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Night and Day

Of all the hours of an ordinary working week-day, which are the pleasantest to
look forward to and to look back upon? If a single instance is of use in framing a
theory, it may be said that the minutes between nine-twenty-five and nine-thirty in
the morning had a singular charm for Mary Datchet. She spent them in a very
enviable frame of mind; her contentment was almost unalloyed. High in the air as
her flat was, some beams from the morning sun reached her even in November,
striking straight at curtain, chair, and carpet, and painting there three bright, true
spaces of green, blue, and purple, upon which the eye rested with a pleasure
which gave physical warmth to the body.
There were few mornings when Mary did not look up, as she bent to lace her
boots, and as she followed the yellow rod from curtain to breakfast-table she
usually breathed some sigh of thankfulness that her life provided her with such
moments of pure enjoyment. She was robbing no one of anything, and yet, to get
so much pleasure from simple things, such as eating one's breakfast alone in a
room which had nice colors in it, clean from the skirting of the boards to the
corners of the ceiling, seemed to suit her so thoroughly that she used at first to
hunt about for some one to apologize to, or for some flaw in the situation. She
had now been six months in London, and she could find no flaw, but that, as she
invariably concluded by the time her boots were laced, was solely and entirely
due to the fact that she had her work. Every day, as she stood with her dispatch-
box in her hand at the door of her flat, and gave one look back into the room to
see that everything was straight before she left, she said to herself that she was
very glad that she was going to leave it all, that to have sat there all day long, in
the enjoyment of leisure, would have been intolerable.
Out in the street she liked to think herself one of the workers who, at this hour,
take their way in rapid single file along all the broad pavements of the city, with
their heads slightly lowered, as if all their effort were to follow each other as
closely as might be; so that Mary used to figure to herself a straight rabbit-run
worn by their unswerving feet upon the pavement. But she liked to pretend that
she was indistinguishable from the rest, and that when a wet day drove her to the
Underground or omnibus, she gave and took her share of crowd and wet with
clerks and typists and commercial men, and shared with them the serious
business of winding-up the world to tick for another four-and-twenty hours.
Thus thinking, on the particular morning in question, she made her away across
Lincoln's Inn Fields and up Kingsway, and so through Southampton Row until
she reached her office in Russell Square. Now and then she would pause and
look into the window of some bookseller or flower shop, where, at this early hour,
the goods were being arranged, and empty gaps behind the plate glass revealed
a state of undress. Mary felt kindly disposed towards the shopkeepers, and
hoped that they would trick the midday public into purchasing, for at this hour of
the morning she ranged herself entirely on the side of the shopkeepers and bank
clerks, and regarded all who slept late and had money to spend as her enemy
and natural prey. And directly she had crossed the road at Holborn, her thoughts