This was a dark day with him. The gold he handled stung him to hatred and envy, and every feeling which he had resolved to combat as worse than profitless. He could not speak to his fellow-workmen. From morning to night it had rained. St. John’s Arch looked more broken-spirited than ever, drenched in sooty moisture.
During the dinner-hour he walked over to the public-house of which Jane had spoken, and obtained from the barman as full a description as possible of the person he hoped to encounter. Both then and on his return home in the evening he shunned the house where his friends dwelt.
It came round to Monday. For the first time for many months he had allowed Sunday to pass without visiting the Hewetts. He felt that to go there at present would only be to increase the parents’ depression by his own low spirits. Clara had left them now, however, and if he still stayed away, his behaviour might be misinterpreted. On returning from work, he washed, took a hurried meal, and was on the point of going out when someone knocked at his door. He opened, and saw an old man who was a stranger to him.
MRS. BYASS’S LODGINGS
‘You are Mr. Kirkwood?’ said his visitor civilly. ’My name is Snowdon. I should be glad to speak a few words with you, if you could spare the time.’
Sidney’s thoughts were instantly led into the right channel; he identified the old man by his white hair and the cloak. The hat, however, which had been described to him, was now exchanged for a soft felt of a kind common enough; the guernsey, too, had been laid aside. With ready goodwill he invited Mr. Snowdon to enter.
There was not much in the room to distinguish it from the dwelling of any orderly mechanic. A small bed occupied one side; a small table stood before the window; the toilet apparatus was, of course, unconcealed; a half-open cupboard allowed a glimpse of crockery, sundries, and a few books. The walls, it is true, were otherwise ornamented than is usual; engravings, chromo-lithographs, and some sketches of landscape in pencil, were suspended wherever light fell, and the choice manifested in this collection was nowise akin to that which ruled in Mrs. Peckover’s parlour, and probably in all the parlours of Tysoe Street. To select for one’s chamber a woodcut after Constable or Gainsborough is at all events to give proof of a capacity for civilisation.
The visitor made a quick survey of these appearances; then he seated himself on the chair Sidney offered. He was not entirely at his ease, and looked up at the young man twice or thrice before he began to speak again.
’Mr. Kirkwood, were you ever acquainted with my son, by name Joseph Snowdon?’
‘No; I never knew him,’ was the reply. ’I have heard his name, and I know where he once lived—not far from here.’
’You’re wondering what has brought me to you. I have heard of you from people a grandchild of mine is living with. I dare say it is the house you mean—in Clerkenwell Close.’