miss Glossop was in love with Mr Tyler but that he was not in love with her. She told him he would catch the girl on the rebound. So when at last Miss Glossop came to dinner this moment seemed of great importance to him.
When she came into room he dared not look at her. At the same time he could not answer girl he was talking to so she thought sudden blankness in him must be because of pains in his stomach. Mrs Dupret called out: ‘Dick, where are your manners, darling? Here is Hannah,’ and he went over. Then girl he had been talking to saw just how it all was, that he was in love. He went over. He shook Miss Glossop by the hand. He could not find anything to say to her. At last he said in despair: ‘What have you been doing? I haven’t seen you for ages.’ She said something about country house-parties and hunt balls and he thought ‘Oh if she could have said — I have been in love and have been thrown over then oh then he would have said — I am in love, but my love is not returned!’ Then would they have talked of this, each sympathizing with the other and then gradually he would have taught her it was she he was in love with. Then she would have seen what miserable sort of man was Mr Tyler.
As it was she said nothing and was another silence between them. Then he said he wished they would hurry up with dinner and she answered she was sorry she was so dull that he must long for escape to a meal. ‘Not at all, no, no, it’s only that I’m hungry. Heavens, I didn’t mean…’
‘Oh all right, all right. Don’t let’s go on with that,’ she said and said no more. He moved off feeling if he could shoot himself he would do then.
Very disturbed he went to his mother and drew her aside. He said she must change places at dinner, he could not sit next to Hannah. Mrs Dupret became helpless. She said what was the matter? and he answered Hannah was angry with him, would not speak to him.
‘But how can I change all the places now dear. Look here comes Pringle now.’
‘Dinner is served madam.’
‘No dear, you must sit next her, it’s too late now. And I don’t suppose she is angry with you, darling. How can I change all the places now, I can’t, can I?’
Terribly disturbed he took her down to dinner. People on either side of them began talking away from them, they were left high and dry.
When, party went he stayed on over — was nothing for him to do in London, the business ran itself, nothing to do but sign cheques on Thursday and this was Tuesday. He took boat and rowed on the river. What a new year, he thought in mind, what a new year, father dead and now Miss Glossop was over, that was done with!
River was brown and flowed rapidly down to the sea. On either side the violet land under this grey sky. Trees on either side graciously inclined this way and that, leaning on his oars he watched these and rooks that out of the sky came peaceably down on fields.
He thought in his mind here was end of another chapter, another episode done with (Miss Glossop had been rude to him whenever she could be rude.) He thought his mistake had been at all to mix with these people, he had no place here, he was like father in that who had never really mixed but had led his own life. Why, he asked in mind, should you leave your life lying about to be cut in pieces by Miss Glossop. And, when it was cut to ribbons, for other Miss Glossops to watch it lying there and be diverted by it. One should go away he thought.
One might go to foreign countries but what was in these but nausea of travelling, hotels, trains, languages you did not know, Americans? Besides it was work he wanted.
So gradually he decided he would go to Birmingham. Hadn’t mother told him it was his own fault now if works were not satisfactory. He would take Walters and Archer and they would spend a week or two there. They would have a grand clear out, Tarver was not having a square deal — an early spring cleaning. Work, that was it, he would work.