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   Chapter 8 ON THE BANK

Anna of the Five Towns By Arnold Bennett Characters: 35641

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Anna began to receive her July interest and dividends. During a fortnight remittances, varying from a few pounds to a few hundred of pounds, arrived by post almost daily. They were all addressed to her, since the securities now stood in her own name; and upon her, under the miser's superintendence, fell the new task of entering them in a book and paying them into the Bank. This mysterious begetting of money by money-a strange process continually going forward for her benefit, in various parts of the world, far and near, by means of activities of which she was completely ignorant and would always be completely ignorant-bewildered her and gave her a feeling of its unreality. The elaborate mechanism by which capital yields interest without suffering diminution from its original bulk is one of the commonest phenomena of modern life, and one of the least understood. Many capitalists never grasp it, nor experience the slightest curiosity about it until the mechanism through some defect ceases to revolve. Tellwright was of these; for him the interval between the outlay of capital and the receipt of interest was nothing but an efflux of time: he planted capital as a gardener plants rhubarb, tolerably certain of a particular result, but not dwelling even in thought on that which is hidden. The productivity of capital was to him the greatest achievement of social progress-indeed, the social organism justified its existence by that achievement; nothing could be more equitable than this productivity, nothing more natural. He would as soon have inquired into it as Agnes would have inquired into the ticking of the grandfather's clock. But to Anna, who had some imagination, and whose imagination had been stirred by recent events, the arrival of moneys out of space, unearned, unasked, was a disturbing experience, affecting her as a conjuring trick affects a child, whose sensations hesitate between pleasure and apprehension. Practically, Anna could not believe that she was rich; and in fact she was not rich-she was merely a fixed point through which moneys that she was unable to arrest passed with the rapidity of trains. If money is a token, Anna was denied the satisfaction of fingering even the token: drafts and cheques were all that she touched (touched only to abandon)-the doubly tantalising and insubstantial tokens of a token. She wanted to test the actuality of this apparent dream by handling coin and causing it to vanish over counters and into the palms of the necessitous. And moreover, quite apart from this curiosity, she really needed money for pressing requirements of Agnes and herself. They had yet had no new summer clothes, and Whitsuntide, the time prescribed by custom for the refurnishing of wardrobes, was long since past. The intercourse with Henry Mynors, the visit to the Suttons, had revealed to her more plainly than ever the intolerable shortcomings of her wardrobe, and similar imperfections. She was more painfully awake to these, and yet, by an unhappy paradox, she was even less in a position to remedy them, than in previous years. For now, she possessed her own fortune; to ask her father's bounty was therefore, she divined, a sure way of inviting a rebuff. But, even if she had dared, she might not use the income that was privately hers, for was not every penny of it already allocated to the partnership with Mynors! So it happened that she never once mentioned the matter to her father; she lacked the courage, since by whatever avenue she approached it circumstances would add an illogical and adventitious force to the brutal snubs which he invariably dealt out when petitioned for money. To demand his money, having fifty thousand of her own! To spend her own in the face of that agreement with Mynors! She could too easily guess his bitter and humiliating retorts to either proposition, and she kept silence, comforting herself with timid visions of a far distant future. The balance at the bank crept up to sixteen hundred pounds. The deed of partnership was drawn; her father pored over the blue draft, and several times Mynors called and the two men discussed it together. Then one morning her father summoned her into the front parlour, and handed to her a piece of parchment on which she dimly deciphered her own name coupled with that of Henry Mynors, in large letters.

'You mun sign, seal, and deliver this,' he said, putting a pen in her hand.

She sat down obediently to write, but he stopped her with a scornful gesture.

'Thou 'lt sign blind then, eh? Just like a woman!'

'I left it to you,' she said.

'Left it to me! Read it.'

She read through the deed, and after she had accomplished the feat one fact only stood clear in her mind, that the partnership was for seven years, a period extensible by consent of both parties to fourteen or twenty-one years. Then she affixed her signature, the pen moving awkwardly over the rough surface of the parchment.

'Now put thy finger on that bit o' wax, and say; "I deliver this as my act and deed."'

'I deliver this as my act and deed.'

The old man signed as witness. 'Soon as I give this to Lawyer Dane,' he remarked, 'thou'rt bound, willy-nilly. Law's law, and thou'rt bound.'

On the following day she had to sign a cheque which reduced her bank-balance to about three pounds. Perhaps it was the knowledge of this reduction that led Ephraim Tellwright to resume at once and with fresh rigour his new policy of 'squeezing the last penny' out of Titus Price (despite the fact that the latter had already achieved the incredible by paying thirty pounds in little more than a month), thus causing the catastrophe which soon afterwards befell. What methods her father was adopting Anna did not know, since he said no word to her about the matter: she only knew that Agnes had twice been dispatched with notes to Edward Street. One day, about noon, a clay-soiled urchin brought a letter addressed to herself: she guessed that it was some appeal for mercy from the Prices, and wished that her father had been at home. The old man was away for the whole day, attending a sale of property at Axe, the agricultural town in the north of the county, locally styled 'the metropolis of the moorlands.' Anna read:-'My dear Miss Tellwright,-Now that our partnership is an accomplished fact, will you not come and look over the works? I should much like you to do so. I shall be passing your house this afternoon about two, and will call on the chance of being able to take you down with me to the works. If you are unable to come no harm will be done, and some other day can be arranged; but of course I shall be disappointed.-Believe me, yours most sincerely, HY. MYNORS.'

She was charmed with the idea-to her so audacious-and relieved that the note was not after all from Titus or Willie Price: but again she had to regret that her father was not at home. He would be capable of thinking and saying that the projected expedition was a truancy, contrived to occur in his absence. He might grumble at the house being left without a keeper. Moreover, according to a tacit law, she never departed from the fixed routine of her existence without first obtaining Ephraim's approval, or at least being sure that such a departure would not make him violently angry. She wondered whether Mynors knew that her father was away, and, if so, whether he had chosen that afternoon purposely. She did not care that Mynors should call for her-it made the visit seem so formal; and as in order to reach the works, down at Shawport by the canal-side, they would necessarily go through the middle of the town, she foresaw infinite gossip and rumour as one result. Already, she knew, the names of herself and Mynors were everywhere coupled, and she could not even enter a shop without being made aware, more or less delicately, that she was an object of piquant curiosity. A woman is profoundly interesting to women at two periods only-before she is betrothed and before she becomes the mother of her firstborn. Anna was in the first period; her life did not comprise the second. When Agnes came home to dinner from school, Anna said nothing of Mynors' note until they had begun to wash up the dinner-things, when she suggested that Agnes should finish this operation alone.

'Yes,' said Agnes, ever compliant. 'But why?'

'I'm going out, and I must get ready.'

'Going out? And shall you leave the house all empty? What will father say? Where are you going to?'

Agnes's tendency to anticipate the worst, and never to blink their father's tyranny, always annoyed Anna, and she answered rather curtly: 'I'm going to the works-Mr. Mynors' works. He's sent word he wants me to.' She despised herself for wishing to hide anything, and added, 'He will call here for me about two o'clock.'

'Mr. Mynors! How splendid!' And then Agnes's face fell somewhat. 'I suppose he won't call before two? If he doesn't, I shall be gone to school.'

'Do you want to see him?'

'Oh, no! I don't want to see him. But-I suppose you'll be out a long time, and he'll bring you back.'

'Of course he won't, you silly girl. And I shan't be out long. I shall be back for tea.'

Anna ran upstairs to dress. At ten minutes to two she was ready. Agnes usually left at a quarter to two, but the child had not yet gone. At five minutes to two, Anna called downstairs to her to ask her when she meant to depart.

'I'm just going now,' Agnes shouted back. She opened the front door and then returned to the foot of the stairs. 'Anna, if I meet him down the road shall I tell him you're ready waiting for him?'

'Certainly not. Whatever are you dreaming of?' the elder sister reproved. 'Besides, he isn't coming from the town.'

'Oh! All right. Good-bye.' And the child at last went.

It was something after two-every siren and hooter had long since finished the summons to work-when Mynors rang the bell. Anna was still upstairs. She examined herself in the glass, and then descended slowly.

'Good afternoon,' he said. 'I see you are ready to come. I'm very glad. I hope I haven't inconvenienced you, but just this afternoon seemed to be a good opportunity for you to see the works, and, you know, you ought to see it. Father in?'

'No,' she said. 'I shall leave the house to take care of itself. Do you want to see him?'

'Not specially,' he replied. 'I think we have settled everything.'

She banged the door behind her, and they started. As he held open the gate for her exit, she could not ignore the look of passionate admiration on his face. It was a look disconcerting by its mere intensity. The man could control his tongue, but not his eyes. His demeanour, as she viewed it, aggravated her self-consciousness as they braved the streets. But she was happy in her perturbation. When they reached Duck Bank, Mynors asked her whether they should go through the market-place or along King Street, by the bottom of St. Luke's Square. 'By the market-place,' she said. The shop where Miss Dickinson was employed was at the bottom of St. Luke's Square, and all the eyes of the marketplace was preferable to the chance of those eyes.

Probably no one in the Five Towns takes a conscious pride in the antiquity of the potter's craft, nor in its unique and intimate relation to human life, alike civilised and uncivilised. Man hardened clay into a bowl before he spun flax and made a garment, and the last lone man will want an earthen vessel after he has abandoned his ruined house for a cave, and his woven rags for an animal's skin. This supremacy of the most ancient of crafts is in the secret nature of things, and cannot be explained. History begins long after the period when Bursley was first the central seat of that honoured manufacture: it is the central seat still-'the mother of the Five Towns,' in our local phrase-and though the townsmen, absorbed in a strenuous daily struggle, may forget their heirship to an unbroken tradition of countless centuries, the seal of their venerable calling is upon their foreheads. If no other relic of an immemorial past is to be seen in these modernised sordid streets, there is at least the living legacy of that extraordinary kinship between workman and work, that instinctive mastery of clay which the past has bestowed upon the present. The horse is less to the Arab than clay is to the Bursley man. He exists in it and by it; it fills his lungs and blanches his cheek; it keeps him alive and it kills him. His fingers close round it as round the hand of a friend. He knows all its tricks and aptitudes; when to coax and when to force it, when to rely on it and when to distrust it. The weavers of Lancashire have dubbed him with an obscene epithet on account of it, an epithet whose hasty use has led to many a fight, but nothing could be more illuminatively descriptive than that epithet, which names his vocation in terms of another vocation. A dozen decades of applied science have of course resulted in the interposition of elaborate machinery between the clay and the man; but no great vulgar handicraft has lost less of the human than potting. Clay is always clay, and the steam-driven contrivance that will mould a basin while a man sits and watches has yet to be invented. Moreover, if in some coarser process the hands are superseded, the number of processes has been multiplied tenfold: the ware in which six men formerly collaborated is now produced by sixty; and thus, in one sense, the touch of finger on clay is more pervasive than ever before.

Mynors' works was acknowledged to be one of the best, of its size, in the district-a model three-oven bank, and it must be remembered that of the hundreds of banks in the Five Towns the vast majority are small, like this: the large manufactory with its corps of jacket-men,[1] one of whom is detached to show visitors round so much of the works as is deemed advisable for them to see, is the exception. Mynors paid three hundred pounds a year in rent, and produced nearly three hundred pounds worth of work a week. He was his own manager, and there was only one jacket-man on the place, a clerk at eighteen shillings. He employed about a hundred hands, and devoted all his ingenuity to prevent that wastage which is at once the easiest to overlook and the most difficult to check, the wastage of labour. No pains were spared to keep all departments in full and regular activity, and owing to his judicious firmness the feast of St. Monday, that canker eternally eating at the root of the prosperity of the Five Towns, was less religiously observed on his bank than perhaps anywhere else in Bursley. He had realised that when a workshop stands empty the employer has not only ceased to make money, but has begun to lose it. The architect of 'Providence Works' (Providence stands godfather to many commercial enterprises in the Five Towns) knew his business and the business of the potter, and he had designed the works with a view to the strictest economy of labour. The various shops were so arranged that in the course of its metamorphosis the clay travelled naturally in a circle from the slip-house by the canal to the packing-house by the canal: there was no carrying to and fro. The steam installation was complete: steam once generated had no respite; after it had exhausted itself in vitalising fifty machines, it was killed by inches in order to dry the unfired ware and warm the dinners of the workpeople.

Henry took Anna to the canal-entrance, because the buildings looked best from that side.

'Now how much is a crate worth?' she asked, pointing to a crate which was being swung on a crane direct from the packing-house into a boat.

'That?' Mynors answered. 'A crateful of ware may be worth anything. At Minton's I have seen a crate worth three hundred pounds. But that one there is only worth eight or nine pounds. You see you and I make cheap stuff.'

'But don't you make any really good pots-are they all cheap?'

'All cheap,' he said.

'I suppose that's business?' He detected a note of regret in her voice.

'I don't know,' he said, with the slightest impatient warmth. 'We make the stuff as good as we can for the money. We supply what everyone wants. Don't you think it's better to please a thousand folks than to please ten? I like to feel that my ware is used all over the country and the colonies. I would sooner do as I do than make swagger ware for a handful of rich people.'

'Oh, yes,' she exclaimed, eagerly accepting the point of view, 'I quite agree with you.' She had never heard him in that vein before, and was struck by his enthusiasm. And Mynors was in fact always very enthusiastic concerning the virtues of the general markets. He had no sympathy with specialities, artistic or otherwise. He found his satisfaction in honestly meeting the public taste. He was born to be a manufacturer of cheap goods on a colossal scale. He could dream of fifty ovens, and his ambition blinded him to the present absurdity of talking about a three-oven bank spreading its productions all over the country and the colonies; it did not occur to him that there were yet scarcely enough plates to go round.

'I suppose we had better start at the start,' he said, leading the way to the slip-house. He did not need to be told that Anna was perfectly ignorant of the craft of pottery, and that every detail of it, so stale to him, would acquire freshness under her na?ve and inquiring gaze.

In the slip-house begins the long manipulation which transforms raw porous friable clay into the moulded, decorated and glazed vessel. The large whitewashed place was occupied by ungainly machines and receptacles through which the four sorts of clay used in the common 'body'-ball clay, China clay, flint clay and stone clay-were compelled to pass before th

ey became a white putty-like mixture meet for shaping by human hands. The blunger crushed the clay, the sifter extracted the iron from it by means of a magnet, the press expelled the water, and the pug-mill expelled the air. From the last reluctant mouth slowly emerged a solid stream nearly a foot in diameter, like a huge white snake. Already the clay had acquired the uniformity characteristic of a manufactured product.

Anna moved to touch the bolts of the enormous twenty-four-chambered press.

'Don't stand there,' said Mynors. 'The pressure is tremendous, and if the thing were to burst--'

She fled hastily. 'But isn't it dangerous for the workmen?' she asked.

Eli Machin, the engineman, the oldest employee on the works, a moneyed man and the pattern of reliability, allowed a vague smile to flit across his face at this remark. He had ascended from the engine-house below in order to exhibit the tricks of the various machines, and that done he disappeared. Anna was awed by the sensation of being surrounded by terrific forces always straining for release and held in check by the power of a single wall.

'Come and see a plate made: that is one of the simplest things, and the batting-machine is worth looking at,' said Mynors, and they went into the nearest shop, a hot interior in the shape of four corridors round a solid square middle. Here men and women were working side by side, the women subordinate to the men. All were preoccupied, wrapped up in their respective operations, and there was the sound of irregular whirring movements from every part of the big room. The air was laden with whitish dust, and clay was omnipresent-on the floor, the walls, the benches, the windows, on clothes, hands and faces. It was in this shop, where both hollow-ware pressers and flat pressers were busy as only craftsmen on piecework can be busy, that more than anywhere else clay was to be seen 'in the hand of the potter.' Near the door a stout man with a good-humoured face flung some clay on to a revolving disc, and even as Anna passed a jar sprang into existence. One instant the clay was an amorphous mass, the next it was a vessel perfectly circular, of a prescribed width and a prescribed depth; the flat and apparently clumsy fingers of the craftsman had seemed to lose themselves in the clay for a fraction of time, and the miracle was accomplished. The man threw these vessels with the rapidity of a Roman candle throwing off coloured stars, and one woman was kept busy in supplying him with material and relieving his bench of the finished articles. Mynors drew Anna along to the batting-machines for plate makers, at that period rather a novelty and the latest invention of the dead genius whose brain has reconstituted a whole industry on new lines. Confronted with a piece of clay, the batting-machine descended upon it with the ferocity of a wild animal, worried it, stretched it, smoothed it into the width and thickness of a plate, and then desisted of itself and waited inactive for the flat presser to remove its victim to his more exact shaping machine. Several men were producing plates, but their rapid labours seemed less astonishing than the preliminary feat of the batting-machine. All the ware as it was moulded disappeared into the vast cupboards occupying the centre of the shop, where Mynors showed Anna innumerable rows of shelves full of pots in process of steam-drying. Neither time nor space nor material was wasted in this ant-heap of industry. In order to move to and fro, the women were compelled to insinuate themselves past the stationary bodies of the men. Anna marvelled at the careless accuracy with which they fed the batting-machines with lumps precisely calculated to form a plate of a given diameter. Everyone exerted himself as though the salvation of the world hung on the production of so much stuff by a certain hour; dust, heat, and the presence of a stranger were alike unheeded in the mad creative passion.

'Now,' said Mynors the cicerone, opening another door which gave into the yard, 'when all that stuff is dried and fettled-smoothed, you know-it goes into the biscuit oven: that's the first firing. There's the biscuit oven, but we can't inspect it because it's just being drawn.'

He pointed to the oven near by, in whose dark interior the forms of men, naked to the waist, could dimly be seen struggling with the weight of saggars[2] full of ware. It seemed like some release of martyrs, this unpacking of the immense oven, which, after being flooded with a sea of flame for fifty-four hours, had cooled for two days, and was yet hotter than the Equator. The inertness and pallor of the saggars seemed to be the physical result of their fiery trial, and one wondered that they should have survived the trial. Mynors went into the place adjoining the oven and brought back a plate out of an open saggar; it was still quite warm. It had the matt surface of a biscuit, and adhered slightly to the fingers: it was now a 'crook'; it had exchanged malleability for brittleness, and nothing mortal could undo what the fire had done. Mynors took the plate with him to the biscuit-warehouse, a long room where one was forced to keep to narrow alleys amid parterres of pots. A solitary biscuit-warehouseman was examining the ware in order to determine the remuneration of the pressers.

They climbed a flight of steps to the printing-shop, where, by means of copper-plates, printing-presses, mineral colours, and transfer-papers, most of the decoration was done. The room was filled by a little crowd of people-oldish men, women and girls, divided into printers, cutters, transferors and apprentices. Each interminably repeated some trifling process, and every article passed through a succession of hands until at length it was washed in a tank and rose dripping therefrom with its ornament of flowers and scrolls fully revealed. The room smelt of oil and flannel and humanity; the atmosphere was more languid, more like that of a family party, than in the pressers' shop: the old women looked stern and shrewish, the pretty young women pert and defiant, the younger girls meek. The few men seemed out of place. By what trick had they crept into the very centre of that mass of femineity? It seemed wrong, scandalous that they should remain. Contiguous with the printing-shop was the painting-shop, in which the labours of the former were taken to a finish by the brush of the paintress, who filled in outlines with flat colour, and thus converted mechanical printing into handiwork. The paintresses form the noblesse of the banks. Their task is a light one, demanding deftness first of all; they have delicate fingers, and enjoy a general reputation for beauty: the wages they earn may be estimated from their finery on Sundays. They come to business in cloth jackets, carry dinner in little satchels; in the shop they wear white aprons, and look startlingly neat and tidy. Across the benches over which they bend their coquettish heads gossip flies and returns like a shuttle; they are the source of a thousand intrigues, and one or other of them is continually getting married or omitting to get married. On the bank they constitute 'the sex.' An infinitesimal proportion of them, from among the branch known as ground-layers, die of lead-poisoning-a fact which adds pathos to their frivolous charm. In a subsidiary room off the painting-shop a single girl was seated at a revolving table actuated by a treadle. She was doing the 'band-and-line' on the rims of saucers. Mynors and Anna watched her as with her left hand she flicked saucer after saucer into the exact centre of the table, moved the treadle, and, holding a brush firmly against the rim of the piece, produced with infallible exactitude the band and the line. She was a brunette, about twenty-eight: she had a calm, vacuously contemplative face; but God alone knew whether she thought. Her work represented the summit of monotony; the regularity of it hypnotised the observer, and Mynors himself was impressed by this stupendous phenomenon of absolute sameness, involuntarily assuming towards it the attitude of a showman.

'She earns as much as eighteen shillings a week sometimes,' he whispered.

'May I try?' Anna timidly asked of a sudden, curious to experience what the trick was like.

'Certainly,' said Mynors, in eager assent. 'Priscilla, let this lady have your seat a moment, please.'

The girl got up, smiling politely. Anna took her place.

'Here, try on this,' said Mynors, putting on the table the plate which he still carried.

'Take a full brush,' the paintress suggested, not attempting to hide her amusement at Anna's unaccustomed efforts. 'Now push the treadle. There! It isn't in the middle yet. Now!'

Anna produced a most creditable band, and a trembling but passable line, and rose flushed with the small triumph.

'You have the gift,' said Mynors; and the paintress respectfully applauded.

'I felt I could do it,' Anna responded. 'My mother's mother was a paintress, and it must be in the blood.'

Mynors smiled indulgently. They descended again to the ground floor, and following the course of manufacture came to the 'hardening-on' kiln, a minor oven where for twelve hours the oil is burnt out of the colour in decorated ware. A huge, jolly man in shirt and trousers, with an enormous apron, was in the act of drawing the kiln, assisted by two thin boys. He nodded a greeting to Mynors and exclaimed, 'Warm!' The kiln was nearly emptied. As Anna stopped at the door, the man addressed her.

'Step inside, miss, and try it.'

'No, thanks!' she laughed.

'Come now,' he insisted, as if despising this hesitation. 'An ounce of experience--' The two boys grinned and wiped their foreheads with their bare skeleton-like arms. Anna, challenged by the man's look, walked quickly into the kiln. A blasting heat seemed to assault her on every side, driving her back; it was incredible that any human being could support such a temperature.

'There!' said the jovial man, apparently summing her up with his bright, quizzical eyes. 'You know summat as you didn't know afore, miss. Come along, lads,' he added with brisk heartiness to the boys, and the drawing of the kiln proceeded.

Next came the dipping-house, where a middle-aged woman, enveloped in a protective garment from head to foot, was dipping jugs into a vat of lead-glaze, a boy assisting her. The woman's hands were covered with the grey, slimy glaze. She alone of all the employees appeared to be cool.

'That is the last stage but one,' said Mynors. 'There is only the glost-firing,' and they passed out into the yard once more. One of the glost-ovens was empty; they entered it and peered into the lofty inner chamber, which seemed like the cold crater of an exhausted volcano, or like a vault, or like the ruined seat of some forgotten activity. The other oven was firing, and Anna could only look at its exterior, catching glimpses of the red glow at its twelve mouths, and guess at the Tophet, within, where the lead was being fused into glass.

'Now for the glost-warehouse, and you will have seen all,' said Mynors, 'except the mould-shop, and that doesn't matter.'

The warehouse was the largest place on the works, a room sixty-feet long and twenty broad, low, whitewashed, bare and clean. Piles of ware occupied the whole of the walls and of the immense floorspace, but there was no trace here of the soilure and untidiness incident to manufacture; all processes were at an end, clay had vanished into crock: and the calmness and the whiteness atoned for the disorder, noise and squalor which had preceded. Here was a sample of the total and final achievement towards which the thousands of small, disjointed efforts that Anna had witnessed, were directed. And it seemed a miraculous, almost impossible, result; so definite, precise and regular after a series of acts apparently variable, inexact and casual; so inhuman after all that intensely inhuman labour; so vast in comparison with the minuteness of the separate endeavours. As Anna looked, for instance, at a pile of tea-sets, she found it difficult even to conceive that, a fortnight or so before, they had been nothing but lumps of dirty clay. No stage of the manufacture was incredible by itself, but the result was incredible. It was the result that appealed to the imagination, authenticating the adage that fools and children should never see anything till it is done.

Anna pondered over the organising power, the forethought, the wide vision, and the sheer ingenuity and cleverness which were implied by the contents of this warehouse. 'What brains!' she thought, of Mynors; 'what quantities of all sorts of things he must know!' It was a humble and deeply-felt admiration.

Her spoken words gave no clue to her thoughts. 'You seem to make a fine lot of tea-sets,' she remarked.

'Oh, no,' he said carelessly. 'These few that you see here are a special order. I don't go in much for tea-sets: they don't pay; we lose fifteen per cent. of the pieces in making. It's toilet-ware that pays, and that is our leading line.' He waved an arm vaguely towards rows and rows of ewers and basins in the distance. They walked to the end of the warehouse, glancing at everything.

'See here,' said Mynors, 'isn't that pretty?' He pointed through the last window to a view of the canal, which could be seen thence in perspective, finishing in a curve. On one side, close to the water's edge, was a ruined and fragmentary building, its rich browns reflected in the smooth surface of the canal. On the other side were a few grim, grey trees bordering the towpath. Down the vista moved a boat steered by a woman in a large mob-cap. 'Isn't that picturesque?' he said.

'Very,' Anna assented willingly. 'It's really quite strange, such a scene right in the middle of Bursley.'

'Oh! There are others,' he said. 'But I always take a peep at that whenever I come into the warehouse.'

'I wonder you find time to notice it-with all this place to see after,' she said. 'It's a splendid works!'

'It will do-to be going on with,' he answered, satisfied. 'I'm very glad you've been down. You must come again. I can see you would be interested in it, and there are plenty of things you haven't looked at yet, you know.'

He smiled at her. They were alone in the warehouse.

'Yes,' she said; 'I expect so. Well, I must go, at once; I'm afraid it's very late now. Thank you for showing me round, and explaining, and-I'm frightfully stupid and ignorant. Good-bye.'

Vapid and trite phrases: what unimaginable messages the hearer heard in you!

Anna held out her hand, and he seized it almost convulsively, his incendiary eyes fastened on her face.

'I must see you out,' he said, dropping that ungloved hand.

It was ten o'clock that night before Ephraim Tellwright returned home from Axe. He appeared to be in a bad temper. Agnes had gone to bed. His supper of bread-and-cheese and water was waiting for him, and Anna sat at the table while he consumed it. He ate in silence, somewhat hungrily, and she did not deem the moment propitious for telling him about her visit to Mynors' works.

'Has Titus Price sent up?' he asked at length, gulping down the last of the water.

'Sent up?'

'Yes. Art fond, lass? I told him as he mun send up some more o' thy rent to-day-twenty-five pun. He's not sent?'

'I don't know,' she said timidly. 'I was out this afternoon.'

'Out, wast?'

'Mr. Mynors sent word to ask me to go down and look over the works; so I went. I thought it would be all right.'

'Well, it was'na all right. And I'd like to know what business thou hast gadding out, as soon as my back's turned. How can I tell whether Price sent up or not? And what's more, thou know's as th' house hadn't ought to be left.'

'I'm sorry,' she said pleasantly, with a determination to be meek and dutiful.

He grunted. 'Happen he didna' send. And if he did, and found th' house locked up, he should ha' sent again. Bring me th' inkpot, and I'll write a note as Agnes must take when her goes to school to-morrow morning.'

Anna obeyed. 'They'll never be able to pay twenty-five pounds, father,' she ventured. 'They've paid thirty already, you know.'

'Less gab,' he said shortly, taking up the pen. 'Here-write it thysen.' He threw the pen towards her. 'Tell Titus if he doesn't pay five-and-twenty this wik, us'll put bailiffs in.'

'Won't it come better from you, father?' she pleaded.

'Whose property is it?' The laconic question was final. She knew she must obey, and began to write. But, realising that she would perforce meet both Titus Price and Willie on Sunday, she merely demanded the money, omitting the threat. Her hand trembled as she passed the note to him to read.

'Will that do?'

His reply was to tear the paper across. 'Put down what I tell ye,' he ordered, 'and don't let's have any more paper wasted.' Then he dictated a letter which was an ultimatum in three lines. 'Sign it,' he said.

She signed it, weeping. She could see the wistful reproach in Willie Price's eyes.

'I suppose,' her father said, when she bade him 'Good-night,' 'I suppose if I hadn't asked, I should ha' heard nowt o' this gadding-about wi' Mynors?'

'I was going to tell you I had been to the works, father,' she said.

'Going to!' That was his final blow, and having delivered it, he loosed the victim. 'Go to bed,' he said.

She went upstairs, resolutely read her Bible, and resolutely prayed.

[1] Jacket-man: the artisan's satiric term for anyone who does not work in shirt-sleeves, who is not actually a producer, such as a clerk or a pretentious foreman.

[2] Saggars: large oval receptacles of coarse clay, in which the ware is placed for firing.

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