‘Only one word, Thyrza. Is there really any one else?’
‘No; but that doesn’t alter it.’
She walked quickly on. Ackroyd, with a great sigh of relief, went on by her side. They came out into Lambeth Walk, where the market was as noisy as ever; the shops lit up, the stalls flaring with naphtha lamps, the odour of fried fish everywhere predominant. He led her through the crowd and a short distance into her own street. Then she gave him her hand and said: ’Good-night, Mr. Ackroyd. Thank you for bringing me back. You’ll be friends with me and Lyddy?’
‘You’ll come out with her to-morrow?’
‘I can’t promise. Good-night!’
A LAND OF TWILIGHT
It happened that Mrs. Jarmey, the landlady of the house in which the sisters lived, had business in the neighbourhood of the ’Prince Albert,’ and chanced to exchange a word with an acquaintance who had just come away after hearing Thyrza sing. Returning home, she found Lydia at the door, anxiously and impatiently waiting for Thyrza’s appearance. The news, of course, was at once communicated, with moral reflections, wherein Mrs. Jarmey excelled. Not five minutes later, and whilst the two were still talking in the passage, the front door opened, and Thyrza came in. Lydia turned and went upstairs.
Thyrza, entering the room, sought her sister’s face; it had an angry look. For a moment Lydia did not speak; the other, laying aside her hat, said: ‘I’m sorry I’m so late, Lyddy.’
‘Where have you been?’ her sister asked, in a voice which strove to command itself.
Thyrza could not tell the whole truth at once, though she knew it would have to be confessed eventually; indeed, whether or no discovery came from other sources, all would eventually be told of her own free will. She might fear at the moment, but in the end kept no secret from Lydia.
‘I’ve been about with Totty,’ she said, averting her face as she drew off her cotton gloves.
‘Yes, you have! You’ve been singing at a public-house.’
Lydia was too upset to note the paleness of Thyrza’s face, which at another moment would have elicited anxious question. She was deeply hurt that Thyrza made so little account of her wishes; jealous of the influence of Totty Nancarrow; stirred with apprehensions as powerful as a mother’s. On the other hand, it was Thyrza’s nature to shrink into coldness before angry words. She suffered intensely when the voice which was of wont so affectionate turned to severity, but she could not excuse herself till the storm was over. And it was most often from the elder girl that the first words of reconcilement came.
‘That’s your Totty Nancarrow,’ Lydia went on, with no check upon her tongue. ’Didn’t I tell you what ’ud come of going about with her? What next, I should like to know! If you go on and sing in a public-house, I don’t know what you won’t do. I shall never trust you out by yourself again. You shan’t go out at night at all, that’s about it!’