Book summary: Kingfisher


Jim was not sure when it first dawned on him that there was such a thing as security. When he did reahse it he supposed it to be Hke one of those things, procurable for others, but unprocurable for him, which were marked at a shilling in the shop windows. He had never known bodily safety except for the first few weeks of his life, when his mother by a species of enhghtened tact threatened to come to pieces altogether and was retained by a reluctant matron in the hospital beyond her allotted time. When they returned home they promptly resumed the cup-and-ball existence produced by Tom Barton sintemperance. Tom Barton was quite good-tempered when he was sober, and he was rarely drunk except during the week-ends; but from Friday to Monday the house rose and fell in the tempest of his intoxication. He was a good workman, and their income see-sawed between affluence and penury. Nothing was more normal to Jim than the appearance and disappearance of the furniture. Wash-stands floated in and out of rooms, sofas precariously furnished shelters for games, and then, like Rachel schildren, were not. Mantelpieces held clocks, china dogs and thrilling bluebeaded mats; and at a turn of the wrist nothing but the bread-knife. Hazily, like a far-off dream, a mute piano broke over his baby consciousness, and as swiftly and irrevocably vanished. Es drunk it, was the explanation presented to Jim by a sympathetic neighbour. As regular, and more noticeable than the migratory flight of tables and chairs, were the kicks and bruises which descended upon the human portions of the family. Only Mrs Barton was at all permanently bruised. Tom never hit the children unless they came in his way. When he was mad with drink he frequently expressed a wish to kill them, but beating his wife always did instead. There was no convenient substitute for Mrs Barton.

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