ALL through December balloons had been slack-- hardly any movement about them, even in Christmas week, and from the Bickets Central Australia was as far as ever. The girl Victorine, restored to comparative health, had not regained her position in the blouse department of Messrs. Boney Blayds & Co. They had given her some odd sewing, but not of late, and she had spent much time trying to get work less uncertain. Her trouble was--had always been--her face. It was unusual. People did not know what to make of a girl who looked like that. Why employ one who, without qualification of wealth, rank, fashion, or ability (so far as they knew), made them feel ordinary? For--however essential to such as Fleur and Michael--dramatic interest was not primary in the manufacture or sale of blouses, in the fitting-on of shoes, the addressing of envelopes, making-up of funeral wreaths, or the other ambitions of Victorine. Behind those large dark eyes and silent lips, what went on? It worried Boney Blayds & Co., and the more wholesale forms of commerce. The lurid professions--filmsuper, or mannequin--did not occur to one of selfdeprecating nature, born in Putney.
When Bicket had gone out of a morning with his tray and his balloons not yet blown up, she would stand biting her finger, as though to gnaw her way to some escape from this hand-to-mouth existence which kept her husband thin as a rail, tired as a rook, shabby as a tailless sparrow, and, at the expense of all caste feeling, brought them in no more than just enough to keep them living