began to lay the breakfast-tables. Mr. Brett gave her a start, looking round the door and saying: “Psst!” She was always getting starts and turns, and wondered sometimes whether she had a funny heart.
“Where’s Mrs. P.?” he asked.
“Having her supper.”
“Lucky woman. She gets it at a respectable hour,” he said, although one of Mrs. P.’s trials was that she couldn’t sit down to a bite until turned nine.
Doris went up to stand guard outside the lounge door while Mr. Brett ran up the stairs with the dog. She did not likedoing this. She hated intrigues and secrecy, and liked nothing to happen in life that one could not speak about; but she hated upsets, too, so as he had already got the dog in the house, this was the only thing to do.
“It was awful,” she told him when she went in to turn down his bed. “Someone started to turn the handle, so I locked the lounge door. Fancy! They were mad, in there. I pretended I’d been polishing the door-knob and turned the key by mistake. They must have thought me simple—at the Brasso this time of night. Oh dear.” . She turned down the counterpane neat and taut. “I wouldn’t have done it but for being fond of dumb animals. Never again.”
“You won’t have to.”
“That’s good then. I’ll be sorry to lose him though.”
“Who said he was going? Come here.” He was standing by the window. “Look. Just the thing. Onto this roof, down onto that shed roof, and into the alley.”
“Oh, but you can’t,” Doris objected. “I mean, you can’t go in and out of the hotel by the window.”
“Well, I don’t know.” It was hard to explain, even to oneself, that however queer people could be, whatever things they might say to her or write on the walls, there were certain basic rules of hotel behaviour to which everyone conformed, and surely going in and out by the front door was one of them.
He seemed to have made up his mind to it, however, so Doris decided to put it out of her head. She was going out of the room when he called her back to the window. “Who’s that spying in the house opposite?” he asked.
“Spying? Whatever do you mean?” Mr. Brett seemed determined to have things not normal. This was as bad as during the war when someone had heard Mrs. P.’s electric refrigerator and reported her for having a radio transmitter.
“Look, that crack of light—ah, it’s gone. See the curtain move? There she is again, peering round the corner.”
“Oh, her,” said Doris, turning away. “She always does that. Been at it as long as I’ve been here. Oh, don’t ask me what for. If she’s got nothing better to do with her time, that’s her funeral, not mine.”
Mr. Brett put his fingers to his nose and waggled them at the house opposite, then drew the curtains across. “I say, just do one more thing for me, will you?” he said, though it wasafter nine, and Doris had told him distinctly that she was off duty at that hour. “Sneak me up something for the dog to eat.”
“Oh no,” she said, planting herself squarely. “That I can’t do.”
“He won’t want much. He had something at the school. Just a few bits of meat-”
Doris had to laugh. “Where d’you think I’d get meat from? That was the last of the joint went into the Cornish pasties—such as you could see for potato.”
“Well, bread or something, or biscuits. Do find something.”
He seemed to have no idea what he was asking. It meant getting past Mrs. P.’s sitting-room into the kitchen, groping there in the dark for fear Ferdie should see the light, having her heart nearly let her down when a saucepan lid clattered to the floor as she reached down the big tin of stale cake and bread slices that was always on hand for trifles and charlottes and bread-and-butter pudding, creeping into the pantry to pour on as much as she dared from the milk left out for her early-morning teas. By the time she got back to No. 4, dodging into the bathroom once when