Leslie Poles Hartley
In the not very distant future, after the Third World War, Justice had made great strides. Legal Justice, Economic Justice, Social Justice, and many other forms of justice, of which we do not even know the names, had been attained; but there still remained spheres of human relationship and activity in which Justice did not reign.
Two girls were walking up the shallow curving steps of the Equalization (Faces) Center. Each was absorbed in her own thoughts; and one, to judge from an occasional twitching of the shoulders, was crying. They did not look at each other, rather, they looked away; but as they reached the top and began to converge upon the tall glass swing doors, the one who was crying fell back to let the other go in front of her. They turned and their eyes met.
'Jael!' cried the one whose voice was better under control.
They drew apart and stared at each other with looks of horror and dismay. Each felt that she was seeing her old friend for the first, and also—it simultaneously occurred to them both—for the last time.
Judith saw a pretty, fair-haired girl slightly above middle height, whose mouth trembled and whose eyes were reddened by weeping. She had a faint scar on one cheek, but it did not spoil, it gave point to, her prettiness. Jael saw a dark, plain, thick-set young woman whose features were only redeemed from positive ugliness by a pleasant expression and a look of intelligence. Now, her face corrugated by bewilderment and concern for her friend, she looked a fright. Both were in their early twenties.
A stranger to their world would have been struck, as they were, by the contrast in their looks, but he would have been still more surprised by something which they appeared to take for granted: the clothes that they were wearing. In each case it was a suit of sackcloth, differently cut and trimmed, but unmistakably sackcloth; and he would have noticed, with a repulsion which they did not feel, that their hair—for they wore no hats—looked dirty. Some foreign substance had lodged in it, something gray and gritty: could it be ashes?