‘Isn’t he a fool? Just wait a minute while I get the table laid.’
Supper was soon ready in the comfortable kitchen. A cold shoulder of mutton, a piece of cheese, pickled beetroot, a seed-cake, and raspberry jam; such was the fare to which Bessie Byass invited her husband and her guest. On a side-table were some open cardboard boxes containing artificial flowers and leaves; for Bessie had now and then a little ‘mounting’ to do for a shop in Upper Street, and in that way aided the income of the family. She was in even better spirits than usual at the prospect of letting her top-rooms. On hearing that piece of news, Samuel, who had just come from the nearest public-house with a foaming jug, executed a wild dance round the room and inadvertently knocked two plates from the dresser. This accident made his wife wrathful, but only for a moment; presently she was laughing as unrestrainedly as ever, and bestowing upon the repentant young man her familiar flattery.
At eleven o’clock Sidney left them, and mused with smiles on his way home. This was not exactly his ideal of domestic happiness, yet it was better than the life led by the Hewetts—better than that of other households with which he was acquainted—better far, it seemed to him, than the aspirations which were threatening to lead poor Clara—who knew whither? A temptation beset him to walk round into Upper Street and pass Mrs. Tubbs’s bar. He resisted it, knowing that the result would only be a night of sleepless anger and misery.
The next day he again saw Snowdon, and spoke to him of Mrs. Byass’s rooms. The old man seemed at first indisposed to go so far; but when he had seen the interior of the house and talked with the landlady, his objections disappeared. Before another week had passed the two rooms were furnished in the simplest possible way, and Snowdon brought Jane from Clerkenwell Close.
Kirkwood came by invitation as soon as the two were fairly established in their home. He found Jane sitting by the fire in her grandfather’s room; a very little exertion still out-wearied her, and the strange things that had come to pass had made her habitually silent. She looked about her wonderingly, seemed unable to realise her position, was painfully conscious of her new clothes, ever and again started as if in fear.
‘Well, what did I say that night?’ was Sidney’s greeting. ’Didn’t I tell you it would be all right soon?’
Jane made no answer in words, but locked at him timidly; and then a smile came upon her face, an expression of joy that could not trust itself, that seemed to her too boldly at variance with all she had yet known of life.