degree that Welch might be expected to resent. With an Honours class of nineteen and a Department of six, three students seemed a safe number to try for. So far, Dixon's efforts on behalf of his special subject, apart from thinking how much he hated it, had been confined to aiming to secure for it the three prettiest girls in the class, one of whom was Michie's girl, while excluding from it Michie himself. Added to Dixon's dislike of thinking about work at all, the necessity of keeping Michie at arm's length went far to explain his present discomfort.

'What are your main ideas so far, sir, if you don't mind my asking?' Michie asked as they turned downhill into College Road.

Dixon did mind, but said only: 'Well, I think the main emphasis of the thing will be social, you know.' He was trying to stop himself from thinking directly about the official title of his subject, which was 'Medieval Life and Culture'. 'I thought I might start with a discussion of the university, for instance, in its social role.' He comforted himself for having said this by the thought that at least he knew it didn't mean anything.

'You don't propose to offer an analysis of scholasticism, then, I take it?'

This question illustrated exactly why Dixon felt he had to keep Michie out of his subject. Michie knew a lot, or seemed to, which was as bad. One of the things he knew, or seemed to, was what scholasticism was. Dixon read, heard, and even used the word a dozen times a day without knowing, though he seemed to. But he saw clearly that he wouldn't be able to go on seeming to know the meaning of this and a hundred such words while Michie was there questioning, discussing, and arguing about them. Michie was, or seemed, able to make a fool of him again and again without warning. Though it would have been easy enough to pick some technical quarrel with him, over an undelivered essay for example, Dixon was reluctant to do so because he felt superstitiously that Michie was capable of insisting on studying Medieval Life and Culture out of sheer spite and desire to do him down. Michie, then, must be kept out, but with smiles and regrets instead of the blows and kicks which were his due. This was why Dixon now said: 'Oh no, I'm afraid there won't be much meat in it from that point of view. I'm not qualified to pronounce on the learned Scotus or Aquinas, I'm afraid.' Or should it have been Augustine?

'It might be rather fascinating to study the effect on men's lives of the various popular debasements and vulgarizations of the schoolmen's doctrines.'

'Oh, agreed, agreed,' Dixon said, his lips beginning to shake, 'but that's a subject for a D.Phil thesis, wouldn't you say, rather than a fairly elementary course of lectures?'

Michie gave at some length, but luckily without asking any questions, his views of the case for and against such an opinion. After Dixon had voiced his regret that so interesting a discussion must be broken off, they parted at the foot of College Road, Michie to his Hall of Residence, Dixon to his digs.

Hurrying through the sidestreets, deserted at this hour before works and offices closed, Dixon thought of Welch. Would Welch have asked him to get up a special subject if he wasn't going to keep him on as a lecturer? Substitute any human name for Welch's and the answer must be No. But retain the original reading and no certainty was possible. As recently as last week, a month after the special subject had been first mentioned, he'd heard Welch talking to the Professor of Education about 'the sort of new man' he was after. Dixon had felt very ill for five minutes; then Welch had come up to him and begun discussing, in tones of complete honesty, what he wanted Dixon to do with the Pass people next year. At the memory, Dixon rolled his eyes together like marbles and sucked in his cheeks to give a consumptive or wasted appearance to his face, moaning loudly as he crossed the sunlit street to his front door.

On the florid black hallstand were a couple of periodicals and some letters that had come by the second post. There was something in a typed envelope for Alfred Beesley, who was a member of the College's English Department; a buff envelope containing football pool coupons and addressed to W. Atkinson, an insurance salesman some years older than Dixon; and another typed envelope addressed to 'J. Dickinson' with a London postmark. He hesitated, then opened it. Inside was a sheet hastily torn from a pad bearing a few ill-written lines in green ink. Without formality the writer announced that he'd liked the shipbuilding article and proposed to publish it 'in due course'. He'd be writing again 'before very long' and signed himself 'L. S. Caton'.

Dixon took a felt hat of Atkinson's from the hallstand, put it on his head, and did a little dance in the narrow hall. Welch would find it harder to sack him now. It was good news apart from that; it was generally encouraging; perhaps the article had had some merit after all. No, that was going too far; but it did mean it was the right sort of stuff, and a man who'd written one lot of the right sort of stuff could presumably write more. He'd enjoy telling Margaret about it. He replaced the hat, glancing idly at the periodicals, which were destined for Evan Johns, office worker at the College and amateur oboist. The front page of one of them bore a large and well-produced photograph of a contemporary composer Johns might reasonably be supposed to admire. An idea came into Dixon's mind, which was the more ready to receive it in this mood of exultation. He stood still and listened for a moment, then crept into the dining-room where the table was laid for high tea. Working quickly but carefully, he began altering the composer's face with a soft black pencil. The lower lip he turned into a set of discoloured snaggle-teeth, adding another lower lip, thicker and looser than the original, underneath. Duelling-scars appeared on the cheeks, hairs as thick as tooth-picks sprang from the widened nostrils, the eyes, enlarged and converging, spilled out on to the nose. After crenellating the jaw-line and hiding the forehead in a luxuriant fringe, he added a Chinese moustache and pirate's earrings, and had just replaced the papers on the hallstand when somebody began to come in by the front door. He sprang into the dining-room and listened again. After a few seconds he smiled as a voice called out 'Miss Cutler' in an accent northern like his own, but eastern where his own was western. He came out and said: 'Hallo, Alfred.'

'Uh, hallo, Jim.' Beesley was tearing his letter open with some haste. The kitchen door opened behind Dixon and the head of Miss Cutler, their landlady, emerged to see who and how many they were. Satisfied on these points, she smiled and withdrew. Dixon turned back to Beesley, who was now reading his letter, scowling as he did so.

'Coming in to tea?'

Beesley nodded and handed Dixon the cyclostyled sheet. 'Spot of good news to take home with me for the weekend.'

Dixon read that Beesley was thanked for his application, but that Mr P. Oldham had been appointed to the post. 'Oh, bad luck, Alfred. Still, there'll be others to go for, won't there?'

'Doubt it, for October. Time's running pretty short now.'

They took their seats at the tea-table.' Were you very set on it?' Dixon asked.

'Only in so far as it would have been a way of getting away from Fred Karno.' This was how Beesley was accustomed to refer to his professor.

'I suppose you were quite set on it, then.'

'That's right. Anything new from Neddy about your chances?'

'No, nothing direct, but I've just had a bit of good news. That chap Caton's taken my article, the thing about shipbuilding.'

'That's a comfort, eh? When's it coming out?'

'He didn't say.'

'Oh? Got the letter there?' Dixon passed it to him. 'Mm, not too fussy about stationery and so on, is he? I see… Well, you'll be wanting more definite information than that, won't you?'

Dixon's nose twitched his glasses up into position, a habit of his.'Will I?'

'Well, Christ, Jim, of course you will, old man. A vague acceptance of that kind isn't much use to anyone. Might be a couple of years before it comes out, if then. No, you pin him down to a date, then you'll have got some real evidence to give Neddy. Take my advice.'

Uncertain whether the advice was sound, or whether it arose out of Beesley's disappointment, Dixon was about to temporize when Miss Cutler came into the room with a tray of tea and food. One of the oldest of her many black dresses shone softly at several points of her stout frame. The emphatic quietness of her tread, the quick, trained movements of her large purple hands, the little grimace and puff of breath with which she enjoined silence upon each article she laid on the table, her modestly lowered glance, combined to make it impossible to talk in her presence, except to her. It was many years now since her retirement from domestic service and entry into the lodging-house trade, but although she sometimes showed an impressive set of landlady-characteristics, her deportment when serving meals would still have satisfied the most exacting lady-housekeeper. Dixon and Beesley said something to her, receiving, as usual, no reply beyond a nod until the tray was unloaded; then a conversation followed, only to be abruptly broken off at the entry of the insurance salesman and ex-Army major, Bill Atkinson.

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