He was a gruff, soldierly man of forty, who gave the tramps no more ceremony than sheep at the dipping-pond, shoving them this way and that and shouting oaths in their faces. 'Well, that's bloody bad luck, guv'nor,' he said, 'that's bloody bad luck, that is.' And thereafter he took it into his head to treat me with compassion, even with a kind of respect. All the indecent secrets of our underwear were exposed; the grime, the rents and patches, the bits of string doing duty for buttons, the layers upon layers of fragmentary garments, some of them mere collections of holes, held together by dirt.
But when he came to myself, he looked hard at me, and said: 'You are a gentleman? The room became a press of steaming nudity, the sweaty odours of the tramps competing with the sickly, sub-faecal stench native to the spike.
' So I buried my money in a hole under the hedge, marking the spot with a lump of flint.
Then we set about smuggling our matches and tobacco, for it is forbidden to take these into nearly all spikes, and one is supposed to surrender them at the gate.
Then we were sent into the dining-room, where supper was set out on the deal tables.
It was the invariable spike meal, always the same, whether breakfast, dinner or supper—half a pound of bread, a bit of margarine, and a pint of so-called tea.But is an unwritten law that even the sternest Tramp Majors do not search below the knee, and in the end only one man was caught.This was Scotty, a little hairy tramp with a bastard accent sired by cockney out of Glasgow.The Spike (1931) A Hanging (1931) Bookshop Memories (1936) Shooting an Elephant (1936) Down the Mine (1937) (From "The Road to Wigan Pier") North and South (1937) (From "The Road to Wigan Pier") Spilling the Spanish Beans (1937) Marrakech (1939) Boys' Weeklies and Frank Richards's Reply (1940) Charles Dickens (1940) Charles Reade (1940) Inside the Whale (1940) The Art of Donald Mc Gill (1941) The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius (1941) Wells, Hitler and the World State (1941) Looking Back on the Spanish War (1942) Rudyard Kipling (1942) Mark Twain—The Licensed Jester (1943) Poetry and the Microphone (1943) W B Yeats (1943) Arthur Koestler (1944) Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali (1944) Raffles and Miss Blandish (1944) Antisemitism in Britain (1945) Freedom of the Park (1945) Future of a Ruined Germany (1945) Good Bad Books (1945) In Defence Of P. Wodehouse (1945) Nonsense Poetry (1945) Notes on Nationalism (1945) Revenge is Sour (1945) The Sporting Spirit (1945) You and the Atomic Bomb (1945) A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray (1946) A Nice Cup of Tea (1946) Books vs.Cigarettes (1946) Confessions of a Book Reviewer (1946) Decline of the English Murder (1946) How the Poor Die (1946) James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution (1946) Pleasure Spots (1946) Politics and the English Language (1946) Politics vs.Overhead the chestnut branches were covered with blossom, and beyond that great woolly clouds floated almost motionless in a clear sky.Littered on the grass, we seemed dingy, urban riff-raff.We hid them in our socks, except for the twenty or so per cent who had no socks, and had to carry the tobacco in their boots, even under their very toes.We stuffed our ankles with contraband until anyone seeing us might have imagined an outbreak of elephantiasis.We defiled the scene, like sardine-tins and paper bags on the seashore.What talk there was ran on the Tramp Major of this spike.