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   Chapter 4 No.4

A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 41669

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Next day, about eleven o'clock, Kate walked up Market Street with Mrs. Barnes's dress, meditating on the letter she had received. A very serious matter this angry letter was to Kate, and she thought of what she could say to satisfy her customer. Her anxiety of mind caused her to walk faster than she was aware of, up the hill towards the square of sky where the passers-by seemed like figures on the top of a monument. At the top of the hill she would turn to the left and descend towards the little quasi-villa residences which form the suburbs of Northwood. Ten minutes later Kate approached Mrs. Barnes's door hot and out of breath, her plans matured, determined, if the worst came to the worst, to let the dress go at a reduction. Her present difficulty was so great that she forgot other troubles, and it was not until she had received her money that she remembered Mr. Lennox. He was going. Her rooms would be empty again. She was sorry he was going, and at the top of Market Street she stood at gaze, surprised by the view, though she had never seen any other. A long black valley lay between her and the dim hills far away, miles and miles in length, with tanks of water glittering like blades of steel, and gigantic smoke clouds rolling over the stems of a thousand factory chimneys. She had not come up this hillside at the top of Market Street for a long while; for many years she had not stood there and gazed at the view, not since she was a little girl, and the memories that she cherished in her workroom between Hanley and the Wever Hills were quite different from the scene she was now looking upon. She saw the valley with different eyes: she saw it now with a woman's eyes; before she had seen it with a child's eyes. She remembered the ruined collieries and the black cinder-heaps protruding through the hillside on which she was now standing. In childhood, these ruins were convenient places to play hide-and-seek in. But now they seemed to convey a meaning to her mind, a meaning that was not very clear, that perplexed her, that she tried to put aside and yet could not. At her left, some fifty feet below, running in the shape of a fan, round a belt of green, were the roofs of Northwood-black brick unrelieved except by the yellow chimney-pots, specks of colour upon a line of soft cotton-like clouds melting into grey, the grey passing into blue, and the blue spaces widening. 'It will be a hot day,' she said to herself, and fell to thinking that a hot day was hotter on this hillside than elsewhere. At every moment the light grew more and more intense, till a distant church spire faded almost out of sight, and she was glad she had come up here to admire the view from the top of Market Street. Southwark, on the right, as black as Northwood, toppled into the valley in irregular lines, the jaded houses seeming in Kate's fancy like cart-loads of gigantic pill-boxes cast in a hurry from the counter along the floor. It amused her to stand gazing, contrasting the reality with her memories. It seemed to her that Southwark had never before been so plain to the eye. She could follow the lines of the pavement and almost distinguish the men from the women passing. A hansom appeared and disappeared, the white horse seen now against the green blinds of a semi-detached villa and shown a moment after against the yellow rotundities of a group of pottery ovens.

The sun was now rapidly approaching the meridian, and in the vibrating light the wheels of the most distant collieries could almost be counted, and the stems of the far-off factory chimneys appeared like tiny fingers.

Kate saw with the eyes and heard with the ears of her youth, and the past became as clear as the landscape before her. She remembered the days when she came to read on this hillside. The titles of the books rose up in her mind, and she could recall the sorrow she felt for the heroes and heroines. It seemed to her strange that that time was so long past and she wondered why she had forgotten it. Now it all seemed so near to her that she felt like one only just awakened from a dream. And these memories made her happy. She took pleasure in recalling every little event-an excursion she made when she was quite a little girl to the ruined colliery, and later on, a conversation with a chance acquaintance, a young man who had stopped to speak to her.

At the bottom of the valley, right before her eyes, the white gables of Bucknell Rectory, hidden amid masses of trees, glittered now and then in an entangled beam that flickered between chimneys, across brick-banked squares of water darkened by brick walls.

Behind Bucknell were more desolate plains full of pits, brick, and smoke; and beyond Bucknell an endless tide of hills rolled upwards and onwards.

The American tariff had not yet come into operation, and every wheel was turning, every oven baking; and through a drifting veil of smoke the sloping sides of the hills with all their fields could be seen sleeping under great shadows, or basking in the light. A deluge of rays fell upon them, defining every angle of Watley Rocks and floating over the grasslands of Standon, all shape becoming lost in a huge embrasure filled with the almost imperceptible outlines of the Wever Hills.

And these vast slopes which formed the background of every street were the theatre of all Kate's travels before life's struggles began. It amused her to remember that when she played about the black cinders of the hillsides she used to stop to watch the sunlight flash along the far-away green spaces, and in her thoughts connected them with the marvels she read of in her books of fairy-tales. Beyond these wonderful hills were the palaces of the kings and queens who would wave their wands and vanish! A few years later it was among or beyond those slopes that the lovers with whom she sympathized in the pages of her novels lived. But it was a long time since she had read a story, and she asked herself how this was. Dreams had gone out of her life, everything was a hard reality; her life was like a colliery, every wheel was turning, no respite day or night; her life would be always the same, a burden and a misery. There never could be any change now. She remembered her marriage, and how Mrs. Ede had persuaded her into it, and for the first time she blamed the old woman for her interference. But this was not all. Kate was willing to admit that there was no one she loved like Mr. Ede, but still it was hard to live with a mother-in-law who had a finger in everything and used the house like her own. It would be all very well if she were not so obstinate, so certain that she was always right. Religion was very well, but that perpetual 'I'm a Christian woman,' was wearisome. No wonder Mr. Lennox was leaving. Poor man, why shouldn't he have a few friends up in the evening? The lodgings were his own while he paid for them. No wonder he cut up rough; no wonder he was leaving them. If so, she would never see him again. The thought caught her like a pain in the throat, and with a sudden instinct she turned to hurry home. As she did so her eyes fell on Mr. Lennox walking towards her. At such an unexpected realization of her thoughts she uttered a little cry of surprise; but, smiling affably, and in no way disconcerted, he raised his big hat from his head. On account of the softness of the felt this could only be accomplished by passing the arm over the head and seizing the crown as a conjurer would a pocket-handkerchief. The movement was large and unctuous, and it impressed Kate considerably.

'I took the liberty to stop, for you seemed so interested that I felt curious to know what could be worth looking at in those chimneys and cinder-mounds.'

'I wasn't looking at the factories, but at the hills. The view from here is considered very fine. Don't you think so, sir?' she asked, feeling afraid that she had made some mistake.

'Ah, well, now you mention it, perhaps it is. How far away, and yet how distinct! They look like the gallery of a theatre. We're on the stage, the footlights run round here, and the valley is the pit; and there are plenty of pits in it,' he added, laughing. 'But I mustn't speak to you of the theatre.'

'Oh, I'm sure I don't mind! I'm very fond of the theatre,' said Kate hastily.

This indirect allusion to last night brought the conversation to a close, and for some moments they stood looking vacantly at the landscape. Overhead the sky was a blue dome, and so still was the air that the smoke-clouds trailed like the wings of gigantic birds slowly balancing themselves. And waves of white light rolled up the valley as if jealous of the red, flashing furnaces. An odour of iron and cinders poisoned the air, and after some moments of contemplation which seemed to draw them closer together, Mr. Lennox said:

'There is no doubt that the view is very grand, but it is tantalizing to have those hills before your eyes when you are shut up in a red brick oven. How fresh and cool they look! What wouldn't you give to be straying about in those fresh woods far away?'

Kate looked at Mr. Lennox with ravished eyes; his words had flooded her mind with a thousand forgotten dreams. She felt she liked him better for what he had said, and she murmured as if half ashamed:

'I've never been out of Hanley. I've never seen the sea, and when I was a child I used to fancy that the fairies lived beyond those hills; even now I can't help imagining that the world is quite different over there. Here it is all brick, but in novels they never speak of anything but gardens and fields.'

'Never seen the sea! Well, there isn't much to see in it,' Mr. Lennox said, laughing at the pun. 'When you were a little girl you used to come here to play, I suppose?'

'Yes, sir; I was born over in one of those cottages.'

Mr. Lennox, without knowing whether to look sorry or sentimental, listened patiently to Kate, who, proud of being able to show him anything, drew his attention to the different points of view. The white gables that could just be distinguished in the large dark masses of trees was Bucknell Rectory. The fragment of the cliff on the top of the highest ridge half-way up the sky was Watley Rocks; then came Western Coyney, the plains of Standon, and far away in a blue mist the outlines of the Wever Hills. But Mr. Lennox did not seem very much interested; the sun was too hot for him, and in the first pause of the conversation he asked Kate which way she was going. He had to get on to the theatre, and he asked her if she would show him the way there.

'You can't do better than to go down Market Street; but if you like I will direct you.'

'I shall be so glad if you will; but Market Street-I think you said Market

Street? That is just the way I've come.'

Market Street was where people connected with the theatre generally lived, and Kate knew at once he had been looking for lodgings; but she was ashamed to ask him, and they walked on for some time without speaking. But every moment the silence became more irritating, and at last, determined to know the worst, she said, 'I suppose you were looking for lodgings; all the theatre people put up in that street.'

Mr. Lennox flinched before this direct question.

'Why, no, not exactly; I was calling on some friends; but as you say, some of the profession live in the street, and now you mention it, I suppose I shall have to find some new diggings.'

'I'm sorry, sir, very sorry,' said Kate, looking up into the big blue eyes. 'I ought not to have come down; you are, of course, master in your own rooms.'

'Oh, it wasn't your fault; I could live with you for ever. You mustn't think I want to change. If you could only guarantee that your mother-in-law will keep out of my way.'

Kate felt at that moment that she would guarantee anything that would prevent Mr. Lennox from leaving her house.

'Oh, I don't think there will be any difficulty about that,' she said eagerly. 'I'll bring your breakfast and dinner up, and you are out nearly all day.'

'Very well, then, and I'll promise not to bring home any friends,' he added gallantly.

'But I'm afraid you'll be very lonely, sir.'

'I'll have you to talk to sometimes.'

Kate made no answer, but they both felt that the words implied more than they actually meant, and they remained silent, like people who had come to some important conclusion. Then after a long pause, and without any transition, Mr. Lennox spoke of the heat of the weather and of the harm it was likely to do their business at the theatre. She asked him what he thought of Hanley. Mr. Lennox smiled through his faint moustache and said the red brick hurt his eyes.

Kate did not feel quite satisfied with this last observation, and spoke of the pretty places there were about the town. Pointing down a red perspective backed by the usual hills, she told him that Trentham, the Duke of Sutherland's place, was over there.

'What, over those hills? That must be miles away.'

'Oh, not so far as that. Hanley doesn't reach to there. The country is beautiful, once you get past Stoke. I went once to see the Duke's place, and we had tea in the inn. That was the only time I was ever really in the country, and even then we were never quite out of sight of the factories. Still, it was very nice.'

'And who were you with?'

'Oh, with my husband.'

'He's an invalid, isn't he?'

'Well, I'm afraid he suffers very much at times, but he's often well enough.'

The conversation again came to a pause, and both thought of how happy they would be were they taking tea together at the inn at Trentham.

But they were now in the centre of the town, close to the Town Hall, a stupid, square building with two black cannon on either side of the door. Opposite was a great shop with 'Commercial House' written across the second story in gold letters. Bright carpets and coarse goods were piled about the doorway; and from these two houses Piccadilly and Broad Street, its continuation, ran down an incline, and Church Street branched off, giving the town the appearance of a two-pronged fork.

All was red brick blazing under a blue sky without a cloud in it; the red brick that turns to purple; and all the roofs were scarlet-red brick and scarlet tiles, and not a tree anywhere.

'You don't seem to have a tree in Hanley,' Mr. Lennox said.

'I don't think there are many,' she answered, and they gazed at the bald rotundities of the pottery ovens.

He had never seen a town before composed entirely of brick and iron. A town of work; a town in which the shrill scream of the steam train as it rolled solemnly up the incline seemed to be man's cry of triumph over vanquished nature.

After looking about him, Mr. Lennox said, 'What I object to in the town is that there's nothing to do. And it's so blazing hot; for goodness' sake let us get under the shadow of a wall.'

Kate smiled, and as they crossed over they both wiped their faces.

'There are the potteries,' she said, referring to Mr. Lennox's complaint that there was nothing to do in the town. 'Everybody that comes to Hanley goes to see them; but the best are in Stoke.'

'I'm sure I'm not going to Stoke to see potteries,' he answered decisively, 'but if there are any at Hanley I dare say I shall turn in some afternoon. I've heard some of our people say they are worth seeing. But,' he added, as if a sudden thought had struck him, 'I might go now; I've nothing to do for the next couple of hours. How far are the nearest?'

Kate told him that Powell and Jones's works were close by in the High Street. She pointed out the way, but, failing to make Mr. Lennox understand her, she consented to go with him. He had a kind, soft manner of speaking which drew Kate towards him almost as if he had taken her in his arms, and it was astonishing how intimate they had grown in the last few minutes.

'It doesn't look very interesting,' he said, as they stopped before an archway and looked into a yard filled with straw and packing-cases.

'Yes it is, but you must see the different rooms. You must go up to the office and ask for permission to see the works.'

'I don't think I'd care to go by myself. Won't you come with me?'

Kate hesitated; she had very little to do at home, and could say that Mrs.

Barnes had kept her waiting.

'Do come,' he said after a pause, during which he looked at her eagerly.

'Well, I should like to see the room where my mother used to work, but we mustn't stop too long. I shall be missed at home.' The matter being so arranged, they entered the yard, and Kate pointed out a rough staircase placed against the wall. 'You must go up there; the office is at the top. Ask for permission to see the works and I'll wait here for you.'

Half a dozen men were packing crockery into crates with spades, and as she watched them she remembered that she used to come to this yard with her mother's dinner, and stand wondering how they could pack the delf without breaking it. She remembered one afternoon particularly well; she had promised to be very good, and had been allowed to sit by her mother and watch her painting flowers that wound in and out and all about a big blue vase. She remembered how she was reproved for peeping over her neighbour's shoulder, and how proud she felt sitting among all the workwomen. She could recall the smell of the paint and turpentine, and her grief when she was told that she was too delicate to learn painting, and was going to be put out to dressmaking. But that time was long ago; her mother was dead and she was married. Everything was changed or broken, as was that beautiful vase, probably. It astonished Kate to find herself thinking of these things. She had passed the High Street twenty times during the last six months without it even occurring to her to visit the old places, and when Mr. Lennox came back he noticed that there were tears in her eyes. He made no remark, but hastily explained that he had been told that there was a party just that minute gone on in front of them, and they were to catch them up.

'This way, then,' she said, pointing to a big archway.

'Oh, I can't run; don't be in such a hurry,' said Mr. Lennox, panting.

Kate laughed, and admitted that the heat was great. Out of a sky burnt almost to white the glare descended into the narrow brick-yards. The packing straw seemed ready to catch fire; the heaps of wet clay, which two boys were shovelling, smoked, emitting as it did so an unpleasant wet odour. On passing the archway they caught sight of three black coats and three soft hats like the one Mr. Lennox wore.

'Oh!' said Kate, stopping, disappointed, 'we'll have to go round with those clergymen.'

'What does that matter? It will be amusing to listen to them.'

'But mother knows all of them.'

'They must be strangers in the town or they wouldn't be visiting the potteries, surely.'

'I hadn't thought of that; I suppose you're right,' and hastening a little, they overtook the party that was being shown round. The Dissenting clergymen looked askance at Mr. Lennox, and as he showed them into a small white cell the guide said, 'You're in plenty of time, sir; these are the snagger-makers.'

Two men were beating a heap of wet clay in order to insure a something in the bakery which nobody understood, but which the guide took some trouble to explain. The clergymen pressed forward to listen. Mr. Lennox wiped his face, and they were then hurried into a second cell, where unbaked dishes were piled all around upon shelves. It was said to be the dishmakers' place, and was followed by another and another room, all of which Mr. Lennox thought equally hot and uninteresting. He strove to escape from the guide, who drew him through the line of clergymen and made plain to him the mysteries of earthenware.

At last these preliminary departments were disposed of, and they were led to another part of the works. On their way thither they passed the ovens. These were scattered over the ground like beehives in a garden. Lennox patted their round sides, approvingly saying that they reminded him of oyster boys in a pantomime, and might be introduced into the next Christmas show. Kate looked at him, her eyes full of wonder. She could not understand how he could think of such things.

In the printing-room they listened to the guide, who apparently considered it important that clergymen, actor, and dressmaker should understand the different processes the earthenware had to pass through before it was placed on toilet or breakfast table. Smoking flannels hung on lines all around, and like laundresses at their tubs, four or five women washed the printed paper from the plates. A man in a paper cap bent over a stove, and as if dissatisfie

d with the guide's explanation of his work, broke out into a wearisome flow of technical details. At the other end of this vast workroom there was a line of young girls who cut the printed matter out of sheets of paper, the scissors running in and out of flowers, tendrils, and little birds without ever injuring one. The clergymen watched the process, delighted, while Lennox stepped behind Kate and whispered that he had just caught the tall Dissenter winking at the dark girl on the right, which was not true, and was invented for the sake of the opportunity it gave him of breathing on Kate's neck-a lead up to the love-scene which he had now decided was to come off as soon as he should find himself alone with her.

They passed through a brick alley with a staircase leading to a platform built like a ship's deck, and went on through a series of rooms till they came to a place almost as hot as a Turkish bath, filled with unbaked plates and dishes. The smell of wet clay drying in steam diffused from underneath was very unpleasant, and caused one of the ministers to cough violently, whereupon the guide explained that the platemakers' departments were considered the most unhealthy of any in the works; the people who worked there, he said, usually suffered from what is known as the potter's asthma. This interested Kate, and she delayed the guide with questions as to how the potter's asthma differed from the ordinary form of the disease, and when their little procession was again put in motion she told Mr. Lennox how her husband was affected, and the nights she had spent watching at his side. But although Lennox listened attentively, she could not help thinking that he seemed rather glad than otherwise that her husband was an invalid. The unkind way in which he spoke of sick people shocked her, and she opposed the opinion that a person in bad health was a disgusting object, while Lennox took advantage of the occasion to whisper into her ears that she was far too pretty a woman for an asthmatic husband; and, encouraged by her blushes, he even hazarded a few coarse jokes anent the poor husband's deficiencies. How could a man kiss if he couldn't breathe, for if there was a time when breath was essential, according to him, it was when four lips meet.

No one had ever spoken to her in this way before, and had she known how to do so she would have resented his familiarities. Once their hands met. The contact caused her a thrill; she put aside the unbaked plate they were examining and said: 'We'd better make haste or we shall lose them.'

The next two rooms were considered the most interesting they had been through; even the three clergymen lost something of their stolid manner and asked Lennox his opinion regarding the religious character of Hanley, and if he were of their persuasion.

'What is that?' asked Lennox, affecting a comic innocence which he hoped would tickle Kate's fancy.

'We're Wesleyans,' said the minister.

'And I'm an actor; but, I beg your pardon, stage-managing's more my business,' news that seemed to cast a gloom over the faces of the ministers; and leaving them to make what they could of his reply, he drew Kate forward confidentially and pointed to an old man sitting straddle-legged on a high narrow table just on a line with the window. He was covered with clay; his forehead and beard were plastered with it, and before him was an iron plate, kept continually whirling by steam, which he could stop by a pressure of his foot. He squeezed a lump of clay into a long shape not unlike a tall ice, then, forcing it down into the shape of a batter-pudding, he hollowed it. Round and round went the clay, the hands forming it all the while, cleaning and smoothing until it came out a true and perfect jampot, even to the little furrow round the top, which was given by a movement of the thumbs. He had been at work since seven in the morning, and the shelves round him were encumbered with the result of his labours. Everyone marvelled at his dexterity, until he was forgotten in the superior attractions of the succeeding room. This was the turning-house, and Lennox could not help laughing outright, so amusing did the scene appear to him. Women went dancing up and down on one leg, and at such regular intervals that they seemed absolutely like machines. They were at once the motive power and the feeders of the different lathes. It was they who handed the men lumps of dry clay, which they turned into shapes. The strangeness of the spectacle gave rise to much comment. The clergymen were anxious to know if the constant jigging was injurious to health. Lennox inquired how much coin they made by their one-leg dancing. He spoke of their good looks, and this led him easily into the question of morals, a subject in which he was much interested. He wanted to know if this crowding together of the sexes could be effected without danger. Surely cases of seduction must occur occasionally. In answering him the guide betrayed a certain reticence of manner which encouraged Lennox to ask him if he really meant to say that nothing ever befell these young women who were working all day side by side with people of the other sex. Did their thoughts never wander from their work? The guide assured Mr. Lennox that there was no time to think of such nonsense in the factory, and, anxious to vindicate the honour of the establishment, he declared that any who took the smallest liberty with any female would be instantly dismissed from the works. The ministers listened approvingly, although they seemed to think the subject might have been avoided. Kate felt a little embarrassed, and Mr. Lennox watched a big, blonde-haired woman who smiled prettily and seemed quite conscious of her sex, notwithstanding the ludicrous bobbing up and down position she was in. With a courage that surprised herself Kate proposed that they should go on. She was beginning to feel uneasy at the time she had been away from home and certain that Mrs. Ede would be on the doorstep looking up and down the street; and she could well imagine how cross Ralph would be if he heard she had been to the potteries with Mr. Lennox. She felt very sorry for the one and a little resentful towards the other, but the sentimental desire to see the painting-room where her mother used to work prevailed, and with her heart full of recollections she followed the party to the ovens.

Their way thither led them around the building, and they passed through many workrooms. These were generally clean, airy spaces, with big rafters and whitewashed walls. Sometimes a bunch of violets, a book, or a newspaper lying on the table, suggested an absent owner, and a refined countenance was sought for in the different groups of women. There was also a difference in the hats and shawls, and it was easy to tell which belonged to the young girls, which to the mothers of families. Everyone looked healthy and contented. All were nice-looking, as Lennox continued to assert, and all worked industriously at their numberless employments, one of the most curious of which consisted in knocking the roughness off the finished earthenware.

A dozen women sat in a circle; above them and around them were piles of dinner-services of all kinds. Each held with one hand a piece of crockery on her knees, whilst with a chisel she chopped away at it as if it could not by any possibility be broken. As may easily be imagined, the noise in this warehouse was bewildering.

Through this room and others, up and down many narrow staircases, the visiting party went, the guide leading, the three black clergymen following, Kate lingering behind with Mr. Lennox until they came to the ovens. The entrance was from an immense corridor, prolonged by shadow and divided down the middle by presses full of drying earthenware, the smell of which was not, however, as strong as in the platemakers' place, and the difference was noticed by the clergyman with the cough. He said he was not affected to nearly the same extent.

From time to time the visitors had to give way to men who marched in single file carrying what seemed to be huge cheeses, but the guide explained that within these were cups, saucers, bowls, and basins, and men mounted on ladders piled these yellow tubs up the walls of the ovens. When the visitors had peeped into the huge interior, they were conducted to the furnaces; and these were set in the oven's inner shell, which made a narrow circular passage slanting inwards as it ascended like the neck of a champagne bottle. The fires glared so furiously that they suggested many impious thoughts to Lennox, and he proposed to ask the ministers if there were any warmer corners in hell, and was with difficulty dissuaded by Kate, about whose waist he had passed his arm. His constant whispering in her ear, which had at first amused her, now irritated and annoyed her; other emotions filled her mind with a vague tumult, and she longed to be left to think in peace. She begged of him to keep quiet, and as they crossed one of the yards she asked the guide if he could not go straight to the painting-room. He replied that there was a regular order to be observed, and insisted on marching them through two more rooms, and explaining fully three or four more processes. Then, after begging them to be careful and to hold the rail, he led them up a high staircase. The warning caused Kate a thrill, for she remembered that every step of this staircase had been a terror to her mother.

The room itself proved a little disappointing. The tables were not arranged in quite the same way, and these alterations deprived her of the emotions she had expected. Still it gave her a great deal of pleasure to point out to Mr. Lennox where her mother used to work.

But to find the exact spot was not by any means easy. There were upwards of a hundred young women sitting on benches, leaning over huge tables covered with unfinished pottery. Each held in her hand a plate, bowl, or vase, on which she executed some design. The clergy showed more interest than they had hitherto done, and as they leaned to and fro examining the work, one of them discovered the something Guardian, a Wesleyan organ, on one of the tables, and hailing his fellows, they began to interview the proprietor. But the guide said they had to visit the store-rooms, and forced them away from their 'lamb.'

Ridges of vases, mounds of basins and jugs, terraces of plates, formed masses of sickly white, through which rays of light were caught and sent dancing. Along the wall on the left-hand side presses were overcharged with dusty tea-services. On the right were square grey windows, under which the convex sides of salad-bowls sparkled in the sun; and from rafter to rafter, in garlands and clusters like grapes, hung gilded mugs bearing devices suitable for children, and down the middle of the floor a terrace was built of dinner-plates.

Two rooms away, a large mound of chamber-pots formed an astonishing background, and against all this white and grey effacement the men who stood on high ladders dusting the crockery came out like strange black climbing insects.

The clergyman said it was very interesting, and just as he did everything else the guide explained the system of storing employed by the firm; how the crockery was packed, and how the men would soon be working only three days a week on account of the American tariff. But he was not much listened to. Everyone was now tired, and the clergymen, who, since the discovery of the newspaper, had been showing signs that they regarded their visit to the potteries as ended, pulled out their watches and whispered that their time was up. The guide told them that there were only a few more rooms to visit, but they said that they must be off, and demanded to be conducted to the door. This request was an embarrassing one; it was against the rules ever to leave visitors when going the rounds. The guide had, therefore, either to conduct the whole party to the door or transgress his orders. After a slight hesitation, influenced no doubt by a conversation he had had with Lennox, in which mention was made of tickets for the theatre, he decided to take the responsibility on himself, and asked that gentleman if he would mind waiting a few minutes with his lady while the religious gentlemen were being shown the way out. Lennox assented with readiness, and the three black figures and the guide disappeared a moment after behind the bedroom utensils. After an anxious glance round Lennox looked at Kate, who, at that moment, was gathering to herself all the recollections that the place evoked. She knew the room she was in well, for she used to pass through it daily with her mother's dinner, and she remembered how in her childhood she wondered how big the world must be to hold enough people to use such thousands of cups and saucers. There used to be a blue tea-service in the far corner, and she had often lingered to imagine a suitable parlour for it and for her dream husband. One day she had torn her frock coming up the stairs, and was terribly scolded; another time Mr. Powell, attracted by her black curls, had stopped to speak to her, and he had given her as a present one of the children's mugs-one exactly like those hanging over her head. She had treasured it a long time, but at last it was broken. It seemed that all things belonging to her had to be broken; her dreams were made in crockery.

But as Kate looked into the past she became gradually conscious of a voice whispering to her,

'How odd it is that you should never have thought of revisiting this place until you met me.'

She raised her eyes, and, her look seeming to tell him that this was his moment, he turned to see if they were watched. At their feet a pile of plates and teacups slept in a broad flood of sunlight, and three rooms away the boys on high ladders dusted the mugs.

'What a pretty child you must have been! I can fancy you with your black hair falling about your shoulders. Had I known you then, I should have taken you in my arms and kissed you. Do you think you would have liked me to have kissed you?'

She raised her eyes again, and a vague feeling of how nice, how kind he was, rushed through her, and perceiving still more clearly that this moment was his moment, Lennox affected to examine a ring on her finger. The warm pressure of his hand caused her to start, and she would have put him from her, but his voice calmed her.

'Ah!' he said, 'had I known you then, I should have been in love with you.'

Kate closed her eyes, and abandoned herself to an ineffable sentiment of weakness, of ravishment; and then, imagining that she was his, Lennox took her in his arms and kissed her rudely. But quick, angry thoughts rushed to her head at the first movement of his arms, and obeying an impulse in contradiction to her desire, she shook herself free, and looked at him vexed and humiliated.

'Oh, how very cross we are; and about a kiss, just a tiny, wee kiss!'

She stood staring at him, only half hearing what he said, irritated against him and herself.

'I'm sure I didn't mean to offend you,' he continued after a pause, for

Kate's manner puzzled him; 'I love you too well.'

'Love me?' she cried, astonished, but with nevertheless a tone of interrogation in her voice. 'Why, you never saw me till the other day.'

'I loved you the first moment; I assure you I did.'

Kate looked at him imploringly, as if beseeching him not to deceive her. There was an honest frankness in his big blue eyes, and his face said as clearly as words, 'I think you a deuced pretty woman, and I'm sure I could love you very much,' and recognizing this, Kate remained silent.

And thus encouraged, Mr. Lennox attempted to renew his intentions. But actions have to be prefaced by words, and he commenced by declaring that when a man would give the whole world for a kiss, it was not to be expected that he would resist trying for one, and he strove to think of the famous love scene in The Lady of Lyons. But it was years since he had played the part, and he could only murmur something about reading no books but lovers' books, singing no songs but lovers' songs. The guide would be back in a few minutes, and, inspired by Kate's pale face, he came to the conclusion that it would be absurd to let her go without kissing her properly.

He was a strong man, but Kate had now really lost her temper, and struggled vigorously, determined he should not gain his end. Three times his lips had rested on her cheek, once he managed to kiss her on the chin, but he could not reach her mouth: she always succeeded in twisting her face away, and not liking to be beaten he put forth all his strength. She staggered backwards and placed one hand on his throat, and with the other strove to catch at his moustache; she had given it a wrench that had brought tears into his eyes, but now he was pinioning her; she could see his big face approaching, and summoning up all her strength she strove to get away, but that moment, happening to tread on her skirt, her feet slipped. He made a desperate effort to sustain her, but her legs had gone between his.

The crash was tremendous. A pile of plates three feet high was sent spinning, a row of salad-bowls was over, and then with a heavy stagger Mr. Lennox went down into a dinner-service, sending the soup-tureen rolling gravely into the next room.

A feeling at first prevailed that some serious accident had happened, but when Kate rose, pale and trembling, from the litter of a bedroom set, and Lennox was lifted out of the dinner-service with nothing apparently worse than a cut hand, a murmur of voices asking the cause of the disaster was heard. But before a word could be said the guide came running towards them. He declared that he would lose his place, and spoke vaguely to those around him of the necessity of suppressing the fact that he had left visitors alone in the storerooms.

Lennox, on the other hand, was very silent. He had evidently received some bad cuts, of which he did not speak. He put his hand to his legs and felt them doubtfully. There was a large gash in his right hand, from which he picked a piece of delf, and as he tied the wound up with a pocket-handkerchief he partly quieted the expostulating guide by assuring him that everything would be paid for. And taking Kate's arm, he hobbled out of the place.

The suddenness and excitement of the accident had for the moment quenched her angry feelings, and, overwhelmed with pity for the poor wounded hand, she thought of nothing but getting him to a doctor. Indeed, it was not until she heard him telling Mr. Powell in the office that he was subject to fits, and that in striving to hold him up the lady had fallen too, that she remembered how he had behaved, how he had disgraced her. But her mouth was closed, and she listened in amazement to him as he invented detail after detail with surprising dexterity. He did not even hesitate to call in the evidence of the guide, who, in his own interests, was obliged to assent; and when Mr. Powell inquired after the three clergymen, Lennox said that they had left them in the yard after visiting the ovens.

Mr. Powell listened with a look of pity on his face, and began to tell of a poor brother of his who was likewise subject to fits, and, possibly influenced by the remembrance, refused to receive any remuneration for the broken crockery, saying that to a firm like theirs a few plates more or less was of no importance.

And this matter being settled, Lennox hobbled away, leaving a little pool of blood on the floor of the office. She had to lend him her handkerchief, his was now saturated-to tie round his hand: he confessed to a bad cut in the leg, saying he could feel the blood trickling down into his boot, but did not think he needed a doctor. 'A bit of sticking-plaster, dear; I'll get some at the apothecary's. Which is the way?'

'Take the first turn to the right, and you're in Church Street; but there may be bits of the delf in the wound?'

'I shall see to that. But how strong you are; you're like a lion. You mustn't struggle like that next time.'

At the suggestion that there was going to be a next time Kate's face clouded, but she was so alarmed for his safety that it was only for a moment. She had hardly noticed that he called her 'dear'; he used the word so naturally and simply that it touched her with swift pleasure, and was as soon lost in a crowd of conflicting emotions.

The man was coarse and largely sensual, but each movement of his fat hands was protective, every word he uttered was kind, the very intonation of his voice was comforting. He was, in a word, human, and this attracted all that was human in her.

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