Hewett turned away to the fireplace and hung his head. Sidney, gazing darkly at the girl, saw her look towards him, and she smiled. The strange effect of that smile upon her features! It gave gentleness to the mouth, and, by making more manifest the intelligent light of her eyes, emphasised the singular pathos inseparable from their regard. It was a smile to which a man would concede anything, which would vanquish every prepossession, which would inspire pity and tenderness and devotion in the heart of sternest resentment.
Sidney knew its power only too well; he averted his face. Then Clara rose again and said:
’I shall just walk round and tell Mrs. Tubbs. It isn’t late, and she’d like to know as soon as possible.’
‘Oh, surely it’ll do in the mornin’!’ exclaimed Mrs. Hewett, who had followed the conversation in silent anxiety.
Clara paid no attention, but at once put on her hat again. Then she said, ‘I won’t be long, father,’ and moved towards the door.
Hewett did not look round.
‘Will you let me walk part of the way with you?’ Sidney asked abruptly.
‘Certainly, if you like.’
He bade the two who remained’ Good-night,’ and followed Clara downstairs.
CLARA AND JANE
Rain no longer fell, but the gusty and bitter wind still swept about the black streets. Walking side by side without speech, Clara and her companion left the neighbourhood of the prison, and kept a northward direction till they reached the junction of highways where stands the ‘Angel.’ Here was the wonted crowd of loiterers and the press of people waiting for tramcar or omnibus—east, west, south, or north; newsboys, eager to get rid of their last batch, were crying as usual, ‘Ech-ow! Exteree speciul! Ech-ow! Steendard!’ and a brass band was blaring out its saddest strain of merry dance-music. The lights gleamed dismally in rain-puddles and on the wet pavement. With the wind came whiffs of tobacco and odours of the drinking-bar.
They crossed, and walked the length of Islington High Street, then a short way along its continuation, Upper Street. Once or twice Clara had barely glanced at Kirkwood, but his eyes made no reply, and his lips were resolutely closed. She did not seem offended by this silence; on the contrary, her face was cheerful, and she smiled to herself now and then. One would have imagined that she found pleasure in the sombreness of which she was the cause.
She stopped at length, and said:
‘I suppose you don’t want to go in with me?’
’Then I’ll say good-night. Thank you for coming so far out of your way.’
‘I’ll wait. I may as well walk back with you, if you don’t mind.’
‘Oh, very well. I shan’t be many minutes.’