Tuesday afternoon Mr Dupret went to London. He went to offices. He found Mr Walters and said he wanted him to come down also to factory tomorrow. Mr Walters said he was too busy, and what did he want him for? Mr Dupret said he was going to make thorough study of the place, such as he could not do when father was alive. He said he was taking Archer with him. Walters asked why he wanted to take Archer?
‘Because I want to!’
‘Right you are Dick. How long will you be down there?’
Mr Dupret said he did not know yet. When Walters was gone he was very angry with him. He thought Mr Walters couldn’t be bothered to come down could he, and oh yes Walters ran the business didn’t he! Well, Mr Dupret was going to run business now.
Meanwhile Mr Archer was telephoning Tarver that they were coming down, he did not know what for.
Meanwhile Mr Craigan was in bed. He was coming to work in morning and a shower had caught him, had wetted his clothes through, and all day he had worked in wet clothes so that next morning he stayed in bed with a fever. His hands trembled, trembled at the bed-clothes. Lily was very frightened.
What was most on the old man’s mind was thought of Bert Jones. He felt pretty certain Dupret factory would not turn him off when he got old age pension, when he had said they would it was only because he was depressed, yet you could not go on always working and he looked forward to living in Dale’s house, with Lily his wife, till the end. They were both grateful to him, he had saved, and was more money in their house than in any on the street. But if she married Jones then those two would go off, Gates would leave him, he would be alone as he was when he first came to Birmingham.
Year after year Lily had grown to be his daughter, not Gates’ daughter. Craigan was fonder of her now than if she had been his own. And Bert he knew, he knew was no good, he would never bring regular money to the house.
Lily came in then. Mr Craigan suddenly began talking and before he knew when or how, he was having it out with her.
He spoke calmly. He said Jones was a decent living man but that was it, he was too quiet a man he said, he knew the sort. They would never stay long in the same job that kind, he said, and what a woman wanted was man who brought in the money regular. Then look at his trade, were too many in it. He said he had worked for years and years now, best part of half a century, and he had learned it was not governments nor good times or bad that raised wages, but the demand for men. She had also thought of that.
‘Take foundry work,’ he said, ‘the young chaps won’t ‘ave it now, it’s too dirty for ‘em and too hard, you can’t get lads to start in foundries nowadays. In a few years there won’t ‘ardly be any moulders left and those that can do a clean job then will get any money, any amount o’ money!’
He said she ought to think it over. ‘Love’s all right for them that ‘as Rolls Royces’ he said, ‘but for the wives of working men it’s the money that comes in regular at the end of the week that tells.’ He went on, unfortunately, saying didn’t she have any gratitude. towards him? What sort of life would she have had with her father, didn’t she think he, Craigan, deserved a home when he was too old for work.
‘Why, grandad,’ she said, ‘you ain’t too old for work, there’s years in you yet’ she said and loved him. Going away she thought of these things. She thought how faithful Dale was to her. And all this time heart had been sinking a little before adventure of going away. (Mr Craigan of course did not know they planned to go away.) She thought more of Jim Dale. He was more practical. And as Mr Craigan said it was the practical that tells. But really it was most practical to go away.
‘It’s like this Lil,’ Mr Jones said in whispers, ‘when I get out to Canada I may not get a job straight off. I may ‘ave to look about a bit and with no money coming in I expect we’ll ‘ave a tightish time of it to start with. It stands to reason we shall. Then what’s the good in your coming out with me just at first. You wait till I get settled in and I’ll send word to you.’
‘Yes then yes, then you don’t want to ‘ave me,’ said Miss Gates in a calm voice.
‘Get out, of course I do.’ He tried to kiss her but she turned face away.
‘Yes, that’s it, off you’ll go and leave no address and I’ll never have another word of you.’
‘I tell you I’ll send for you, of course I will.’
‘Crazyhead.’ He kissed her. She drew back.
‘But I’ll go out along with you, thank you my man,’ she said. ‘It may make two mouths to feed, yes, but there’ll be four hands instead of two. They say there’s any amount of work for girls out there.’
‘Well I ‘adn’t thought of that. There’s something in that Lil.’
‘In course there is, silly. I know you’re trying to get away from me. But just you try it on. Yes you were.’
‘Crazyhead,’ he said, but nearly all spontaneity had gone of their relations to each other.
‘Oh Bert I wish your dad and mother did live in Brummagem and not in Liverpool. It’s costly when we want a talk and it’s raining and we ‘ave to go to the movies to be out of the wet. ‘Ow’s your technical school going?’
He lied. He said it was interesting, that he had not missed any classes.
Walters had telephoned Mr Bridges to say Mr Dupret was coming down. The line had been bad, Bridges had not heard what time he was coming or how long he was staying. So when he arrived Mr Bridges was still making last minute inspection of the factory.
When Mr Dupret arrived he went with Archer straight to Mr Tarver’s office. Cummings found Bridges and told him Mr Dupret had just got in with Archer with him, and had gone to Tarver. Mr Bridges stood still and then, at hearing this, an arrow as it might be pierced him, transfixed his heart. Mr Dupret comes into Tarver’s office, Mr Archer with him.
‘Good-morning Tarver, how are we this morning,’ said Mr Richard, hearty, thinking he was using Mr Tarver’s language.
‘Why squire’ Mr Tarver said. He pretended to be surprised, ‘Come in sir, come in. The fact is we’ve not much work in but we’re always busy in this department. How are you Archer? As a matter of fact I believe Mr Bridges is going to start the men on short time tomorrow. But this is a bit of a surprise isn’t it. Fancy seeing you down ‘ere’ he said to Mr Archer.
‘Short time, that’s a pity’ said Mr Dupret. Why wasn’t I told he said in mind?
‘Yes here we are on a little expedition down into the provinces’ said Mr Archer, ‘isn’t that so sir? We’ve left the gay metropolis to pay you a little visit John.’
‘Didn’t you know we were coming?’ said Mr Dupret.
‘No sir, I didn’t hear a word.’
‘That’s funny’ Mr Dupret said, ‘I heard Mr Walters telephone the general manager, I thought he would have told you.’
‘Mr Bridges didn’t say anything about it,’ Tarver said and thought he would say it was just like him not to say a word, but he remembered then how he had said similar things to Mr Dupret before and it had not come off. So he thought he would let silences speak for themselves.
‘Didn’t he?’ said Mr Dupret and Archer winked at Tarver, Tarver winked back.
Was a silence and then was loud noise on the stairs. Mr Bridges came in. Effusively he greeted young Mr Richard. Then he saw Archer.
‘Why dammit it’s Archer’ he said shaking hands violently. ‘What are you doing down ‘ere?’
‘Holiday-making,’ said Mr Archer, ‘holiday-making.’
‘Well he won’t get much of a holiday down here will ‘e John, if that’s what he’s come for, it’s work down here by God, work all the time.’
‘When you don’t put the place on short time,’ Mr Dupret said.
‘Ah, I hate to do it, I hate to see the men not drawing their full money at the end of the week. But what can you do? There’s no place in all Brummagem that isn’t the same. There’s no money about, there’s nobody buying now, they make do with the old stuff till times get better. But come along to my room will you Mr Dupret.’
As they were going out of the door Mr Bridges said he was sorry he had not been there when they had arrived, but he had been in the shops. ‘What train are you catching back to town so I can order the car.’
‘Well we shan’t be going back tonight,’ said Mr Dupret, ‘we’ve come down to have a thorough look round the place. We’ll be five or six days here.’
‘That’s grand,’ said Mr Bridges and asked in his mind — what was it now, what was it? Why hadn’t Walters told him, he cried in his mind, not that he had anything to hide, but just so as to know to be able to keep him from Tarver and so forth.
Mr Dale was very solitary kind of man. So when Thursday came and was no work at Dupret’s, (for it was first day of the short time that was starting now) being a fine day he went walking into country.
This day he was bad-tempered. He was young man and he knew he could get work in another foundry he knew of where was better money to be picked up on piece work, for in Dupret foundry was only day work. He was young man, the hard piece-work would not hurt him and again he ought to work in as many shops as he could to learn his trade, as all foundries have different ways of working. And now Dupret’s were on short time, he was getting still less money. But he was grateful to Mr Craigan, he could not leave the old man, who was too slow now to work on his own.
Craigan had private money. Mr Dale was more comfortable in Mr Craigan’s house than he would be elsewhere and he had to give Lily less money than he would a landlady because in their house were three wage-earners and but four mouths. If he went to work in another foundry he thought Craigan would not let him stay on.
And was Lily.
He was half hoping he would come across them walking, he knew they were out this way together. Just now he hated her. It was she was keeping him back and on low wages, gratitude or not he would have left Craigan if it hadn’t been for her. And he would look at no other girl.
Just then he came across them. It was at crossroads and they came from behind houses there, walking together very close.
Lily was excited at short time being started in Dupret factory. Eagerly she and Mr Jones had talked of this. More and more she wanted now to go away. She called to Jim to come and talk with them, to discuss how long this three day week would last at Dupret’s. But Mr Dale made as if he did not hear.
She called again, much louder. Then Mr Dale, anger bursting over in him, picked up small stone and threw it at them, as a boy might, and at once he walked away.
Mr Jones to make show of dignity shouted hey, hey, no more than hey because the stone had not come near them, but Dale went off.
That day Mr Dupret sat alone with Bridges in his office. He was very calm, he hated all of them now in a bored way.
‘Mr Bridges,’ said he ‘we’ve got to have what the French call a little explanation.’
The Froggies, Mr Bridges said in mind, nerves on edge, the Froggies what have they got to do with it damn ‘em.
‘The point is this, I’m head of this business now and everything must go through me. You see it’s only fair, all the money that’s put into it is mine.’
‘Of course it’s yours,’ said Mr Bridges ‘and…’
‘No, let me do the talking. The point is that my father with all the whole lot of interests he had hadn’t the time to go into everything. Well I’m not on. any boards, this is practically the only concern I’m in, and I want you and Walters to get out of the habit of doing things above my head and without my knowing it’
‘What d’you mean? I…’
‘I mean this, that you and Walters for better or worse, and quite naturally, pretty well ran this business on your own before my father died. But it’s different now, I want to take a hand in it.’
‘If that’s all you know about your father my lad…’
‘God damn it Bridges will you listen to what I say? The point is this, from now on I’m going to run the whole show myself, or rather it’s going to be run through me. Take the question of the men being put on short time. I didn’t hear a word about it. Well in future I am going to hear. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t have been done but it’s only fair I should be told.’
‘I think we’d better talk another time. I can see you’re in a temper now…’
‘No, we’re going to talk now. The point is this, when I say we’re going to talk we’re going to talk, from now on.’
‘Well you ain’t going to make me talk,’ Mr Bridges said and walked out.
Eleven o’clock. Mrs Eames had done house. She stood in their bedroom she had just tidied and their son pulled at her skirts.
‘Ain’t you gettin’ active on your feet!’ she said to him. She picked him up. She kissed him.
Thought came in her to call on the Craigans. Mr Craigan was still in bed. She thought he had got old very quickly and danger was with that sort if they stayed in bed for more than three weeks they might never get up again. She tidied hair. Then taking son she went next door and knocked. No answer. She knocked. She went in.
‘Lily,’ she cried, ‘Lily.’
‘Who might you be?’ said Craigan from bed upstairs.
‘It’s Mrs Eames Mr Craigan, I thought I’d ask after you ‘ow you were.’
‘I’ll bother you to come up missus, seein’ I’m in bed. Lily shall be back directly.’
Always Mr Craigan had prided himself on not lengthily talking. ‘Many a man ‘as lost everything by it,’ he was fond of saying. But more and more now he felt a need to talk and seeing this in himself he said in mind that he was getting old.
‘Come in if you’ll excuse my lyin’ here in bed.’
She said again she’d called to ask how he was feeling, and to excuse her bringing son in with her but was no-one in their house, she could not leave him. He said he was not well and when you had got to his age you did not easily get over fevers like the one he had had.
‘Where’s Lily then?’ said Mrs Eames.
He said she’d gone out for a spell and said Mrs Eames, what, to leave you alone like that! But he said she was a good wench, more than daughter to him. She had some crazy notions perhaps but were not many of her age would keep house in such good shape as it was now, or keep him so comfortable.
‘An’ you’ve got another coming if I see right,’ he said looking at Mrs Eames’ belly.
‘Yes in three weeks’ time.’
He said if it was like her boy there it would be a fine kid. Mrs Eames loved him, he had that way with women. She began trying to persuade him to get up. But he would not.
He would not get up because now he felt everything slipping away from him. Dale was dissatisfied at this short time they were working in Dupret factory and no one knew better than Mr Craigan he should get experience in other shops. Gates now went with no one else but Tupe in evenings. And Lily. What had she gone out for just now? He did not know what was in her heart. Everything was slipping away from him.