As the alarm clock on the chest of drawers exploded like a horrid
little bomb of bell metal, Dorothy, wrenched from the depths of
some complex, troubling dream, awoke with a start and lay on her
back looking into the darkness in extreme exhaustion.
The alarm clock continued its nagging, feminine clamour, which
would go on for five minutes or thereabouts if you did not stop it.
Dorothy was aching from head to foot, and an insidious and
contemptible self-pity, which usually seized upon her when it was
time to get up in the morning, caused her to bury her head under
the bedclothes and try to shut the hateful noise out of her ears.
She struggled against her fatigue, however, and, according to her
custom, exhorted herself sharply in the second person plural. Come
on, Dorothy, up you get! No snoozing, please! Proverbs vi, 9.
Then she remembered that if the noise went on any longer it would
wake her father, and with a hurried movement she bounded out of
bed, seized the clock from the chest of drawers, and turned off the
alarm. It was kept on the chest of drawers precisely in order that
she should have to get out of bed to silence it. Still in
darkness, she knelt down at her bedside and repeated the Lord's
Prayer, but rather distractedly, her feet being troubled by the
It was just half past five, and coldish for an August morning.
Dorothy (her name was Dorothy Hare, and she was the only child of
the Reverend Charles Hare, Rector of St Athelstan's, Knype Hill,
Suffolk) put on her aged flannelette dressing-gown and felt her way
downstairs. There was a chill morning smell of dust, damp plaster,
and the fried dabs from yesterday's supper, and from either side of
the passage on the second floor she could hear the antiphonal
snoring of her father and of Ellen, the maid of all work. With
care--for the kitchen table had a nasty trick of reaching out of
the darkness and banging you on the hip-bone--Dorothy felt her way
into the kitchen, lighted the candle on the mantelpiece, and, still
aching with fatigue, knelt down and raked the ashes out of the
The kitchen fire was a 'beast' to light. The chimney was crooked
and therefore perpetually half choked, and the fire, before it
would light, expected to be dosed with a cupful of kerosene, like a
drunkard's morning nip of gin. Having set the kettle to boil for
her father's shaving-water, Dorothy went upstairs and turned on her
bath. Ellen was still snoring, with heavy youthful snores. She
was a good hard-working servant once she was awake, but she was one
of those girls whom the Devil and all his angels cannot get out of
bed before seven in the morning.
Dorothy filled the bath as slowly as possible--the splashing always
woke her father if she turned on the tap too fast--and stood for a
moment regarding the pale, unappetizing pool of water. Her body
had gone goose-flesh all over. She detested cold baths; it was for
that very reason that she made it a rule to take all her baths cold
from April to November. Putting a tentative hand into the water--
and it was horribly cold--she drove herself forward with her usual
exhortations. Come on, Dorothy! In you go! No funking, please!
Then she stepped resolutely into the bath, sat down and let the icy
girdle of water slide up her body and immerse her all except her
hair, which she had twisted up behind her head. The next moment
she came to the surface gasping and wriggling, and had no sooner
got her breath back than she remembered her 'memo list', which she
had brought down in her dressing-gown pocket and intended to read.
She reached out for it, and, leaning over the side of the bath,
waist deep in icy water, read through the 'memo list' by the light
of the candle on the chair.
7 oc. H.C.
Mrs T baby? Must visit.
BREAKFAST. Bacon. MUST ask father money. (P)
Ask Ellen what stuff kitchen father's tonic NB. to ask about stuff
for curtains at Solepipe's.
Visiting call on Mrs P cutting from Daily M angelica tea good for
rheumatism Mrs L's cornplaster.
12 oc. Rehearsal Charles I. NB. to order 1/2 lb glue 1 pot
DINNER (crossed out) LUNCHEON . . . ?
Take round Parish Mag NB. Mrs F owes 3/6d.
4.30 pm Mothers' U tea don't forget 2 1/2 yards casement cloth.
Flowers for church NB. 1 tin Brasso.
SUPPER. Scrambled eggs.
Type Father's sermon what about new ribbon typewriter?
NB. to fork between peas bindweed awful.
Dorothy got out of her bath, and as she dried herself with a towel
hardly bigger than a table napkin--they could never afford decent-
sized towels at the Rectory--her hair came unpinned and fell down
over her collar-bones in two heavy strands. It was thick, fine,
exceedingly pale hair, and it was perhaps as well that her father
had forbidden her to bob it, for it was her only positive beauty.
For the rest, she was a girl of middle height, rather thin, but
strong and shapely, and her face was her weak point. It was a
thin, blonde, unremarkable kind of face, with pale eyes and a nose
just a shade too long; if you looked closely you could see crow's
feet round the eyes, and the mouth, when it was in repose, looked
tired. Not definitely a spinsterish face as yet, but it certainly
would be so in a few years' time. Nevertheless, strangers commonly
took her to be several years younger than her real age (she was not
quite twenty-eight) because of the expression of almost childish
earnestness in her eyes. Her left forearm was spotted with tiny
red marks like insect bites.
Dorothy put on her nightdress again and cleaned her teeth--plain
water, of course; better not to use toothpaste before H.C. After
all, either you are fasting or you aren't. The R.C.s are quite
right there--and, even as she did so, suddenly faltered and
stopped. She put her toothbrush down. A deadly pang, an actual
physical pang, had gone through her viscera.
She had remembered, with the ugly shock with which one remembers
something disagreeable for the first time in the morning, the bill
at Cargill's, the butcher's, which had been owing for seven months.
That dreadful bill--it might be nineteen pounds or even twenty, and
there was hardly the remotest hope of paying it--was one of the
chief torments of her life. At all hours of the night or day it
was waiting just round the corner of her consciousness, ready to
spring upon her and agonize her; and with it came the memory of a
score of lesser bills, mounting up to a figure of which she dared
not even think. Almost involuntarily she began to pray, 'Please
God, let not Cargill send in his bill again today!' but the next
moment she decided that this prayer was worldly and blasphemous,
and she asked forgiveness for it. Then she put on her dressing-
gown and ran down to the kitchen in hopes of putting the bill out
The fire had gone out, as usual. Dorothy relaid it, dirtying her
hands with coal-dust, dosed it afresh with kerosene and hung about
anxiously until the kettle boiled. Father expected his shaving-
water to be ready at a quarter past six. Just seven minutes late,
Dorothy took the can upstairs and knocked at her father's door.
'Come in, come in!' said a muffled, irritable voice.
The room, heavily curtained, was stuffy, with a masculine smell.
The Rector had lighted the candle on his bed-table, and was lying
on his side, looking at his gold watch, which he had just drawn
from beneath his pillow. His hair was as white and thick as
thistledown. One dark bright eye glanced irritably over his
shoulder at Dorothy.
'Good morning, father.'
'I do wish, Dorothy,' said the Rector indistinctly--his voice
always sounded muffled and senile until he put his false teeth in--
'you would make some effort to get Ellen out of bed in the
mornings. Or else be a little more punctual yourself.'
'I'm so sorry, Father. The kitchen fire kept going out.'
'Very well! Put it down on the dressing-table. Put it down and
draw those curtains.'
It was daylight now, but a dull, clouded morning. Dorothy hastened
up to her room and dressed herself with the lightning speed which
she found necessary six mornings out of seven. There was only a
tiny square of mirror in the room, and even that she did not use.
She simply hung her gold cross about her neck--plain gold cross; no
crucifixes, please!--twisted her hair into a knot behind, stuck a
number of hairpins rather sketchily into it, and threw her clothes
(grey jersey, threadbare Irish tweed coat and skirt, stockings not
quite matching the coat and skirt, and much-worn brown shoes) on to
herself in the space of about three minutes. She had got to 'do
out' the dining-room and her father's study before church, besides
saying her prayers in preparation for Holy Communion, which took
her not less than twenty minutes.
When she wheeled her bicycle out of the front gate the morning was
still overcast, and the grass sodden with heavy dew. Through the
mist that wreathed the hillside St Athelstan's Church loomed dimly,
like a leaden sphinx, its single bell tolling funereally boom!
boom! boom! Only one of the bells was now in active use; the other
seven had been unswung from their cage and had lain silent these
three years past, slowly splintering the floor of the belfry
beneath their weight. In the distance, from the mists below, you
could hear the offensive clatter of the bell in the R.C. church--a
nasty, cheap, tinny little thing which the Rector of St Athelstan's
used to compare with a muffin-bell.
Dorothy mounted her bicycle and rode swiftly up the hill, leaning
over her handlebars. The bridge of her thin nose was pink in the
morning cold. A redshank whistled overhead, invisible against the
clouded sky. Early in the morning my song shall rise to Thee!
Dorothy propped her bicycle against the lychgate, and, finding her
hands still grey with coal-dust, knelt down and scrubbed them clean
in the long wet grass between the graves. Then the bell stopped
ringing, and she jumped up and hastened into church, just as
Proggett, the sexton, in ragged cassock and vast labourer's boots,
was clumping up the aisle to take his place at the side altar.
The church was very cold, with a scent of candle-wax and ancient
dust. It was a large church, much too large for its congregation,
and ruinous and more than half empty. The three narrow islands of
pews stretched barely half-way down the nave, and beyond them were
great wastes of bare stone floor in which a few worn inscriptions
marked the sites of ancient graves. The roof over the chancel was
sagging visibly; beside the Church Expenses box two fragments of
riddled beam explained mutely that this was due to that mortal foe
of Christendom, the death-watch beetle. The light filtered, pale-
coloured, through windows of anaemic glass. Through the open south
door you could see a ragged cypress and the boughs of a lime-tree,
greyish in the sunless air and swaying faintly.
As usual, there was only one other communicant--old Miss Mayfill,
of The Grange. The attendance at Holy Communion was so bad that
the Rector could not even get any boys to serve him, except on
Sunday mornings, when the boys liked showing off in front of the
congregation in their cassocks and surplices. Dorothy went into
the pew behind Miss Mayfill, and, in penance for some sin of
yesterday, pushed away the hassock and knelt on the bare stones.
The service was beginning. The Rector, in cassock and short linen
surplice, was reciting the prayers in a swift practised voice,
clear enough now that his teeth were in, and curiously ungenial.
In his fastidious, aged face, pale as a silver coin, there was an
expression of aloofness, almost of contempt. 'This is a valid
sacrament,' he seemed to be saying, 'and it is my duty to
administer it to you. But remember that I am only your priest, not
your friend. As a human being I dislike you and despise you.'
Proggett, the sexton, a man of forty with curly grey hair and a
red, harassed face, stood patiently by, uncomprehending but
reverent, fiddling with the little communion bell which was lost in
his huge red hands.
Dorothy pressed her fingers against her eyes. She had not yet
succeeded in concentrating her thoughts--indeed, the memory of
Cargill's bill was still worrying her intermittently. The prayers,
which she knew by heart, were flowing through her head unheeded.
She raised her eyes for a moment, and they began immediately to
stray. First upwards, to the headless roof-angels on whose necks
you could still see the sawcuts of the Puritan soldiers, then back
again, to Miss Mayfill's black, quasi-pork-pie hat and tremulous
jet ear-rings. Miss Mayfill wore a long musty black overcoat, with
a little collar of greasy-looking astrakhan, which had been the
same ever since Dorothy could remember. It was of some very
peculiar stuff, like watered silk but coarser, with rivulets of
black piping wandering all over it in no discoverable pattern. It
might even have been that legendary and proverbial substance, black
bombazine. Miss Mayfill was very old, so old that no one
remembered her as anything but an old woman. A faint scent
radiated from her--an ethereal scent, analysable as eau-de-Cologne,
mothballs, and a sub-flavour of gin.
Dorothy drew a long glass-headed pin from the lapel of her coat,
and furtively, under cover of Miss Mayfill's back, pressed the
point against her forearm. Her flesh tingled apprehensively. She
made it a rule, whenever she caught herself not attending to her
prayers, to prick her arm hard enough to make blood come. It was
her chosen form of self-discipline, her guard against irreverence
and sacrilegious thoughts.
With the pin poised in readiness she managed for several moments
to pray more collectedly. Her father had turned one dark eye
disapprovingly upon Miss Mayfill, who was crossing herself at
intervals, a practice he disliked. A starling chattered outside.
With a shock Dorothy discovered that she was looking vaingloriously
at the pleats of her father's surplice, which she herself had sewn
two years ago. She set her teeth and drove the pin an eighth of an
inch into her arm.
They were kneeling again. It was the General Confession. Dorothy
recalled her eyes--wandering, alas! yet again, this time to the
stained-glass window on her right, designed by Sir Warde Tooke,
A.R.A., in 1851 and representing St Athelstan's welcome at the gate
of heaven by Gabriel and a legion of angels all remarkably like one
another and the Prince Consort--and pressed the pinpoint against a
different part of her arm. She began to meditate conscientiously
upon the meaning of each phrase of the prayer, and so brought her
mind back to a more attentive state. But even so she was all but
obliged to use the pin again when Proggett tinkled the bell in the
middle of 'Therefore with Angels and Archangels'--being visited, as
always, by a dreadful temptation to begin laughing at that passage.
It was because of a story her father had told her once, of how when
he was a little boy, and serving the priest at the altar, the
communion bell had a screw-on clapper, which had come loose; and so
the priest had said: 'Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and
with all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious
name; evermore praising Thee, and saying, Screw it up, you little
fat-head, screw it up!'
As the Rector finished the consecration Miss Mayfill began to
struggle to her feet with extreme difficulty and slowness, like
some disjointed wooden creature picking itself up by sections, and
disengaging at each movement a powerful whiff of mothballs. There
was an extraordinary creaking sound--from her stays, presumably,
but it was a noise as of bones grating against one another. You
could have imagined that there was only a dry skeleton inside that
Dorothy remained on her feet a moment longer. Miss Mayfill was
creeping towards the altar with slow, tottering steps. She could
barely walk, but she took bitter offence if you offered to help
her. In her ancient, bloodless face her mouth was surprisingly
large, loose, and wet. The underlip, pendulous with age, slobbered
forward, exposing a strip of gum and a row of false teeth as yellow
as the keys of an old piano. On the upper lip was a fringe of
dark, dewy moustache. It was not an appetizing mouth; not the kind
of mouth that you would like to see drinking out of your cup.
Suddenly, spontaneously, as though the Devil himself had put it
there, the prayer slipped from Dorothy'Beasts of England's lips: O God, let me not
have to take the chalice after Miss Mayfill!
The next moment, in self-horror, she grasped the meaning of what
she had said, and wished that she had bitten her tongue in two
rather than utter that deadly blasphemy upon the altar steps. She
drew the pin again from her lapel and drove it into her arm so hard
that it was all she could do to suppress a cry of pain. Then she
stepped to the altar and knelt down meekly on Miss Mayfill's left,
so as to make quite sure of taking the chalice after her.
Kneeling, with head bent and hands clasped against her knees, she
set herself swiftly to pray for forgiveness before her father
should reach her with the wafer. But the current of her thoughts
had been broken. Suddenly it was quite useless attempting to pray;
her lips moved, but there was neither heart nor meaning in her
prayers. She could hear Proggett's boots shuffling and her
father'Beasts of England's clear low voice murmuring 'Take and eat', she could see
the worn strip of red carpet beneath her knees, she could smell
dust and eau-de-Cologne and mothballs; but of the Body and Blood of
Christ, of the purpose for which she had come here, she was as
though deprived of the power to think. A deadly blankness had
descended upon her mind. It seemed to her that actually she COULD
not pray. She struggled, collected her thoughts, uttered
mechanically the opening phrases of a prayer; but they were
useless, meaningless--nothing but the dead shells of words. Her
father was holding the wafer before her in his shapely, aged hand.
He held it between finger and thumb, fastidiously, somehow
distastefully, as though it had been a spoon of medicine. His eye
was upon Miss Mayfill, who was doubling herself up like a geometrid
caterpillar, with many creakings and crossing herself so
elaborately that one might have imagined that she was sketching a
series of braid frogs on the front of her coat. For several
seconds Dorothy hesitated and did not take the wafer. She dared
not take it. Better, far better to step down from the altar than
to accept the sacrament with such chaos in her heart!
Then it happened that she glanced sidelong, through the open south
door. A momentary spear of sunlight had pierced the clouds. It
struck downwards through the leaves of the limes, and a spray of
leaves in the doorway gleamed with a transient, matchless green,
greener than jade or emerald or Atlantic waters. It was as though
some jewel of unimaginable splendour had flashed for an instant,
filling the doorway with green light, and then faded. A flood of
joy ran through Dorothy'Beasts of England's heart. The flash of living colour had
brought back to her, by a process deeper than reason, her peace of
mind, her love of God, her power to worship. Somehow, because of
the greenness of the leaves, it was again possible to pray. O all
ye green things upon the earth, praise ye the Lord! She began to
pray, ardently, joyfully, thankfully. The wafer melted upon her
tongue. She took the chalice from her father, and tasted with
repulsion, even with an added joy in this small act of self-
abasement, the wet imprint of Miss Mayfill's lips on its silver
St Athelstan's Church stood at the highest point of Knype Hill, and
if you chose to climb the tower you could see ten miles or so
across the surrounding country. Not that there was anything worth
looking at--only the low, barely undulating East Anglian landscape,
intolerably dull in summer, but redeemed in winter by the recurring
patterns of the elms, naked and fanshaped against leaden skies.
Immediately below you lay the town, with the High Street running
east and west and dividing unequally. The southern section of the
town was the ancient, agricultural, and respectable section. On
the northern side were the buildings of the Blifil-Gordon sugar-
beet refinery, and all round and leading up to them were higgledy-
piggledly rows of vile yellow brick cottages, mostly inhabited by
the employees of the factory. The factory employees, who made up
more than half of the town's two thousand inhabitants, were
newcomers, townfolk, and godless almost to a man.
The two pivots, or foci, about which the social life of the town
moved were Knype Hill Conservative Club (fully licensed), from
whose bow window, any time after the bar was open, the large, rosy-
gilled faces of the town's elite were to be seen gazing like chubby
goldfish from an aquarium pane; and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe, a little
farther down the High Street, the principal rendezvous of the Knype
Hill ladies. Not to be present at Ye Olde Tea Shoppe between ten
and eleven every morning, to drink your 'morning coffee' and spend
your half-hour or so in that agreeable twitter of upper-middle-
class voices ('My dear, he had NINE spades to the ace-queen and he
went one no trump, if you please. What, my dear, you don't mean to
say you're paying for my coffee AGAIN? Oh, but my dear, it is
simply TOO sweet of you! Now tomorrow I shall SIMPLY INSIST upon
paying for yours. And just LOOK at dear little Toto sitting up and
looking such a CLEVER little man with his little black nose
wiggling, and he would, would he, the darling duck, he would, he
would, and his mother would give him a lump of sugar, she would,
she would. THERE, Toto!'), was to be definitely out of Knype Hill
society. The Rector in his acid way nicknamed these ladies 'the
coffee brigade'. Close to the colony of sham-picturesque villas
inhabited by the coffee brigade, but cut off from them by its
larger grounds, was The Grange, Miss Mayfill's house. It was a
curious, machicolated, imitation castle of dark red brick--
somebody's Folly, built about 1870--and fortunately almost hidden
among dense shrubberies.
The Rectory stood half way up the hill, with its face to the church
and its back to the High Street. It was a house of the wrong age,
inconveniently large, and faced with chronically peeling yellow
plaster. Some earlier Rector had added, at one side, a large
greenhouse which Dorothy used as a workroom, but which was
constantly out of repair. The front garden was choked with ragged
fir-trees and a great spreading ash which shadowed the front rooms
and made it impossible to grow any flowers. There was a large
vegetable garden at the back. Proggett did the heavy digging of
the garden in the spring and autumn, and Dorothy did the sowing,
planting, and weeding in such spare time as she could command; in
spite of which the vegetable garden was usually an impenetrable
jungle of weeds.
Dorothy jumped off her bicycle at the front gate, upon which some
officious person had stuck a poster inscribed 'Vote for Blifil-
Gordon and Higher Wages!' (There was a by-election going on, and
Mr Blifil-Gordon was standing in the Conservative interest.) As
Dorothy opened the front door she saw two letters lying on the worn
coconut mat. One was from the Rural Dean, and the other was a
nasty, thin-looking letter from Catkin & Palm, her father's
clerical tailors. It was a bill undoubtedly. The Rector had
followed his usual practice of collecting the letters that
interested him and leaving the others. Dorothy was just bending
down to pick up the letters, when she saw, with a horrid shock of
dismay, an unstamped envelope sticking to the letter flap.
It was a bill--for certain it was a bill! Moreover, as soon as she
set eyes on it she 'knew' that it was that horrible bill from
Cargill's, the butcher's. A sinking feeling passed through her
entrails. For a moment she actually began to pray that it might
not be Cargill's bill--that it might only be the bill for three
and nine from Solepipe's, the draper's, or the bill from the
International or the baker's or the dairy--anything except
Cargill's bill! Then, mastering her panic, she took the envelope
from the letter-flap and tore it open with a convulsive movement.
'To account rendered: L21 7S. 9d.'
This was written in the innocuous handwriting of Mr Cargill's
accountant. But underneath, in thick, accusing-looking letters,
was added and heavily underlined: 'Shd. like to bring to your
notice that this bill has been owing a VERY LONG TIME. The
EARLIEST POSSIBLE settlement will oblige, S. Cargill.'
Dorothy had turned a shade paler, and was conscious of not wanting
any breakfast. She thrust the bill into her pocket and went into
the dining-room. It was a smallish, dark room, badly in need of
repapering, and, like every other room in the Rectory, it had the
air of having been furnished from the sweepings of an antique shop.
The furniture was 'good', but battered beyond repair, and the
chairs were so worm-eaten that you could only sit on them in safety
if you knew their individual foibles. There were old, dark,
defaced steel engravings hanging on the walls, one of them--an
engraving of Van Dyck's portrait of Charles I--probably of some
value if it had not been ruined by damp.
The Rector was standing before the empty grate, warming himself at
an imaginary fire and reading a letter that came from a long blue
envelope. He was still wearing his cassock of black watered silk,
which set off to perfection his thick white hair and his pale,
fine, none too amiable face. As Dorothy came in he laid the letter
aside, drew out his gold watch and scrutinized it significantly.
'I'm afraid I'm a bit late, Father.'
'Yes, Dorothy, you are A BIT LATE,' said the Rector, repeating her
words with delicate but marked emphasis. 'You are twelve minutes
late, to be exact. Don't you think, Dorothy, that when I have to
get up at a quarter past six to celebrate Holy Communion, and come
home exceedingly tired and hungry, it would be better if you could
manage to come to breakfast without being A BIT LATE?'
It was clear that the Rector was in what Dorothy called,
euphemistically, his 'uncomfortable mood'. He had one of those
weary, cultivated voices which are never definitely angry and never
anywhere near good humour--one of those voices which seem all the
while to be saying, 'I really CANNOT see what you are making all
this fuss about!' The impression he gave was of suffering
perpetually from other people's stupidity and tiresomeness.
'I'm so sorry, Father! I simply had to go and ask after Mrs
Tawney.' (Mrs Tawney was the 'Mrs T' of the 'memo list'.) 'Her
baby was born last night, and you know she promised me she'd come
and be churched after it was born. But of course she won't if she
thinks we aren't taking any interest in her. You know what these
women are--they seem so to hate being churched. They'll never come
unless I coax them into it.'
The Rector did not actually grunt, but he uttered a small
dissatisfied sound as he moved towards the breakfast table. It was
intended to mean, first, that it was Mrs Tawney's duty to come and
be churched without Dorothy's coaxing; secondly, that Dorothy had
no business to waste her time visiting all the riffraff of the
town, especially before breakfast. Mrs Tawney was a labourer's
wife and lived in partibus infidelium, north of the High Street.
The Rector laid his hand on the back of his chair, and, without
speaking, cast Dorothy a glance which meant: 'Are we ready NOW?
Or are there to be any MORE delays?'
'I think everything's here, Father,' said Dorothy. 'Perhaps if
you'd just say grace--'
'Benedictus benedicat,' said the Rector, lifting the worn silver
coverlet off the breakfast dish. The silver coverlet, like the
silver-gilt marmalade spoon, was a family heirloom; the knives and
forks, and most of the crockery, came from Woolworths. 'Bacon
again, I see,' the Rector added, eyeing the three minute rashers
that lay curled up on squares of fried bread.
'It's all we've got in the house, I'm afraid,' Dorothy said.
The Rector picked up his fork between finger and thumb, and with a
very delicate movement, as though playing at spillikins, turned one
of the rashers over.
'I know, of course,' he said, 'that bacon for breakfast is an
English institution almost as old as parliamentary government. But
still, don't you think we might OCCASIONALLY have a change,
'Bacon's so cheap now,' said Dorothy regretfully. 'It seems a sin
not to buy it. This was only fivepence a pound, and I saw some
quite decent-looking bacon as low as threepence.'
'Ah, Danish, I suppose? What a variety of Danish invasions we have
had in this country! First with fire and sword, and now with their
abominable cheap bacon. Which has been responsible for the more
deaths, I wonder?'
Feeling a little better after this witticism, the Rector settled
himself in his chair and made a fairly good breakfast off the
despised bacon, while Dorothy (she was not having any bacon this
morning--a penance she had set herself yesterday for saying 'Damn'
and idling for half an hour after lunch) meditated upon a good
There was an unspeakably hateful job in front of her--a demand for
money. At the very best of times getting money out of her father
was next door to impossible, and it was obvious that this morning
he was going to be even more 'difficult' than usual. 'Difficult'
was another of her euphemisms. He's had bad news, I suppose, she
thought despondently, looking at the blue envelope.
Probably no one who had ever spoken to the Rector for as long as
ten minutes would have denied that he was a 'difficult' kind of
man. The secret of his almost unfailing ill humour really lay in
the fact that he was an anachronism. He ought never to have been
born into the modern world; its whole atmosphere disgusted and
infuriated him. A couple of centuries earlier, a happy pluralist
writing poems or collecting fossils while curates at 40 pounds a
year administered his parishes, he would have been perfectly at
home. Even now, if he had been a richer man, he might have consoled
himself by shutting the twentieth century out of his consciousness.
But to live in past ages is very expensive; you can't do it on less
than two thousand a year. The Rector, tethered by his poverty to
the age of Lenin and the Daily Mail, was kept in a state of chronic
exasperation which it was only natural that he should work off on
the person nearest to him--usually, that is, on Dorothy.
He had been born in 1871, the younger son of the younger son of a
baronet, and had gone into the Church for the outmoded reason that
the Church is the traditional profession for younger sons. His
first cure had been in a large, slummy parish in East London--a
nasty, hooliganish place it had been, and he looked back on it with
loathing. Even in those days the lower class (as he made a point
of calling them) were getting decidedly out of hand. It was a
little better when he was curate-in-charge at some remote place in
Kent (Dorothy had been born in Kent), where the decently down-
trodden villagers still touched their hats to 'parson'. But by
that time he had married, and his marriage had been diabolically
unhappy; moreover, because clergymen must not quarrel with their
wives, its unhappiness had been secret and therefore ten times
worse. He had come to Knype Hill in 1908, aged thirty-seven and
with a temper incurably soured--a temper which had ended by
alienating every man, woman, and child in the parish.
It was not that he was a bad priest, merely AS a priest. In his
purely clerical duties he was scrupulously correct--perhaps a
little too correct for a Low Church East Anglian parish. He
conducted his services with perfect taste, preached admirable
sermons, and got up at uncomfortable hours of the morning to
celebrate Holy Communion every Wednesday and Friday. But that a
clergyman has any duties outside the four walls of the church was a
thing that had never seriously occurred to him. Unable to afford a
curate, he left the dirty work of the parish entirely to his wife,
and after her death (she died in 1921) to Dorothy. People used to
say, spitefully and untruly, that he would have let Dorothy preach
his sermons for him if it had been possible. The 'lower classes'
had grasped from the first what was his attitude towards them, and
if he had been a rich man they would probably have licked his
boots, according to their custom; as it was, they merely hated him.
Not that he cared whether they hated him or not, for he was largely
unaware of their existence. But even with the upper classes he had
got on no better. With the County he had quarrelled one by one,
and as for the petty gentry of the town, as the grandson of a
baronet he despised them, and was at no pains to hide it. In
twenty-three years he had succeeded in reducing the congregation of
St Athelstan's from six hundred to something under two hundred.
This was not solely due to personal reasons. It was also because
the old-fashioned High Anglicanism to which the Rector obstinately
clung was of a kind to annoy all parties in the parish about
equally. Nowadays, a clergyman who wants to keep his congregation
has only two courses open to him. Either it must be Anglo-
Catholicism pure and simple--or rather, pure and not simple; or he
must be daringly modern and broad-minded and preach comforting
sermons proving that there is no Hell and all good religions are
the same. The Rector did neither. On the one hand, he had the
deepest contempt for the Anglo-Catholic movement. It had passed
over his head, leaving him absolutely untouched; 'Roman Fever' was
his name for it. On the other hand, he was too 'high' for the
older members of his congregation. From time to time he scared
them almost out of their wits by the use of the fatal word
'Catholic', not only in its sanctified place in the Creeds, but
also from the pulpit. Naturally the congregation dwindled year by
year, and it was the Best People who were the first to go. Lord
Pockthorne of Pockthorne Court, who owned a fifth of the county, Mr
Leavis, the retired leather merchant, Sir Edward Huson of Crabtree
Hall, and such of the petty gentry as owned motor-cars, had all
deserted St Athelstan's. Most of them drove over on Sunday
mornings to Millborough, five miles away. Millborough was a town
of five thousand inhabitants, and you had your choice of two
churches, St Edmund's and St Wedekind's. St Edmund's was
Modernist--text from Blake's 'Jerusalem' blazoned over the altar,
and communion wine out of liqueur glasses--and St Wedekind's was
Anglo-Catholic and in a state of perpetual guerrilla warfare with
the Bishop. But Mr Cameron, the secretary of the Knype Hill
Conservative Club, was a Roman Catholic convert, and his children
were in the thick of the Roman Catholic literary movement. They
were said to have a parrot which they were teaching to say 'Extra
ecclesiam nulla salus'. In effect, no one of any standing remained
true to St Athelstan's, except Miss Mayfill, of The Grange. Most
of Miss Mayfill's money was bequeathed to the Church--so she said;
meanwhile, she had never been known to put more than sixpence in
the collection bag, and she seemed likely to go on living for ever.
The first ten minutes of breakfast passed in complete silence.
Dorothy was trying to summon up courage to speak--obviously she had
got to start SOME kind of conversation before raising the money-
question--but her father was not an easy man with whom to make
small talk. At times he would fall into such deep fits of
abstraction that you could hardly get him to listen to you; at
other times he was all too attentive, listened carefully to what
you said and then pointed out, rather wearily, that it was not
worth saying. Polite platitudes--the weather, and so forth--
generally moved him to sarcasm. Nevertheless, Dorothy decided to
try the weather first.
'It's a funny kind of day, isn't it?' she said--aware, even as she
made it, of the inanity of this remark.
'WHAT is funny?' inquired the Rector.
'Well, I mean, it was so cold and misty this morning, and now the
sun's come out and it's turned quite fine.'
'IS there anything particularly funny about that?'
That was no good, obviously. He MUST have had bad news, she
thought. She tried again.
'I do wish you'd come out and have a look at the things in the back
garden some time, Father. The runner beans are doing so splendidly!
The pods are going to be over a foot long. I'm going to keep all
the best of them for the Harvest Festival, of course. I thought it
would look so nice if we decorated the pulpit with festoons of
runner beans and a few tomatoes hanging in among them.'
This was a faux pas. The Rector looked up from his plate with an
expression of profound distaste.
'My dear Dorothy,' he said sharply, 'IS it necessary to begin
worrying me about the Harvest Festival already?'
'I'm sorry, Father!' said Dorothy, disconcerted. 'I didn't mean to
worry you. I just thought--'
'Do you suppose', proceeded the Rector, 'it is any pleasure to me
to have to preach my sermon among festoons of runner beans? I am
not a greengrocer. It quite puts me off my breakfast to think of
it. When is the wretched thing due to happen?'
'It's September the sixteenth, Father.'
'That's nearly a month hence. For Heaven's sake let me forget it
a little longer! I suppose we must have this ridiculous business
once a year to tickle the vanity of every amateur gardener in the
parish. But don't let's think of it more than is absolutely
The Rector had, as Dorothy ought to have remembered, a perfect
abhorrence of Harvest Festivals. He had even lost a valuable
parishioner--a Mr Toagis, a surly retired market gardener--through
his dislike, as he said, of seeing his church dressed up to imitate
a coster's stall. Mr Toagis, anima naturaliter Nonconformistica,
had been kept 'Church' solely by the privilege, at Harvest Festival
time, of decorating the side altar with a sort of Stonehenge
composed of gigantic vegetable marrows. The previous summer he had
succeeded in growing a perfect leviathan of a pumpkin, a fiery red
thing so enormous that it took two men to lift it. This monstrous
object had been placed in the chancel, where it dwarfed the altar
and took all the colour out of the east window. In no matter what
part of the church you were standing, the pumpkin, as the saying
goes, hit you in the eye. Mr Toagis was in raptures. He hung
about the church at all hours, unable to tear himself away from his
adored pumpkin, and even bringing relays of friends in to admire
it. From the expression of his face you would have thought that he
was quoting Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge:
Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty!
Dorothy even had hopes, after this, of getting him to come to Holy
Communion. But when the Rector saw the pumpkin he was seriously
angry, and ordered 'that revolting thing' to be removed at once.
Mr Toagis had instantly 'gone chapel', and he and his heirs were
lost to the Church for ever.
Dorothy decided to make one final attempt at conversation.
'We're getting on with the costumes for Charles I,' she said. (The
Church School children were rehearsing a play entitled Charles I in
aid of the organ fund.) 'But I do wish we'd chosen something a bit
easier. The armour is a dreadful job to make, and I'm afraid the
jackboots are going to be worse. I think next time we must really
have a Roman or Greek play. Something where they only have to wear
This elicited only another muted grunt from the Rector. School
plays, pageants, bazaars, jumble sales, and concerts in aid of were
not quite so bad in his eyes as Harvest Festivals, but he did not
pretend to be interested in them. They were necessary evils, he
used to say. At this moment Ellen, the maidservant, pushed open
the door and came gauchely into the room with one large, scaly hand
holding her sacking apron against her belly. She was a tall,
round-shouldered girl with mouse-coloured hair, a plaintive voice,
and a bad complexion, and she suffered chronically from eczema.
Her eyes flitted apprehensively towards the Rector, but she
addressed herself to Dorothy, for she was too much afraid of the
Rector to speak to him directly.
'Please, Miss--' she began.
'Please, Miss,' went on Ellen plaintively, 'Mr Porter's in the
kitchen, and he says, please could the Rector come round and
baptize Mrs Porter's baby? Because they don't think as it's going
to live the day out, and it ain't been baptized yet, Miss.'
Dorothy stood up. 'Sit down,' said the Rector promptly, with his
'What do they think is the matter with the baby?' said Dorothy.
'Well, Miss, it's turning quite black. And it's had diarrhoea
The Rector emptied his mouth with an effort. 'Must I have these
disgusting details while I am eating my breakfast?' he exclaimed.
He turned on Ellen: 'Send Porter about his business and tell him
I'll be round at his house at twelve o'clock. I really cannot
think why it is that the lower classes always seem to choose
mealtimes to come pestering one,' he added, casting another
irritated glance at Dorothy as she sat down.
Mr Porter was a labouring man--a bricklayer, to be exact. The
Rector's views on baptism were entirely sound. If it had been
urgently necessary he would have walked twenty miles through snow
to baptize a dying baby. But he did not like to see Dorothy
proposing to leave the breakfast table at the call of a common
There was no further conversation during breakfast. Dorothy's
heart was sinking lower and lower. The demand for money had got to
be made, and yet it was perfectly obvious that it was foredoomed to
failure. His breakfast finished, the Rector got up from the table
and began to fill his pipe from the tobacco-jar on the mantelpiece.
Dorothy uttered a short prayer for courage, and then pinched
herself. Go on, Dorothy! Out with it! No funking, please! With
an effort she mastered her voice and said:
'What is it?' said the Rector, pausing with the match in his hand.
'Father, I've something I want to ask you. Something important.'
The expression of the Rector's face changed. He had divined
instantly what she was going to say; and, curiously enough, he now
looked less irritable than before. A stony calm had settled upon
his face. He looked like a rather exceptionally aloof and
'Now, my dear Dorothy, I know very well what you are going to say.
I suppose you are going to ask me for money again. Is that it?'
'Yes, Father. Because--'
'Well, I may as well save you the trouble. I have no money at all--
absolutely no money at all until next quarter. You have had your
allowance, and I can't give you a halfpenny more. It's quite
useless to come worrying me now.'
Dorothy's heart sank yet lower. What was worst of all when she
came to him for money was the terrible, unhelpful calmness of his
attitude. He was never so unmoved as when you were reminding him
that he was up to his eyes in debt. Apparently he could not
understand that tradesmen occasionally want to be paid, and that no
house can be kept going without an adequate supply of money. He
allowed Dorothy eighteen pounds a month for all the household
expenses, including Ellen's wages, and at the same time he was
'dainty' about his food and instantly detected any falling off in
its quality. The result was, of course, that the household was
perennially in debt. But the Rector paid not the smallest
attention to his debts--indeed, he was hardly even aware of them.
When he lost money over an investment, he was deeply agitated; but
as for a debt to a mere tradesman--well, it was the kind of thing
that he simply could not bother his head about.
A peaceful plume of smoke floated upwards from the Rector's pipe.
He was gazing with a meditative eye at the steel engraving of
Charles I and had probably forgotten already about Dorothy's demand
for money. Seeing him so unconcerned, a pang of desperation went
through Dorothy, and her courage came back to her. She said more
sharply than before:
'Father, please listen to me! I MUST have some money soon! I
simply MUST! We can't go on as we're doing. We owe money to
nearly every tradesman in the town. It's got so that some mornings
I can hardly bear to go down the street and think of all the bills
that are owing. Do you know that we owe Cargill nearly twenty-two
'What of it?' said the Rector between puffs of smoke.
'But the bill's been mounting up for over seven months! He's sent
it in over and over again. We MUST pay it! It's so unfair to him
to keep him waiting for his money like that!'
'Nonsense, my dear child! These people expect to be kept waiting
for their money. They like it. It brings them more in the end.
Goodness knows how much I owe to Catkin & Palm--I should hardly
care to inquire. They are dunning me by every post. But you don't
hear ME complaining, do you?'
'But, Father, I can't look at it as you do, I can't! It's so
dreadful to be always in debt! Even if it isn't actually wrong,
it's so HATEFUL. It makes me so ashamed! When I go into Cargill's
shop to order the joint, he speaks to me so shortly and makes me
wait after the other customers, all because our bill's mounting up
the whole time. And yet I daren't stop ordering from him. I
believe he'd run us in if I did.'
The Rector frowned. 'What! Do you mean to say the fellow has been
impertinent to you?'
'I didn't say he'd been impertinent, Father. But you can't blame
him if he's angry when his bill's not paid.'
'I most certainly can blame him! It is simply abominable how these
people take it upon themselves to behave nowadays--abominable! But
there you are, you see. That is the kind of thing that we are
exposed to in this delightful century. That is democracy--
PROGRESS, as they are pleased to call it. Don't order from the
fellow again. Tell him at once that you are taking your account
elsewhere. That's the only way to treat these people.'
'But, Father, that doesn't settle anything. Really and truly,
don't you think we ought to pay him? Surely we can get hold of the
money somehow? Couldn't you sell out some shares, or something?'
'My dear child, don't talk to me about selling out shares! I have
just had the most disagreeable news from my broker. He tells me
that my Sumatra Tin shares have dropped from seven and fourpence to
six and a penny. It means a loss of nearly sixty pounds. I am
telling him to sell out at once before they drop any further.'
'Then if you sell out you'll have some ready money, won't you?
Don't you think it would be better to get out of debt once and for
'Nonsense, nonsense,' said the Rector more calmly, putting his pipe
back in his mouth. 'You know nothing whatever about these matters.
I shall have to reinvest at once in something more hopeful--it's
the only way of getting my money back.'
With one thumb in the belt of his cassock he frowned abstractedly
at the steel engraving. His broker had advised United Celanese.
Here--in Sumatra Tin, United Celanese, and numberless other remote
and dimly imagined companies--was the central cause of the Rector's
money troubles. He was an inveterate gambler. Not, of course,
that he thought of it as gambling; it was merely a lifelong search
for a 'good investment'. On coming of age he had inherited four
thousand pounds, which had gradually dwindled, thanks to his
'investments', to about twelve hundred. What was worse, every year
he managed to scrape together, out of his miserable income, another
fifty pounds which vanished by the same road. It is a curious fact
that the lure of a 'good investment' seems to haunt clergymen more
persistently than any other class of man. Perhaps it is the modern
equivalent of the demons in female shape who used to haunt the
anchorites of the Dark Ages.
'I shall buy five hundred United Celanese,' said the Rector finally.
Dorothy began to give up hope. Her father was now thinking of his
'investments' (she new nothing whatever about these 'investments',
except that they went wrong with phenomenal regularity), and in
another moment the question of the shop-debts would have slipped
entirely out of his mind. She made a final effort.
'Father, let's get this settled, please. Do you think you'll be
able to let me have some extra money fairly soon? Not this moment,
perhaps--but in the next month or two?'
'No, my dear, I don't. About Christmas time, possibly--it's very
unlikely even then. But for the present, certainly not. I haven't
a halfpenny I can spare.'
'But, Father, it's so horrible to feel we can't pay our debts! It
disgraces us so! Last time Mr Welwyn-Foster was here' (Mr Welwyn-
Foster was the Rural Dean) 'Mrs Welwyn-Foster was going all round
the town asking everyone the most personal questions about us--
asking how we spent our time, and how much money we had, and how
many tons of coal we used in a year, and everything. She's always
trying to pry into our affairs. Suppose she found out that we were
badly in debt!'
'Surely it is our own business? I fail entirely to see what it has
to do with Mrs Welwyn-Foster or anyone else.'
'But she'd repeat it all over the place--and she'd exaggerate it
too! You know what Mrs Welwyn-Foster is. In every parish she goes
to she tries to find out something disgraceful about the clergyman,
and then she repeats every word of it to the Bishop. I don't want
to be uncharitable about her, but really she--'
Realizing that she DID want to be uncharitable, Dorothy was silent.
'She is a detestable woman,' said the Rector evenly. 'What of it?
Who ever heard of a Rural Dean's wife who wasn't detestable?'
'But, Father, I don't seem to be able to get you to see how serious
things are! We've simply nothing to live on for the next month. I
don't even know where the meat's coming from for today's dinner.'
'Luncheon, Dorothy, luncheon!' said the Rector with a touch of
irritation. 'I do wish you would drop that abominable lower-class
habit of calling the midday meal DINNER!'
'For luncheon, then. Where are we to get the meat from? I daren't
ask Cargill for another joint.'
'Go to the other butcher--what's his name? Salter--and take no
notice of Cargill. He knows he'll be paid sooner or later. Good
gracious, I don't know what all this fuss is about! Doesn't
everyone owe money to his tradesmen? I distinctly remember'--the
Rector straightened his shoulders a little, and, putting his pipe
back into his mouth, looked into the distance; his voice became
reminiscent and perceptibly more agreeable--'I distinctly remember
that when I was up at Oxford, my father had still not paid some of
his own Oxford bills of thirty years earlier. Tom' (Tom was the
Rector's cousin, the Baronet) 'owed seven thousand before he came
into his money. He told me so himself.'
At that, Dorothy's last hope vanished. When her father began to
talk about his cousin Tom, and about things that had happened 'when
I was up at Oxford', there was nothing more to be done with him.
It meant that he had slipped into an imaginary golden past in which
such vulgar things as butchers' bills simply did not exist. There
were long periods together when he seemed actually to forget that
he was only a poverty-stricken country Rector--that he was not a
young man of family with estates and reversions at his back. The
aristocratic, the expensive attitude was the one that in all
circumstances came the most naturally to him. And of course while
he lived, not uncomfortably, in the world of his imagination, it
was Dorothy who had to fight the tradesmen and make a leg of mutton
last from Sunday to Wednesday. But she knew the complete
uselessness of arguing with him any longer. It would only end in
making him angry. She got up from the table and began to pile the
breakfast things on to the tray.
'You're absolutely certain you can't let me have any money,
Father?' she said for the last time, at the door; with the tray in
The Rector, gazing into the middle distance, amid comfortable
wreaths of smoke, did not hear her. He was thinking, perhaps, of
his golden Oxford days. Dorothy went out of the room distressed
almost to the point of tears. The miserable question of the debts
was once more shelved, as it had been shelved a thousand times
before, with no prospect of final solution.
On her elderly bicycle with the basketwork carrier on the handle-
bars, Dorothy free-wheeled down the hill, doing mental arithmetic
with three pounds nineteen and fourpence--her entire stock of money
until next quarter-day.
She had been through the list of things that were needed in the
kitchen. But indeed, was there anything that was NOT needed in the
kitchen? Tea, coffee, soap, matches, candles, sugar, lentils,
firewood, soda, lamp oil, boot polish, margarine, baking powder--
there seemed to be practically nothing that they were not running
short of. And at every moment some fresh item that she had
forgotten popped up and dismayed her. The laundry bill, for
example, and the fact that the coal was running short, and the
question of the fish for Friday. The Rector was 'difficult' about
fish. Roughly speaking, he would only eat the more expensive
kinds; cod, whiting, sprats, skate, herrings, and kippers he
Meanwhile, she had got to settle about the meat for today's dinner--
luncheon. (Dorothy was careful to obey her father and call it
LUNCHEON, when she remembered it. On the other hand, you could not
in honesty call the evening meal anything but 'supper'; so there
was no such meal as 'dinner' at the Rectory.) Better make an
omelette for luncheon today, Dorothy decided. She dared not go to
Cargill again. Though, of course, if they had an omelette for
luncheon and then scrambled eggs for supper, her father would
probably be sarcastic about it. Last time they had eggs twice in
one day, he had inquired coldly, 'Have you started a chicken farm,
Dorothy?' And perhaps tomorrow she would get two pounds of
sausages at the International, and that staved off the meat-
question for one day more.
Thirty-nine further days, with only three pounds nineteen and
fourpence to provide for them, loomed up in Dorothy's imagination,
sending through her a wave of self-pity which she checked almost
instantly. Now then, Dorothy! No snivelling, please! It all
comes right somehow if you trust in God. Matthew vi, 25. The Lord
will provide. Will He? Dorothy removed her right hand from the
handle-bars and felt for the glass-headed pin, but the blasphemous
thought faded. At this moment she became aware of the gloomy red
face of Proggett, who was hailing her respectfully but urgently
from the side of the road.
Dorothy stopped and got off her bicycle.
'Beg pardon, Miss,' said Proggett. 'I been wanting to speak to
Dorothy sighed inwardly. When Proggett wanted to speak to you
PARTIC'LAR, you could be perfectly certain what was coming; it was
some piece of alarming news about the condition of the church.
Proggett was a pessimistic, conscientious man, and very loyal
churchman, after his fashion. Too dim of intellect to have any
definite religious beliefs, he showed his piety by an intense
solicitude about the state of the church buildings. He had decided
long ago that the Church of Christ meant the actual walls, roof,
and tower of St Athelstan's, Knype Hill, and he would poke round
the church at all hours of the day, gloomily noting a cracked stone
here, a worm-eaten beam there--and afterwards, of course, coming to
harass Dorothy with demands for repairs which would cost impossible
sums of money.
'What is it, Proggett?' said Dorothy.
'Well, Miss, it's they --'--here a peculiar, imperfect sound, not a
word exactly, but the ghost of a word, all but formed itself on
Proggett's lips. It seemed to begin with a B. Proggett was one of
those men who are for ever on the verge of swearing, but who always
recapture the oath as it is escaping between their teeth. 'It's
they BELLS, Miss,' he said, getting rid of the B sound with an
effort. 'They bells up in the church tower. They're a-splintering
through that there belfry floor in a way as it makes you fair
shudder to look at 'em. We'll have 'em down atop of us before we
know where we are. I was up the belfry 'smorning, and I tell you I
come down faster'n I went up, when I saw how that there floor's a-
busting underneath 'em.'
Proggett came to complain about the condition of the bells not less
than once a fortnight. It was now three years that they had been
lying on the floor of the belfry, because the cost of either
reswinging or removing them was estimated at twenty-five pounds,
which might as well have been twenty-five thousand for all the
chance there was of paying for it. They were really almost as
dangerous as Proggett made out. It was quite certain that, if not
this year or next year, at any rate at some time in the near
future, they would fall through the belfry floor into the church
porch. And, as Proggett was fond of pointing out, it would
probably happen on a Sunday morning just as the congregation were
coming into church.
Dorothy sighed again. Those wretched bells were never out of mind
for long; there were times when the thought of their falling even
got into her dreams. There was always some trouble or other at the
church. If it was not the belfry, then it was the roof or the
walls; or it was a broken pew which the carpenter wanted ten
shillings to mend; or it was seven hymn-books needed at one and
sixpence each, or the flue of the stove choked up--and the sweep's
fee was half a crown--or a smashed window-pane or the choir-boys'
cassocks in rags. There was never enough money for anything. The
new organ which the rector had insisted on buying five years
earlier--the old one, he said, reminded him of a cow with the
asthma--was a burden under which the Church Expenses fund had been
staggering ever since.
'I don't know WHAT we can do,' said Dorothy finally; 'I really
don't. We've simply no money at all. And even if we do make
anything out of the school-children's play, it's all got to go to
the organ fund. The organ people are really getting quite nasty
about their bill. Have you spoken to my father?'
'Yes, Miss. He don't make nothing of it. "Belfry's held up five
hundred years," he says; "we can trust it to hold up a few years
This was quite according to precedent. The fact that the church
was visibly collapsing over his head made no impression on the
Rector; he simply ignored it, as he ignored anything else that he
did not wish to be worried about.
'Well, I don't know WHAT we can do,' Dorothy repeated. 'Of course
there's the jumble sale coming off the week after next. I'm
counting on Miss Mayfill to give us something really NICE for the
jumble sale. I know she could afford to. She's got such lots of
furniture and things that she never uses. I was in her house the
other day, and I saw a most beautiful Lowestoft china tea service
which was put away in a cupboard, and she told me it hadn't been
used for over twenty years. Just suppose she gave us that tea
service! It would fetch pounds and pounds. We must just pray that
the jumble sale will be a success, Proggett. Pray that it'll bring
us five pounds at least. I'm sure we shall get the money somehow
if we really and truly pray for it.'
'Yes, Miss,' said Proggett respectfully, and shifted his gaze to
the far distance.
At this moment a horn hooted and a vast, gleaming blue car came
very slowly down the road, making for the High Street. Out of one
window Mr Blifil-Gordon, the Proprietor of the sugar-beet refinery,
was thrusting a sleek black head which went remarkably ill with his
suit of sandy-coloured Harris tweed. As he passed, instead of
ignoring Dorothy as usual, he flashed upon her a smile so warm that
it was almost amorous. With him were his eldest son Ralph--or, as
he and the rest of the family pronounced it, Walph--an epicene
youth of twenty, given to the writing of sub-Eliot vers libre
poems, and Lord Pockthorne's two daughters. They were all smiling,
even Lord Pockthorne's daughters. Dorothy was astonished, for it
was several years since any of these people had deigned to