In the middle room, through which she had to pass, her father and Mr. Eagles were talking together. The latter gave her a ‘good-evening,’ respectful, almost as to a social superior. Within, Amy and Annie were just going to bed. She sat with them in her usual silence for a quarter of an hour, then, having ascertained that Eagles was gone into his own chamber, went out to speak to her father.
‘My friend came,’ she said. ‘Do you suspect who it was?’
‘Why, no, I can’t guess, Clara.’
‘Haven’t you thought of Mr. Kirkwood?’
‘You don’t mean that?’
‘Father, you are quite mistaken about Jane Snowdon—quite.’
John started up from his seat.
‘Has he told you so, himself?’
’Yes. But listen; you are not to say a word on that subject to him. You will be very careful, father?’
John gazed at her wonderingly. She kissed his forehead, and withdrew to the other room.
John Hewett no longer had membership in club or society. The loss of his insurance-money made him for the future regard all such institutions with angry suspicion. ‘Workin’ men ain’t satisfied with bein’ robbed by the upper classes; they must go and rob one another.’ He had said good-bye to Clerkenwell Green; the lounging crowd no longer found amusement in listening to his frenzied voice and in watching the contortions of his rugged features. He discussed the old subjects with Eagles, but the latter’s computative mind was out of sympathy with zeal of the tumid description; though quite capable of working himself into madness on the details of the Budget, John was easily soothed by his friend’s calmer habits of debate. Kirkwood’s influence, moreover, was again exerting itself upon him—an influence less than ever likely to encourage violence of thought or speech. In Sidney’s company the worn rebel became almost placid; his rude, fretted face fell into a singular humility and mildness. Having ended by accepting what he would formerly have called charity, and that from a man whom he had wronged with obstinate perverseness, John neither committed the error of obtruding his gratitude, nor yet suffered it to be imagined that obligation sat upon him too lightly. He put no faith in Sidney’s assertion that some unknown benefactor was to be thanked for the new furniture; one and the same pocket had supplied that and the money for Mrs. Hewett’s burial. Gratitude was all very well, but he could not have rested without taking some measures towards a literal repayment of his debt. The weekly coppers which had previously gone for club subscriptions were now put away in a money-box; they would be long enough in making an appreciable sum, but yet, if he himself could never discharge the obligation, his children must take it up after him, and this he frequently impressed upon Amy, Annie, and Tom.