He observed her closely. Clem laughed and shrugged her shoulders.
‘Queer sort o’ sisters. She was a bit too quiet-like for me. There never was no fun in her.’
’Aye, like her mother. And where did you say she went to with the old man?’
‘Where she went to?’ repeated Clem, regarding him steadily with her big eyes, ’I never said nothing about it, ‘cause I didn’t know.’
’Well, I shan’t cry about her, and I don’t suppose she misses me much, wherever she is. All the same, Clem, I’m a domesticated sort of man; you can see that, can’t you? I shouldn’t wonder if I marry again one of these first days. Just tell me where to find a girl of the right sort. I dare say you know heaps.’
‘Dessay I do. What sort do you want?’
’Oh, a littlish girl—yellow hair, you know—one of them that look as if they didn’t weigh half-a-stone.’
‘I’ll throw this parsnip at you, Mr. Snowdon!’
‘What’s up now. You don’t Call yourself littlish, do you?’
Clem snapped the small end off the vegetable she was paring, and aimed it at his head. He ducked just in time. Then there was an outburst of laughter from both.
‘Say, Clem, you haven’t got a glass of beer in the house?’
‘You’ll have to wait till openin’ time,’ replied the girl sourly, going away to the far end of the room.
‘Have I offended you, Clem?’
‘Offended, indeed As if I cared what you say!’
‘Do you care what I think?’
’That means you do. Say, Clem, just come here; I’ve something to tell you.’
‘You’re a nuisance. Let me get on with my work, can’t you?’
’No, I can’t. You just come here. You’d better not give me the trouble of fetching you!’
The girl obeyed him. Her cheeks were very hot, and the danger-signal was flashing in her eyes. Ten minutes later she went upstairs, and had a vivacious dialogue of whispers with Mrs. Peckover.
SUNLIGHT IN DREARY PLACES
Among the by-ways of Clerkenwell you might, with some difficulty, have discovered an establishment known in its neighbourhood as ‘Whitehead’s.’ It was an artificial-flower factory, and the rooms of which it consisted were only to be reached by traversing a timber-yard, and then mounting a wooden staircase outside a saw-mill. Here at busy seasons worked some threescore women and girls, who, owing to the nature of their occupation, were spoken of by the jocose youth of the locality as ‘Whitehead’s pastepots.’