(9/13)The School at Thrush Green
Peters closes.'
    'Very well,' said Ada. 'But make it quite clear that we shall need only a light luncheon. Our digestions won't stand a great deal.'
    'Nor our purses,' added Bertha, as Violet made her way into the hall to fetch her coat, hat and gloves.
    Tho Fuchsia Bush might only be next door, but a lady did not walk in the High Street at Lulling improperly dressed.

    Albert Piggott's first venture outside after his illness did not involve a long journey. He simply took a few paces northward from his own front door to the shelter of The Two Pheasants.
    Mr Jones, a kindly man, greeted him cheerfully. 'Well, this is more like it, Albert! How are you then? And what can I get you?'

    'I'm pickin' up,' growled Albert. 'Slowly, mind you. I bin real bad this time.'
    'Well, we're none of us getting any younger. Takes us longer to get back on an even keel. Half a pint?'
    'Make it a pint. I needs buildin' up, Doctor says.'
    'Well, your Nelly'll do that for you,' said the landlord heartily, setting a foaming glass mug before his visitor. 'I hear she's doing wonders down at Lulling.'
    'That ain't here though, is it?' responded Albert nastily. He wiped the froth from his mouth with the back of his hand, and then transferred it to the side of his trousers.
    'You going to get back to work?' enquired Mr Jones, changing the subject diplomatically.
    'Not yet. Still under the doctor, see. Young Cooke can pull his weight for a bit. Won't hurt him.'
    At that moment Percy Hodge entered and Mr Jones was glad to have another customer to lighten the gloom.
    'Wotcher, Albie! You better then?' said Percy.
    'No,' said Albert.
    'Don't look too bad, do he?' said Percy, appealing to the landlord.
    'Ah!' said he non-committally. If he agreed it would only give Albert a chance to refute such an outrageous suggestion, and maybe lead to the disclosure of various symptoms of his illness, some downright revolting, and all distasteful.
    On the other hand, if he appeared sympathetic to Albert claiming that he still looked peaky and should take great care during his convalescence, the results might still be the same, and Albert's descriptions of his ills were not the sort of thing one wished to hear about in a public place.
    Mr Jones, used to this kind of situation, betook himself to the other end of the room, dusted a few high shelves and listened to his two clients.
    Percy Hodge had a small farm along the road to Nidden. He was related to Mrs Jenner, but had nowhere near the resourcefulness and energy of that worthy lady.
    His first wife Gertie had died some years earlier. For a time he had attempted to court Jenny, at Winnie Bailey's, but was repulsed. He then married again, but his second wife had left him. Since then, he had been paying attention to one of the Cooke family, sister to the young Cooke who looked after the church at Thrush Green and its churchyard.
    'Still on your own?' asked Albert, dying to know how Percy's amorous affairs were progressing.
    'That's right,' said Percy. 'And better off, I reckon. Women are kittle-cattle.'
    From this, Albert surmised that the Cooke girl was not being co-operative.
    'Here I am,' went on Percy morosely, 'sound in wind and limb. Got a nice house, and a good bit of land, and a tidy bit in Lulling Building Society. You'd think any girl'd jump at the chance.'
    'Girls want more than that,' Albert told him.
    'How d'you mean?'
    'They want more fussing like. Take her some flowers.'
    'I've took her some flowers.'
    'Chocolates then.'
    'I've took her chocolates.'
    'Well, I don't know,' said Albert, sounding flummoxed. 'Something out of the garden, say.'
    'I've took her onions, turnips, leeks and a ridge cucumber last summer. Didn't do a ha'p'orth of good.'
    'Maybe you're not loving enough. Girls read about such stuff in books. Gives 'em silly ideas. Makes them want looking after. They wants attention. They wants - '
    He broke off searching for the right word.
    'Wooing!' shouted Mr Jones, who could bear it no longer.

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