At something after two o'clock that night, K. put down his pipe and
listened. He had not been able to sleep since midnight. In his
dressing-gown he had sat by the small fire, thinking. The content of his
first few months on the Street was rapidly giving way to unrest. He who
had meant to cut himself off from life found himself again in close touch
with it; his eddy was deep with it.
For the first time, he had begun to question the wisdom of what he had
done. Had it been cowardice, after all? It had taken courage, God knew,
to give up everything and come away. In a way, it would have taken more
courage to have stayed. Had he been right or wrong?
And there was a new element. He had thought, at first, that he could fight
down this love for Sidney. But it was increasingly hard. The innocent
touch of her hand on his arm, the moment when he had held her in his arms
after her mother's death, the thousand small contacts of her returns to the
little house--all these set his blood on fire. And it was fighting blood.
Under his quiet exterior K. fought many conflicts those winter days--over
his desk and ledger at the office, in his room alone, with Harriet planning
fresh triumphs beyond the partition, even by Christine's fire, with
Christine just across, sitting in silence and watching his grave profile
and steady eyes.
He had a little picture of Sidney--a snap-shot that he had taken himself.
It showed Sidney minus a hand, which had been out of range when the camera
had been snapped, and standing on a steep declivity which would have been
quite a level had he held the camera straight. Nevertheless it was Sidney,
her hair blowing about her, eyes looking out, tender lips smiling. When
she was not at home, it sat on K.'s dresser, propped against his
collar-box. When she was in the house, it lay under the pin-cushion.
Two o'clock in the morning, then, and K. in his dressing-gown, with the
picture propped, not against the collar-box, but against his lamp, where he
could see it.
He sat forward in his chair, his hands folded around his knee, and looked
at it. He was trying to picture the Sidney of the photograph in his old
life--trying to find a place for her. But it was difficult. There had
been few women in his old life. His mother had died many years before.
There had been women who had cared for him, but he put them impatiently out
of his mind.