I was searching for a corner seat on the train next the corridor and many of these were labelled engaged and otherwise occupied. In one compartment I found a young mother nursing a baby while another child lay asleep on the seat. “Only my husband,” she said in reply to my question whether any other passengers claimed a seat beside her.
I laid down my coat and bag and then hesitated. The little family group was attractive and the mother had a pleasant smile but the blind was drawn to keep the light off the sleeping child, the window closed to exclude the draught and the seats were encumbered with the miscellanies of a children’s wardrobe. I should have to submit to nursery rules for over seven hours and I decided to try further along.
Here was a grandmother taking to her distant home a little chap of 2 l/2 and she pointed to the very corner I coveted. A little later two or three women passed asking if we had a vacant seat and remarking, “There is room further along but there are two babies.”
The second time this remark was made the young mother, who was seeing her own child off, said indignantly how selfish people were. They forgot that they were babies themselves once. But as one who had fled from the nursery compartment — myself —- I reminded her that one might be a lover of babies and yet object to being squeezed in a corner beside two strange infants for seven hours It might be a pleasant experience and it might not.
She assented rather grudgingly as she gazed still on the angel who throughout the whole long journey showed himself truly angelic and won all our hearts.
Two fellow passengers were a middle-aged couple — she stout and comely; he so very plain looking that one wondered how such a handsome girl could ever have looked at him. He had a low forehead, a sensible nose, pale watery eyes and the whole aspect of him might be described as “common.” The vile Lancashire accent unreasonably increased my prejudice.
But there was no question of his wife’s affection and trust and we were to have evidence that he deserved it. To give us more room he stood in the corridor most of the time and, after two or three hours, he suddenly appeared with a young woman who he explained had been standing all the way from London and he thrust her into his seat.
Whether from fatigue or grief or both, she put her hand kerchief to her eyes and wept silently. He then took down from the rack a bundle of magazines and put them on her lap but she could not see them for the welling tears.
Presently, we reached Crewe and, among others, I went out to get a cup of tea. The little sensible nosed, nice man busied himself carrying cups to his wife and other women and it didn’t altogether suit him that I was independent for he suddenly asked, “ Have another cup? Now don’t hesitate.”
And, before I could say a word and before my cup was empty, he had snatched it from me and was off down the platform. I got my three pence ready and when I held it out, he bowed gallantly, and said, “Keep it for the kirk plate.” This was an allusion to my Scots accent. (He had asked me previously if I was going to Glasgow).
Then he retired to the corridor to smoke his peaceful pipe. To his handsome wife I remarked, “There are not many like your husband.” Her confident response was, “He is the only one and he is always like that.”