Oh, the ‘bus, the ‘bus! We had been complaining that our particular rural district was so much on the way to nowhere — that it would never pay to run a daily ‘bus service.
And we ourselves grumbled that the market’ bus was always overcrowded — how many times have we had to stand nearly all the way, perhaps crushed into a seat with seven others meant only for four comfortably?
And market day is all very well when you must go on that day, or when you wish to meet your friends. But if you want to do shopping, and have reasonable leisure for trying on a new pair of shoes, or selecting materials, or choosing a hat, then every counter is crowded with waiting buyers, bolder and more insistent than yourself.
It is pleasant meeting friends and acquaintances as you walk along the street or through the market, but on a day when a lot of business has to be got through and the only ‘bus leaves town early, how provoking to come across one friend after the other whom you have not seen for weeks or months!
One catches up just as you were going to pop into the chemist’s or the milliner’s or the office of the surveyor of taxes (alas) and you make a mental calculation, “Well,I’ll walk along with her a bit and say nothing,” all the while that you are exchanging friendly enquiries, and hoping that the milliner’s shop is not too full when you turn back.
Then a trying hour in the milliner’s being over, you wonder whether it is the chemist, the grocer, or the fishmonger next, when you meet one of your best friends hurrying along with a very red face. “Oh, you, is it? What an age since I’ve seen you. Just walk along with me, will you, for I’ve got to meet so and so at such an hour and time’s up — or some explanation of that kind which it would be sheer waste of brain to attempt to remember — it might be an appointment with the dentist or the vaccinator, or a train, or a ‘bus, or a friend’s lunch hour — it doesn’t matter — the main point is that she’s desperately rushed and you, of course, are just sauntering along with nothing to do.
You keep up the illusion for a hundred yards or so till you realise that you are leaving the shops behind, and you have a wild fear that you are going to get nothing more done. So you stop and falter out that you too, have a few things to attend to, and one ’bus only at the end of the day…
You turn back resolved to pass all acquaintances hereafter with a pleasant nod, or should it be a chilly one? No matter! While you are vaguely wondering how your nods appear to others you are suddenly stopped dead by two old friends, mother and daughter, the former looking ill, and you remember an accident or an illness or something.
Perfectly inhuman to pass on without a greeting. So you stop and enter into particulars with her. Unfortunately, you are on the edge of the pavement and facing all the passers by and among them is one of your very best friends seen too seldom. She smiles, pauses a fraction of a second, glances at the two others, doesn’t seem to know them, and before you can decide what you ought to do, she has hurried on.
As I write, there is a lull. The blessed quiet! One cannot have the advantages of rural retirement, nor of civilisation without the disadvantages peculiar to both.