The four who were going north went down to the low tube level. It was nearly the last train. The station was half deserted, half rowdy, several fellows were drunk, shouting and crowing. Down there in the bowels of London, after midnight, everything seemed horrible and unnatural.
“How I hate this London,” said Tanny. She was half Norwegian, and had spent a large part of her life in Norway, before she married Lilly.
“Yes, so do I,” said Josephine. “But if one must earn one’s living one must stay here. I wish I could get back to Paris. But there’s nothing doing for me in France.—When do you go back into the country, both of you?”
“Friday,” said Lilly.
“How lovely for you!—And when will you go to Norway, Tanny?”
“In about a month,” said Tanny.
“You must be awfully pleased.”
“Oh—thankful—THANKFUL to get out of England—”
“I know. That’s how I feel. Everything is so awful—so dismal and dreary, I find it—”
They crowded into the train. Men were still yelling like wild beasts —others were asleep—soldiers were singing.
“Have you really broken your engagement with Jim?” shrilled Tanny in a high voice, as the train roared.
“Yes, he’s impossible,” said Josephine. “Perfectly hysterical and impossible.”
“And SELFISH—” cried Tanny.
“Oh terribly—” cried Josephine.
“Come up to Hampstead to lunch with us,” said Lilly to Aaron.
“Ay—thank you,” said Aaron.
Lilly scribbled directions on a card. The hot, jaded midnight underground rattled on. Aaron and Josephine got down to change trains.
THE DARK SQUARE GARDEN
Josephine had invited Aaron Sisson to dinner at a restaurant in Soho, one Sunday evening. They had a corner to themselves, and with a bottle of Burgundy she was getting his history from him.
His father had been a shaft-sinker, earning good money, but had been killed by a fall down the shaft when Aaron was only four years old. The widow had opened a shop: Aaron was her only child. She had done well in her shop. She had wanted Aaron to be a schoolteacher. He had served three years apprenticeship, then suddenly thrown it up and gone to the pit.
“But why?” said Josephine.
“I couldn’t tell you. I felt more like it.”
He had a curious quality of an intelligent, almost sophisticated mind, which had repudiated education. On purpose he kept the midland accent in his speech. He understood perfectly what a personification was— and an allegory. But he preferred to be illiterate.
Josephine found out what a miner’s checkweighman was. She tried to find out what sort of wife Aaron had—but, except that she was the daughter of a publican and was delicate in health, she could learn nothing.