EIGHT
George AT THE CENTRE OF HIS GROUP

It was all settled by the beginning of October. Just three weeks had passed since George first heard the news of Jack's trouble. Now George was speaking as if those three weeks were comfortably remote; just as, in these same first days of October, he disregarded my years in the office from the moment I quit it. Even the celebratory week-end at the Farm was not his idea.

The Farm was already familiar ground to George's group. Without it, in fact, we could not have become so intimate; nowhere in the town could we have made a meeting-place for young men and women, some still watched by anxious families. Rachel had set to work to find a place, and found the Farm. It was a great shapeless red-brick house fifteen miles from the town, standing out in remarkable ugliness among the wide rolling fields of High Leicestershire; but we did not think twice of its ugliness, since there was room to be together in our own fashion, at the price of a few shillings for a weekend. The tenants did not make much of a living from that thin soil, and were glad to put up a party of us and let us provision for ourselves.

Rachel managed everything. This Saturday afternoon, welcoming us, she was like a young wife with a new house.

She had tidied up the big, low, cold sitting-room which the family at the farm never used; she had a fire blazing for us as we arrived, in batches of two and three, after the walk from the village through the drizzling rain. She installed George in the best arm-chair by the fire, and the rest of us gathered round; Jack, Olive and I, Mona, a perky girl for whom George had a fancy, several more of both sexes from

-57-

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