‘Has he spoken of her to the lady, do you think?’
‘Oh no!’ replied the other, with perfect confidence. ’He has promised me to keep all that a secret as long as I wish. The lady— her name is Miss Lant—seemed all that my friend said she was, and perhaps Jane might do well to make her acquaintance some day; but that mustn’t be till Jane knows and approves the purpose of my life and hers. The one thing that troubles me still, Sidney, is—her father. It’s hard that I can’t be sure whether my son will be a help or a hindrance. I must wait, and try to know him better.’
The conversation had so wearied Michael, that in returning to the house he had to lean on his companion’s arm. Sidney was silent, and yielded, he scarce knew why, to a mood of depression. When Jane returned from Maldon in the evening, and he heard her happy voice as the children ran out to welcome her, there was a heaviness at his heart. Perhaps it came only of hope deferred.
DEATH THE RECONCILER
There is no accounting for tastes. Sidney Kirkwood, spending his Sunday evening in a garden away there in the chaw-bacon regions of Essex, where it was so deadly quiet that you could hear the flutter of a bird’s wing or the rustle of a leaf, not once only congratulated himself on his good fortune; yet at that hour he might have stood, as so often, listening to the eloquence, the wit, the wisdom, that give proud distinction to the name of Clerkenwell Green. Towards sundown, that modern Agora rang with the voices of orators, swarmed with listeners, with disputants, with mockers, with indifferent loungers. The circle closing about an agnostic lecturer intersected with one gathered for a prayer-meeting; the roar of an enthusiastic total-abstainer blended with the shriek of a Radical politician. Innumerable were the little groups which had broken away from the larger ones to hold semi-private debate on matters which demanded calm consideration and the finer intellect. From the doctrine of the Trinity to the question of cabbage versus beef; from Neo-Malthusianism to the grievance of compulsory vaccination; not a subject which modernism has thrown out to the multitude but here received its sufficient mauling. Above the crowd floated wreaths of rank tobacco smoke.
Straying from circle to circle might have been seen Mr. Joseph Snowdon, the baldness of his crown hidden by a most respectable silk hat, on one hand a glove, in the other his walking-stick, a yellow waistcoat enhancing his appearance of dignity, a white necktie spotted with blue and a geranium in his button-hole correcting the suspicion of age suggested by his countenance. As a listener to harangues of the most various tendency, Mr. Snowdon exhibited an impartial spirit; he smiled occasionally, but was never moved to any expression of stronger feeling. His placid front revealed the philosopher.