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…these 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.”
“Oh, well, an atlas, that’s awfully nice.” She’d buy the pens 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 the purchase.
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’d 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, I mean.”
“Ain’t gonna wait, though.”
And yet, if they called for volunteers…that was another way out. 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)…
But psychology or no, Aimee thought her nephew would get on better given an ambition to pursue; hang on, doing his duty by wife and child, until she’d figured out her arrangements. He had none of his own…ambition…only this notion that waxed and waned, of “going out west”.
Aimee had given her niece five dollars, to make the first installment on the Singer machine, that the company Jane did piecework for had let her buy from them.
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)