Back up north
Olivia said: ‘And what do you propose to do over here, Mr. Britton? Write poetry?’
Her voice had a flat, uninterested contempt. Strangely enough, it irritated me, as though her scornful lack of interest put my own vague opinions about Britton into significant form, and in so doing usurped them. They were all too readily, too easily summarizing and docketing the man. I felt my own thoughts being pushed along by the decision of others. I waited for his answer with sardonic anticipation. It should jog her.
Britton said: ‘Well, I might. But poetry never has been a living for me, and I don’t expect it to be now. I’m going back to Presley – it’s the town I was born in, in Lancashire. I thought I might get a job there. I’m told they’re short of mill hands.’
She was jogged. Since being introduced to Britton she had been lounging against one arm of an arm-chair. She sat up, looking at him, her face ugly with astonishment.
‘For Christ’s sake! Are you pulling my leg?’
Britton gave a quick, embarrassed laugh. It was the first time in Regency Gardens, I reminded myself, probably the first time in England that anyone had spoken sharply to him. I wondered in what kind of dream-like society of urbane gentility he had been imagining himself to have arrived. I looked at Olivia with more affection.