He looked in his sixties but could have been younger as his beard covered most of his face.’
“Be off with you said the gentleman next to her; as he stuck his nose in the air.
The man carrying an old canvas bag with a blanket in it was about to walk on and Jane called him back.’
“Here sir, I know it’s not a lot but here is tuppence; go and get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit.’
“Thank you missus; your too kind said the scruffy looking man. The smell of urine and stale sweat was overpowering but Jane smiled and gave the man the money. His hands were rough and his fingernails black as coal as they took the two pennies. He doffed his hat and then walked on.
“You should not encourage begging you know madam; said the gentleman beside her.’
“I take it that you’ve never been poor then said Jane looking up at the tall gentleman as he checked the time on his gold pocket watch. The gold Albert chain had a set of compass points on a small medal attached to it; the symbol of the free mason’s Jane noticed.’
“No madam I have not, I have worked all my life.’
“Then you didn’t notice that the man asking for money had worked in the pit had you.’ “His hands were as rough as sand paper and the coal embedded into his fingernails unlike your neatly manicured fingers.’ “You sir haven’t done a days hard work in your life.’
“So you would know about hard work then would you madam.’
“Yes I would, I’ve stood gutting herring from six o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock at night right up until my last week of pregnancy. So don’t stand there being all sanctimonious with me sir.’
The gentleman’s face went crimson as the bus pulled up. Jane picked up her small brown case and got onto the bus and sat down.
The gentleman walked past her then sat right at the back.’
Jane smiled knowing that she had taken the gentleman down a peg or two.
She looked out of the window all the way to Stannington. She admired the unspoilt countryside, the birds, and the farm animals. The conductress made polite conversation to the driver as the bus went along then came and took her fare.’
“When are you due love.’
“Any time now.’
“Well don’t be starting your labour on this bus mind you; I have a date tonight and I want to go out.’
“Jane fought to keep her laugh in and said I think your safe on that score.’
The bus came to a stop at Stannington and Jane got off slowly.
The gentleman at the back made no attempt to help her off; instead he turned his head and carried on reading the Times Newspaper.’
Jane walked to the pathway where her sister was waiting.
Sarah got out and hugged her sister then the two of them got quickly into the car.
“Can you open the window Sarah it is boiling in here?’
“Use the window winder by the door Jane.’
Jane looked down and saw a handle and began to turn it until she felt the air coming in.
“That’s better I thought I was going to pass out on the bus coming here.’