“Three years’ penal servitude!” The big laborer paid no more attention to those words than to any others spoken during that hour’s settlement of his fate. True, he received them standing, as is the custom, fronting the image of Justice, from whose lips they came. But by no single gesture did he let any one see the dumb depths of his soul. If life had taught him nothing else, it had taught him never to express himself. Mute as any bullock led into the slaughtering-house, with something of a bullock’s dulled and helpless fear in his eyes, he passed down and away between his jailers. And at once the professional noises rose, and the professional rhapsodists, hunching their gowns, swept that little lot of papers into their pink tape, and, turning to their neighbors, smiled, and talked, and jerked their eyebrows.
The nest on the Spaniard’s Road had not been able to contain Sheila long. There are certain natures, such as that of Felix, to whom the claims and exercise of authority are abhorrent, who refuse to exercise it themselves and rage when they see it exercised over others, but who somehow never come into actual conflict with it. There are other natures, such as Sheila’s, who do not mind in the least exercising authority themselves, but who oppose it vigorously when they feel it coming near themselves or some others. Of such is the kingdom of militancy. Her experience with the police had sunk deep into her soul. They had not, as a fact, treated her at all badly, which did not prevent her feeling as if they had outraged in her the dignity of woman. She arrived, therefore, in Hampstead seeing red even where red was not. And since, undoubtedly, much real red was to be seen, there was little other color in the world or in her cheeks those days. Long disagreements with Alan, to whom she was still a magnet but whose Stanley-like nature stood firm against the blandishments of her revolting tongue, drove her more and more toward a decision the seeds of which had, perhaps, been planted during her former stay among the breezy airs of Hampstead.
Felix, coming one day into his wife’s study—for the house knew not the word drawing-room—found Flora, with eyebrows lifted up and smiling lips, listening to Sheila proclaiming the doctrine that it was impossible not to live ‘on one’s own.’ Nothing else—Felix learned—was compatible with dignity, or even with peace of mind. She had, therefore, taken a back room high up in a back street, in which she was going to live perfectly well on ten shillings a week; and, having thirty-two pounds saved up, she would be all right for a year, after which she would be able to earn her living. The principle she purposed to keep before her eyes was that of committing herself to nothing which would seriously interfere with her work in life. Somehow, it was impossible to look at this girl, with her glowing cheeks and her glowing eyes, and her hair frizzy from ardor, and to distrust her utterances. Yes! She would arrive, if not where she wanted, at all events somewhere; which, after all, was the great thing. And in fact she did arrive the very next day in the back room high up in the back street, and neither Tod’s cottage nor the house on the Spaniard’s Road saw more than flying gleams of her, thenceforth.