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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 278 pages of information about Fraternity.

The young woman nodded.  “He’s a bad landlord.  All down the street ’ere it’s the same.  Can’t get nothing done.”

The grey girl had gone over to a dirty bassinette where a half-naked child sprawled.  An ugly little girl with fat red cheeks was sitting on a stool beside it, close to an open locker wherein could be seen a number of old meat bones.’

“Your chickabiddies?” said the grey girl.  “Aren’t they sweet?”

The young woman’s face became illumined by a smile.

“They’re healthy,” she said.

“That’s more than can be said for all the children in the house, I expect,” murmured the grey girl.

The young woman replied emphatically, as though voicing an old grievance:  “The three on the first floor’s not so bad, but I don’t let ’em ’ave anything to do with that lot at the top.”

Thyme saw her new friend’s hand hover over the child’s head like some pale dove.  In answer to that gesture, the mother nodded.  “Just that; you’ve got to clean ’em every time they go near them children at the top.”

The grey girl looked at Thyme.  ’That’s where we’ve got to go, evidently,’ she seemed to say.

“A dirty lot!” muttered the young woman.

“It’s very hard on you.”

“It is.  I’m workin’ at the laundry all day when I can get it.  I can’t look after the children—­they get everywhere.”

“Very hard,” murmured the grey girl.  “I’ll make a note of that.”

Together with the little book, in which she was writing furiously, she had pulled out her handkerchief, and the sight of this handkerchief reposing on the floor gave Thyme a queer satisfaction, such as comes when one remarks in superior people the absence of a virtue existing in oneself.

“Well, we mustn’t keep you, Mrs.—­Mrs.—?”

“Cleary.”

“Cleary.  How old’s this little one?  Four?  And the other?  Two?  They are ducks.  Good-bye!”

In the corridor outside the grey girl whispered:  “I do like the way we all pride ourselves on being better than someone else.  I think it’s so hopeful and jolly.  Shall we go up and see the abyss at the top?”

CHAPTER XXXV

A YOUNG GIRL’S MIND

A young girl’s mind is like a wood in Spring—­now a rising mist of bluebells and flakes of dappled sunlight; now a world of still, wan, tender saplings, weeping they know not why.  Through the curling twigs of boughs just green, its wings fly towards the stars; but the next moment they have drooped to mope beneath the damp bushes.  It is ever yearning for and trembling at the future; in its secret places all the countless shapes of things that are to be are taking stealthy counsel of how to grow up without letting their gown of mystery fall.  They rustle, whisper, shriek suddenly, and as suddenly fall into a delicious silence.  From the first hazel-bush to the last

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