“I began to think you weren’t coming,” said the landlady, bringing him a whiskey.
She was a large, stout, high-coloured woman, with a fine profile, probably Jewish. She had chestnut-coloured eyes, quick, intelligent. Her movements were large and slow, her voice laconic.
“I’m not so late, am I?” asked Aaron.
“Yes, you are late, I should think.” She Looked up at the little clock. “Close on nine.”
“I did some shopping,” said Aaron, with a quick smile.
“Did you indeed? That’s news, I’m sure. May we ask what you bought?”
This he did not like. But he had to answer.
“Christmas-tree candles, and toffee.”
“For the little children? Well you’ve done well for once! I must say I recommend you. I didn’t think you had so much in you.”
She sat herself down in her seat at the end of the bench, and took up her knitting. Aaron sat next to her. He poured water into his glass, and drank.
“It’s warm in here,” he said, when he had swallowed the liquor.
“Yes, it is. You won’t want to keep that thick good overcoat on,” replied the landlady.
“No,” he said, “I think I’ll take it off.”
She watched him as he hung up his overcoat. He wore black clothes, as usual. As he reached up to the pegs, she could see the muscles of his shoulders, and the form of his legs. Her reddish-brown eyes seemed to burn, and her nose, that had a subtle, beautiful Hebraic curve, seemed to arch itself. She made a little place for him by herself, as he returned. She carried her head thrown back, with dauntless self-sufficiency.
There were several colliers in the room, talking quietly. They were the superior type all, favoured by the landlady, who loved intellectual discussion. Opposite, by the fire, sat a little, greenish man—evidently an oriental.
“You’re very quiet all at once, Doctor,” said the landlady in her slow, laconic voice.
“Yes.—May I have another whiskey, please?” She rose at once, powerfully energetic.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. And she went to the bar.
“Well,” said the little Hindu doctor, “and how are things going now, with the men?”
“The same as ever,” said Aaron.
“Yes,” said the stately voice of the landlady. “And I’m afraid they will always be the same as ever. When will they learn wisdom?”
“But what do you call wisdom?” asked Sherardy, the Hindu. He spoke with a little, childish lisp.
“What do I call wisdom?” repeated the landlady. “Why all acting together for the common good. That is wisdom in my idea.”
“Yes, very well, that is so. But what do you call the common good?” replied the little doctor, with childish pertinence.
“Ay,” said Aaron, with a laugh, “that’s it.” The miners were all stirring now, to take part in the discussion.