(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Liza Kemp spent most of her free time on the streets of Lambeth. She was not exactly a loose girl, but her dress and actions provoked whistles and jeers whenever she appeared. Liza’s father was dead, and her mother, living on a small pension, earned enough as a charwoman to keep herself in beer. She never spoke a kind word to her daughter, although she expected Liza to hand over all of her money and spend all her time with her mother. Like most girls of her class, Liza worked in a factory and made only enough money to live and to buy a few items of cheap finery.

After a merry dance in the streets of Lambeth, Liza was chased by several young men trying to kiss her. As she fled, only half in earnest, she ran straight into the arms of a stranger and was soundly kissed. She flounced off and found herself strangely moved by the unexpected experience. That night Tom, her earnest and persistent suitor, called on her as usual. Although Liza liked Tom, she did not love him, and so she tried to send him away without hurting his feelings. Tom, however, was stubborn. He begged her to take time to consider his proposal. When he asked her to go on an outing the next day, she refused. She did not want him to spend his money or his hopes on her.

Later, her friend Sally also begged her to go on the outing. When she learned that the stranger who had kissed her would be one of the party, Liza relented against her better judgment. She had learned that the stranger was Jim Blakeston, a married man and the father of five children. Jim’s wife went on the outing too, but Jim paid little attention to her. Instead, he spent most of his time following Liza and Tom around. Jim’s actions angered Tom, but the poor young man was too much in love to blame Liza for encouraging the older man.

After the excursion, Jim followed Liza home and kissed her passionately. She knew that she should be angry, but she was also flattered and pleased. From that night on, Liza was lost. When Jim asked her to walk with him or to meet him at a show, she refused; then she kept the appointment anyway. Although she knew they were both wrong, she seemed powerless to withdraw from his influence. They tried to avoid people they knew, but Liza was afraid that they would be seen sooner or later. At last, she grew reckless and allowed Jim to seduce her.

The next few weeks were heaven for Liza. She loved Jim deeply, and he returned her love; but Liza knew that people were beginning to talk about her. Young men and girls yelled insults to...

(The entire section is 1033 words.)