Stephen Morris

Stephen Morris by Nevil Shute Read Free Book Online

Book: Stephen Morris by Nevil Shute Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nevil Shute
comment or two, abandoned his magazine.
    ‘Look at that chap,’ he said. ‘Riley, he’s going to leave us.’
    Riley looked up. ‘Strikes me he’s the only one of us that’s got any sense,’ he said.
    Things had not gone well the previous week. Already the weather was showing signs of breaking and numbers were falling off, though there was still a crowd at the week-ends. But in the middle of the week, business was undoubtedly very slack; much of the time was spent sitting in a field wondering if anyone else was going to turn up or whether they had better go home for the day. All these things were the sure signs of the approach of winter, and the winter this year would be an even less lucrative period than last.
    Morris laid down his book. ‘Look here,’ he said, ‘what is going to happen? Are you going to carry on this winter, or are you going to sack me, or are you quitting? I’d rather like to know; one wants some time to poke about for something else.’
    ‘I should poke, if I were you,’ said Stenning.
    There was a short silence.
    ‘I’ve been thinking about this,’ said Riley. ‘It seems to me we’ve got to make up our minds to something drastic this winter. If we stay on here, we’ll lose money steadily till next Easter; we shan’t earn our keep.’
    ‘That’s right,’ said Stenning.
    ‘We can go to Croydon,’ continued Riley, ‘and start an air-taxi business there, with joy-riding thrown in - or we can go and do that somewhere in the Midlands.’
    ‘Very good scheme,’ said Morris dryly, ‘only there’s somebody doing it already in each case - and losing money on it.’
    ‘I know,’ said Riley. ‘Or we can quit.’
    There was a lengthy silence in the hut. Stenning produced a pipe and lit it, borrowing a match from Riley. Morris sat silent, staring at the stove. This was no business of his; he was a paid employee. It was he, however, who first broke the silence.
    ‘How much of
your
capital have you got back?’ he asked.
    ‘I’ve got a little over half mine,’ said Stenning.
    ‘Yes,’ said Riley. ‘If we could realise the machines we shouldn’t have done at all badly out of it - in fact we’d have made money. I don’t know that we can.’
    ‘I’m damn sure we can’t,’ muttered Stenning. ‘Nobody wants Avros in the autumn.’
    ‘What’ll you do if you chuck it up?’ asked Morris.
    ‘I should go and see if there’s anything doing at Brooklands,’ said Riley. ‘I was known there before the war. One could look out for test-pilot work, too. You’re going for that stuff, are you?’ He indicated the
Theory of Structures.
    ‘If I can,’ said Morris. ‘Rawdon put it into my head.’
    ‘He’ll take you on if you touch him the right way,’ said Riley. ‘You’ve got a chance there if you can work it.’
    ‘I wish I had a head for books,’ said Stenning. ‘He’llbe making a fortune while we’re driven to the streets.’
    ‘Well, what’s it to be?’ said Riley. ‘Carry on or quit? If it’s carry on, we’ll have to put back some of the money we’ve taken out of it, this winter. It’ll need subsidies.’
    There was another little silence. Then Stenning took the pipe from his mouth.
    ‘I say, quit while the quitting’s good,’ he said.
    Morris sat staring at the stove. Two more little fortunes - very little ones, merely gratuities - had gone into aviation and been lost. That was the way of money that went into this business; nobody ever saw it again. Of course, this would have happened anyway; this business was just a sideshow at the seaside, like a troupe of nigger minstrels, and the visitors were getting tired of it. It was time for the booth to close down. There was no more money in the business.
    But perhaps there was more in it than that. That summer they had carried safely and well many thousands of people; nearly ten thousand, Morris thought. Say twenty thousand since the business started. Most of them had been impressed with the safety of aircraft;

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