The Best British Short Stories of 1922 HTML version

The Song
(From Lloyd's Story Magazine)
Charlie had no true vice in him. All the same, a man may be overtaxed, over-harassed,
over-routined, over-driven, over-pricked, over-preached and over-starved right up to the
edge; and then the fascination of the big space below may easily pull him over.
But his wife's uncle's assertion that he must always, inwardly, have been naturally wild
and bad, was as wrong as such assertions usually are, for he was no more truly vicious
than his youngest baby was.
On the warm evening when he came home on that fateful autumn day, Charlie had been
pushed, in the course of years, right up to the edge, and was looking into the abyss,
though he was hardly aware of it, so well had he been disciplined. He emerged from a
third-class carriage of the usual train without an evening paper because his wife had
shown him the decency of cutting down small personal expenses, and next morning's
papers would have the same news in anyway; he walked home up the suburban road for
the four thousandth five hundredth and fiftieth time; entered quietly not to disturb the
baby; rubbed his boots on the mat; answered his wife brightly and manfully; washed his
hands in cold water--the hot water being saved for the baby's bath and the washing-up in
the evenings--and sat down to about the four thousandth five hundredth and fiftieth cold
His wife said she was tired and seemed proud of it.
"But never mind," she said, "one must expect to be tired." He went on eating without
verbally questioning her; it was an assertion to which she always held firmly. But in his
soul something stirred vaguely, as if mutinous currents fretted there.
"I have been thinking," she said, "that you really ought not to buy that new suit you were
considering if Maud is to go to a better school next term. I have been looking over your
pepper-and-salt, and there are those people who turn suits like new. You can have that
"But----" he murmured.
"We ought not to think of ourselves," she added.
"I never have," said Charlie in rather a low voice.
"We ought to give a little subscription to the Parish Magazine," she continued. "The
Vicar is calling round for extra subscriptions."