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   Chapter 2 No.2

A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 38752

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


At first she could not determine who was passing through the twilight of the room, but as the blinds were suddenly drawn up and a flood of sunlight poured across the bed, she fell back amid the pillows, having recognized her mother-in-law in a painful moment of semi-blindness. The old woman carried a slop-pail, which she nearly dropped, so surprised was she to find Kate in the stranger's room.

'But how did you get here?' she said hastily.

'I had to give Ralph my pillow, and when he went to sleep I came to fetch one out of the bedroom here; and then I thought I would be more comfortable here-I was too tired to go back again-I don't know how it was-what does it matter?'

Kate, who was stupefied with sleep, had answered so crossly that Mrs. Ede did not speak for some time; at last, at the end of a long silence, she said:

'Then he had a very bad night?'

'Dreadful!' returned Kate. 'I never was so frightened in my life.'

'And how did the fit come on?' asked Mrs. Ede.

'Oh, I can't tell you now,' said Kate. 'I'm so tired. I'm aching all over.'

'Well, then, I'll bring you up your breakfast. You do look tired. It will do you good to remain in bed.'

'Bring me up my breakfast! Then, what time is it?' said Kate, sitting up in bed with a start.

'What does it matter what the time is? If you're tired, lie still; I'll see that everything is right.'

'But I've promised Mrs. Barnes her dress by tomorrow night. Oh, my goodness! I shall never get it done! Do tell me what time it is.'

'Well, it's just nine,' the old woman answered apologetically; 'but Mrs.

Barnes will have to wait; you can't kill yourself. It's a great shame of

Ralph to have you sitting up when I could look after him just as well, and

all because of the mummer.'

'Oh, don't, mother,' said Kate, who knew that Mrs. Ede could rate play-actors for a good half-hour without feeling the time passing, and taking her mother-in-law's hands in hers, she looked earnestly in her face, saying:

'You know, mother, I have a hard time of it, and I try to bear up as well as I can. You're the only one I've to help me; don't turn against me. Ralph has set his mind on having the rooms let, and the mummer, as you call him, is coming here to-day; it's all settled. Promise me you'll do nothing to unsettle it, and that while Mr. Lennox is here you'll try to make him comfortable. I've my dressmaking to attend to, and can't be always after him. Will you do this thing for me?' and after a moment or so of indecision Mrs. Ede said:

'I don't believe money made out of such people can bring luck, but since you both wish it, I suppose I must give way. But you won't be able to say I didn't warn you.'

'Yes, yes, but since we can't prevent his coming, will you promise that whilst he's here you'll attend to him just as you did to the other gentleman?'

'I shall say nothing to him, and if he doesn't make the house a disgrace, I shall be well satisfied.'

'How do you mean a disgrace?'

'Don't you know, dear, that actors have always a lot of women after them, and I for one am not going to attend on wenches like them. If I had my way I'd whip such people until I slashed all the wickedness out of them.'

'But he won't bring any women here; we won't allow it,' said Kate, a little shocked, and she strove to think how they should put a stop to such behaviour. 'If Mr. Lennox doesn't conduct himself properly-'

'Of course I shall try to do my duty, and if Mr. Lennox respects himself I shall try to respect him.'

She spoke these words hesitatingly, but the admission that she possibly might respect Mr. Lennox satisfied Kate, and not wishing to press the matter further, she said, suddenly referring to their previous conversation:

'But didn't you say that it was nine o'clock?'

'It's more than nine now.'

'Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! how late I am! I suppose the two little girls are here?'

'They just came in as I was going upstairs; I've set them to work.'

'I wish you'd get the tea ready, and you might make some buttered toast;

Ralph would like some, and so should I, for the matter of that.'

Then Ralph's voice was heard calling, and seeing what was wanted, she hastened to his assistance.

'Where were you last night?' he asked her.

'I slept in the stranger's room; I thought you'd not require me, and I was more comfortable there. The bed in the back room is all ups and downs.'

He was breathing heavily in a way that made her fear he was going to have another attack.

'Is mother in a great rage because I won't let her in?' he said presently.

'She's very much cut up about it, dear; you know she loves you better than anyone in the world. You'd do well to make it up with her.'

'Well, perhaps I was wrong,' he said after a time, and with good humour, 'but she annoys me. She will interfere in everything; as if I hadn't a right to let my rooms to whom I please. She pays for all she has here, but I'd much sooner she left us than be lorded over in that way.'

'She doesn't want to lord it over you, dear. It's all arranged. She promised me just now she'd say nothing more about it, and that she'd look after Mr. Lennox like any other lodger.'

On hearing that his mother was willing to submit to his will, the invalid smiled and expressed regret that the presence of an extra person in the house, especially an actor, would give his wife and mother more work to do.

'But I shall soon be well,' he said, 'and I dare say downstairs looking after the shop in a week.'

Kate protested against such imprudence, and then suggested she should go and see after his breakfast. Ralph proffered no objection, and bidding him goodbye for the present, she went downstairs. Annie was helping Mrs. Ede to make the toast in the front kitchen; Lizzie stood at the table buttering it, but as soon as Kate entered they returned to their sewing, for it was against Kate's theories that the apprentices should assist in the household work.

'Dear mother,' she began, but desisted, and when all was ready Mrs. Ede, remembering she had to make peace with her son, seized the tray and went upstairs. And the moment she was gone Kate seated herself wearily on the red, calico-covered sofa. Like an elongated armchair, it looked quaint, neat, and dumpy, pushed up against the wall between the black fireplace on the right and the little window shaded with the muslin blinds, under which a pot of greenstuff bloomed freshly. She lay back thinking vaguely, her cup of hot tea uppermost in her mind, hoping that Mrs. Ede would not keep her waiting long; and then, as her thoughts detached themselves, she remembered the actor whom they expected that afternoon. The annoyances which he had unconsciously caused her had linked him to her in a curious way, and all her prejudices vanished in the sensation of nearness that each succeeding hour magnified, and she wondered who this being was who had brought so much trouble into her life even before she had seen him. As the word 'trouble' went through her mind she paused, arrested by a passing feeling of sentimentality; but it explained nothing, defined nothing, only touched her as a breeze does a flower, and floated away. The dreamy warmth of the fire absorbed her more direct feelings, and for some moments she dozed in a haze of dim sensuousness and emotive numbness. As in a dusky glass, she saw herself a tender, loving, but unhappy woman; by her side were her querulous husband and her kindly-minded mother-in-law, and then there was a phantom she could not determine, and behind it something into which she could not see. Was it a distant country? Was it a scene of revelry? Impossible to say, for whenever she attempted to find definite shapes in the glowing colours they vanished in a blurred confusion.

But amid these fleeting visions there was one shape that particularly interested her, and she pursued it tenaciously, until in a desperate effort to define its features she awoke with a start and spoke more crossly than she intended to the little girls, who had pulled aside the curtain and were intently examining the huge theatrical poster that adorned the corner of the lane. But as she scolded she could not help smiling; for she saw how her dream had been made out of the red and blue dresses of the picture.

The arrival of each new company in the town was announced pictorially on this corner wall, and, in the course of the year, many of the vicissitudes to which human life is liable received illustration upon it. Wrecks at sea, robberies on the highways, prisoners perishing in dungeons, green lanes and lovers, babies, glowing hearths, and heroic young husbands. The opera companies exhibited the less serious sides of life-strangely dressed people and gallants kissing their hands to ladies standing on balconies.

The little girls examined these pictures and commented on them; and on Saturdays it was a matter of the keenest speculation what the following week would bring them. Lizzie preferred exciting scenes of murder and arson, while Annie was moved more by leavetakings and declarations of unalterable affection. These differences of taste often gave rise to little bickerings, and last week there had been much prophesying as to whether the tragic or the sentimental element would prove next week's attraction. Lizzie had voted for robbers and mountains, Annie for lovers and a nice cottage. And, remembering their little dispute, Kate said:

'Well, dears, is it a robber or a sweetheart?'

'We're not sure,' exclaimed both children in a disappointed tone of voice; 'we can't make the picture out.' Then Lizzie, who cared little for uncertainties, said:

'It isn't a nice picture at all; it is all mixed up.'

'Not a nice picture at all, and all mixed up?' said Kate, smiling, yet interested in the conversation. 'And all mixed up; how is that? I must see if I can make it out myself.'

The huge poster contained some figures nearly life-size. It showed a young girl in a bridal dress and wreath struggling between two police agents, who were arresting her in a marketplace of old time, in a strangely costumed crowd, which was clamouring violently. The poor bridegroom was being held back by his friends; a handsome young man in knee-breeches and a cocked hat watched the proceedings cynically in the right-hand corner, whilst on the left a big fat man frantically endeavoured to recover his wig, that had been lost in the mêlée. The advertisement was headed, 'Morton and Cox's Operatic Company,' and concluded with the announcement that Madame Angot would be played at the Queen's Theatre. After a few moments spent in examining the picture Kate said it must have something to do with France.

'I know what it means,' cried Lizzie; 'you see that old chap on the right? He's the rich man who has sent the two policemen to carry the bride to his castle, and it's the young fellow in the corner who has betrayed them.'

The ingenuity of this explanation took Kate and Annie so much by surprise that for the moment they could not attempt to controvert it, and remained silent, whilst Lizzie looked at them triumphantly. The more they examined the picture the more clear did it appear that Lizzie was right. At the end of a long pause Kate said:

'Anyhow, we shall soon know, for one of the actors of the company is coming here to lodge, and we'll ask him.'

'A real actor coming here to lodge?' exclaimed Annie. 'Oh, how nice that will be! And will he take us to see the play?'

'How silly of you, Annie!' said Lizzie, who, proud of her successful explanation of the poster, was a little inclined to think she knew all about actors. 'How can he take us to the play? Isn't he going to act it himself? But do tell me, Mrs. Ede-is he the one in the cocked hat?'

'I hope he isn't the fat man who has lost his wig,' Annie murmured under her breath.

'I don't know which of those gentlemen is coming here. For all I know it may be the policeman,' Kate added maliciously.

'Don't say that, Mrs. Ede!' Annie exclaimed.

Kate smiled at the children's earnestness, and, wishing to keep up the joke, said:

'You know, my dear, they are only sham policemen, and I dare say are very nice gentlemen in reality.'

Annie and Lizzie hung down their heads; it was evident they had no sympathies with policemen, not even with sham ones.

'But if it isn't a policeman, who would you like it to be, Lizzie?' said

Kate.

'Oh, the man in the cocked hat,' replied Lizzie without hesitation.

'And you, Annie?'

Annie looked puzzled, and after a moment said with a slight whimper:

'Lizzie always takes what I want-I was just going-'

'Oh yes, miss, we know all about that,' returned Lizzie derisively. 'Annie never can choose for herself; she always tries to imitate me. She'll have the man who's lost his wig! Oh yes, yes! Isn't it so, Mrs. Ede? Isn't Annie going to marry the man who's lost his wig?'

Tears trembled in Annie's eyes, but as she happened at that moment to catch sight of the young man in white, she declared triumphantly that she would choose him.

'Well done, Annie!' said Kate, laughing as she patted the child's curls, but her eyes fell on the neglected apron, and seeing how crookedly it was being hemmed, she said:

'Oh, my dear, this is very bad; you must go back, undo all you have done this morning, and get it quite straight.'

She undid some three or four inches of the sewing, and then showed the child how the hem was to be turned in, and while she did so a smile hovered round the corners of her thin lips, for she was thinking of the new lodger, asking herself which man in the picture was coming to lodge in her house.

Mrs. Ede returned, talking angrily, but Kate could only catch the words 'waiting' and 'breakfast cold' and 'sorry.' At last, out of a confusion of words a reproof broke from her mother-in-law for not having roused her.

'I called and called,' said Kate, 'but nothing would have awakened you.'

'You should have knocked at my door,' Mrs. Ede answered, and after speaking about open house and late hours she asked Kate suddenly what was going to be done about the latchkey.

'I suppose he will have to have his latchkey,' Kate answered.

'I shall not close my eyes,' Mrs. Ede returned, 'until I hear him come into the house. He won't be bringing with him any of the women from the theatre.'

Kate assured her that she would make this part of the bargain, and somewhat softened, Mrs. Ede spoke of the danger of bad company, and trusted that having an actor in the house would not be a reason for going to the theatre and falling into idle habits.

'One would have thought that we heard enough of that theatre from Miss

Hender,' she interjected, and then lapsed into silence.

Miss Hender, Kate's assistant, was one of Mrs. Ede's particular dislikes. Of her moral character Mrs. Ede had the gravest doubts; for what could be expected, she often muttered, of a person who turned up her nose when she was asked to stay and attend evening prayers, and who kept company with a stage carpenter?

Mrs. Ede did not cease talking of Hender till the girl herself came in, with many apologies for being an hour behind her time, and saying that she really could not help it; her sister had been very ill, and she had been obliged to sit up with her all night. Mrs. Ede smiled at this explanation, and withdrew, leaving Kate in doubt as to the truth of the excuse put forward by her assistant; but remembering that Mrs. Barnes's dress had been promised for Tuesday morning, she said:

'Come, we're wasting all the morning; we must get on with Mrs. Barnes's dress,' and a stout, buxom, carroty-haired girl of twenty followed Kate upstairs, thinking of the money she might earn and of how she and the stage carpenter might spend it together. She was always full of information concerning the big red house in Queen Street. She was sure that the hours in the workroom would not seem half so long if Kate would wake up a bit, go to the play, and chat about what was going on in the town. How anyone could live with that horrid old woman always hanging about, with her religion and salvation, was beyond her. She hadn't time for such things, and as for Bill, he said it was all 'tommy-rot.'

Hender was an excellent workwoman, although a lazy girl, and, seeing from Kate's manner that the time had not come for conversation, applied herself diligently to her business. Placing the two side-seams and the back under the needle, she gave the wheel a turn, and rapidly the little steel needle darted up and down into the glistening silk, as Miss Hender's thick hands pushed it forward. The work was too delicate to admit of any distraction, so for some time nothing was heard but the clinking rattle of the machine and the 'swishing' of the silk as Kate drew it across the table and snipped it with the scissors which hung from her waist.

But at the end of about half an hour the work came to a pause. Hender had finished sewing up the bodice, had tacked on the facings, and Kate had cut out the skirt and basted it together. The time had come for exchanging a few words, and lifting her head from her work, she asked her assistant if she could remain that evening and do a little overtime. Hender said she was very sorry, but it was the first night of the new opera company; she had passes for the pit, and had promised to take a friend with her. She would, therefore, have to hurry away a little before six, so as to have her tea and be dressed in time.

'Well, I don't know what I shall do,' said Kate sorrowfully. 'As for myself, I simply couldn't pass another night out of bed. You know I was up looking after my husband all night. Attending a sick man, and one as cross as Mr. Ede, is not very nice, I can assure you.'

Hender congratulated herself inwardly that Bill was never likely to want much attendance.

'I think you'd better tell Mrs. Barnes that she can't expect the dress; it will be impossible to get it done in the time. I'd be delighted to help you, but I couldn't disappoint my little friend. Besides, you've Mr. Lennox coming here to-day … you can't get the dress done by to-morrow night!'

Hender had been waiting for a long time for an opportunity to lead up to

Mr. Lennox.

'Oh, dear me!' said Kate, 'I'd forgotten him, and he'll be coming this afternoon, and may want some dinner, and I'll have to help mother.'

'They always have dinner in the afternoon,' said Miss Hender, with a feeling of pride at being able to speak authoritatively on the ways and habits of actors.

'Do they?' replied Kate reflectively; and then, suddenly remembering her promise to the little girls, she said:

'But do you know what part he takes in the play?'

Hender always looked pleased when questioned about the theatre, but all the stage carpenter had been able to tell her about the company was that it was one of the best travelling; that Frank Bret, the tenor, was supposed to have a wonderful voice; that the amount of presents he received in each town from ladies in the upper ranks of society would furnish a small shop-'It's said that they'd sell the chemises off their backs for him.' The stage carpenter had also informed her that Joe Mortimer's performance in the Cloches was extraordinary; he never failed to br

ing down the house in his big scene; and Lucy Leslie was the best Clairette going.

And now that they were going to have an actor lodging in their house, Kate felt a certain interest in hearing what such people were like; and while Miss Hender gossiped about all she had heard, Kate remembered that her question relating to Mr. Lennox remained unanswered.

'But you've not told me what part Mr. Lennox plays. Perhaps he's the man in white who is being dragged away from his bride? I've been examining the big picture; the little girls were so curious to know what it meant.'

'Yes, he may play that part; it is called Pom-Pom Pouet-I can't pronounce it right; it's French. But in any case you'll find him fine. All theatre people are. The other day I went behind to talk to Bill, and Mr. Rickett stopped to speak to me as he was running to make a change.'

'What's that?' asked Kate.

'Making a change? Dressing in a hurry.'

'I hope you won't get into trouble; stopping out so late is very dangerous for a young girl. And I suppose you walk up Piccadilly with him after the play?'

'Sometimes he takes me out for a drink,' Hender replied, anxious to avoid a discussion on the subject, but at the same time tempted to make a little boast of her independence. 'But you must come to see Madame Angot; I hear it is going to be beautifully put on, and Mr. Lennox is sure to give you a ticket.'

'I dare say I should like it very much; I don't have much amusement.'

'Indeed you don't, and what do you get for it? I don't see that Mr. Ede is so kind to you for all the minding and nursing you do; and old Mrs. Ede may repeat all day long that she's a Christian woman, and what else she likes, but it doesn't make her anything less disagreeable. I wouldn't live in a house with a mother-in-law-and such a mother-in-law!'

'You and Mrs. Ede never hit it off, but I don't know what I should do without her; she's the only friend I've got.'

'Half your time you're shut up in a sick-room, and even when he is well he's always blowing and wheezing; not the man that would suit me.'

'Ralph can't help being cross sometimes,' said Kate, and she fell to thinking of the fatigue of last night's watching. She felt it still in her bones, and her eyes ached. As she considered the hardships of her life, her manner grew more abandoned.

'If you'll let me have the skirt, ma'am, I'll stitch it up.'

Kate handed her the silk wearily, and was about to speak when Mrs. Ede entered.

'Mr. Lennox is downstairs,' she said stiffly. 'I don't know what you'll think of him. I'm a Christian woman and I don't want to misjudge anyone, but he looks to me like a person of very loose ways.'

Kate flushed a little with surprise, and after a moment she said:

'I suppose I'd better go down and see him. But perhaps he won't like the rooms after all. What shall I say to him?'

'Indeed, I can't tell you; I've the dinner to attend to.'

'But,' said Kate, getting frightened, 'you promised me not to say any more on this matter.'

'Oh, I say nothing. I'm not mistress here. I told you that I would not interfere with Mr. Lennox; no more will I. Why should I? What right have I? But I may warn you, and I have warned you. I've said my say, and I'll abide by it.'

These hard words only tended to confuse Kate; all her old doubts returned to her, and she remained irresolute. Hender, with an expression of contempt on her coarse face, watched a moment and then returned to her sewing. As she did so Kate moved towards the door. She waited on the threshold, but seeing that her mother-in-law had turned her back, her courage returned to her and she went downstairs. When she caught sight of Mr. Lennox she shrank back frightened, for he was a man of about thirty years of age, with bronzed face, and a shock of frizzly hair, and had it not been for his clear blue eyes he might have passed for an Italian.

Leaning his large back against the counter, he examined a tray of ornaments in black jet. Kate thought he was handsome. He wore a large soft hat, which was politely lifted from his head when she entered. The attention embarrassed her, and somewhat awkwardly she interrupted him to ask if he would like to see the rooms. The suddenness of the question seemed to surprise him, and he began talking of their common acquaintance, the agent in advance, and of the difficulty in getting lodgings in the town. As he spoke he stared at her, and he appeared interested in the shop.

It was a very tiny corner, and, like a Samson, Mr. Lennox looked as if he would only have to extend his arms to pull the whole place down upon his shoulders. From the front window round to the kitchen door ran a mahogany counter; behind it, there were lines of cardboard boxes built up to the ceiling; the lower rows were broken and dusty, and spread upon wires were coarse shirts and a couple of pairs of stays in pink and blue. The windows were filled with babies' frocks, hoods, and many pairs of little woollen shoes.

After a few remarks from Mr. Lennox the conversation came to a pause, and Kate asked him again if he would like to see the rooms. He said he would be delighted, and she lifted the flap and let him pass into the house. On the right of the kitchen door there was a small passage, and at the end of it the staircase began; the first few steps turned spirally, but after that it ascended like a huge canister or burrow to the first landing.

They passed Mrs. Ede gazing scornfully from behind the door of the workroom, but Mr. Lennox did not seem to notice her, and continued to talk affably of the difficulty of finding lodgings in the town.

Even the shabby gentility of the room, which his presence made her realize more vividly than ever, did not appear to strike him. He examined with interest the patchwork cloth that covered the round table, looked complacently at the little green sofa with the two chairs to match, and said that he thought he would be comfortable. But when Kate noticed how dusty was the pale yellow wall-paper, with its watery roses, she could not help feeling ashamed, and she wondered how so fine a gentleman as he could be so easily satisfied. Then, plucking up courage, she showed him the little mahogany chiffonier which stood next the door, and told him that it was there she would keep whatever he might order in the way of drinks. Mr. Lennox walked nearer to the small looking-glass engarlanded with green paper cut into fringes, twirled a slight moustache many shades lighter than his hair, and admired his white teeth.

The inspection of the drawing-room being over, they went up the second portion of the canister-like staircase, and after a turn and a stoop arrived at the bedroom.

'I'm sorry you should see the room like this,' Kate said. 'I thought that my mother-in-law had got the room ready for you. I was obliged to sleep here last night; my husband-'

'I assure you I take no objection to the fact of your having slept here,' he replied gallantly.

Kate blushed, and an awkward silence followed.

As Mr. Lennox looked round an expression of dissatisfaction passed over his face. It was a much poorer place than the drawing-room. Religion and poverty went there hand-in-hand. A rickety iron bedstead covered with another patchwork quilt occupied the centre of the room, and there was a small chest of drawers in white wood placed near the fireplace-the smallest and narrowest in the world. Upon the black painted chimney-piece a large red apple made a spot of colour. The carpet was in rags, and the lace blinds were torn, and hung like fishnets. Mr. Lennox apparently was not satisfied, but when his eyes fell upon Kate it was clear that he thought that so pretty a woman might prove a compensation. But the pious exhortations hanging on the walls seemed to cause him a certain uneasiness. Above the washstand there were two cards bearing the inscriptions, 'Thou art my hope,' 'Thou art my will'; and these declarations of faith were written within a painted garland of lilies and roses.

'I see that you're religious.'

'I'm afraid not so much as I should be, sir.'

'Well, I don't know so much about that; the place is covered with Bible texts.'

'Those were put there by my mother-in-law. She is very good.'

'Oh ah,' said Mr. Lennox, apparently much relieved by the explanation. 'Old people are very pious, generally, aren't they? But this patchwork quilt is yours, I suppose?'

'Yes, sir; I made it myself,' said Kate, blushing.

He made several attempts at conversation, but she did not respond, her whole mind being held up by the thought: 'Is he going to take the rooms, I wonder?' At last he said:

'I like these apartments very well; and you say that I can have breakfast here?'

'Oh, you can have anything you order, sir. I, or my mother, will-'

'Very well, then; we may consider the matter settled. I'll tell them to send down my things from the theatre.'

This seemed to conclude the affair, and they went downstairs. But Mr. Lennox stopped on the next landing, and without any apparent object re-examined the drawing-room. Speaking like a man who wanted to start a conversation, he manifested interest in everything, and asked questions concerning the rattle of the sewing-machine, which could be heard distinctly; and before she could stop him he opened the door of the workroom. He wondered at all the brown-paper patterns that were hung on the walls, and Miss Hender, too eager to inform him, took advantage of the occasion to glide in a word to the effect that she was going to see him that evening at the theatre. Kate was amused, but felt it was her duty to take the first opportunity of interrupting the conversation. For some unexplained reason Mr. Lennox seemed loath to go, and it was with difficulty he was got downstairs. Even then he could not pass the kitchen door without stopping to speak to the apprentices. He asked them where they had found their brown hair and eyes, and attempted to exchange a remark with Mrs. Ede. Kate thought the encounter unfortunate, but it passed off better than she expected. Mrs. Ede replied that the little girls were getting on very well, and, apparently satisfied with this answer, Mr. Lennox turned to go. His manner indicated his Bohemian habits, for after all this waste of time he suddenly remembered that he had an appointment, and would probably miss it by about a quarter of an hour.

'Will you require any dinner?' asked Kate, following him to the door.

At the mention of the word 'dinner' he again appeared to forget all about his appointment. His face changed its expression, and his manner again grew confidential. He asked all kinds of questions as to what she could get him to eat, but without ever quite deciding whether he would be able to find time to eat it. Kate thought she had never seen such a man. At last in a fit of desperation, he said:

'I'll have a bit of cold steak. I haven't the time to dine, but if you'll put that out for me … I like a bit of supper after the theatre-'

Kate wished to ask him what he would like to drink with it, but it was impossible to get an answer. He couldn't stop another minute, and, dodging the passers-by, he rushed rapidly down the street. She watched until the big shoulders were lost in the crowd, and asked herself if she liked the man who had just left her; but the answer slipped from her when she tried to define it, and with a sigh she turned into the shop and mechanically set straight those shirts that hung aslant on the traversing wires. At that moment Mrs. Ede came from the kitchen carrying a basin of soup for her sick son. She wanted to know why Kate had stayed so long talking to that man.

'Talking to him!' Kate repeated, surprised at the words and suspicious of an implication of vanity. 'If we're going to take his money it's only right that we should try to make him comfortable.'

'I doubt if his ten shillings a week will bring us much good,' Mrs. Ede answered sourly; and she went upstairs, backbone and principles equally rigid, leaving Kate to fume at what she termed her mother-in-law's unreasonableness.

But Kate had no time to indulge in many angry thoughts, for the tall gaunt woman returned with tears in her eyes to beg pardon.

'I'm so sorry, dear. Did I speak crossly? I'll say no more about the actor,

I'll promise.'

'I don't see why I should be bullied in my own house,' Kate answered, feeling that she must assert herself. 'Why shouldn't I let my rooms to Mr. Lennox if I like?'

'You're right,' Mrs. Ede replied-'I've said too much; but don't turn against me, Kate.'

'No, no, mother; I don't turn against you. You're the only person I have to love.'

At these words a look of pleasure passed over the hard, blunt features of the peasant woman, and she said with tears in her voice:

'You know I'm a bit hard with my tongue, but that's all; I don't mean it.'

'Well, say no more, mother,' and Kate went upstairs to her workroom. Miss Hender, already returned from dinner, was trembling with excitement, and she waited impatiently for the door to be shut that she might talk. She had been round to see her friend the stage carpenter, and he had told her all about the actor. Mr. Lennox was the boss; Mr. Hayes, the acting manager, was a nobody, generally pretty well boozed; and Mr. Cox, the London gent, didn't travel.

Kate listened, only half understanding what was said.

'And what part does he play in Madame Angot?' she asked as she bent her head to examine the bead trimmings she was stitching on to the sleeves.

'The low comedy part,' said Miss Hender; but seeing that Kate did not understand, she hastened to explain that the low comedy parts meant the funny parts.

'He's the man who's lost his wig-La-La Ravodée, I think they call it-and a very nice man he is. When I was talking to Bill I could see Mr. Lennox between the wings; he had his arm round Miss Leslie's shoulder. I'm sure he's sweet on her.'

Kate looked up from her work and stared at Miss Hender slowly. The announcement that Mr. Lennox was the funny man was disappointing, but to hear that he was a woman's lover turned her against him.

'All those actors are alike. I see now that my mother-in-law was right. I shouldn't have let him my rooms.'

'One's always afraid of saying anything to you, ma'am; you twist one's words so. I'm sure I didn't mean to say there was any harm between him and Miss Leslie. There, perhaps you'll go and tell him that I spoke about him.'

'I'm sure I shall do nothing of the sort. Mr. Lennox has taken my rooms for a week, and there's an end of it. I'm not going to interfere in his private affairs.'

The conversation then came to a pause, and all that was heard for a long time was the clicking of the needle and the rustling of silk. Kate wondered how it was that Mr. Lennox was so different off the stage from what he was when on; and it seemed to her strange that such a nice gentleman-for she was obliged to admit that he was that-should choose to play the funny parts. As for his connection with Miss Leslie, that of course was none of her business. What did it matter to her? He was in love with whom he pleased. She'd have thought he was a man who would not easily fall in love; but perhaps Miss Leslie was very pretty, and, for the matter of that, they might be going to be married. Meanwhile Miss Hender regretted having told Kate anything about Mr. Lennox. The best and surest way was to let people find out things for themselves, and having an instinctive repugnance to virtue-at least, to questions of conscience-she could not abide whining about spilt milk. Beyond an occasional reference to their work, the women did not speak again, until at three o'clock Mrs. Ede announced that dinner was ready. There was not much to eat, however, and Kate had little appetite, and she was glad when the meal was finished. She had then to help Mrs. Ede in getting the rooms ready, and when this was done it was time for tea. But not even this meal did they get in comfort, for Mr. Lennox had ordered a beefsteak for supper; somebody would have to go to fetch it. Mrs. Ede said she would, and Kate went into the shop to attend to the few customers who might call in the course of the evening. The last remarkable event in this day of events was the departure of Miss Hender, who came downstairs saying she had only just allowed herself time to hurry to the theatre; she feared she wouldn't be there before the curtain went up, and she was sorry Kate wasn't coming, but she would tell her to-morrow all about Mr. Lennox, and how the piece went. As Kate bade her assistant good-night a few customers dropped in, all of whom gave a great deal of trouble. She had to pull down a number of packages to find what was wanted. Then her next-door neighbour, the stationer's wife, called to ask after Mr. Ede and to buy a reel of cotton; and so, in evening chat, the time passed, until the fruiterer's boy came to ask if he should put up the shutters.

Kate nodded, and remarked to her friend, who had risen to go, what a nice, kind man Mr. Jones was.

'Yes, indeed, they are very kind people, but their prices are very high. Do you deal with them?'

Kate replied that she did; and, as the fruiterer's boy put up the shutters with a series of bangs, she tried to persuade her neighbour to buy a certain gown she had been long talking of.

'Trimming and everything, it won't cost you more than thirty shillings; you'll want something fresh now that summer's coming on.'

'So I shall. I'll speak to my man about it to-night. I think he'll let me have it.'

'He won't refuse you if you press him.'

'Well, we shall see,' and bidding Kate good-night she passed into the street.

The evening was fine, and Kate stood for a long while watching the people surging out of the potteries towards Piccadilly. 'Coming out,' she said, 'for their evening walk,' and she was glad that the evening was fine. 'After a long day in the potteries they want some fresh air,' and then, raising her eyes from the streets, she watched the sunset die out of the west; purple and yellow streaks still outlined the grey expanse of the hills, making the brick town look like a little toy. An ugly little brick town-brick of all colours: the pale reddish-brown of decaying brick-yards, the fierce red brick of the newly built warehouses that turns to purple, and above the walls scarlet tiled roofs pointing sharp angles to a few stars.

Kate stood watching the fading of the hills into night clouds, interested in her thoughts vaguely-her thoughts adrift and faded somewhat as the spectacle before her. She wondered if her lodger would be satisfied with her mother's cooking; she hoped so. He was a well-spoken man, but she could not hope to change mother. As the image of the lodger floated out of her mind Hender's came into it, and she hoped the girl would not get into trouble. So many poor girls are in trouble; how many in the crowd passing before her door? The difficulty she was in with Mrs. Barnes's dress suggested itself, and with a shiver and a sigh she shut the street-door and went upstairs. The day had passed; it was gone like a hundred days before it-wearily, perhaps, yet leaving in the mind an impression of something done, of duties honestly accomplished.

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