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Chapter 6 Houghton's last endeavour

  • The trouble with her ship was that it would  _not_  sail. It rode waterlogge_n the rotting port of home. All very well to have wild, reckless moods o_rony and independence, if you have to pay for them by withering dustily o_he shelf.
  • Alvina fell again into humility and fear: she began to show symptoms of he_other's heart trouble. For day followed day, month followed month, seaso_fter season went by, and she grubbed away like a housemaid in Mancheste_ouse, she hurried round doing the shopping, she sang in the choir on Sundays, she attended the various chapel events, she went out to visit friends, an_aughed and talked and played games. But all the time, what was there actuall_n her life? Not much. She was withering towards old-maiddom. Already in he_wenty-eighth year, she spent her days grubbing in the house, whilst he_ather became an elderly, frail man still too lively in mind and spirit. Mis_innegar began to grow grey and elderly too, money became scarcer and scarcer, there was a black day ahead when her father would die and the home be broke_p, and she would have to tackle life as a worker.
  • There lay the only alternative: in work. She might slave her days awa_eaching the piano, as Miss Frost had done: she might find a subordinate pos_s nurse: she might sit in the cash-desk of some shop. Some work of some sor_ould be found for her. And she would sink into the routine of her job, as di_o many women, and grow old and die, chattering and fluttering. She would hav_hat is called her independence. But, seriously faced with that treasure, an_ithout the option of refusing it, strange how hideous she found it.
  • Work!—a job! More even than she rebelled against the Withams did she rebe_gainst a job. Albert Witham was distasteful to her—or rather, he was no_xactly distasteful, he was chiefly incongruous. She could never get over th_eeling that he was mouthing and smiling at her through the glass wall of a_quarium, he being on the watery side. Whether she would ever be able to tak_o his strange and dishuman element, who knows? Anyway it would be some sor_f an adventure: better than a job. She rebelled with all her backbone agains_he word  _job_. Even the substitutes,  _employment_  or  _work_ , wer_etestable, unbearable. Emphatically, she did not want to work for a wage. I_as too humiliating. Could anything be more  _infra dig_  than the performin_f a set of special actions day in day out, for a life-time, in order t_eceive some shillings every seventh day. Shameful! A condition of shame. Th_ost vulgar, sordid and humiliating of all forms of slavery: so mechanical.
  • Far better be a slave outright, in contact with all the whims and impulses o_ human being, than serve some mechanical routine of modern work.
  • She trembled with anger, impotence, and fear. For months, the thought o_lbert was a torment to her. She might have married him. He would have bee_trange, a strange fish. But were it not better to take the strange leap, ove_nto his element, than to condemn oneself to the routine of a job? He woul_ave been curious and dishuman. But after all, it would have been a_xperience. In a way, she liked him. There was something odd and integra_bout him, which she liked. He was not a liar. In his own line, he was hones_nd direct. Then he would take her to South Africa: a whole new  _milieu_. An_erhaps she would have children. She shivered a little. No, not his children!
  • He seemed so curiously cold-blooded. And yet, why not? Why not his curious, pale, half cold-blooded children, like little fishes of her own? Why not?
  • Everything was possible: and even desirable, once one could see th_trangeness of it. Once she could plunge through the wall of the aquarium!
  • Once she could kiss him!
  • Therefore Miss Pinnegar's quiet harping on the string was unbearable.
  • "I can't understand that you disliked Mr. Witham so much?" said Miss Pinnegar.
  • "We never can understand those things," said Alvina. "I can't understand why _islike tapioca and arrowroot—but I do."
  • "That's different," said Miss Pinnegar shortly.
  • "It's no more easy to understand," said Alvina.
  • "Because there's no need to understand it," said Miss Pinnegar. "And is ther_eed to understand the other?"
  • "Certainly. I can see nothing wrong with him," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • Alvina went away in silence. This was in the first months after she had give_lbert his dismissal. He was at Oxford again—would not return to Woodhous_ill Christmas. Between her and the Woodhouse Withams there was a decide_oldness. They never looked at her now—nor she at them.
  • None the less, as Christmas drew near Alvina worked up her feelings. Perhap_he would be reconciled to him. She would slip across and smile to him. Sh_ould take the plunge, once and for all—and kiss him and marry him and bea_he little half-fishes, his children. She worked herself into quite a fever o_nticipation.
  • But when she saw him, the first evening, sitting stiff and staring flatly i_ront of him in Chapel, staring away from everything in the world, at heave_nows what—just as fishes stare—then his dishumanness came over her again lik_n arrest, and arrested all her flights of fancy. He stared flatly in front o_im, and flatly set a wall of oblivion between him and her. She trembled an_et be.
  • After Christmas, however, she had nothing at all to think forward to. And i_as then she seemed to shrink: she seemed positively to shrink. "You neve_poke to Mr. Witham?" Miss Pinnegar asked.
  • "He never spoke to me," replied Alvina.
  • "He raised his hat to me."
  • " _You_  ought to have married him, Miss Pinnegar," said Alvina. "He woul_ave been right for you." And she laughed rather mockingly.
  • "There is no need to make provision for me," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • And after this, she was a long time before she forgave Alvina, and was reall_riendly again. Perhaps she would never have forgiven her if she had not foun_er weeping rather bitterly in her mother's abandoned sitting-room.
  • Now so far, the story of Alvina is commonplace enough. It is more or less th_tory of thousands of girls. They all find work. It is the ordinary solutio_f everything. And if we were dealing with an ordinary girl we should have t_arry on mildly and dully down the long years of employment; or, at the best, marriage with some dull schoolteacher or office-clerk.
  • But we protest that Alvina is not ordinary. Ordinary people, ordinary fates.
  • But extraordinary people, extraordinary fates. Or else no fate at all. Th_ll-to-one-pattern modern system is too much for most extraordinar_ndividuals. It just kills them off or throws them disused aside.
  • There have been enough stories about ordinary people. I should think the Duk_f Clarence must even have found malmsey nauseating, when he choked and wen_urple and was really asphyxiated in a butt of it. And ordinary people are n_almsey. Just ordinary tap-water. And we have been drenched and deluged and s_early drowned in perpetual floods of ordinariness, that tap-water tends t_ecome a really hateful fluid to us. We loathe its out-of-the-ta_astelessness. We detest ordinary people. We are in peril of our lives fro_hem: and in peril of our souls too, for they would damn us one and all to th_rdinary. Every individual should, by nature, have his extraordinary points.
  • But nowadays you may look for them with a microscope, they are so worn-down b_he regular machine-friction of our average and mechanical days.
  • There was no hope for Alvina in the ordinary. If help came, it would have t_ome from the extraordinary. Hence the extreme peril of her case. Hence th_itter fear and humiliation she felt as she drudged shabbily on in Mancheste_ouse, hiding herself as much as possible from public view. Men can suck th_eady juice of exalted self-importance from the bitter weed o_ailure—failures are usually the most conceited of men: even as was Jame_oughton. But to a woman, failure is another matter. For her it means failur_o live, failure to establish her own life on the face of the earth. And thi_s humiliating, the ultimate humiliation.
  • And so the slow years crept round, and the completed coil of each one was _urther heavy, strangling noose. Alvina had passed her twenty-sixth, twenty- seventh, twenty-eighth and even her twenty-ninth year. She was in he_hirtieth. It ought to be a laughing matter. But it isn't.
  • >
  • > Ach, schon zwanzig
  • > Ach, schon zwanzig
  • > Immer noch durch's Leben tanz' ich
  • > Jeder, Jeder will mich küssen
  • > Mir das Leben zu versüssen.
  • > > Ach, schon dreissig
  • > Ach, schon dreissig
  • > Immer Mädchen, Mädchen heiss' ich.
  • > In dem Zopf schon graue Härchen
  • > Ach, wie schnell vergehn die Jährchen.
  • > > Ach, schon vierzig
  • > Ach, schon vierzig
  • > Und noch immer Keiner find 'sich.
  • > Im gesicht schon graue Flecken
  • > Ach, das muss im Spiegel stecken.
  • > > Ach, schon fünfzig
  • > Ach, schon fünfzig
  • > Und noch immer Keiner will 'mich;
  • > Soll ich mich mit Bänden zieren
  • > Soll ich einen Schleier führen?
  • > Dann heisst's, die Alte putzt sich,
  • > Sie ist fu'fzig, sie ist fu'fzig.
  • >
  • True enough, in Alvina's pig-tail of soft brown the grey hairs were alread_howing. True enough, she still preferred to be thought of as a girl. And th_low-footed years, so heavy in passing, were so imperceptibly numerous i_heir accumulation.
  • But we are not going to follow our song to its fatal and dreary conclusion.
  • Presumably, the  _ordinary_  old-maid heroine nowadays is destined to die i_er fifties, she is not allowed to be the long-liver of the bygone novels. Le_he song suffice her.
  • James Houghton had still another kick in him. He had one last scheme up hi_leeve. Looking out on a changing world, it was the popular novelties whic_ad the last fascination for him. The Skating Rink, like another Charybdis, had all but entangled him in its swirl as he pushed painfully off from th_ocks of Throttle-Ha'penny. But he had escaped, and for almost three years ha_ain obscurely in port, like a frail and finished bark, selling the last o_is bits and bobs, and making little splashes in warehouse-oddments. Mis_innegar thought he had really gone quiet.
  • But alas, at that degenerated and shabby, down-at-heel club he met anothe_empter: a plump man who had been in the music-hall line as a sort of agent.
  • This man had catered for the little shows of little towns. He had been i_merica, out West, doing shows there. He had trailed his way back to England, where he had left his wife and daughter. But he did not resume his famil_ife. Wherever he was, his wife was a hundred miles away. Now he found himsel_ore or less stranded in Woodhouse. He had  _nearly_  fixed himself up with _usic-hall in the Potteries—as manager: he had all-but got such another plac_t Ickley, in Derbyshire: he had forced his way through the industrial an_ining townlets, prospecting for any sort of music-hall or show from which h_ould get a picking. And now, in very low water, he found himself a_oodhouse.
  • Woodhouse had a cinema already: a famous Empire run-up by Jordan, the sl_uilder and decorator who had got on so surprisingly. In James's younger days, Jordan was an obscure and illiterate nobody. And now he had a motor car, an_ooked at the tottering James with sardonic contempt, from under his heavy, heavy-lidded dark eyes. He was rather stout, frail in health, but silent an_nsuperable, was A. W Jordan.
  • "I missed a chance there," said James, fluttering. "I missed a rare chanc_here. I ought to have been first with a cinema."
  • He admitted as much to Mr. May, the stranger who was looking for some sort of
  • "managing" job. Mr. May, who also was plump and who could hold his tongue, bu_hose pink, fat face and light-blue eyes had a loud look, for all that, pu_he speech in his pipe and smoked it. Not that he smoked a pipe: alway_igarettes. But he seized on James's admission, as something to be made th_ost of.
  • Now Mr. May's mind, though quick, was pedestrian, not winged. He had come t_oodhouse not to look at Jordan's "Empire," but at the temporary woode_tructure that stood in the old Cattle Market "Wright's Cinematograph an_ariety Theatre." Wright's was not a superior show, like the Woodhouse Empire.
  • Yet it was always packed with colliers and work-lasses. But unfortunatel_here was no chance of Mr. May's getting a finger in the Cattle Market pie.
  • Wright's was a family affair. Mr. and Mrs. Wright and a son and two daughter_ith their husbands: a tight old lock-up family concern. Yet it was the kin_f show that appealed to Mr. May: pictures between the turns. Th_inematograph was but an item in the program, amidst the more thrillin_ncidents—to Mr. May—of conjurors, popular songs, five-minute farces, performing birds, and comics. Mr. May was too human to believe that a sho_hould consist entirely of the dithering eye-ache of a film.
  • He was becoming really depressed by his failure to find any opening. He ha_is family to keep—and though his honesty was of the variety sort, he had _eavy conscience in the direction of his wife and daughter. Having been s_ong in America, he had acquired American qualities, one of which was thi_eavy sort of private innocence, coupled with complacent and natura_nscrupulousness in "matters of business." A man of some odd sensitiveness i_aterial things, he liked to have his clothes neat and spick, his line_mmaculate, his face clean-shaved like a cherub. But alas, his clothes wer_ow old-fashioned, so that their rather expensive smartness was detrimental t_is chances, in spite of their scrupulous look of having come almost new ou_f the bandbox that morning. His rather small felt hats still curved jauntil_ver his full pink face. But his eyes looked lugubrious, as if he felt he ha_ot deserved so much bad luck, and there were bilious lines beneath them.
  • So Mr. May, in his room in the Moon and Stars, which was the best inn i_oodhouse—he must have a good hotel—lugubriously considered his position.
  • Woodhouse offered little or nothing. He must go to Alfreton. And would he fin_nything there? Ah, where, where in this hateful world was there refuge for _an saddled with responsibilities, who wanted to do his best and was given n_pportunity? Mr. May had travelled in his Pullman car and gone straight to th_est hotel in the town, like any other American with money—in America. He ha_one it smart, too. And now, in this grubby penny-picking England, he saw hi_oots being worn-down at the heel, and was afraid of being stranded withou_ash even for a railway ticket. If he had to clear out without paying hi_otel bill—well, that was the world's fault. He had to live. But he mus_erforce keep enough in hand for a ticket to Birmingham. He always said hi_ife was in London. And he always walked down to Lumley to post his letters.
  • He was full of evasions.
  • So again he walked down to Lumley to post his letters. And he looked a_umley. And he found it a damn god-forsaken hell of a hole. It was a lon_traggle of a dusty road down in the valley, with a pale-grey dust and spatte_rom the pottery, and big chimneys bellying forth black smoke right by th_oad. Then there was a short cross-way, up which one saw the iron foundry, _lack and rusty place. A little further on was the railway junction, an_eyond that, more houses stretching to Hathersedge, where the stockin_actories were busy. Compared with Lumley, Woodhouse, whose church could b_een sticking up proudly and vulgarly on an eminence, above trees and meadow- slopes, was an idyllic heaven.
  • Mr. May turned in to the Derby Hotel to have a small whiskey. And of course h_ntered into conversation.
  • "You seem somewhat quiet at Lumley," he said, in his odd, refined-showman'_oice. "Have you  _nothing at all_  in the way of amusement?"
  • "They all go up to Woodhouse, else to Hathersedge."
  • "But couldn't you support some place of your own—some  _rival_  to Wright'_ariety?"
  • "Ay—'appen—if somebody started it."
  • And so it was that James was inoculated with the idea of starting a cinema o_he virgin soil of Lumley. To the women he said not a word. But on the ver_irst morning that Mr. May broached the subject, he became a new man. H_luttered like a boy, he fluttered as if he had just grown wings.
  • "Let us go down," said Mr. May, "and look at a site. You pledge yourself t_othing—you don't compromise yourself. You merely have a site in your mind."
  • And so it came to pass that, next morning, this oddly assorted couple wen_own to Lumley together. James was very shabby, in his black coat and dar_rey trousers, and his cheap grey cap. He bent forward as he walked, and stil_ipped along hurriedly, as if pursued by fate. His face was thin and stil_andsome. Odd that his cheap cap, by incongruity, made him look more _entleman. But it did. As he walked he glanced alertly hither and thither, an_aluted everybody.
  • By his side, somewhat tight and tubby, with his chest out and his head back, went the prim figure of Mr. May, reminding one of a consequential bird of th_maller species. His plumbago-grey suit fitted exactly—save that it wa_erhaps a little tight. The jacket and waistcoat were bound with silk braid o_xactly the same shade as the cloth. His soft collar, immaculately fresh, ha_ dark stripe like his shirt. His boots were black, with grey suede uppers: but a  _little_  down at heel. His dark-grey hat was jaunty. Altogether h_ooked very spruce, though a  _little_  behind the fashions: very pink faced, though his blue eyes were bilious beneath: very much on the spot, although th_pot was the wrong one.
  • They discoursed amiably as they went, James bending forward, Mr. May bendin_ack. Mr. May took the refined man-of-the-world tone.
  • "Of course," he said—he used the two words very often, and pronounced th_econd, rather mincingly, to rhyme with  _sauce_ : "Of course," said Mr. May,
  • "it's a disgusting place— _disgusting_! I never was in a worse, in all th_cauce_  of my travels. But  _then_ —that isn't the point—"
  • He spread his plump hands from his immaculate shirt-cuffs.
  • "No, it isn't. Decidedly it isn't. That's beside the point altogether. What w_ant—" began James.
  • "Is an audience—of  _cauce_ —! And we have it—! Virgin soil—!"
  • "Yes, decidedly. Untouched! An unspoiled market."
  • "An unspoiled market!" reiterated Mr. May, in full confirmation, though with _aint flicker of a smile. "How very  _fortunate_  for us."
  • "Properly handled," said James. "Properly handled."
  • "Why yes—of  _cauce_! Why  _shouldn't_  we handle it properly!"
  • "Oh, we shall manage that, we shall manage that," came the quick, slightl_usky voice of James.
  • "Of  _cauce_  we shall! Why bless my life, if we can't manage an audience i_umley, what  _can_  we do."
  • "We have a guide in the matter of their taste," said James. "We can see wha_right's are doing—and Jordan's—and we can go to Hathersedge and Knarboroug_nd Alfreton—beforehand, that is—"
  • "Why certainly—if you think it's  _necessary_. I'll do all that for you.
  • _And_  I'll interview the managers and the performers themselves—as if I wer_ journalist, don't you see. I've done a fair amount of journalism, an_othing easier than to get cards from various newspapers."
  • "Yes, that's a good suggestion," said James. "As if you were going to write a_ccount in the newspapers—excellent."
  • "And so simple! You pick up just  _all_  the information you require."
  • "Decidedly—decidedly!" said James.
  • And so behold our two heroes sniffing round the sordid backs and waste_eadows and marshy places of Lumley. They found one barren patch where tw_aravans were standing. A woman was peeling potatoes, sitting on the botto_tep of her caravan. A half-caste girl came up with a large pale-blu_namelled jug of water. In the background were two booths covered up wit_oloured canvas. Hammering was heard inside.
  • "Good-morning!" said Mr. May, stopping before the woman. "'Tisn't fair time, is it?"
  • "No, it's no fair," said the woman.
  • "I see. You're just on your own. Getting on all right?"
  • "Fair," said the woman.
  • "Only fair! Sorry. Good-morning."
  • Mr. May's quick eye, roving round, had seen a negro stoop from under th_anvas that covered one booth. The negro was thin, and looked young but rathe_rail, and limped. His face was very like that of the young negro in Watteau'_rawing—pathetic, wistful, north-bitten. In an instant Mr. May had taken al_n: the man was the woman's husband—they were acclimatized in these regions: the booth where he had been hammering was a Hoop-La. The other would be _ocoanut-shy. Feeling the instant American dislike for the presence of _egro, Mr. May moved off with James.
  • They found out that the woman was a Lumley woman, that she had two children, that the negro was a most quiet and respectable chap, but that the family kep_o itself, and didn't mix up with Lumley.
  • "I should think so," said Mr. May, a little disgusted even at the suggestion.
  • Then he proceeded to find out how long they had stood on this ground—thre_onths—how long they would remain—only another week, then they were moving of_o Alfreton fair—who was the owner of the pitch—Mr. Bows, the butcher. Ah! An_hat was the ground used for? Oh, it was building land. But the foundatio_asn't very good.
  • "The very thing! Aren't we  _fortunate_!" cried Mr. May, perking up the momen_hey were in the street. But this cheerfulness and brisk perkiness was a grea_train on him. He missed his eleven o'clock whiskey terribly—terribly—hi_ick-me-up! And he daren't confess it to James, who, he knew, was T-T. So h_ragged his weary and hollow way up to Woodhouse, and sank with a long "Oh!"
  • of nervous exhaustion in the private bar of the Moon and Stars. He wrinkle_is short nose. The smell of the place was distasteful to him. Th_disgusting_  beer that the colliers drank. Oh!—he  _was_  so tired. He san_ack with his whiskey and stared blankly, dismally in front of him. Beneat_is eyes he looked more bilious still. He felt thoroughly out of luck, an_etulant.
  • None the less he sallied out with all his old bright perkiness, the next tim_e had to meet James. He hadn't yet broached the question of costs. When woul_e be able to get an advance from James? He  _must_  hurry the matter forward.
  • He brushed his crisp, curly brown hair carefully before the mirror. How gre_e was at the temples! No wonder, dear me, with such a life! He was in hi_hirt-sleeves. His waistcoat, with its grey satin back, fitted him tightly. H_ad filled out—but he hadn't developed a corporation. Not at all. He looked a_imself sideways, and feared dismally he was thinner. He was one of those me_ho carry themselves in a birdie fashion, so that their tail sticks out _ittle behind, jauntily. How wonderfully the satin of his waistcoat had worn!
  • He looked at his shirt-cuffs. They were going. Luckily, when he had had th_hirts made he had secured enough material for the renewing of cuffs and neck- bands. He put on his coat, from which he had flicked the faintest suspicion o_ust, and again settled himself to go out and meet James on the question of a_dvance. He simply must have an advance.
  • He didn't get it that day, none the less. The next morning he was ringing fo_is tea at six o'clock. And before ten he had already flitted to Lumley an_ack, he had already had a word with Mr. Bows, about that pitch, and, overcoming all his repugnance, a word with the quiet, frail, sad negro, abou_lfreton fair, and the chance of buying some sort of collapsible building, fo_is cinematograph.
  • With all this news he met James—not at the shabby club, but in the deserte_eading-room of the so-called Artizans Hall—where never an artizan entered, but only men of James's class. Here they took the chess-board and pretended t_tart a game. But their conversation was rapid and secretive.
  • Mr. May disclosed all his discoveries. And then he said, tentatively:
  • "Hadn't we better think about the financial part now? If we're going to loo_ound for an erection—" curious that he always called it an erection—"we shal_ave to know what we are going to spend."
  • "Yes—yes. Well—" said James vaguely, nervously, giving a glance at Mr. May.
  • Whilst Mr. May abstractedly fingered his black knight.
  • "You see at the moment," said Mr. May, "I have no funds that I can represen_n cash. I have no doubt a little  _later_ —if we need it—I can find a fe_undreds. Many things are  _due_ —numbers of things. But it is so difficult t_collect_  one's dues, particularly from America." He lifted his blue eyes t_ames Houghton. "Of course we can  _delay_  for some time, until I get m_upplies. Or I can act just as your manager—you can  _employ_  me—"
  • He watched James's face. James looked down at the chess-board. He wa_luttering with excitement. He did not want a partner. He wanted to be in thi_ll by himself. He hated partners.
  • "You will agree to be manager, at a fixed salary?" said James hurriedly an_uskily, his fine fingers slowly rubbing each other, along the sides.
  • "Why yes, willingly, if you'll give me the option of becoming your partne_pon terms of mutual agreement, later on."
  • James did not quite like this.
  • "What terms are you thinking of?" he asked.
  • "Well, it doesn't matter for the moment. Suppose for the moment I enter a_ngagement as your manager, at a salary, let us say, of—of what, do yo_hink?"
  • "So much a week?" said James pointedly.
  • "Hadn't we better make it monthly?"
  • The two men looked at one another.
  • "With a month's notice on either hand?" continued Mr. May. "How much?" sai_ames, avaricious.
  • Mr. May studied his own nicely kept hands.
  • "Well, I don't see how I can do it under twenty pounds a month. Of course it'_idiculously low. In America I  _never_  accepted less than three hundre_ollars a month, and that was my poorest and lowest. But of  _cauce_ , England's not America—more's the pity."
  • But James was shaking his head in a vibrating movement. "Impossible!" h_eplied shrewdly. "Impossible! Twenty pounds a month? Impossible. I couldn'_o it. I couldn't think of it."
  • "Then name a figure. Say what you  _can_  think of," retorted Mr. May, rathe_nnoyed by this shrewd, shaking head of a doddering provincial, and by his ow_udden collapse into mean subordination.
  • "I can't make it more than ten pounds a month," said James sharply.
  • "What!" screamed Mr. May. "What am I to live on? What is my wife to live on?"
  • "I've got to make it pay," said James. "If I've got to make it pay, I mus_eep down expenses at the beginning."
  • "No,—on the contrary. You must be prepared to spend something at th_eginning. If you go in a pinch-and-scrape fashion in the beginning, you wil_et nowhere at all. Ten pounds a month! Why it's impossible! Ten pounds _onth! But how am I to  _live_?"
  • James's head still vibrated in a negative fashion. And the two men came to n_greement  _that_  morning. Mr. May went home more sick and weary than ever, and took his whiskey more biliously. But James was lit with the light o_attle.
  • Poor Mr. May had to gather together his wits and his sprightliness for hi_ext meeting. He had decided he must make a percentage in other ways. H_chemed in all known ways. He would accept the ten pounds—but really, did eve_ou hear of anything so ridiculous in your life,  _ten pounds_!—dirty ol_crew, dirty, screwing old woman! He would accept the ten pounds; but he woul_et his own back.
  • He flitted down once more to the negro, to ask him of a certain wooden show- house, with section sides and roof, an old travelling theatre which stoo_losed on Selverhay Common, and might probably be sold. He pressed across onc_ore to Mr. Bows. He wrote various letters and drew up certain notes. And th_ext morning, by eight o'clock, he was on his way to Selverhay: walking, poo_an, the long and uninteresting seven miles on his small and rather tight-sho_eet, through country that had been once beautiful but was now scrubbled al_ver with mining villages, on and on up heavy hills and down others, askin_is way from uncouth clowns, till at last he came to the Common, which wasn'_ Common at all, but a sort of village more depressing than usual: naked, high, exposed to heaven and to full barren view.
  • There he saw the theatre-booth. It was old and sordid-looking, painted dark- red and dishevelled with narrow, tattered announcements. The grass was growin_igh up the wooden sides. If only it wasn't rotten? He crouched and probed an_ierced with his penknife, till a country-policeman in a high helmet like _ug saw him, got off his bicycle and came stealthily across the grass wheelin_he same bicycle, and startled poor Mr. May almost into apoplexy by demandin_ehind him, in a loud voice:
  • "What're you after?"
  • Mr. May rose up with flushed face and swollen neck-veins, holding his pen- knife in his hand.
  • "Oh," he said, "good-morning." He settled his waistcoat and glanced over th_all, lanky constable and the glittering bicycle. "I was taking a look at thi_ld erection, with a view to buying it. I'm afraid it's going rotten from th_ottom."
  • "Shouldn't wonder," said the policeman suspiciously, watching Mr. May shut th_ocket knife.
  • "I'm afraid that makes it useless for my purpose," said Mr. May. The policema_id not deign to answer.
  • "Could you tell me where I can find out about it, anyway?" Mr. May used hi_ost affable, man of the world manner. But the policeman continued to star_im up and down, as if he were some marvellous specimen unknown on the normal, honest earth.
  • "What, find out?" said the constable.
  • "About being able to buy it," said Mr. May, a little testily. It was wit_reat difficulty he preserved his man-to-man openness and brightness. "The_ren't here," said the constable.
  • "Oh indeed! Where  _are_  they? And  _who_  are they?"
  • The policeman eyed him more suspiciously than ever.
  • "Cowlard's their name. An' they live in Offerton when they aren't travelling."
  • "Cowlard—thank you." Mr. May took out his pocket-book. "C-o-w-l-a-r-d—is tha_ight? And the address, please?"
  • "I dunno th' street. But you can find out from the Three Bells. That's Missis'
  • sister."
  • "The Three Bells—thank you. Offerton did you say?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Offerton!—where's that?"
  • "About eight mile."
  • "Really—and how do you get there?"
  • "You can walk—or go by train."
  • "Oh, there is a station?"
  • "Station!" The policeman looked at him as if he were either a criminal or _ool.
  • "Yes. There  _is_  a station there?"
  • "Ay—biggest next to Chesterfield—"
  • Suddenly it dawned on Mr. May.
  • "Oh-h!" he said. "You mean  _Alfreton_ —"
  • "Alfreton, yes." The policeman was now convinced the man was a wrong-'un. Bu_ortunately he was not a pushing constable, he did not want to rise in th_olice-scale: thought himself safest at the bottom.
  • "And which is the way to the station here?" asked Mr. May. "Do yer want Pinxo_r Bull'ill?"
  • "Pinxon or Bull'ill?"
  • "There's two," said the policeman.
  • "For Selverhay?" asked Mr. May.
  • "Yes, them's the two."
  • "And which is the best?"
  • "Depends what trains is runnin'. Sometimes yer have to wait an hour or two—"
  • "You don't know the trains, do you—?"
  • "There's one in th' afternoon—but I don't know if it'd be gone by the time yo_et down."
  • "To where?"
  • "Bull'ill."
  • "Oh Bull'ill! Well, perhaps I'll try. Could you tell me the way?"
  • When, after an hour's painful walk, Mr. May came to Bullwell Station and foun_here was no train till six in the evening, he felt he was earning every penn_e would ever get from Mr. Houghton.
  • The first intelligence which Miss Pinnegar and Alvina gathered of the comin_dventure was given them when James announced that he had let the shop t_arsden, the grocer next door. Marsden had agreed to take over James'_remises at the same rent as that of the premises he already occupied, an_oreover to do all alterations and put in all fixtures himself. This was _rand scoop for James: not a penny was it going to cost him, and the rent wa_lear profit.
  • "But when?" cried Miss Pinnegar.
  • "He takes possession on the first of October."
  • "Well—it's a good idea. The shop isn't worth while," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • "Certainly it isn't," said James, rubbing his hands: a sign that he was rarel_xcited and pleased.
  • "And you'll just retire, and live quietly," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • "I shall see," said James. And with those fatal words he wafted away to fin_r. May.
  • James was now nearly seventy years old. Yet he nipped about like a leaf in th_ind. Only, it was a frail leaf.
  • "Father's got something going," said Alvina, in a warning voice.
  • "I believe he has," said Miss Pinnegar pensively. "I wonder what it is, now."
  • "I can't imagine," laughed Alvina. "But I'll bet it's something awful—els_e'd have told us."
  • "Yes," said Miss Pinnegar slowly. "Most likely he would. I wonder what it ca_e."
  • "I haven't an idea," said Alvina.
  • Both women were so retired, they had heard nothing of James's little trip_own to Lumley. So they watched like cats for their man's return, at dinner- time.
  • Miss Pinnegar saw him coming along talking excitedly to Mr. May, who, all i_rey, with his chest perkily stuck out like a robin, was looking rather pinke_han usual. Having come to an agreement, he had ventured on whiskey and sod_n honour, and James had actually taken a glass of port.
  • "Alvina!" Miss Pinnegar called discreetly down the shop. "Alvina! Quick!"
  • Alvina flew down to peep round the corner of the shop window. There stood th_wo men, Mr. May like a perky, pink-faced grey bird standing cocking his hea_n attention to James Houghton, and occasionally catching James by the lape_f his coat, in a vain desire to get a word in, whilst James's head nodded an_is face simply wagged with excited speech, as he skipped from foot to foot, and shifted round his listener.
  • "Who  _ever_  can that common-looking man be?" said Miss Pinnegar, her hear_oing down to her boots.
  • "I can't imagine," said Alvina, laughing at the comic sight. "Don't you thin_e's dreadful?" said the poor elderly woman. "Perfectly impossible. Did eve_ou see such a pink face?"
  • " _And_  the braid binding!" said Miss Pinnegar in indignation. "Father migh_lmost have sold him the suit," said Alvina.
  • "Let us hope he hasn't sold your father, that's all," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • The two men had moved a few steps further towards home, and the women prepare_o flee indoors. Of course it was frightfully wrong to be standing peeping i_he high street at all. But who could consider the proprieties now?
  • "They've stopped again," said Miss Pinnegar, recalling Alvina.
  • The two men were having a few more excited words, their voices just audible.
  • "I do wonder who he can be," murmured Miss Pinnegar miserably. "In th_heatrical line, I'm sure," declared Alvina.
  • "Do you think so?" said Miss Pinnegar. "Can't be! Can't be!"
  • "He couldn't be anything else, don't you think?"
  • "Oh I  _can't_  believe it, I can't."
  • But now Mr. May had laid his detaining hand on James's arm. And now he wa_haking his employer by the hand. And now James, in his cheap little cap, wa_miling a formal farewell. And Mr. May, with a graceful wave of his grey- suede-gloved hand, was turning back to the Moon and Stars, strutting, whils_ames was running home on tip-toe, in his natural hurry.
  • Alvina hastily retreated, but Miss Pinnegar stood it out. James started as h_ipped into the shop entrance, and found her confronting him. "Oh—Mis_innegar!" he said, and made to slip by her.
  • "Who was that man?" she asked sharply, as if James were a child whom she coul_ndure no more.
  • "Eh? I beg your pardon?" said James, starting back.
  • "Who was that man?"
  • "Eh? Which man?"
  • James was a little deaf, and a little husky.
  • "The man—" Miss Pinnegar turned to the door. "There! That man!"
  • James also came to the door, and peered out as if he expected to see a sight.
  • The sight of Mr. May's tight and perky back, the jaunty little hat and th_rey suede hands retreating quite surprised him. He was angry at bein_ntroduced to the sight.
  • "Oh," he said. "That's my manager." And he turned hastily down the shop, asking for his dinner.
  • Miss Pinnegar stood for some moments in pure oblivion in the shop entrance.
  • Her consciousness left her. When she recovered, she felt she was on the brin_f hysteria and collapse. But she hardened herself once more, though th_ffort cost her a year of her life. She had never collapsed, she had neve_allen into hysteria.
  • She gathered herself together, though bent a little as from a blow, and, closing the shop door, followed James to the living room, like the inevitable.
  • He was eating his dinner, and seemed oblivious of her entry. There was a smel_f Irish stew.
  • "What manager?" said Pinnegar, short, silent, and inevitable in the doorway.
  • But James was in one of his abstractions, his trances.
  • "What manager?" persisted Miss Pinnegar.
  • But he still bent unknowing over his plate and gobbled his Irish stew.
  • "Mr. Houghton!" said Miss Pinnegar, in a sudden changed voice. She had gone _ivid yellow colour. And she gave a queer, sharp little rap on the table wit_er hand.
  • James started. He looked up bewildered, as one startled out of sleep.
  • "Eh?" he said, gaping. "Eh?"
  • "Answer me," said Miss Pinnegar. "What manager?"
  • "Manager? Eh? Manager? What manager?"
  • She advanced a little nearer, menacing in her black dress. James shrank.
  • "What manager?" he re-echoed. "My manager. The manager of my cinema."
  • Miss Pinnegar looked at him, and looked at him, and did not speak. In tha_oment all the anger which was due to him from all womanhood was silentl_ischarged at him, like a black bolt of silent electricity. But Miss Pinnegar, the engine of wrath, felt she would burst.
  • "Cinema! Cinema! Do you mean to tell me—" but she was really suffocated, th_essels of her heart and breast were bursting. She had to lean her hand on th_able.
  • It was a terrible moment. She looked ghastly and terrible, with her mask-lik_ace and her stony eyes and her bluish lips. Some fearful thunderbolt seeme_o fall. James withered, and was still. There was silence for minutes, _uspension.
  • And in those minutes, she finished with him. She finished with him for ever.
  • When she had sufficiently recovered, she went to her chair, and sat dow_efore her plate. And in a while she began to eat, as if she were alone.
  • Poor Alvina, for whom this had been a dreadful and uncalled-for moment, ha_ooked from one to another, and had also dropped her head to her plate. Jame_oo, with bent head, had forgotten to eat. Miss Pinnegar ate very slowly, alone.
  • "Don't you want your dinner, Alvina?" she said at length. "Not as much as _id," said Alvina.
  • "Why not?" said Miss Pinnegar. She sounded short, almost like Miss Frost.
  • Oddly like Miss Frost.
  • Alvina took up her fork and began to eat automatically.
  • "I always think," said Miss Pinnegar, "Irish stew is more tasty with a bit o_wede" in it."
  • "So do I, really," said Alvina. "But Swedes aren't come yet."
  • "Oh! Didn't we have some on Tuesday?"
  • "No, they were yellow turnips—but they weren't Swedes."
  • "Well then, yellow turnip. I like a little yellow turnip," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • "I might have put some in, if I'd known," said Alvina.
  • "Yes. We will another time," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • Not another word about the cinema: not another breath. As soon as James ha_aten his plum tart, he ran away.
  • "What can he have been doing?" said Alvina when he had gone. "Buying a cinem_how—and that man we saw is his manager. It's quite simple."
  • "But what are we going to do with a cinema show?" said Alvina.
  • "It's what is  _he_  going to do. It doesn't concern me. It's no concern o_ine. I shall not lend him anything, I shall not think about it, it will b_he same to me as if there  _were_  no cinema. Which is all I have to say,"
  • announced Miss Pinnegar.
  • "But he's gone and done it," said Alvina.
  • "Then let him go through with it. It's no affair of mine. After all, you_ather's affairs don't concern me. It would be impertinent of me to introduc_yself into them."
  • "They don't concern  _me_  very much," said Alvina.
  • "You're different. You're his daughter. He's no connection of mine, I'm gla_o say. I pity your mother."
  • "Oh, but he was always alike," said Alvina.
  • "That's where it is," said Miss Pinnegar.
  • There was something fatal about her feelings. Once they had gone cold, the_ould never warm up again. As well try to warm up a frozen mouse. It onl_utrifies.
  • But poor Miss Pinnegar after this looked older, and seemed to get a littl_ound-backed. And the things she said reminded Alvina so often of Miss Frost.
  • James fluttered into conversation with his daughter the next evening, afte_iss Pinnegar had retired.
  • "I told you I had bought a cinematograph building," said James. "We ar_egotiating for the machinery now: the dynamo and so on."
  • "But where is it to be?" asked Alvina.
  • "Down at Lumley. I'll take you and show you the site tomorrow. The building—i_s a frame-section travelling theatre—will arrive on Thursday—next Thursday."
  • "But who is in with you, father?"
  • "I am quite alone—quite alone," said James Houghton. "I have found a_xcellent manager, who knows the whole business thoroughly—a Mr. May. Ver_ice man. Very nice man."
  • "Rather short and dressed in grey?"
  • "Yes. And I have been thinking—if Miss Pinnegar will take the cash and issu_ickets: if she will take over the ticket-office: and you will play the piano: and if Mr. May learns the control of the machine—he is having lessons now—: and if I am the indoors attendant, we shan't need any more staff."
  • "Miss Pinnegar won't take the cash, father."
  • "Why not? Why not?"
  • "I can't say why not. But she won't do anything—and if I were you I wouldn'_sk her."
  • There was a pause.
  • "Oh, well," said James, huffy. "She isn't indispensable."
  • And Alvina was to play the piano! Here was a blow for her! She hurried off t_er bedroom to laugh and cry at once. She just saw herself at that piano, banging off the  _Merry Widow Waltz_ , and, in tender moments,  _The Rosary_.
  • Time after time,  _The Rosary_. While the pictures flickered and the audienc_ave shouts and some grubby boy called "Chot-let, penny a bar! Chot-let, penn_ bar! Chot-let, penny a bar!" away she banged at another tune.
  • What a sight for the gods! She burst out laughing. And at the same time, sh_hought of her mother and Miss Frost, and she cried as if her heart woul_reak. And then all kinds of comic and incongruous tunes came into her head.
  • She imagined herself dressing up with most priceless variations.  _Linge_onger Lucy_ , for example. She began to spin imaginary harmonies an_ariations in her head, upon the theme of  _Linger Longer Lucy_.
  • >
  • > Linger longer Lucy, linger longer Loo.
  • > How I love to linger longer linger long o' you.
  • > Listen while I sing, love, promise you'll be true,
  • > And linger longer longer linger linger longer Loo.
  • >
  • All the tunes that used to make Miss Frost so angry. All the Dream Waltzes an_aiden's Prayers, and the awful songs.
  • >
  • > For in Spooney-ooney Island
  • > Is there any one cares for me?
  • > In Spooney-ooney Island
  • > Why surely there ought to be.
  • >
  • Poor Miss Frost! Alvina imagined herself leading a chorus of collier louts, i_ bad atmosphere of "Woodbines" and oranges, during the intervals when th_ictures had collapsed.
  • >
  • > How'd you like to spoon with me?
  • > How'd you like to spoon with me?
  • > ( _Why ra-ther!_ )
  • > > Underneath the oak-tree nice and shady
  • > Calling me your tootsey-wootsey lady?
  • > How'd you like to hug and squeeze,
  • > ( _Just try me!_ )
  • > > Dandle me upon your knee,
  • > Calling me your little lovey-dovey
  • > How'd you like to spoon with me?
  • > ( _Oh-h—Go on!_ )
  • >
  • Alvina worked herself into quite a fever, with her imaginings. In the mornin_he told Miss Pinnegar.
  • "Yes," said Miss Pinnegar, "you see me issuing tickets, don't you? Yes—well.
  • I'm afraid he will have to do that part himself. And you're going to play th_iano. It's a disgrace! It's a disgrace! It's a disgrace! It's a mercy Mis_rost and your mother are dead. He's lost every bit of shame—every bit—if h_ver had any—which I doubt very much. Well, all I can say, I'm glad I am no_oncerned. And I'm sorry for you, for being his daughter. I'm heart sorry fo_ou, I am. Well, well—no sense of shame—no sense of shame—"
  • And Miss Pinnegar padded out of the room.
  • Alvina walked down to Lumley and was shown the site and was introduced to Mr.
  • May. He bowed to her in his best American fashion, and treated her wit_dmirable American deference.
  • "Don't you think," he said to her, "it's an admirable scheme?"
  • "Wonderful," she replied.
  • "Of cauce," he said, "the erection will be a merely temporary one. Of cauce i_on't be anything to  _look_  at: just an old wooden travelling theatre. Bu_then_ —all we need is to make a start."
  • "And you are going to work the film?" she asked.
  • "Yes," he said with pride, "I spend every evening with the operator at Marsh'_n Knarborough. Very interesting I find it—very interesting indeed. And  _you_re going to play the piano?" he said, perking his head on one side an_ooking at her archly.
  • "So father says," she answered.
  • "But what do  _you_  say?" queried Mr. May.
  • "I suppose I don't have any say."
  • "Oh but  _surely_. Surely you won't do it if you don't wish to. That woul_ever do. Can't we hire some young fellow—?" And he turned to Mr. Houghto_ith a note of query.
  • "Alvina can play as well as anybody in Woodhouse," said James. "We mustn't ad_o our expenses. And wages in particular—"
  • "But surely Miss Houghton will have her wage. The labourer is worthy of hi_ire. Surely! Even of  _her_  hire, to put it in the feminine. And for th_ame wage you could get some unimportant fellow with strong wrists. I'm afrai_t will tire Miss Houghton to death—"
  • "I don't think so," said James. "I don't think so. Many of the turns she wil_ot need to accompany—"
  • "Well, if it comes to that," said Mr. May, "I can accompany some of the_yself, when I'm not operating the film. I'm not an expert pianist—but I ca_lay a little, you know—" And he trilled his fingers up and down an imaginar_eyboard in front of Alvina, cocking his eye at her smiling a little archly.
  • "I'm sure," he continued, "I can accompany anything except a man jugglin_inner-plates—and then I'd be afraid of making him drop the plates. Bu_ongs—oh, songs!  _Con molto espressione!_ "
  • And again he trilled the imaginary keyboard, and smiled his rather fat cheek_t Alvina.
  • She began to like him. There was something a little dainty about him, when yo_new him better—really rather fastidious. A showman, true enough! Blatant too.
  • But fastidiously so.
  • He came fairly frequently to Manchester House after this. Miss Pinnegar wa_ather stiff with him and he did not like her. But he was very happy sittin_hatting tête-à-tête with Alvina.
  • "Where is your wife?" said Alvina to him.
  • "My wife! Oh, don't speak of  _her_ ," he said comically. "She's in London."
  • "Why not speak of her?" asked Alvina.
  • "Oh, every reason for not speaking of her. We don't get on at  _all_  well, she and I."
  • "What a pity," said Alvina.
  • "Dreadful pity! But what are you to do?" He laughed comically. Then he becam_rave. "No," he said. "She's an impossible person."
  • "I see," said Alvina.
  • "I'm sure you  _don't_  see," said Mr. May. "Don't—" and here he laid his han_n Alvina's arm—"don't run away with the idea that she's  _immoral!_  You'_ever make a greater mistake. Oh dear me, no. Morality's her strongest point.
  • Live on three lettuce leaves, and give the rest to the char. That's her. Oh, dreadful times we had in those first years. We only lived together for thre_ears. But dear  _me!_  how awful it was!"
  • "Why?"
  • "There was no pleasing the woman. She wouldn't eat. If I said to her 'Wha_hall we have for supper, Grace?' as sure as anything she'd answer 'Oh, _hall take a bath when I go to bed—that will be my supper.' She was one o_hese advanced vegetarian women, don't you know."
  • "How extraordinary!" said Alvina.
  • "Extraordinary! I should think so. Extraordinary hard lines on  _me_. And sh_ouldn't let  _me_  eat either. She followed me to the kitchen in a  _fury_hile I cooked for myself. Why imagine! I prepared a dish of champignons: oh, most  _beautiful_  champignons, beautiful—and I put them on the stove to fr_n butter: beautiful young champignons. I'm hanged if she didn't go into th_itchen while my back was turned, and pour a pint of old carrot-water into th_an. I was  _furious_. Imagine!—beautiful fresh young champignons—"
  • "Fresh mushrooms," said Alvina.
  • "Mushrooms—most beautiful things in the world. Oh! don't you think so?" And h_olled his eyes oddly to heaven.
  • "They  _are_  good," said Alvina.
  • "I should say so. And swamped— _swamped_  with her dirty old carrot water. O_ was so angry. And all she could say was, 'Well, I didn't want to waste it!'
  • Didn't want to waste her old carrot water, and so  _ruined_  my champignons.
  • _Can_  you imagine such a person?"
  • "It must have been trying."
  • "I should think it was. I lost weight. I lost I don't know how many pounds, the first year I was married to that woman. She hated me to eat. Why, one o_er great accusations against me, at the last, was when she said: 'I've looke_ound the larder,' she said to me, 'and seen it was quite empty, and I though_o myself  _Now_  he  _can't_  cook a supper! And  _then_  you did!' There!
  • What do you think of that? The spite of it! 'And  _then_  you did!"
  • "What did she expect you to live on?" asked Alvina.
  • "Nibble a lettuce leaf with her, and drink water from the tap—and then elevat_yself with a Bernard Shaw pamphlet. That was the sort of woman she was. Al_t gave  _me_  was gas in the stomach."
  • "So overbearing!" said Alvina.
  • "Oh!" he turned his eyes to heaven, and spread his hands. "I didn't believe m_enses. I didn't know such people existed. And her friends! Oh the dreadfu_riends she had—these Fabians!" Oh, their eugenics. They wanted to examine m_rivate morals, for eugenic reasons. Oh, you can't imagine such a state. Wors_han the Spanish Inquisition. And I stood it for three years.  _How_  I stoo_t, I don't know—"
  • "Now don't you see her?"
  • "Never! I never let her know where I am! But I  _support_  her, of cauce."
  • "And your daughter?"
  • "Oh, she's the dearest child in the world. I saw her at a friend's when I cam_ack from America. Dearest little thing in the world. But of  _cauce_uspicious of me. Treats me as if she didn't  _know_  me—"
  • "What a pity!"
  • "Oh—unbearable!" He spread his plump, manicured hands, on one finger of whic_as a green intaglio ring.
  • "How old is your daughter?"
  • "Fourteen."
  • "What is her name?"
  • "Lemma. She was born in Rome, where I was managing for Miss Maud Callum, th_danseuse_."
  • Curious the intimacy Mr. May established with Alvina at once. But it was al_urely verbal, descriptive. He made no physical advances. On the contrary, h_as like a dove-grey, disconsolate bird pecking the crumbs of Alvina'_ympathy, and cocking his eye all the time to watch that she did not advanc_ne step towards him. If he had seen the least sign of coming-on-ness in her, he would have fluttered off in a great dither. Nothing _horrified_  him mor_han a woman who was coming-on towards him. It horrified him, it exasperate_im, it made him hate the whole tribe of women: horrific two-legged cat_ithout whiskers. If he had been a bird, his innate horror of a cat would hav_een such. He liked the  _angel_ , and particularly the angel-mother in woman.
  • Oh!—that he worshipped. But coming-on-ness!
  • So he never wanted to be seen out-of-doors with Alvina; if he met her in th_treet he bowed and passed on: bowed very deep and reverential, indeed, bu_assed on, with his little back a little more strutty and assertive than ever.
  • Decidedly he turned his back on her in public.
  • But Miss Pinnegar, a regular old, grey, dangerous she-puss, eyed him from th_orner of her pale eye, as he turned tail.
  • "So unmanly!" she murmured. "In his dress, in his way, in everything—s_nmanly."
  • "If I was you, Alvina," she said, "I shouldn't see so much of Mr. May, in th_rawing-room. People will talk."
  • "I should almost feel flattered," laughed Alvina.
  • "What do you mean?" snapped Miss Pinnegar.
  • None the less, Mr. May was dependable in matters of business. He was up a_alf-past five in the morning, and by seven was well on his way. He saile_ike a stiff little ship before a steady breeze, hither and thither, out o_oodhouse and back again, and across from side to side. Sharp and snappy, h_as, on the spot. He trussed himself up, when he was angry or displeased, an_harp, snip-snap came his words, rather like scissors.
  • "But how is it—" he attacked Arthur Witham—"that the gas isn't connected wit_he main yet? It was to be ready yesterday."
  • "We've had to wait for the fixings for them brackets," said Arthur.
  • " _Had_  to  _wait_  for  _fixings!_  But didn't you know a fortnight ago tha_ou'd want the fixings?"
  • "I thought we should have some as would do."
  • "Oh! you thought so! Really! Kind of you to think so. And have you jus_hought about those that are coming, or have you made sure?"
  • Arthur looked at him sullenly. He hated him. But Mr. May's sharp touch was no_o be foiled.
  • "I hope you'll go further than  _thinking_ ," said Mr. May. "Thinking seem_uch a slow process. And when do you expect the fittings—?"
  • "Tomorrow."
  • "What! Another day! Another day  _still!_  But you're strangely indifferent t_ime, in your line of business. Oh!  _Tomorrow!_  Imagine it! Two days lat_lready, and then  _tomorrow!_  Well I hope by tomorrow you mean _Wednesday_ , and not tomorrow's tomorrow, or some other absurd and fanciful date tha_ou've just  _thought about_. But now,  _do_  have the thing finished b_omorrow—" here he laid his hand cajoling on Arthur's arm. "You promise me i_ill all be ready by tomorrow, don't you?"
  • "Yes, I'll do it if anybody could do it."
  • "Don't say 'if anybody could do it.' Say it shall be done."
  • "It shall if I can possibly manage it—"
  • "Oh—very well then. Mind you manage it—and thank you very much. I shall b_most_  obliged, if it  _is_  done."
  • Arthur was annoyed, but he was kept to the scratch. And so, early in Octobe_he place was ready, and Woodhouse was plastered with placards announcing
  • "Houghton's Pleasure Palace." Poor Mr. May could not but see an irony in th_alace part of the phrase. "We can guarantee the  _pleasure_ ," he said. "Bu_ersonally, I feel I can't take the responsibility for the palace."
  • But James, to use the vulgar expression, was in his eye-holes. "Oh, father'_n his eye-holes," said Alvina to Mr. May.
  • "Oh!" said Mr. May, puzzled and concerned.
  • But it merely meant that James was having the time of his life. He was drawin_ut announcements. First was a batch of vermilion strips, with the mysti_cript, in big black letters: Houghton's Picture Palace, underneath which, quite small: Opens at Lumley on October 7th, at 6:30 P.M. Everywhere you went, these vermilion and black bars sprang from the wall at you. Then there wer_ther notices, in delicate pale-blue and pale red, like a genuine theatr_otice, giving full programs. And beneath these a broad-letter notic_nnounced, in green letters on a yellow ground: "Final and Ultimate Clearanc_ale at Houghton's, Knarborough Road, on Friday, September 30th. Come and Bu_ithout Price."
  • James was in his eye-holes. He collected all his odds and ends from ever_orner of Manchester House. He sorted them in heaps, and marked the heaps i_is own mind. And then he let go. He pasted up notices all over the window an_ll over the shop: "Take what you want and Pay what you Like."
  • He and Miss Pinnegar kept shop. The women flocked in. They turned things over.
  • It nearly killed James to take the prices they offered. But take them he did.
  • But he exacted that they should buy one article at a time. "One piece at _ime, if you don't mind," he said, when they came up with their three-a-penn_andfuls. It was not till later in the evening that he relaxed this rule.
  • Well, by eleven o'clock he had cleared out a good deal—really, a very grea_eal—and many women had bought what they didn't want, at their own figure.
  • Feverish but content, James shut the shop for the last time. Next day, b_leven, he had removed all his belongings, the door that connected the hous_ith the shop was screwed up fast, the grocer strolled in and looked round hi_are extension, took the key from James, and immediately set his boy to past_ new notice in the window, tearing down all James's announcements. Poor Jame_ad to run round, down Knarborough Road, and down Wellington Street as far a_he Livery Stable, then down long narrow passages, before he could get int_is own house, from his own shop.
  • But he did not mind. Every hour brought the first performance of his Pleasur_alace nearer. He was satisfied with Mr. May: he had to admit that he wa_atisfied with Mr. May. The Palace stood firm at last—oh, it was so rickett_hen it arrived!—and it glowed with a new coat, all over, of dark-red paint, like ox-blood. It was tittivated up with a touch of lavender and yellow roun_he door and round the decorated wooden eaving. It had a new wooden slope u_o the doors—and inside, a new wooden floor, with red-velvet seats in front, before the curtain, and old chapel-pews behind. The collier youths recognize_he pews.
  • "Hey! These 'ere's the pews out of the old Primitive Chapel."
  • "Sorry ah! We'n come ter hear t' parson."
  • Theme for endless jokes. And the Pleasure Palace was christened, in some luck_troke, Houghton's Endeavour, a reference to that particular Chapel effor_alled the Christian Endeavour, where Alvina and Miss Pinnegar both figured.
  • "Wheer art off, Sorry?"
  • "Lumley."
  • "Houghton's Endeavour?"
  • "Ah."
  • "Rotten."
  • So, when one laconic young collier accosted another. But we anticipate.
  • Mr. May had worked hard to get a program for the first week. His picture_ere: "The Human Bird," which turned out to be a ski-ing film from Norway, purely descriptive; "The Pancake," a humorous film: and then his grand serial:
  • "The Silent Grip." And then, for Turns, his first item was Miss Poppy Trherne, a lady in innumerable petticoats, who could whirl herself into anything yo_ike, from an arum lily in green stockings to a rainbow and a Catherine whee_nd a cup-and-saucer: marvellous, was Miss Poppy Traherne. The next turn wa_he Baxter Brothers, who ran up and down each other's backs and up and dow_ach other's front, and stood on each other's heads and on their own heads, and perched for a moment on each other's shoulders, as if each of them was _light of stairs with a landing, and the three of them were three flights, three storeys up, the top flight continually running down and becoming th_ottom flight, while the middle flight collapsed and became a horizonta_orridor.
  • Alvina had to open the performance by playing an overture called "Welcom_ll": a ridiculous piece. She was excited and unhappy. On the Monday mornin_here was a rehearsal, Mr. May conducting. She played "Welcome All," and the_ook the thumbed sheets which Miss Poppy Traherne carried with her. Miss Popp_as rather exacting. As she whirled her skirts she kept saying: "A littl_aster, please"—"A little slower"—in a rather haughty, official voice that wa_omewhat muffled by the swim of her drapery. "Can you give it  _expression?_ "
  • she cried, as she got the arum lily in full blow, and there was a sound o_eal ecstasy in her tones. But why she should have called "Stronger!
  • Stronger!" as she came into being as a cup and saucer, Alvina could no_magine: unless Miss Poppy was fancying herself a strong cup of tea.
  • However, she subsided into her mere self, panted frantically, and then, in _oarse voice, demanded if she was in the bare front of the show. She scorne_o count "Welcome All." Mr. May said Yes. She was the first item. Whereupo_he began to raise a dust. Mr. Houghton said, hurriedly interposing, that h_eant to make a little opening speech. Miss Poppy eyed him as if he were _uckoo-clock, and she had to wait till he'd finished cuckooing. Then she said:
  • "That's not every night. There's six nights to a week." James was properl_nubbed. It ended by Mr. May metamorphizing himself into a pug dog: he said h_ad got the "costoom" in his bag: and doing a lump-of-sugar scene with one o_he Baxter Brothers, as a brief first item. Miss Poppy's professiona_irginity was thus saved from outrage.
  • At the back of the stage there was half-a-yard of curtain screening the tw_ressing-rooms, ladies and gents. In her spare time Alvina sat in the ladies'
  • dressing room, or in its lower doorway, for there was not room right inside.
  • She watched the ladies making up—she gave some slight assistance. She saw th_en's feet, in their shabby pumps, on the other side of the curtain, and sh_eard the men's gruff voices. Often a slangy conversation was carried o_hrough the curtain—for most of the turns were acquainted with each other: very affable before each other's faces, very sniffy behind each other's backs.
  • Poor Alvina was in a state of bewilderment. She was extremely nice—oh, muc_oo nice with the female turns. They treated her with a sort of off-han_riendliness, and they snubbed and patronized her and were a little spitefu_ith her because Mr. May treated her with attention and deference. She fel_ewildered, a little excited, and as if she was not herself.
  • The first evening actually came. Her father had produced a pink crêpe de Chin_louse and a back-comb massed with brilliants—both of which she refused t_ear. She stuck to her black blouse and black shirt, and her simple hair- dressing. Mr. May said "Of cauce! She wasn't intended to attract attention t_erself." Miss Pinnegar actually walked down the hill with her, and began t_ry when she saw the oxblood red erection, with its gas-flares in front. I_as the first time she had seen it. She went on with Alvina to the littl_tage door at the back, and up the steps into the scrap of dressing-room. Bu_he fled out again from the sight of Miss Poppy in her yellow hair and gree_nickers with green-lace frills. Poor Miss Pinnegar! She stood outside on th_rodden grass behind the Band of Hope, and really cried. Luckily she had put _eil on.
  • She went valiantly round to the front entrance, and climbed the steps. Th_rowd was just coming. There was James's face peeping inside the littl_icket-window.
  • "One!" he said officially, pushing out the ticket. And then he recognized her.
  • "Oh," he said, " _You're_  not going to pay."
  • "Yes I am," she said, and she left her fourpence, and James's coppery, grim_ingers scooped it in, as the youth behind Miss Pinnegar shoved her forward.
  • "Ail way down, fourpenny," said the man at the door, poking her in th_irection of Mr. May, who wanted to put her in the red velvet. But she marche_own one of the pews, and took her seat.
  • The place was crowded with a whooping, whistling, excited audience. Th_urtain was down. James had let it out to his fellow tradesmen, and i_epresented a patchwork of local adverts. There was a fat porker and a fa_ork-pie, and the pig was saying: "You all know where to find me. Inside th_rust at Frank Churchill's, Knarborough Road, Woodhouse." Round about the nam_f W. H. Johnson floated a bowler hat, a collar-and-necktie, a pair of brace_nd an umbrella. And so on and so on. It all made you feel very homely. Bu_iss Pinnegar was sadly hot and squeezed in her pew.
  • Time came, and the colliers began to drum their feet. It was exactly th_xcited, crowded audience Mr. May wanted. He darted out to drive James roun_n front of the curtain. But James, fascinated by raking in the money so fast, could not be shifted from the pay-box, and the two men nearly had a fight. A_ast Mr. May was seen shooing James, like a scuffled chicken, down the sid_angway and on to the stage.
  • James before the illuminated curtain of local adverts, bowing and beginnin_nd not making a single word audible! The crowd quieted itself, the eloquenc_lowed on. The crowd was sick of James, and began to shuffle. "Come down, com_own!" hissed Mr. May frantically from in front. But James did not move. H_ould flow on all night. Mr. May waved excitedly at Alvina, who sat obscurel_t the piano, and darted on to the stage. He raised his voice and drowne_ames. James ceased to wave his penny-blackened hands, Alvina struck up
  • "Welcome All" as loudly and emphatically as she could.
  • And all the time Miss Pinnegar sat like a sphinx—like a sphinx. What sh_hought she did not know herself. But stolidly she stared at James, an_nxiously she glanced sideways at the pounding Alvina. She knew Alvina had t_ound until she received the cue that Mr. May was fitted in his pug-dog
  • "Costoom."
  • A twitch of the curtain. Alvina wound up her final flourish, the curtain rose, and:
  • "Well really!" said Miss Pinnegar, out loud.
  • There was Mr. May as a pug dog begging, too lifelike and too impossible. Th_udience shouted. Alvina sat with her hands in her lap. The Pug was a grea_uccess.
  • Curtain! A few bars of Toreador—and then Miss Poppy's sheets of music. Sof_usic. Miss Poppy was on the ground under a green scarf. And so th_ccumulating dilation, on to the whirling climax of the perfect arum lily.
  • Sudden curtain, and a yell of ecstasy from the colliers. Of all blossoms, th_rum, the arum lily is most mystical and portentous.
  • Now a crash and rumble from Alvina's piano. This is the storm from whence th_ainbow emerges. Up goes the curtain—Miss Poppy twirling till her skirts lif_s in a breeze, rise up and become a rainbow above her now darkened legs. Th_ootlights are all but extinguished. Miss Poppy is all but extinguished also.
  • The rainbow is not so moving as the arum lily. But the Catherine wheel, don_t the last moment on one leg and then an amazing leap into the air backwards, again brings down the house.
  • Miss Poppy herself sets all store on her cup and saucer. But the audience, vulgar as ever, cannot quite see it.
  • And so, Alvina slips away with Miss Poppy's music-sheets, while Mr. May sit_own like a professional at the piano and makes things fly for the up-and- down-stairs Baxter Bros. Meanwhile, Alvina's pale face hovering like a ghos_n the side darkness, as it were under the stage.
  • The lamps go out: gurglings and kissings—and then the dither on the screen:
  • "The Human Bird," in awful shivery letters. It's not a very good machine, an_r. May is not a very good operator. Audience distinctly critical. Light_p—an "Chot-let, penny a bar! Chot-let, penny a bar!" even as in Alvina'_ream—and then "The Pancake"—so the first half over. Lights up for th_nterval.
  • Miss Pinnegar sighed and folded her hands. She looked neither to right nor t_eft. In spite of herself, in spite of outraged shame and decency, she wa_xcited. But she felt such excitement was not wholesome. In vain the boy mos_ertinently yelled "Chot-let" at her. She looked neither to right nor left.
  • But when she saw Alvina nodding to her with a quick smile from the sid_angway under the stage, she almost burst into tears. It was too much for her, all at once. And Alvina looked almost indecently excited. As she slippe_cross in front of the audience, to the piano, to play the seductive "Drea_altz!" she looked almost fussy, like her father. James, needless to say, flittered and hurried hither and thither around the audience and the stage, like a wagtail on the brink of a pool.
  • The second half consisted of a comic drama acted by two Baxter Bros., disguised as women, and Miss Poppy disguised as a man—with a couple of local_hrown in to do the guardsman and the Count. This went very well. The windin_p was the first instalment of "The Silent Grip."
  • When lights went up and Alvina solemnly struck "God Save Our Gracious King,"
  • the audience was on its feet and not very quiet, evidently hissing wit_xcitement like doughnuts in the pan even when the pan is taken off the fire.
  • Mr. Houghton thanked them for their courtesy and attention, and hoped—An_obody took the slightest notice.
  • Miss Pinnegar stayed last, waiting for Alvina. And Alvina, in her excitement, waited for Mr. May and her father.
  • Mr. May fairly pranced into the empty hall.
  • "Well!" he said, shutting both his fists and flourishing them in Mis_innegar's face. "How did it go?"
  • "I think it went very well," she said.
  • "Very well! I should think so, indeed. It went like a house on fire. What?
  • Didn't it?" And he laughed a high, excited little laugh.
  • James was counting pennies for his life, in the cash-place, and dropping the_nto a Gladstone bag. The others had to wait for him. At last he locked hi_ag.
  • "Well," said Mr. May, "done well?"
  • "Fairly well," said James, huskily excited. "Fairly well."
  • "Only fairly? Oh-h!" And Mr. May suddenly picked up the bag. James turned a_f he would snatch it from him. "Well! Feel that, for fairly well!" said Mr.
  • May, handing the bag to Alvina.
  • "Goodness!" she cried, handing it to Miss Pinnegar.
  • "Would you believe it?" said Miss Pinnegar, relinquishing it to James. But sh_poke coldly, aloof.
  • Mr. May turned off the gas at the meter, came talking through the darkness o_he empty theatre, picking his way with a flash-light.
  • "C'est le premier pas qui coute," he said, in a sort of American French, as h_ocked the doors and put the key in his pocket. James tripped silentl_longside, bowed under the weight of his Gladstone bag of pennies.
  • "How much have we taken, father?" asked Alvina gaily.
  • "I haven't counted," he snapped.
  • When he got home he hurried upstairs to his bare chamber. He swept his tabl_lear, and then, in an expert fashion, he seized handfuls of coin and pile_hem in little columns on his board. There was an army of fat pennies, a doze_o a column, along the back, rows and rows of fat brown rank-and-file. I_ront of these, rows of slim halfpence, like an advance-guard. And commandin_ll, a stout column of half-crowns, a few stoutish and important florin- figures, like general and colonels, then quite a file of shillings, like s_any captains, and a little cloud of silvery lieutenant sixpences. Right a_he end, like a frail drummer boy, a thin stick of three-penny pieces.
  • There they all were: burly dragoons of stout pennies, heavy and holding thei_round, with a screen of halfpenny light infantry, officered by the immovabl_alf-crown general, who in his turn was flanked by all his staff of flori_olonels and shilling captains, from whom lightly moved the nimble six-penn_ieutenants all ignoring the wan, frail Joey of the threepenny-bits.
  • Time after time James ran his almighty eye over his army. He loved them. H_oved to feel that his table was pressed down, that it groaned under thei_eight. He loved to see the pence, like innumerable pillars of cloud, standin_aiting to lead on into wildernesses of unopened resource, while the silver, as pillars of light, should guide the way down the long night of fortune.
  • Their weight sank sensually into his muscle, and gave him gratification. Th_ark redness of bronze, like full-blooded fleas, seemed alive and pulsing, th_ilver was magic as if winged.