’Well, there’s quite enough of that; too much. Still I thought I’d tell you, you see. It’s well to know when we’ve got enemies behind our backs. But see, Sidney; to speak seriously, between ourselves.’ He leaned forward in the confidential attitude. ’You say you’ve gone just a bit further than friendship with our Janey. Well, I don’t know a better man, and that’s the truth—but don’t you think we might put this off for a year or two? Look now, here’s this lady, Miss Lant, taking up the girl, and it’s an advantage to her; you won’t deny that. I sympathise with my good old dad; I do, honestly; but I can’t help thinking that Janey, in her position, ought to see a little of the world. There’s no secrets between us; you know what she’ll have as well as I do. I should be a brute if I grudged it her, after all she’s suffered from my neglect. But don’t you think we might leave her free for a year or two?’
‘Yes, I agree with you.’
’You do? I thought you and I could understand each other, if we only got really talking. Look here, Sidney; I don’t mind just whispering to you. For anything I know, Percival is saying disagreeable things to the old man; but don’t you worry about that. It don’t matter a scrap, you see, so long as you and I keep friendly, eh? I’m talking very open to you, but it’s all for Janey’s sake. If you went and told father I’d been saying anything against Percival—well, it would make things nasty for me. I’ve put myself in your hands, but I know the kind of man you are. It’s only right you should hear of what’s said. Don’t worry; we’ll just wait a little, that’s all. I mean it all for the little girl’s sake. It wouldn’t be nice if you married her and then she was told—eh?’
Sidney looked at the speaker steadily, then stirred the fire and moved about for a few moments. As he kept absolute silence, Joseph, after throwing out a few vague assurances of goodwill and trust, rose to take his leave. Kirkwood shook hands with him, but spoke not a word. Late the same night Sidney penned a letter to Michael Snowdon. In the morning he read it over, and instead of putting it into an envelope, locked it away in one of his drawers.
When the evening for his visit to Hanover Street again came round he again absented himself, this time just calling to leave word with the servant that business kept him away. The business was that of walking aimlessly about Clerkenwell, in mud and fog. About ten o’clock he came to Farringdon Road Buildings, and with a glance up towards the Hewetts’ window he was passing by when a hand clutched at him. Turning, he saw the face of John Hewett, painfully disturbed, strained in some wild emotion.
‘Sidney! Come this way; I want to speak to you.’
‘Why, what’s wrong?’
‘Come over here. Sidney—I’ve found my girl—I’ve found Clara!’