He awaited with extreme impatience the evening on which he would again see Ida. Distrustful always, he could not entirely dismiss the fear that his first impressions might prove mistaken in the second interview; yet he tried his best to do so, and amused himself with imagining for Ida a romantic past, for her and himself together a yet more romantic future. In spite of the strange nature of their relations, he did not delude himself with the notion that the girl had fallen in love with him at first sight, and that she stood before him to take or reject as he chose. He had a certain awe of her. He divined in her a strength of character which made her his equal; it might well be, his superior. Take, for instance, the question of the life she was at present leading. In the case of an ordinary pretty and good-natured girl falling in his way as Ida Starr had done, he would have exerted whatever influence he might acquire over her to persuade her into better paths. Any such direct guidance was, he felt, out of the question here. The girl had independence of judgment; she would resent anything said by him on the assumption of her moral inferiority, and, for aught he knew, with justice. The chances were at least as great that he might prove unworthy of her, as that she should prove unworthy of him.
When he presented himself at the house in the little court by Temple Bar, it was the girl Sally who opened the door to him. She beckoned him to follow, and ran before him upstairs. The sitting-room presented the same comfortable appearance, and Grim, rising lazily from the hearthrug, came forward purring a welcome, but Ida was not there.
“She was obliged to go out,” said Sally, in answer to his look of inquiry. “She won’t be long, and she said you was to make yourself comfortable till she came back.”
On a little side-table stood cups and saucers, and a box of cigars. The latter Sally brought forward.
“I was to ask you to smoke, and whether you’d like a cup of coffee with it?” she asked, with the curious naivete which marked her mode of speech.
“The kettle’s boiling on the side,” she added, seeing that Waymark hesitated. “I can make it in a minute.”
“In that case, I will.”
“You don’t mind me having one as well?”
“Of course not.”
“Shall I talk, or shall I keep quiet? I’m not a servant here, you know,” she added, with an amusing desire to make her position clear. “Ida and me’s friends, and she’d do just as much for I.”
“Talk by all means,” said Waymark, smiling, as he lit his cigar. The result was that, in a quarter of an hour Sally had related her whole history. As Ida had said, she came from Weymouth, where her father was a fisherman, and owner of bum-boats. Her mother kept a laundry, and the family had all lived together in easy circumstances. She herself had come to London—well, just for a change. And what was she doing? Oh, getting her living as best she could. In the day-time she worked in a city workroom.