Night and Day HTML version

At about nine o'clock at night, on every alternate Wednesday, Miss Mary Datchet
made the same resolve, that she would never again lend her rooms for any
purposes whatsoever. Being, as they were, rather large and conveniently
situated in a street mostly dedicated to offices off the Strand, people who wished
to meet, either for purposes of enjoyment, or to discuss art, or to reform the
State, had a way of suggesting that Mary had better be asked to lend them her
rooms. She always met the request with the same frown of well-simulated
annoyance, which presently dissolved in a kind of half-humorous, half- surly
shrug, as of a large dog tormented by children who shakes his ears. She would
lend her room, but only on condition that all the arrangements were made by her.
This fortnightly meeting of a society for the free discussion of everything entailed
a great deal of moving, and pulling, and ranging of furniture against the wall, and
placing of breakable and precious things in safe places. Miss Datchet was quite
capable of lifting a kitchen table on her back, if need were, for although well-
proportioned and dressed becomingly, she had the appearance of unusual
strength and determination.
She was some twenty-five years of age, but looked older because she earned, or
intended to earn, her own living, and had already lost the look of the irresponsible
spectator, and taken on that of the private in the army of workers. Her gestures
seemed to have a certain purpose, the muscles round eyes and lips were set
rather firmly, as though the senses had undergone some discipline, and were
held ready for a call on them. She had contracted two faint lines between her
eyebrows, not from anxiety but from thought, and it was quite evident that all the
feminine instincts of pleasing, soothing, and charming were crossed by others in
no way peculiar to her sex. For the rest she was brown-eyed, a little clumsy in
movement, and suggested country birth and a descent from respectable hard-
working ancestors, who had been men of faith and integrity rather than doubters
or fanatics.
At the end of a fairly hard day's work it was certainly something of an effort to
clear one's room, to pull the mattress off one's bed, and lay it on the floor, to fill a
pitcher with cold coffee, and to sweep a long table clear for plates and cups and
saucers, with pyramids of little pink biscuits between them; but when these
alterations were effected, Mary felt a lightness of spirit come to her, as if she had
put off the stout stuff of her working hours and slipped over her entire being some
vesture of thin, bright silk. She knelt before the fire and looked out into the room.
The light fell softly, but with clear radiance, through shades of yellow and blue
paper, and the room, which was set with one or two sofas resembling grassy
mounds in their lack of shape, looked unusually large and quiet. Mary was led to
think of the heights of a Sussex down, and the swelling green circle of some
camp of ancient warriors. The moonlight would be falling there so peacefully
now, and she could fancy the rough pathway of silver upon the wrinkled skin of
the sea.