The front door was standing open. The milkman came up the path and deposited his usual clutch of strangely assorted bottles beside the brass scraping-blade.
‘Mornin’, Mrs. Drage. Early Christmas this year?’
I watched him carrying the cradle of empties away. His horse had got its front legs up on to the pavement and was sniffing interestedly at the evergreen hedge. The milkman clipped it back into the road.
I said: ‘Why worry? No one is going to hold you responsible. You can’t watch your lodgers all the time.’
She said helplessly: ‘I’m not supposed to sub-let either.’ She stood on the threshold of her room, holding the doorknob. I watched bewilderment being replaced by opportunism.
‘Tenn – you might let me have another month’s rent.’
I kicked one of the parcels. ‘They’re not mine you know. They’re Piers’s.’
Embarrassed, she said: ‘Oh, dear.’