“Oh! with my fifty pounds a year, I make just enough.” The answer did not reassure him; he had lost confidence. And that fellow Soames! But his sense of justice stifled condemnation. No, she would certainly have died rather than take another penny from him. Soft as she looked, there must be strength in her somewhere—strength and fidelity. But what business had young Bosinney to have got run over and left her stranded like this!
“Well, you must come to me now,” he said, “for anything you want, or I shall be quite cut up.” And putting on his hat, he rose. “Let’s go and get some tea. I told that lazy chap to put the horses up for an hour, and come for me at your place. We’ll take a cab presently; I can’t walk as I used to.”
He enjoyed that stroll to the Kensington end of the gardens—the sound of her voice, the glancing of her eyes, the subtle beauty of a charming form moving beside him. He enjoyed their tea at Ruffel’s in the High Street, and came out thence with a great box of chocolates swung on his little finger. He enjoyed the drive back to Chelsea in a hansom, smoking his cigar. She had promised to come down next Sunday and play to him again, and already in thought he was plucking carnations and early roses for her to carry back to town. It was a pleasure to give her a little pleasure, if it were pleasure from an old chap like him! The carriage was already there when they arrived. Just like that fellow, who was always late when he was wanted! Old Jolyon went in for a minute to say good-bye. The little dark hall of the flat was impregnated with a disagreeable odour of patchouli, and on a bench against the wall—its only furniture—he saw a figure sitting. He heard Irene say softly: “Just one minute.” In the little drawing-room when the door was shut, he asked gravely: “One of your protegees?”
“Yes. Now thanks to you, I can do something for her.”
He stood, staring, and stroking that chin whose strength had frightened so many in its time. The idea of her thus actually in contact with this outcast grieved and frightened him. What could she do for them? Nothing. Only soil and make trouble for herself, perhaps. And he said: “Take care, my dear! The world puts the worst construction on everything.”
“I know that.”
He was abashed by her quiet smile. “Well then—Sunday,” he murmured: “Good-bye.”
She put her cheek forward for him to kiss.
“Good-bye,” he said again; “take care of yourself.” And he went out, not looking towards the figure on the bench. He drove home by way of Hammersmith; that he might stop at a place he knew of and tell them to send her in two dozen of their best Burgundy. She must want picking-up sometimes! Only in Richmond Park did he remember that he had gone up to order himself some boots, and was surprised that he could have had so paltry an idea.