‘Eagles wants to see you for a minute about something,’ he said. ‘Just walk round with me, will you?’
John obeyed, in the silent, spiritless way now usual with him. It was but a short distance to the buildings: they went up the winding stone staircase, and Sidney gave a hollow-sounding knock at one of the two doors that faced each other on the fifth storey. Mrs. Eagles opened, a decent, motherly woman, with a pleasant and rather curious smile on her face. She led the way into one of the rooms which John had seen empty only a few hours ago. How was this? Oil-cloth on the floor, a blind at the window, a bedstead, a table, a chest of drawers—
Mrs. Eagles withdrew, discreetly. Hewett stood with a look of uneasy wonderment, and at length turned to his companion.
‘Now, look here,’ he growled, in an unsteady voice, ’what’s all this about?’
‘Somebody seems to have got here before you,’ replied Sidney, smiling.
‘How the devil am I to keep any self-respect if you go on treatin’ me in this fashion?’ blustered John, hanging his head.
‘It isn’t my doing, Mr. Hewett.’
‘A friend’s. Don’t make a fuss. You shall know the person some day.’
ON THE EVE OF TRIUMPH
’I have got your letter, but it tells me no more than the last did. Why don’t you say plainly what you mean? I suppose it’s something you are ashamed of. You say that there’s a chance for me of earning a large sum of money, and if you are in earnest, I shall be only too glad to hear how it’s to be done. This life is no better than what I used to lead years ago; I’m no nearer to getting a good part than I was when I first began acting, and unless I can get money to buy dresses and all the rest of it, I may go on for ever at this hateful drudgery. I shall take nothing more from you: I say it, and I mean it; but as you tell me that this chance has nothing to do with yourself, let me know what it really is. For a large sum of money there are few things I wouldn’t do. Of course it’s something disgraceful, but you needn’t be afraid on that account; I haven’t lost all my pride yet, but I know what I’m fighting for, and I won’t be beaten. Cost what it may, I’ll make people hear of me and talk of me, and I’ll pay myself back for all I’ve gone through.
So write in plain words, or come and see me.
She wrote at a round table, shaky on its central support, in the parlour of an indifferent lodging-house; the October afternoon drew towards dusk; the sky hung low and murky, or, rather, was itself invisible, veiled by the fume of factory chimneys; a wailing wind rattled the sash and the door. A newly lighted fire refused to flame cheerfully, half smothered in its own smoke, which every now and then was blown downwards and out into the room. The letter finished—scribbled angrily with a bad pen and in pale ink—she put it into its envelope—’C. H. Scawthorne, Esq.’