The sixth member was only too apt to put her trust in committees. Herself she did not trust at all, though she thought herself quite a good creature, as selves go. She had come to London two years ago, with a little trunk and a lot of good intentions as her only possessions, and she had paid the inevitable penalty for her earnestness. It is a sad thing to see any one of naturally healthy and rebellious tendency stray into the flat path of Charity. Gay heedless young people set their unwary feet between the flowery borders of that path, the thin air of resigned thanks breathed by the deserving poor mounts to their heads like wine; committees lie in wait for them on every side; hostels and settlements entice them fatally to break their journey at every mile; they run rejoicing to their doom, and I think shall eventually find themselves without escape, elected eternal life-members of the Committee that sits around the glassy sea.
The sixth member was saved by a merciful inefficiency of temperament from attaining the vortex of her whirlpool of charity. To be in the vortex is, I believe, almost always to see less. The bull’s eye is generally blind.
The sixth member was a person who, where Social Work was concerned, did more or less as she was told, without doing it particularly well. The result, very properly, was that all the work which a committee euphemistically calls “organising work” was left to her. Organising work consists of sitting in ’buses bound for remote quarters of London, and ringing the bells of people who are almost always found to be away for a fortnight. The sixth member had been ordered to organise the return of the broomstick to its owner.
Perhaps it would be more practical to call the sixth member Sarah Brown.
The bereaved owner of the broomstick was washing her hair at Number 100 Beautiful Way, Mitten Island. She was washing it behind the counter of her shop. She was the manageress of the only shop on Mitten Island. It was a general shop, but made a speciality of such goods as Happiness and Magic. Unfortunately Happiness is rather difficult to get in war-time. Sometimes there was quite a queue outside the shop when it opened, and sometimes there was a card outside, saying politely: “Sorry, it’s no use waiting. I haven’t any.” Of course the shop also sold Sunlight Soap, and it was with Sunlight Soap that the shop-lady was washing her hair, because it was Sunday, and this was a comparatively cheap amusement. She had no money. She had meant to go down to the offices of her employer after breakfast, to borrow some of the salary that would be due to her next week. But then she found that she had left her broomstick somewhere. As a rule Harold—for that was the broomstick’s name—was fairly independent, and could find his way home alone, but when he got mislaid and left in strange hands, and particularly when kindly finders took him to Scotland Yard, he often lost his head. You, in your innocence,