clothes for duly numbered blue canvas suits, they repaired to the huge plain dining-room for their first meal under these new conditions. Afterwards they were to return to her for instructions about their work.
When they had made the exchange of their clothing Elizabeth did not seem able to look at Denton at first; but he looked at her, and saw with astonishment that even in blue canvas she was still beautiful. And then their soup and bread came sliding on its little rail down the long table towards them and stopped with a jerk, and he forgot the matter. For they had had no proper meal for three days.
After they had dined they rested for a time. Neither talked—there was nothing to say; and presently they got up and went back to the manageress to learn what they had to do.
The manageress referred to a tablet. “Y’r rooms won’t be here; it’ll be in the Highbury Ward, Ninety-seventh Way, number two thousand and seventeen. Better make a note of it on y’r card. You, nought nought nought, type seven, sixty-four, b.c.d., gammaforty-one, female; you ‘ave to go to the Metal-beating Company and try that for a day—fourpence bonus if ye’re satisfactory; andyou, nought seven one, type four, seven hundred and nine, g.f.b., pi five and ninety, male; you ‘ave to go to the Photographic Company on Eighty-first Way, and learn something or other—I don’t know—thrippence. ‘Ere’s y’r cards. That’s all. Next! What?Didn’t catch it all? Lor! So suppose I must go over it all again. Why don’t you listen? Keerless, unprovident people! One’d think these things didn’t matter.”
Their ways to their work lay together for a time. And now they found they could talk. Curiously enough, the worst of their depression seemed over now that they had actually donned the blue. Denton could talk with interest even of the work that lay before them. “Whatever it is,” he said, “it can’t be so hateful as that hat shop. And after we have paid for Dings, we shall still have a whole penny a day between us even now. Afterwards—we may improve,—get more money.”
Elizabeth was less inclined to speech. “I wonder why work should seem so hateful,” she said.
“It’s odd,” said Denton. “I suppose it wouldn’t be if it were not the thought of being ordered about… . I hope we shall have decent managers.”
Elizabeth did not answer. She was not thinking of that. She was tracing out some thoughts of her own.
“Of course,” she said presently, “we have been using up work all our lives. It’s only fair—”
She stopped. It was too intricate.
“We paid for it,” said Denton, for at that time he had not troubled himself about these complicated things.
“We did nothing—and yet we paid for it. That’s what I cannot understand.”
“Perhaps we are paying,” said Elizabeth presently—for her theology was old-fashioned and simple.
Presently it was time for them to part, and each went to the appointed work. Denton’s was to mind a complicated hydraulic press that seemed almost an intelligent thing. This press worked by the sea-water that was destined finally to flush the city drains—for the world had long since abandoned the folly of pouring drinkable water into its sewers. This water was brought close to the eastward edge of the city by a huge canal, and then raised by an enormous