’Why, what nonsense are you talking, child! Just because that— that creature—Why, I’ve no patience with you, Jane! As if she durst touch you! Touch you? I’d like to see her indeed.’
’It isn’t that, Mrs. Byass. I can’t take money from father. I haven’t felt easy in my mind ever since he told me about it, and now I can’t take the money. Whether it’s true or not, all she said, I should never have a night’s rest if I consented to live in this way.’
‘Oh, you don’t really mean it, Jane?’
Bessie all but sobbed with vexation.
’I mean it, and I shall never alter my mind. I shall send back the money, and write to the man that he needn’t send any more. However often it comes, I shall always return it. I couldn’t, I couldn’t live on that money! Never ask me to, Mrs. Byass.’
Practical Bessie had already begun to ask herself what arrangement Jane proposed to make about lodgings. She was no Mrs. Peckover, but neither did circumstances allow her to disregard the question of rent. It cut her to the heart to think of refusing an income of two pounds per week.
Jane too saw all the requirements of the case.
’Mrs. Byass, will you let me have one room—my old room upstairs? I have been very happy there, and I should like to stay if I can. You know what I can earn; can you afford to let me live there? I’d do my utmost to help you in the house; I’ll be as good as a servant, if you can’t keep Sarah. I should so like to stay with you!’
’You just let me hear you talk about leaving, that’s all! Wait till I’ve talked it over with Sam.’
Jane went upstairs, and for the rest of the day the house was very quiet.
Not Whitehead’s; there were other places where work might be found. And before many days she had found it. Happily there were no luxuries to be laid aside; her ordinary dress was not too good for the workroom. She had no habits of idleness to overcome, and an hour at the table made her as expert with her fingers as ever.
Returning from the first day’s work, she sat in her room—the little room which used to be hers—to rest and think for a moment before going down to Bessie’s supper-table. And her thought was:
’He, too, is just coming home from work. Why should my life be easier than his?’
Look at a map of greater London, a map on which the town proper shows as a dark, irregularly rounded patch against the whiteness of suburban districts, and just on the northern limit of the vast network of streets you will distinguish the name of Crouch End. Another decade, and the dark patch will have spread greatly further; for the present, Crouch End is still able to remind one that it was in the country a very short time ago. The streets have a smell of newness, of dampness; the bricks retain their complexion, the stucco has not rotted more than one expects in a year or two; poverty tries to hide itself with venetian blinds, until the time when an advanced guard of houses shall justify the existence of the slum.