“Cross here,” said Martin, “and cut down into Kensington. Nothing more of interest now till we get to Hound Street. Purceys and Purceys all round about this part.”
Thyme shook herself.
“O Martin, let’s go down a road where there’s some air. I feel so dirty.” She put her hand up to her chest.
“There’s one here,” said Martin.
They turned to the left into a road that had many trees. Now that she could breathe and look about her, Thyme once more held her head erect and began to swing her arms.
“Martin, something must be done!”
The young doctor did not reply; his face still wore its pale, sarcastic, observant look. He gave her arm a squeeze with a half-contemptuous smile.
SECOND PILGRIMAGE TO HOUND STREET
Arriving in Hound Street, Martin Stone and his companion went straight up to Mrs. Hughs’ front room. They found her doing the week’s washing, and hanging out before a scanty fire part of the little that the week had been suffered to soil. Her arms were bare, her face and eyes red; the steam of soapsuds had congealed on them.
Attached to the bolster by a towel, under his father’s bayonet and the oleograph depicting the Nativity, sat the baby. In the air there was the scent of him, of walls, and washing, and red herrings. The two young people took their seat on the window-sill.
“May we open the window, Mrs. Hughs?” said Thyme. “Or will it hurt the baby?”
“What’s the matter with your wrists?” asked Martin.
The seamstress, muffing her arms with the garment she was dipping in soapy water, did not answer.
“Don’t do that. Let me have a look.”
Mrs. Hughs held out her arms; the wrists were swollen and discoloured.
“The brute!” cried Thyme.
The young doctor muttered: “Done last night. Got any arnica?”
“Of course not.” He laid a sixpence on the sill. “Get some and rub it in. Mind you don’t break the skin.”
Thyme suddenly burst out: “Why don’t you leave him, Mrs. Hughs? Why do you live with a brute like that?”
“Any particular row,” he said, “or only just the ordinary?”
Mrs. Hughs turned her face to the scanty fire. Her shoulders heaved spasmodically.
Thus passed three minutes, then she again began rubbing the soapy garment.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll smoke,” said Martin. “What’s your baby’s name? Bill? Here, Bill!” He placed his little finger in the baby’s hand. “Feeding him yourself?”
“What’s his number?”
“I’ve lost three, sir; there’s only his brother Stanley now.”
“One a year?”
“No, Sir. I missed two years in the war, of course.”