The eldest of the little girls withdrew a thumb.
“What d’yer want?”
“The door,” said Mr. Lavender.
“Second on the right.”
“Goodbye,” said Mr. Lavender.
The little girls did not answer. And he went out thinking, “These children are really wonderful! What devotion one sees! And yet the country is not yet fully roused!”
Joe Petty stood contemplating the car which, purchased some fifteen years before had not been used since the war began. Birds had nested in its hair. It smelled of mould inside; it creaked from rust. “The Guv’nor must be cracked,” he thought, “to think we can get anywhere in this old geyser. Well, well, it’s summer; if we break down it won’t break my ‘eart. Government job—better than diggin’ or drillin’. Good old Guv!” So musing, he lit his pipe and examined the recesses beneath the driver’s seat. “A bottle or three,” he thought, “in case our patriotism should get us stuck a bit off the beaten; a loaf or two, some ’oney in a pot, and a good old ’am.
“A life on the rollin’ road——’ ’Ow they can give ’im the job I can’t think!” His soliloquy was here interrupted by the approach of his wife, bearing a valise.
“Don’t you wish you was comin’, old girl?” he remarked to her lightly.
“I do not; I’m glad to be shut of you. Keep his feet dry. What have you got under there?”
Joe Petty winked.
“What a lumbering great thing it looks!” said Mrs. Petty, gazing upwards.
“Ah!” returned her husband thoughtfully, we’ll ’ave the population round us without advertisement. And taking the heads of two small boys who had come up, he knocked them together in an absent-minded fashion.
“Well,” said Mrs. Petty, “I can’t waste time. Here’s his extra set of teeth. Don’t lose them. Have you got your own toothbrush? Use it, and behave yourself. Let me have a line. And don’t let him get excited.” She tapped her forehead.
“Go away, you boys; shoo!”
The boys, now six in number, raised a slight cheer; for at that moment Mr. Lavender, in a broad-brimmed grey felt hat and a holland dust-coat, came out through his garden-gate carrying a pile of newspapers and pamphlets so large that his feet, legs, and hat alone were visible.
“Open the door, Joe!” he said, and stumbled into the body of the vehicle. A shrill cheer rose from the eight boys, who could see him through the further window. Taking this for an augury Of success, Mr. Lavender removed his hat, and putting his head through the window, thus addressed the ten boys:
“I thank you. The occasion is one which I shall ever remember. The Government has charged me with the great task of rousing our country in days which demand of each of us the utmost exertions. I am proud to feel that I have here, on the very threshold of my task, an audience of bright young spirits, each one of whom in this democratic country has in him perhaps the makings of a General or even of a Prime Minister. Let it be your earnest endeavour, boys——”