Helping Hands: Hammersmith (five)
She detected Mr. Hogben’s voice, and thought a sort of misery colored his inarticulate grunts. The other man she knew at once for a stranger. Now and again she could hear Minnie Leybourne. Mostly the stranger, passionate. War an invention of the military interests, an affliction on the helpless poor…who were starved, driven from their homes, murdered. That the capitalist might enrich himself further. A good deal more of this. She peeled store-bought potatoes, Bladon at her side, razoring off the thinnest corkscrews of skin, digging the point of his knife into the eyes. Bladon, Mr. Shaw’s first name. She hadn’t reciprocated by telling him to call her Aimee. He stammered over Mrs. Bard.
He’d wired money to his employer, while down in the town; the company, he said, had allowed him to purchase a fresh crate of fountain pens—“Good ones, ma’am. They don’t leak a bit. I’ll let you have one of the atlases. I’m supposed to give them out free, whenever I get an order…but I don’t have to, every time. Fifty cent a dozen. Pens, I mean.”
“Oh, well, an atlas, that’s awfully nice.” She’d make a purchase, too. What business did he have, giving her things? Pricey, she thought. But Abel’s son was in the navy. He might soon be writing letters home—and so she’d dispose of Shaw’s pens.
The thought of war, of Ralph’s grandson fighting in one, made her feel…frustrated. That was what she felt. Vic had come up around lunchtime, slipping through the kitchen door, after Aimee had shooed Minnie and Ruby out.
“I got these telegrams from Washington. Take a look.”
While Vic tapped his heel and peered through the window-shade at the circlings and flappings of her houseguests, she had read his telegrams backwards and forwards…and couldn’t see how the Commission’s assuming a mine proved anything about where it had come from.
“That could take months, couldn’t it? Maybe they never will. Find out.”
“Ain’t gonna wait, though.”
And yet, if they called for volunteers…that was another way. How she could practice on Carey without hating herself for it, supposing he charged off to battle half-cocked (the only way he was likely to)…
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)