Tuesday, 8 October 2013

An Uncommercial Traveller

"She could not go straight to the lounge where she had arranged to meet Carne.  She must seek other diversion.  Of course, she knew, she had a note to write.

On the first-floor landing a notice with an arrow pointed to  'Writing Room'.  She followed it, and found herself in an apartment not unlike a station waiting-room.  It lacked human occupants, but there was accommodation for them.  Round the walls stood desks, back to back, with dusty blotting-paper gummed to their surfaces.  Inkwells in which the moisture had long since dried, cross nibs, and half-torn envelopes.

If she had wanted to write, this equipment might have deterred her.  But she wanted nothing.  No words could describe, to no one could she communicate, this extraordinary rapture which had transformed the universe -- because she was going to eat a third-rate dinner in a second-rate hotel, with a ruined farmer who was father to one of her least satisfactory pupils.

She could not keep still.  The wide skirts of her dress swayed round her as she moved about the room, examining the dusty but elaborate stationery, and the papers on the circular table in the middle of the room.

Who, she wondered, reads The Textile Mercury? or Iron and Steel, the Autocar,  the Iron and Coal Trades Review, the Electrical Times?  Ah, the times are electrical, she thought, 'perhaps that's what wrong with them,' and trembled, quivering with laughter at her small feeble joke, pressing her palms on the cold, smeared mahogany, because she suddenly found her eyeballs pricking with hot, irrational tears.
I shall remember this room until I die, she told herself."

South Riding   Winifred Holtby

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