Mavis walked to her rooms with a light heart. It was good to tread the hard, firm roads, with their foundation of rock, to meet and be greeted by the ruddy-faced, solidly built Wiltshire men and women, many of whom stopped to stare after the comely, graceful girl with the lithe stride.
When Mavis had had tea and had settled herself comfortably by the fire with her book, she felt wholly contented and happy. Now and again, she put down Richard Feverel to look about her, and, with an immense satisfaction, to contrast the homely cleanliness of her surroundings with the dingy squalor of Mrs Bilkins’s second floor back. It was one of the happiest evenings she ever spent. She often looked back to it with longing in her later stressful days.
About seven, she heard a knock at her door. She called out “Come in,” at which, after much fumbling at the door handle, a big fair man, with wide-open blue eyes, stood in the doorway. He looked like a huge, even-tempered child; he carried two paper-covered books in his hand.
“I’m Farthing, miss,” the man informed her.
“Good evening,” said Mavis, who would scarcely have been surprised if Farthing had brought out a handful of marbles and started playing with them.
“The driver’s out, miss, so—”
“The driver?” interrupted Mavis.
“Mrs Farthing, miss. I be only fireman when her be about,” he humbly informed her.
“Won’t you sit down?”
“I? No, thankee, miss. I thought you might want summat to read, so I brought you these.”
Here Mr Farthing handed Mavis a Great Western Railway time table, together with “Places of Interest on the Great Western Railway.”
“How kind of you! I shall be delighted to read them,” declared Mavis untruthfully.
Then, as Mr Farthing was about to leave the room, she said:
“I’m afraid I’m in your bad books.”
“Bad what, Miss?” he asked, perplexed.
“Books—that you’re offended with me.”
“For coming here as your lodger?”
Mr Farthing stared at her in round-eyed amazement.
“I understood from Mrs Farthing that you object to her taking lodgers,” explained Mavis.
Mr Farthing’s jaw dropped; he seemed dumbfounded.
“That you’re complaining about Mrs Farthing overworking herself every minute you’re at home,” continued Mavis.
Mr Farthing backed to the door.
“And you tell her she’s only killing herself by doing it.”
Hopelessly bewildered, Mr Farthing clumped downstairs.
Mavis laughed long and softly at this refutation of Mrs Farthing’s pretensions. Before she again settled down to the enjoyment of her book, she looked once more about the cleanly, comfortable room, which had an indefinable atmosphere of home.
“Yes, yes,” thought Mavis, “it is—it is good to be alive.”