Then the porter climbed down from the roof, there came another whistle, the train gave a horrible lurch and began to move off. Gentleman lifted up his hat and followed until the engine got up its speed; then he gave it up—I saw him turn, put his hat back on, twist up his collar. Then he was gone. The coach creaked harder and began to sway. The woman and the men put their hands to the leather straps; the boy put his face to the window. The canary put its beak to the bars of its cage. The baby began to cry. It cried for half an hour.
'Ain't you got any gin?' I said to the woman at last.
'Gin?' she said—like I might have said, poison. Then she made a mouth, and showed me her shoulder—not so pleased to have me sitting by her, the uppity bitch, after all.
What with her and the baby, and the fluttering bird; and the old dad—who fell asleep and snorted; and the boy—who made paper pellets; and the farmer-types—who smoked and grew bilious; and the fog—that made the train jerk and halt and arrive at Maidenhead two hours later than its time, so that I missed one Marlow train and must wait for the next one—what with all that, my journey was very wretched. I had not brought any food with me, for we had all supposed I should arrive at Briar in time to take a servant's tea there. I had not had a morsel since that dinner of bread and dried meat, at noon: it had stuck to my gums then, but I should have called it wonderful at Maidenhead, seven hours later. The station there was not like Paddington, where there were coffee-stalls and milk-stalls and a pastry-cook's shop. There was only one place for vittles, and that was shut up and closed. I sat on my trunk. My eyes stung, from the fog. When I blew my nose, I turned a handkerchief black. A man saw me do it. 'Don't cry,' he said, smiling.
'I ain't crying!' I said.
He winked, then asked me my name.
It was one thing to flirt in town, however. But I wasn't in town now. I wouldn't answer. When the train came for Marlow I sat at the back of a coach, and he sat at the front, but with his face my way—he tried for an hour to catch my eye. I remembered Dainty saying that she had sat on a train once, with a gentleman near, and he had opened his trousers and showed her his cock, and asked her to hold it; and she had held it, and he had given her a pound. I wondered what I would do, if this man asked me to touch his cock— whether I would scream, or look the other way, or touch it, or what.
But then, I hardly needed the pound, where I was headed!
Anyway, money like that was hard to move on. Dainty had never been able to spend hers for fear her father should see it and know she'd been gay. She hid it behind a loose brick in the wall of the starch works, and put a special mark on the brick, that only she would know. She said she would tell it on her death-bed, and we could use the pound to bury her.
Well, the man on my train watched me very hard, but if he had his trousers open I never saw; and at last he tilted his hat to me and got off. There were more stops after that, and at every one someone else got off, from further down along the train; and no-one got on. The stations grew smaller and darker, until finally there was nothing at them but a tree—there was nothing to see anywhere, but trees, and beyond them bushes, and beyond them fog— grey fog, not brown—with the black night sky above it. And when the trees and the bushes seemed just about at their thickest, and the sky was blacker than I should have thought a sky naturally could be, the train stopped a final time; and that was Marlow.
Here no-one got off save me. I was the last passenger of all. The guard called the stop, and came to lift down my trunk. He said,
'You'll want that carrying. Is there no-one come to meet you?'
I told him there was supposed to be a man with a trap, to take me up to Briar. He said, Did I mean the trap that came to fetch the post? That would have been and gone, three hours