A FALL FROM THE IDEAL
Joseph Snowdon waxed daily in respectability. He was, for one thing, clothing himself in flesh, and, though still any. thing but a portly man, bore himself as becomes one who can indulge a taste for eating and drinking; his step was more deliberate, he no longer presented the suppleness of limb that so often accompanies a needy condition in the man of wits, he grew attentive to his personal equipment, he was always well combed and well shaven, and generally, in hours of leisure, you perceived a fragrance breathing from his handkerchief. Nor was this refinement addressed only to the public. To Clem he behaved with a correctness which kept that lady in a state of acute suspicion; not seldom he brought her a trifling gift, which he would offer with compliments, and he made a point of consulting her pleasure or convenience in all matters that affected them in common. A similar dignity of bearing marked his relations with Hanover Street, When he entered Jane’s parlour it was with a beautiful blending of familiarity and courtesy; he took his daughter’s hand with an air of graceful affection, retaining it for a moment between his own, and regarding her with a gentle smile which hinted the pride of a parent. In speaking with the old man he habitually subdued his voice, respectfully bending forward, solicitously watching the opportunity of a service. Michael had pleasure in his company and conversation. Without overdoing it, Joseph accustomed himself to speak of philanthropic interests. He propounded a scheme for supplying the poor with a certain excellent filter at a price all but nominal; who did not know the benefit to humble homes of pure water for use as a beverage? The filter was not made yet, but Lake, Snowdon, & Co., had it under their consideration.
Michael kept his room a good deal in these wretched days of winter, so that Joseph had no difficulty in obtaining private interviews with his daughter. Every such occasion he used assiduously, his great end being to possess himself of Jane’s confidence. He did not succeed quite so well with the girl as with her grandfather; there was always a reserve in her behaviour which as yet he found it impossible to overcome. Observation led him to conclude that much of this arose from the view she took of his relations with Sidney Kirkwood. Jane was in love with Sidney; on that point he could have no doubt; and in all likelihood she regarded him as unfriendly to Sidney’s suit—women are so shrewd in these affairs. Accordingly, Joseph made it his business by artful degrees to remove this prepossession from her mind. In the course of this endeavour he naturally pressed into his service the gradually discovered fact that Sidney had scruples of conscience regarding Jane’s fortune. Marvellous as it appeared to him, he had all but come to the conclusion that this was a fact.