The room was dull and threadbare, and the snow outside seemed fairy-like by comparison, so
white on the lawn and tufted on the bushes. Indoors, the heavy pictures hung obscurely on the
walls, everything was dingy with gloom.
Except in the fireglow, where they had laid the bath on the hearth. Mrs Massy, her black hair
always smoothly coiled and queenly, kneeled by the bath, wearing a rubber apron, and holding
the kicking child. Her husband stood holding the towels and the flannels to warm. Louisa, too
cross to share in the joy of the baby's bath, was laying the table. The boy was hanging on the
door-knob, wrestling with it to get out. His father looked round.
'Come away from the door, Jack,' he said ineffectually. Jack tugged harder at the knob as if
he did not hear. Mr Massy blinked at him.
'He must come away from the door, Mary,' he said. 'There will be a draught if it is opened.'
Jack, come away from the door, dear,' said the mother, dexterously turning the shiny wet
baby on to her towelled knee, then glancing round: 'Go and tell Auntie Louisa about the train.'
Louisa, also afraid to open the door, was watching the scene on the hearth. Mr Massy stood
holding the baby's flannel, as if assisting at some ceremonial. If everybody had not been subduedly angry, it would have been ridiculous.
'I want to see out of the window,' Jack said. His father turned hastily.
'Do you mind lifting him on to a chair, Louisa,' said Mary hastily. The father was too delicate.
When the baby was flannelled, Mr Massy went upstairs and returned with four pillows, which
he set in the fender to warm. Then he stood watching the mother feed her child, obsessed by the idea of his infant.
Louisa went on with her preparations for the meal. She could not have told why she was so
sullenly angry. Mrs Lindley, as usual, lay silently watching.
Mary carried her child upstairs, followed by her husband with the pillows. After a while he
came down again.
'What is Mary doing? Why doesn't she come down to eat?' asked Mrs Lindley.
'She is staying with baby. The room is rather cold. I will ask the girl to put in a fire.' He was
going absorbedly to the door.
'But Mary has had nothing to eat. It is she who will catch cold,' said the mother, exasperated.
Mr Massy seemed as if he did not hear. Yet he looked at his mother-in-law, and answered.
'I will take her something.'
He went out. Mrs Lindley shifted on her couch with anger. Miss Louisa glowered. But no one
said anything, because of the money that came to the vicarage from Mr Massy.
Louisa went upstairs. Her sister was sitting by the bed, reading a scrap of paper.
'Won't you come down and eat?' the younger asked.
'In a moment or two,' Mary replied in a quiet, reserved voice, that forbade anyone to approach her.
It was this that made Miss Louisa most furious. She went downstairs, and announced to her
'I am going out. I may not be home to tea.'
This text is linked to:
Lecture Notes no. 22
Lecture Notes no. 23
Lecture Notes no. 24