MERTON had scratched his head. He drew back at the sound of some far-flung twig or half-hearted gate rattling from outside, hoping to hear the door-latch lift and Vera make her way across the kitchen to say she was sorry for being late.
Which is too much to expect, he thought, from any man's daughter since the war. Leaves made a noise like the erratic beginning of a rainstorm: October: if she comes in wet she'll get my fist, he promised himself, turning back to the fire, and no mistake; I can't have her getting her death o' cold and then not being fit for wok; she manages to get enough time off as it is. But he knew it wouldn't rain because he hadn't yet noticed the pause between the end of leaves falling and the commencing tread of mute cats running lightfoot through them; so he swung a watch from his waistcoat pocket in pursuance of another reason to be angry, and saw with satisfying indignation that it was eleven o'clock. What a bloody time to be coming home, and me having to get up at five