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The Life and Death of Harriett Frean (1922)
by May Sinclair

Chapter VII
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EIGHTEEN SEVENTY-NINE: it was the year           [FE]   [MS]   [WB]
her father lost his money. Harriett was
nearly thirty-five.
  She remembered the day, late in Novem-
ber, when they heard him coming home
from the office early. Her mother raised
her head and said, 'That's your father,
Harriett. He must be ill.' She always
thought of seventy-nine as one continuous
November.
  Her father and mother were alone in
the study for a long time; she remembered
Annie going in with the lamp and coming
out and whispering that they wanted her.
She found them sitting in the lamplight
alone, close together, holding each other's      [FE]
hands; their faces had a strange, exalted
look.
  'Harriett, my dear, I've lost every
shilling I possessed, and here's your mother
saying she doesn't mind.'
  He began to explain in his quiet voice.
'When all the creditors are paid in full
there'll be nothing but your mother's
two hundred a year. And the insurance
money when I'm gone.'
  'Oh, Papa, how terrible--'
  'Yes, Hatty.'
  'I mean the insurance. It's gambling
with your life.'
  'My dear, if that was all I'd gambled                 [MS]
with--'
  It seemed that half his capital had
gone in what he called 'the higher
mathematics of the game.' The creditors          [FE]
would get the rest.
  'We shall be no worse off,' her mother                       [WB]
said, 'than we were when we began.
We were very happy then.'
  'We. How about Harriett?'
  'Harriett isn't going to mind.'
  'You're not--going--to--mind....
We shall have to sell this house and live 
in a smaller one. And I can't take my 
business up again.'
  'My dear, I'm glad and thankful you've
done with that dreadful, dangerous game.'
  'I'd no business to play it.... But,
after holding myself in all those years,
there was a sort of fascination.'
  One of the creditors, Mr Hichens, gave
him work in his office. He was now Mr
Hichens's clerk. He went to Mr Hichens
as he had gone to his own great business,        [FE]
upright and alert, handsome in his dark
gray overcoat with the black velvet collar,
faintly amused at himself. You would never
have known that anything had happened.

  Strange that at the same time Mr                      [MS]   [WB]
Hancock should have lost money, a great
deal of money, more money than Papa.
He seemed determined that everybody
should know it; you couldn't pass him
in the road without knowing. He met
you with his swollen, red face hanging;
ashamed and miserable, and angry as if
it had been your fault.
  One day Harriett came in to her father
and mother with the news.' Did you                             [WB]    
know that Mr Hancock's sold his horses ?
And he's going to give up the house.'
  Her mother signed to her to be silent,         [FE]
frowning and shaking her head and
glancing at her father. He got up
suddenly and left the room.
  'He's worrying himself to death about
Mr Hancock,' she said.
  'I didn't know he cared for him like
that, Mamma.'
  'Oh, well, he's known him thirty years,
and it's a very dreadful thing he should
have to give up his house.'
  'It's not worse for him than it is for Papa.'
  'It's ever so much worse. He isn't like
your father. He can't be happy without
his big house and his carriages and horses.
He'll feel so small and unimportant.'
  'Well, then, it serves him right.'
  'Don't say that. It is what he cares                  [MS]
for and he's lost it.'
  'He's no business to behave as if it           [FE]
was Papa's fault,' said Harriett. She had
no patience with the odious little man.
She thought of her father's face, her                           [WB]
father's body, straight and calm, and his
soul so far above that mean trouble of
Mr Hancock's, that vulgar shame.
  Yet inside him he fretted. And, sud-
denly, he began to sink. He turned faint
after the least exertion and had to leave
off going to Mr Hichens. And by the
spring of eighteen-eighty he was upstairs
in his room, too ill to be moved. That
was just after Mr Hichens had bought
the house and wanted to come into it.
He lay, patient, in the big white bed,
smiling his faint, amused smile when he
thought of Mr Hichens.
  It was awful to Harriett that her father
should be ill, lying there at their mercy.       [FE]
She couldn't get over her sense of his
parenthood, his authority. When he was
obstinate, and insisted on exerting himself,
she gave in. She was a bad nurse, because
she couldn't set herself against his will.
And when she had him under her hands
to strip and wash him, she felt that she                [MS]
was doing something outrageous and im-
pious; she set about it with a flaming
face and fumbling hands. 'Your mother                           [WB]
does it better,' he said gently. But she
could not get her mother's feeling of
him as a helpless, dependent thing.
  Mr Hichens called every week to in-
quire. 'Poor man, he wants to know
when he can have his house. Why will
he always come on my good days? He
isn't giving himself a chance.'
  He still had good days, days when he           [FE]
could be helped out of bed to sit in his
chair. 'This sort of game may go on
for ever,' he said. He began to worry
seriously about keeping Mr Hichens out
of his house.' It isn't decent of me. It
isn't decent.'
  Harriett was ill with the strain of it.                       [WB]
She had to go away for a fortnight with
Lizzie Pierce, and Sarah Barmby stayed
with her mother. Mrs Barmby had died
the year before. When Harriett got back
her father was making plans for his
removal.
  'Why have you all made up your minds                          [WB]
that it'll kill me to remove me. It won't.
The men can take everything out but me
and my bed and that chair. And when
they've got all the things into the other
house they can come back for the chair           [FE]
and me. And I can sit in the chair                      [MS]
while they're bringing the bed. It's quite
simple. It only wants a little system.'
   Then, while they wondered whether
they might risk it, he got worse. He lay                        [WB]
propped up, rigid, his arms stretched out
by his side, afraid to lift a hand because
of the violent movements of his heart.
His face had a patient, expectant look, as
if he waited for them to do something.
   They couldn't do anything. There
would be no more rallies. He might die
any day now, the doctor said.

   'He may die any minute. I certainly
don't expect him to live through the
night.'
   Harriett followed her mother back into
the room. He was sitting up in his               [FE]
attitude of rigid expectancy; no move-
ment but the quivering of his nightshirt
above his heart.
  'The doctor's been gone a long time,
hasn't he?' he said.
  Harriett was silent. She didn't under-
stand. Her mother was looking at her
with a serene comprehension and com-
passion.
  'Poor Hatty,' he said, 'she can't tell                [MS]
a lie to save my life.'
  'Oh--Papa--'
  He smiled as if he was thinking of
something that amused him.
  'You should consider other people, my
dear. Not just your own selfish feelings.
. . . You ought to write and tell Mr
Hichens.'
  Her mother gave a short sobbing laugh.         [FE]
'Oh, you darling,' she said. 
  He lay still. Then suddenly he began                          [WB]
pressing hard on the mattress with both
hands, bracing himself up in the bed.
Her mother leaned closer towards him.
He threw himself over slantways, and with
his head bent as if it was broken, dropped
into her arms.
  Harriett wondered why he was making
that queer grating and coughing noise.
Three times.
  Her mother called softly to her'Harriett.'
  She began to tremble.

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