She laughed again. “I was beginning to wonder if you were ever coming back to that.”
He noticed nothing deprecatory in her remark. “Yes, rather. Well, this Insurance Act business—that’s really a jolly good example of the way to do things. You see, it’s not giving them the right to free treatment when they’re ill; it’s giving them the chance to earn the right. That’s what you want to explain to High and Low. See—you want to say to them, ’This is your show. Your very own. Fine. You’re building this up, I’m helping. You’re helping all sorts of poor devils and you’re helping yourself at the same time. You’re stacking up a great chunk of the State and it belongs to you. England’s yours and you want to pile it up all you know’—”
He was quite flushed.
“That’s the sort of thing I’m putting into that book of mine. ’England’s yours’, you know. Precious beyond price; and therefore grand to be making more precious and more your own. I wish you’d like to see how the book’s getting on; would you?”
“Why ‘England.’ I told you, you know. That history.”
“Oh, that lesson book! I wish you’d write a novel.”
He looked at her. “Oh, well!” he said.
After that he never mentioned “England” again to her. But he most desperately wanted to talk about it to some one. There was no one in Penny Green from whom he could expect helpful suggestions; but it was not helpful suggestions he wanted. He wanted merely to talk about it to a sympathetic listener. And not only about the book,—about all sorts of things that interested him. And indirectly they all helped the book. To talk with one who responded sympathetically was in some curious way a source of enormous inspiration to him. Not always precisely inspiration,—comfort. All sorts of warming feelings stirred pleasurably within him when he could, in some sympathetic company, open out his mind.
He was not actively aware of it, but what, in those years, he came to crave for as a starved child craves for food was sympathy of mind.
He found it, in Penny Green, with what Mabel called “the most extraordinary people.” “What you can find in that Mr. Fargus and that young Perch and his everlasting mother,” she used to say, “I simply cannot imagine.”