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But this utter fatigue of body apparently reached down to her mind, and she could not help, since dozing proved an impossible feat, receding backwards into the ashes and desolation of the past. Yet, when she allowed herself to do so something stronger than any sense of desolation met her: love and her womanhood and her motherhood, and the blessing of her boys. And the tired eyes grew brighter again.

Strawberries had been very cheap that morning, and she had bought a basket of them which she had laid out on a newspaper on her bed, each separate, so that they should not bruise each other. She could give Reggie some toasted cheese as well, and tea and bread and butter. It was not such a feast as she had planned for him on the evening of his return, before he went back to his work again at Thistleton's Gallery next morning, but she had sent the boys a sovereign only the day before, in order to let them have a plethora of boat-hire and general jubilance; and until she took the completed copy of the manuscript back to the office next day, there was nothing more in the way of cash that could be expended. Womanlike, with all the direct and tender instincts of womanhood alert, she loved to treat her males to the material comforts of life. Her love had to express itself not only in affection but in the edible transcription of it; and while she would not have denied that Mary had chosen the good part, she had a strong sympathy with Martha, who showed her love in a fashion less purely spiritual perhaps, but none the less authentic. To serve, even if the only monument of service was unbruised strawberries, and the preparation of toasted cheese cooked over a smelling gas-stove in the heat of this broiling evening, did not seem to her an inferior lot. She knew she had the Mary-love for her boys, but, though she did not reason about the point, nor even was conscious of it, she believed that Martha had not chosen a bad part, when she put on her apron, so to speak, and got uncomfortably warm over the kitchen fire.

There were still a few minutes left before she need stir. Reggie's train was just about arriving now, and it would take him a good half-hour to walk home. In twenty minutes she could do her best by his supper, and have the toast and cheese hot and crisp for him, and she had already put the kettle on : tea would be ready simultaneously. She knew the chronology of these simple suppers very well.

She sat in a frayed armchair. The room looked west, and at this hour it was not possible to place her seat entirely out of the sun, and since there was a little wind blowing in she drew up the blind of the window, admitting both. It was her hands and her eyes that were so tired; for a couple of months now it had been something of a strain to read small writing, and to-day even the clear-cut letters of her typewriter were hard to focus. Very probably she was in need of glasses, but an oculist's fee, when expenses so nearly met income, was not a disbursement to be incurred lightly, and certainly her eyesight was not always as bad as it had been to day. The strain of continual focussing had ruled two vertical lines between her eyebrows, as she had seen when she went to wash her hands after putting away her machine and before cooking Reggie's supper. She had seen them there before, but more faintly. To-day they were deeply carved.

Mrs. Lathom was but a year or two over forty, and she was aware that wrinkles such as these had no right as yet to set up so firm a dwelling-house on her face. But they only troubled her as a sign of eye-strain, a direction-post to the oculist's, and as symbols of approaching age they concerned her not at all, except in so far that approaching age might prove a drag on her energies and her work. Yet it was easy to see that as a girl she must have been beautiful, and women who have been beautiful as girls are not usually so careless over the signs of their lost youth. But the moment's glance sufficient to disentangle from her face the loveliness of its youth would have been, except to the most superficial observer, enough to make him desist from his disentangling, and stand charmed and almost awed at the gifts the advance of years had brought her which so vastly out-valued the mere smoothness of line and brightness of colour that they had taken away. They, with the losses and griefs that had visited her, had taken so little in comparison with the love and the patience and the proved unconquerable serenity which they had brought her. Nor, except that for this moment when heat and physical fatigue lay like a mist over her face, dimming the inward brightness of it, had they robbed her of the lighter gifts of the spirit, humour and the appreciation of the kindly merriment that to cheerful souls runs through the web of life like some gold thread to guide them through the windings of a labyrinth. High moral courage and simple faith are without doubt essential to noble living on whatever scale, but it is only the puritanically-minded who would discount the piquancy that an appreciation of the comical aspects of a world, possibly tragic, gives to the business of life; and a certain sparkle in Mrs. Lathom's grey eyes, a certain twist in her mouth, clearly betokened that she was quite capable of laughing at those she loved when they behaved in a ridiculous manner. In the end, without doubt, a deeper-abiding tenderness would overscore her amusement, but she would never commit the error of blindly spoiling her idols.

But her ten minutes' rest was over, and she got out of her cupboard the materials for supper, and went out on to the landing where stood the gas-stove that browsed on inserted pennies. Mercifully it stood near the window that looked out on to Sidney Street at the top of this shabby-genteel house, and the generous fumes grafted on to the faint odour of oilcloth and a more pronounced smell of other culinary operations on some lower storey did not hang in stagnation on the landing. Outside on the pavements and roadway shadowed by the houses, children, not quite guttersnipes but markedly a little lower than the angels, played about with the eked-out contrivances of childhood, a pair of ill-running skates shared between two, a small box on wheels which would hold a baby, and cabalistically-labelled squares drawn on the paving-stones. Opposite there were no houses, for a stiff church

stood in an acre of disused graveyard. Rather sad and spiritless marriages used sometimes to be officiated there, and on Sunday a great clamour of four bells brought together a sparser congregation than so much noise seemed to deserve. Over all lay a grey heathazed sky.

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Somehow the gas-stove with its accompanying odour of oilcloth and another supper below, in which it was now clear that fish was an ingredient, was more encouraging than those symbols of worship and mortality. The gas-stove promised supper anyhow, and supper is a symbol that life not only is not extinct, but that it demands to be maintained, and Mrs. Lathom turned to the kettle from which steam was beginning to spurt, and put her saucepan on the bars of the top of the range. Simultaneously a motor-car hooted outside, and appeared to draw up, still throbbing at the house. Then there came an impatient roulade on the bell, and the moment after the leap of active ascending feet on the staircase. It was impossible to mistake that tread; nobody in the house but Reggie came upstairs like a charging brigade, and yet how should Reggie have taken a motor from Paddington ? It could scarcely be that Charles was ill, that there had been some accident, for then surely he would have telegraphed; nor did these flying feet sound

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like the bearers of ill news. But she left her gas-stove and went to the head of the stairs, not exactly expecting ill-news, but wanting to know.

Reggie flung himself upon her in his usual tornado of welcome.

'O mother, things have happened,' he said, “and Charles hasn't decided whether Berkeley Square or Grosvenor Square is the nicest, and so he 'll leave it to you. Yes, quite right : I'm mad, and I've left the taxi because Charles orders you to drive out with me and have supper somewhere. It's his treat. To come to the point, he has sold his picture right off the easel for sixty pounds. I said pounds-and it seems that's only the beginning'

' Oh, my dear !' said Mrs. Lathom.

I know I am, so put on your hat. Goodness! how hot the house is! and oilcloth and fish and cheese don't smell as good as Thorley Weir.'

Berkeley Square and a ticking waiting taxi and a supper at a restaurant, while the root of the matter, the fountain head of all this glory, was just sixty pounds, made up an admirable example of the Charles-Reginald attitude towards money. Both of them seemed to regard it, the moment that there was any immediate superfluity of it, as a thing to be got rid of as soon as possible. This Mrs. Lathom continuously and earnestly and not very successfully tried to combat: a future rainy day, in the opinion of her sons, was not worth a moment's thought if the present day was a fine one. But on this moment Mrs. Lathom also gloriously desired the swift rush through the air, the sense of shaded lights and tinkle of ice, for she was not in any way immune from the temptations of these subcelestial pleasures. And it was with not any very great firmness that she resisted.

'It's too dear of Charles to have ordered all these nice things,' she said, 'but, my darling, it's out of proportion even to such a fortune as sixty pounds, for us to go to a restaurant. Send the taxi away, like a good boy: I was just beginning to cook your supper.

Reggie shook his head.

'Can't be done,” he said. 'Charles's orders and my promise to obey them are binding. And the taxi is a-ticking out the sweet little twopences.'

Mrs. Lathom made one more effort. ' But it's ridiculous,' she said ; ' and supper will be ready in

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two minutes; and O Reggie, I am longing to hear all about the sixty pounds. And there are strawberries : I separated them, so that they should not spoil each other.'

* We will eat them when we come back,' said the inexorable Reggie. “I shan't tell you a word about the sixty pounds unless you come. I promised Charles. I heard another twopence go then.'

A little puff of air came upstairs laden and flavoured with oilcloth and fish which would not positively improve if kept, and the curious' poor 'smell that dwells in houses where in winter the windows are not very often opened for fear of losing the warmth so expensively procured when the price of coals is high. Mrs. Lathom's resolution wavered.

'One of us has to give way,' she said. “Please let it be you, Reggie.'

'Can't be done. The taxi is working awful quick, mother.' All opposition collapsed.

‘Oh, I will get my hat, you monster,' cried she. “It's exceedingly wrong of me to come, and for that very reason I am going to enjoy it all the more. How I long to hear about the sixty pounds ! Put out that dreadful gas-stove, darling : we will stop all the tickings.'

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Charles duly arrived next morning with the picture, not yet quite dry, on the seat opposite him propped up by a melon which he had felt compelled to buy for his mother. Reggie had already gone off to his desk at Thistleton's Gallery when he arrived, and she was at work with her typewriter, and had not heard his step above the clacking of the busy keys. She turned as the door opened, with surprise and welcome on her face, and rose, pushing herself up with a hand

a hand on the arm of her chair. A hundred times and more when he came home of an evening had Charles seen her in exactly that attitude, with all that love and welcome beaming in her face, but to-day she took his eye in a way she had never done before? The artist in him, not the affectionate son only, perceived her. He paused in the doorway without advancing.

Oh, you picture !' he cried. “How is it I never saw you before ? You are my next model, please. Mother, darling, here I am ! The melon-yes, that's for you; and the picture, that's for Mr. Craddock; and me-well, I 'm for both of you.'

Charles deposited these agreeable properties.

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