Triangles of Life and Other Stories

Letters to Jack Cornstalk

III. From an Australian in London


Henry Lawson

        England, January, 1901.

DEAR JACK,—When I came to England I took a house in a fair-sized, old and new fashioned village, not fifty miles from London. I came down here to get my breath after the voyage, and have a quiet think, and talk things over with myself quietly before tackling London in earnest. The village is, as I say, a new-old-fashioned one. Along one side of the village street is a row of old elms, and behind them a row of old-fashioned cottages, and an inn called the Blue Lion, with thatch two feet thick, and a gravelled footpath. On the other side are no trees, but a row of modern shops, such as you’d see in any decent suburb in an Australian city, with a kerbed, asphalt pavement. All round on the high ground are modern villas, detached, semi-detached, and several in a row, from the £35 a-year cottage (rates and taxes included) to the £90 or £100 house. If you take a £25 to £30 cottage, you are known as those or them new people in that house; if you take a £50 to £60 house, you are the new people in Blank Villa; if you take a £90 or £100 house, you are Mr. and Mrs. Brown-Jones (or whatever your name may be).

The country is undulating and covered with fields and hedge-rows, with parks and little woods here and there, and brooks and streams along the bottoms, that run by old brick-ways under little old-fashioned hamlets, and under the corners of decayed buildings, which might have been mills at one time; and in unexpected places in the corners of the hedges are little, very old-fashioned inns, with fixed benches and tables outside, and sanded and sawdusted floors in the bar and taprooms, and ingle-nooks and window-seats, where customers drink, and think (if they do think), and talk—do anything but dress—pretty much as they did fifty or a hundred years ago.

The village has a big common, but the common is rather a painful place, for it is frequented every day by nursemaids with babies in perambulators, and by serious-looking individuals wheeling invalids in chairs; and when you see the baby in the perambulator beside the broken-up old party in the chair, you are apt to think of the years that go between, and ponder drearily on the futility of human life. Also troops of slum children are brought down here, now and again, for an airing, and somehow it makes me feel sadder to see them on the grass and in the sunshine for one day—and to think it’s only for one day—than it would to see them in their native gutters every day for a year.

You can walk out in any direction by the country roads, and round back home; and when you get tired of walking by the narrow roads worn deep between the hedges, and seeing nothing, you can climb out and follow the field-paths. The field-roads are very narrow, barely wide enough for one vehicle; so, I was told, that if a farmer proposes to take a cart down one of these roads, he advertises the fact amongst his neighbours a week beforehand, to lessen the possibility of his meeting another cart halfway, in which case the farmer with the least moral or physical backbone might have to back his horse for miles, and that would mean inconvenience and loss of time to both sides, and possibly break up an old and convenient borrowing-and-lending friendship.

It is a very pretty place, and I only saw one blot on the scenery round here. It stands at the top of a slope in the background of as pretty a piece of rural scenery as you could imagine, and it is a big black board on which, painted in staring white letters, are the words:—


The population of the village is aristocratic, “well-to-do,” “better-class” shopkeeping, mechanic and bucolic. The village is what we might call a “tourist town” in Australia. “Better-class” and “well-to-do” people take houses and bring their families down here for the summer. Some stay all the year round, but I don’t know whether these are of the well-to-do or of the better-class people. I’ve heard of a “middle-class” in England, but not down here—perhaps the term “middle-class” is too vulgar for this village. Some do not even stay all the summer, but go away quietly towards the middle or the end of the quarter. I’ve heard shopkeepers refer to these as swindlers. There’s a boarding-house or two, kept by workmen’s wives. There are several ladies in £25—£30 houses, who let apartments. The husband of one (we stayed with her till our house was ready) is a mechanic in the City, who comes home once or twice a week disguised as a business man; his wife lives in hourly dread of his real occupation becoming known in the village—and all the neighbours know it.

There are other ladies, in £30—£50 houses, who take in “paying guests.” One, a widow with a small income, who might be comfortable in a cottage, but who has two grown daughters, who mustn’t soil their hands, and must have accomplishments and genteel society, is struggling, with the assistance of “paying guests,” to keep up an appearance in a big house. She had the bailiff in last week.

I came in touch with the bucolic element first. I was nearly a week rescuing my luggage from the Mudland Railway Company. The trouble is, I believe, that most of the trains are in such a hurry that they haven’t always time to take in luggage, or, having got it aboard, they haven’t time to put it out. Anyway, after waiting four days, one of the carriers (he was an intelligent type of workman) told me that my luggage was at the station. I inquired at the office, but they knew nothing about it; they told me that it might be over in the shed in the yard, so I went over there. In the shed I found a fresh-faced, unemotional youth, who wore an expression as if he were pondering deeply over a complete absence of ideas. There also seemed a something, as of resentment, in his expression, but this I believe was unconscious. I recognized him at once, or rather his type; I had met him as a loutish new chum working on Australian farms; I had come across him Out Back in Australia, “getting colonial experience” (though I could never conceive him as being capable of absorbing experience of any kind). Travel doesn’t change him—strange lands and adventure make no impression on his mind. He is just as bucolic and undemonstrative camping out under the great star on the mighty plains of the never never, and comes home with no more ideas than he would have had he only gone to the next village for a day. He is not confined to England. He is not intentionally boorish nor uncivil, for if he does leave a question unanswered now and again it is only because the question fails to convey an impression to his alleged mind—or he needs time. Repeat the question two or three times if necessary, with decent intervals, and, above all, give him time. But, anyway, you can’t hurry him.

The youth in the shed was cleaning out the place. He worked on for a few minutes, apparently totally unconscious of my intrusion; but I gave myself time to soak in—I gave him fifteen minutes; then I stated my name and asked if my boxes had come. He rubbed the top of his head, and looked slowly round the shed, which was nearly empty; then presently he got an idea, and asked me what I said my name was.

I told him again, and spelled it. The spelling of it seemed to rouse him a little. He looked round the shed again, and in through the window of a store-room that was locked, and up in the loft, and under the floor. I had looked myself, and told him so, but he persisted in looking. Then he asked me what my boxes were like.

I described them to him several times during the interview, at his own request. The boxes were of unusual size and shape, and there would be no mistaking them; yet he persisted in pulling out empty fruit-boxes, and barrels, and bits of machinery from amongst the rubbish, and asking me whether “any of them was them.” He looked at the label on a crate full of straw, and the name on it only differed in the matter of three letters from mine. He pulled that out at once, and wanted to know if it was mine. I am not sure now that I really convinced him that it wasn’t. Then I had a happy thought—I should have had it before.

“Are you in charge of this shed?” I asked—and I waited.

“No,” he said, “I ain’t.”

“Is there a man in charge?” I asked—and gave him time.

“Yes,” he said slowly, “there is.”

“Can I see him?”

“Well—you might see him—if you want to.”

“And where is he?”

“Oh! he’s up the yard, he is.”

I went up the yard and found the man in charge, and got him to admit it. He might have been the youth that I’d left in the shed, suddenly grown several years older, but otherwise little changed.

He knew nothing about the luggage, but agreed to have a look at the books. We came across the name which had a syllable in it sounding like one in mine, and that delayed us a little; then he went to have a look in the shed, and I left him looking. I hunted up the carrier again, and consulted him; he was positive that he had seen my luggage arrive; and next day I found it under a tarpaulin in a truck up the yard. The yard manager didn’t seem in the least surprised. He asked me which truck it was, and I took him to it and showed him the luggage. He regarded the boxes with drowsy interest, looked at the address, also the old shipping labels, and asked me if them boxes was mine. I assured him that they were. I asked him what the next move would be.

He thought a while.

“Do you want them boxes?” he asked.


He thought for a long time, then said he’d see the carrier about them, if I liked.

I privately resolved to see the carrier myself, and get the boxes away at once, else some train might get hold of that truck by mistake and take it on to Scotland. I suggested that there might be some papers in the office, which would give me some idea of the charges, and which I might have to sign. He agreed that that was likely, and walked back to the office with me. On the way back he said, as if an idea got into his head somehow and he wanted it settled one way or the other—

“You come from abroad, don’t you?”

“Yes; I come from Australia.”

Presently he said in a tired, disinterested tone—

“I thought you come from abroad.”

I sounded him as deep as he went, but “Abroad” was the nearest that he could get to Australia.

And I couldn’t help thinking, “And are these of the people we’re fighting for?”

I’ve had rare opportunities for studying the British shopkeeper in all his glory. I had taken a £30 house, but it soon got round that I came from abroad, or Australia, so of course I must have plenty of money. On the evening of the day we shifted into the house there came a knock at the front door, and I went to open it—we hadn’t captured a maid yet. I saw a decently-dressed, respectable-looking man backing out towards the gate, and I asked him if he wanted me.

“I must apologize, sir, for coming to the front gate, sir,” he said nervously, still backing out.

“Why?” I asked.

By this time he’d got to the gate, and I couldn’t catch what he said—I’m rather deaf, you know. I didn’t seem able to coax him nearer, so I told him to wait while I called the wife. When she came down he’d disappeared. We stood wondering awhile, and presently the wife heard a timid knock at the back door, and we went there. It was the man—he’d slipped in and round while my back was turned. He had his hat off, and looked very apologetic.

“I really must beg yer pardon, ma’am,” he said, “for coming to the front door——”

“Why?” she asked.

“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” he said hurriedly; “but you see, I wasn’t sure that there was any one in the house yet. I’ll always come to the back door in the future.”

It turned out that he was a grocer’s man, and his boss had been recommended to us by an Anglo-Australian acquaintance of ours in the village.

“Would you be pleased to give an order, ma’am?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” said the wife.

“Thank yer, ma’am,” he said briskly, getting out his pocket-book and pencil. “What would you be pleased to want, ma’am? I’ll take it down, ma’am.”

She gave the order from a list she had.

“Three pounds of loaf-sugar.”

Grocer’s man, taking it down, “Thank yer, ma’am.”

“There pounds of moist.”

“Thank yer, ma’am!”

“One pound of fresh butter.”

“Thank yer, ma’am!”

“Two pounds of rice.”

“Thanky, mum!”

“One packet of Sunlight soap.”

“Thanky, mum!”

“Two pieces of blue.”

“Thanky, mum!”

And so on with the soda, starch, borax, etc., to the end of a long list.

“Anything more, mum?”

“No, that’s all.”

“Thanky, mum!”

He begged pardon again for coming to the front door, took off his hat, and got away out of that. Next evening the milkman mistook the wife for the maid, and growled about being kept waiting. He’s been conscience-stricken and apologetic ever since. The wife, who is sympathetic, feels really sorry for him.

My hobby, as you know, is carpentering, and I often go to the shops for gimlets, bradawls, screws, nails and glue, and such like; and, in the absence of a maid, I frequently went small errands to the grocer for pounds of butter or candles and the like. I usually dress in the rough Sunday sac suit I wore in the Bush, and wear a slouch hat, and not unfrequently a coloured shirt; but I came from abroad, you know, and must have plenty of money—it’s Australian fashion to dress as I do, so I might be an earl at least by the way the village shopkeeper bows and smiles and squirms when I come into his shop. I had at first the greatest difficulty in the world to rescue my small purchase from those shopkeepers; they didn’t seem to understand that I was capable of carrying anything heavier than my hands, or had ever been in the habit of doing so. They couldn’t understand why, if I bought a packet of tacks that I wanted to use at once, or a pound of starch that the wife was waiting for, I preferred to carry it home with me and have done with the business.

“We would send it up at once,” they’d protest; “the man is going directly.”

“Now look here!” I said one day to one of them. “You mustn’t go by appearances.” (He bowed with humility.) “I’m not so delicate as I might look; I’m thin, but most Australians are—I’m thin, but I’m wiry.” (He bowed again.) “I’ve been used to hard work” (they call “graft” work in England); “I’ve camped out all winter in a tent on a telegraph line in New Zealand; I’ve probably done more hard graft than any man in this village, and as for walking and carrying, I’ve tramped five hundred miles at a trip in the drought, across some of the driest and hottest country Out Back in Australia, and carried a heavy swag and a load of sorrow all the way.” (He bowed.) “And now,” I said, “can’t you understand that I’m able and willing to carry home that quarter of a pound of borax? My wife is waiting for it; it won’t hurt me. I’ll get home sooner than your man can, and you can save him to send to a weaker customer. Now, be sensible; it will save you trouble, and save me trouble, and save up your man, and save my wife inconvenience. She’ll want to argue with me if I go home without that borax—I promised to bring it home—don’t make me break my word! What’s the matter with the arrangement, anyway?” He bowed and smiled in a scared sort of a way; my speech didn’t seem to convey the ghost of an understanding to his mind; but he let me have the borax—or rather I got out of the shop with it before he pulled himself together.

There’s a grocer just round the corner from where we live; he is newly started in business; his prices are reasonable, and it would be convenient for us to deal with him, but he is a white-haired, whey-faced, abject man with pinkish eyes, and it’s too painful to go into his shop. We’ve been there twice, and I think that if we went a third time, or gave him an order, he’d collapse, and I’d have to gather him up from the floor. And the hand-rubbing, and the writhing, and the sickly smirk of him! The British shopkeeper’s smile is enough to warn off a Bushman first thing. They straighten up pretty quick when they strike a bad debt.

I went to the draper’s and got a pair of gloves as a present for the wife. They insisted on sending them, so I gave in, and told the draper to send them in a van. He bowed. I asked him to send them in the best and showiest vehicle he had, if he had more than one. He bowed, and said he would. And he did. I don’t think the van belonged to him—he must have borrowed or hired it. Perhaps he bought it on the strength of a new customer.

But I had hopes then. I thought I detected, in the sending of the van, the action of a sly, dry humorist—a “joker” or “hard case,” as we’d call him in the Bush; so I determined to cultivate that draper, and if possible get him to come up to my place some time of an evening, and help me to keep from feeling homesick. But I was mistaken and disappointed; he probably had less humour in him than any other man in the village.

It is cut-throat competition that does it—makes crawlers of beings who might have been men had they had the brains or courage to emigrate. These shopkeepers will do anything, short of crawling and grovelling at your feet, while they hope to gain your patronage, and while they think you’re safe; but let trouble come to your home—they are at you like crows round a dying sheep in the Bush, though the bill be but a few shillings. They have no souls, and have learned no mercy. They know no middle level; they cannot meet you as man to man, as in Australia; they must either crawl or bully. No Australian could help feeling a hearty contempt for the average British shopkeeper. In a village like this they do all in their power to overreach their rivals; they hate each other, and yet they are all informers amongst themselves. They will supply and cheat a customer for years, and the moment they think he is going down they stop credit, and inform their rivals of his trouble. If you have a dispute and close accounts with one of them, he will often take revenge by hinting doubts of your solvency to the others.

This is plain truth. But something more must be said in truth and justice. In the Bush—take your own town of Come-by-Chance, for instance; the shopkeepers have a hard enough job to pull through; they will dump your groceries down at the front door, and growl if you growl, and swear if you swear, and sometimes call you by your Christian name; but if you’re honestly hard-up, they’ll say, “Oh! come up to the store and get what you want, and settle up when you can.” But here in England, where people do not move about as in Australia (where the husband’s work, if he is a shearer or drover, might take him away five hundred or a thousand miles, and for a year); here in England they cannot trust, not the workman, but the respectable middle class, better class, well-to-do class, independent class, or whatever you like to call them. And why? Because of the curse of England—the ghastly struggle to “keep up appearances”—because, if the tradesman is not sharp, Mrs. So-and-so will very likely spend the money that So-and-so owes him on a stylish, useless piece of furniture, which she must have or burst, because Mrs. Somebodyelse has just bought one like it.

The houses and villas round here are very much like what you’d see at Mosman, North Sydney, or any other well-to-do Australian suburb. I can see little difference between the street I’m living in and the street I lived in in North Sydney. But outside we have fields and hedges in the place of bare fences, brown paddocks, and dreary, monotonous, endless scrubs, as round about Come-by-Chance. This is a pretty place, and a healthy place, and a bright place all summer, and the well-to-do people ought to be happy; but I believe that they are the most miserable people on the face of God’s earth. It’s all on account of the struggle to keep up the appearance of being twice as well off as they are.

We’ll suppose that the “better class people” are tradesmen’s families, mechanics, and others, who have risen in the world. We’ll lump those known as “well-to-do” and “independent” people together—we’d call ’em all the middle classes in Australia, but “middle class” is only a vulgar term used by ignorant colonial democracy and bloated aristocrats. I don’t know anything about the aristocrats of this village; they are driven up to the station at the last moment in dog-carts or carriages, and ushered into a first-class carriage with as much celerity and sympathetic respect as if they were royal families, and that’s about all you see of them.

About a hundred of the City men, who have their families down here, go up to London every morning and come home at night. They travel third-class, and there is much of a muchness between them. They don’t talk—perhaps they can’t. Ten men can travel for two hours in a train without one saying a word to another. If you try to talk to them, they read a paper. This is English reserve, or English boorishness, or English suspicion, or English ignorance—whatever you like to call it. If you try to talk to them, they treat you as if you were a swindler trying to get them to take shares in a rotten concern.

I can’t say whether middle and upper class Englishmen are reserved because they are shy, or because, as Dooley says, they have nothing to say. Come to think of it, I think that Dooley is right. Englishmen know nothing beyond their own little selfish and paltry little commercial world, and they have the intelligence to know that they know nothing, therefore they keep their mouths shut. Maybe it is unconscious instinct which makes them do this. And perhaps it’s an instinctive knowledge of their own world-ignorance which goads them to hector people who are in a lower station of life, and whom they suppose to be more ignorant than they are themselves, and so keep up some appearance of intellectual superiority. Possibly Englishmen are silent because, when they are not thinking money, they are either brooding over the fact that the world thinks them boorish, or keeping up their reputation for being reserved. However, there are plenty of exceptions in London—though I don’t know how they got there.

Englishmen—younger sons or sons of families who have spent their money to keep up appearances—ne’er-do-wells—anyway, Englishmen who came out to Australia and drift into the Bush (provided they are not old men), soon lose their reserve, and become grand fellows—humorous, sympathetic and open-handed—the best we have.

Our street is furnished partly on the time-payment system, and partly (and furtively) second-hand; so the furniture is either gimcrack or full of white ants. It is fashionable or genteel and uncomfortable, and most of it useless—plain comfortable furniture would cost less than half the price. The villa ladies are wearing out their lives (and souls, if they have any) in the ghastly struggle to “keep up appearances.” They talk of nothing but their servants. They never work themselves—only worry, whine, and lie, and grow more selfish every day—consequently they are frequently ill. They treat their servants like dogs—often stint and half-starve the girl who has to do the work, and therefore really needs the best, and most food, because every penny that can be “saved out of the servant” is needed to “keep up appearances.” Consequently it is hard to get servants here—the girls prefer to go into factories. One lady I know, a big, strong, childless, discontented woman, recently dismissed her servant because said servant refused to address her as “Mistress” and her husband as “Master,” instead of Mrs. Blank and Mr. Blank. Then the lady had to do her housework for three days, when she broke down; she has had the doctor ever since.

The servants, as far as my experience goes, are honest, healthy-minded, and rather more intelligent than their mistresses. I have talked to some of them! Yes, actually placed myself on a level with common servants. I suppose it’s about the lowest-down thing I could do in this village. But it seems quite right and fashionable to talk about servants, to lie about them, and scandalize them behind their backs over four o’clock teas.

I’ve been introduced to the broad-minded intelligence of this village. There is an artist acquaintance of mine here—a black and white artist, cursed, as usual, with an idea that he can paint. He has no children, and makes a comfortable income, but his wife says that they must keep up appearances; so whenever they get a cheque the best part of it has to go for rubbish in the furnishing line. But that’s neither here nor there. The other day he gave a private view of his pictures, and invited me to meet some intelligent “well-to-do” or independent people, who he said were broad-minded and unaffected—very “nice people” indeed. He said I’d be sure to like them; so I went. The visitors were a married couple, tall and thin; the husband wore a frock-coat and was very English. He told me that he understood that Australians were very unconventional in Australia; that was the only idea he seemed to have (if it was an idea). Whenever my friend put a picture on the easel the lady would clap her hands and exclaim—

“How jolly!” or “Isn’t that jolly!” or “Oh, Edward! Isn’t that jolly!” Sometimes they’d both say it together.

My friend put up a picture called “Sad Autumn.”

“Oh, isn’t that jolly!”

He put up a picture labelled “The Death of Day.”

“How jolly!”

He put up a picture of “A Village Churchyard in the Gloaming.”

“Oh, isn’t that jolly!”

If he’d had a picture of a disembowelled corpse, they’d have said it was jolly.

But neither the artist nor his wife could see it.

And I couldn’t help wondering, “And are these of the people we fight for?”

There is a factory or two on the outskirts of the village—not staring and unsightly as in Australia, but back behind trees and hedges—and the work-people live in little rows and squares of cottages at the end of the village and “over the Common.” The working people seem to me to be honest and healthy-minded, even humorous, and more intelligent than the well-to-do class. But I came across one who seemed to have less humour in him than the draper mentioned above. He is the village coachbuilder, a tall, thin man, with very hollow cheeks and thin red whiskers growing in the hollows. We struck up an acquaintance on the strength of the fact that an uncle of his had gone out to Australia in the early days and made money.

“And he came home, and paid all his debts, and went out again,” said the coachbuilder, impressively.

I didn’t seem impressed.

“He came a long way out of his track,” I said.

“They respected him for it,” said the coachbuilder severely.

I got a better opinion of creditors.

“And when he went back,” said the coachbuilder triumphantly, “he took out nineteen relations with him!”

“How many?” I asked.

“Nineteen,” said the coachbuilder.

I reckon I’ve got upwards of two hundred relatives in Australia, and if I make a pile in England I’ll strongly advise them to stay where they are.

There’s no getting away from the shopkeeping atmosphere in England. The village post and telegraph, savings’ bank and money order office is in a toy and stationery shop, in a corner amongst the packages and shelves. Fancy this in Australia, where, in the smallest town, these offices, with the postmaster’s residence attached, are in a substantial brick or stone building by themselves. But if the English public (especially those in London) will stand anything labelled “Company,” there’s no reason why they shouldn’t stand anything marked “Government.” By the way, I haven’t noticed any politics here. I suppose this village, like most of its kind, gets its politics, as well as its newspaper, fixed up for it in London.

Our postmaster has the soul of a shopkeeper, and shows you novelties when you call for letters. And strange to say (or is it strange?) while he and his wife are servile as shopkeepers, they are mighty independent in their official capacity. They change quickly and draw the line very plain. The wants of the village in the way of maids, situations, houses to let or sublet, or wanted, are pasted up in the post office window, in the advertiser’s own writing, at the rate of sixpence a week. You can read the domestic and business troubles of the village between the lines of these advertisements. Villagers study that window with interest—it is their newspaper. But then, as most of the servants are related, some way or other, the private affairs of half the villa ladies are public property already.

We’ve got a maid (they call servants “maids” in England); she isn’t trained. When she applied for the place she stated that her mother was a respectable woman. She is as light and graceful as a cow, and stubbornly honest. All English country working people are obstinately and aggressively honest. The man is “a honest working man,” and the woman is “a respectable woman,” or “a respectable married woman,” which last fact is stated and repeated and reiterated in almost every neighbourly row or outside dispute, no matter what the disagreement is about.

Our servant starts first thing in the morning by scrubbing the middle of the kitchen floor hard. If she overhears us say anything which she considers funny she chuckles out loud. When visitors are in we often hear a loud guffaw from the pantry or kitchen. She says “Hey!” or “What-say?” but I like her, and would rather have her than a girl who has been trained—that is, bullied and stinted, and suspected, and watched, until she is forced to become deceitful and sly in her own defence.

Our girl has been greatly troubled lately on her father’s account; he is a gardener; he has not been taking his food, and is falling away in consequence, I understand.

“He’s gettin’ so narrer, Mrs. Lawson,” says Amy; “he’s nearly as narrer as Mr. Lawson.”

You know I’m rather thin.

There are plenty of young people here amongst the working-classes who have never been in London in their lives.

We haven’t been troubled much by callers. I believe that when strangers settle down here people leave their cards or call on them, to see what they’re like and what sort of furniture they’ve got in the house, and whether the wife has a tea-gown, a maid, and a tea service, and what the service and the tea-gown are like; and to go out afterwards and tell their friends all they’ve found out or supposed. But I got an idea. I had some cheap curtains hung up to the front window, and that scared ’em. A few factory girls and eighteen-penny to half-crown a week slaveys go along our street sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, and when they catch sight of the curtains they squeak and giggle, and say—

“O—oh! Look at the penny-a-yard curtings!”

It’s very interesting—shows how the minds of the middle class are poisoning those of the working people. But the worship of appearance is spreading its poison over Australian cities.

I notice that it’s the fashion for the ladies down here to grab their skirts up from the front when they walk out in wet weather; in London they grab themselves behind. Englishwomen strike me as being, in nature and appearance, hard, unsympathetic, selfish and ungraceful.

I haven’t seen the parson yet. The old doctor is a very aristocratic old gentleman, who, if a member of your family happens to die, regards you in the light of a murderer because you sent for the young doctor and not for him.

The young doctor is a grand young fellow, a Scot, prematurely grey, whose wife was a nurse, and who is steadily working up a practice here by dint of hard graft.

The landladies of the two leading hotels are elderly ladies of severe aspect, and one of them has a moustache. It’s a slow process getting drunk here, they are so deliberate about serving you.

The publican of one of the little inns in the hedges has a face that would do for the portrait of John Bull, if it had any expression at all. He is short and as broad as he is long, and looms outside his little inn on Sunday afternoon, looking at the weather. He walks slowly into the middle of the road, with a movement as if he had clockwork inside him, to get a view of the sky all round. Then he comes back and slowly delivers his judgment on the weather in bull-calf tones. He looks as if he has never been a mile from the village in his life. He sells “Coider” by the jugful.

The station master is a shy man with a fresh complexion and side whiskers.

The sergeant in charge of the police station is a good fellow, and, if you know him, you can go up to the station after closing time and have a nightcap with him.

The barber and tobacconist is a little Cockney, who attends on gentlemen and gentlemen’s families at their own ’omes and sells tobacco by the hounce.

The village policeman is a heavy-footed countryman in uniform, who sees you home if you happen to have had a drop too much, and calls round next morning ostentatiously to ask “how the gentleman is?” but really to see if you have forgotten that you tipped him generously last night, and if so, to get another tip.

And that’s about all at present, from yours truly.

Triangles of Life And Other Stories - Contents

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