It was now the beginning of February. As Tom and his uncle had walked from Somerset House the streets were dry and the weather fine; but, as Mr Dosett had remarked, the wind was changing a little out of the east and threatened rain. When Tom left the house it was already falling. It was then past six, and the night was very dark. He had walked there with a top coat and umbrella, but he had forgotten both as he banged the door after him in his passion; and, though he remembered them as he hurried down the steps, he would not turn and knock at the door and ask for them. He was in that humour which converts outward bodily sufferings almost into a relief. When a man has been thoroughly ill-used in greater matters it is almost a consolation to him to feel that he has been turned out into the street to get wet through without his dinner -- even though he may have turned himself out.
He walked on foot, and as he walked became damp and dirty, till he was soon wet through. As soon as he reached Lancaster Gate he went into the park, and under the doubtful glimmer of the lamps trudged on through the mud and slush, not regarding his path, hardly thinking of the present moment in the full appreciation of his real misery. What should he do with himself? What else was there now left to him? He had tried everything and had failed. As he endeavoured to count himself up, as it were, and tell himself whether he were worthy of a happier fate than had been awarded to him, he was very humble -- humble, though so indignant! He knew himself to be a poor creature in comparison with Jonathan Stubbs. Though he could not have been Stubbs had he given his heart for it, though it was absolutely beyond him to assume one of those tricks of bearing one of those manly, winning ways, which in his eyes was so excellent in the other man, still he saw them and acknowledged them, and told himself that they would be all powerful with such a girl as Ayala. Though he trusted to his charms and his rings, he knew that his charms and his rings were abominable, as compared with that outside look and natural garniture which belonged to Stubbs, as though of right -- as though it had been born with him. Not exactly in those words, but with a full inward sense of the words, he told himself that Colonel Stubbs was a gentleman -- whereas he acknowledged himself to be a cad. How could he have hoped that Ayala should accept such a one, merely because he would have a good house of his own and a carriage? As he thought of all this, be hardly knew which he hated most -- himself or Jonathan Stubbs.
He went down to the family house in Queen's Gate, which was closed and dark -- having come there with no special purpose, but having found himself there, as though by accident, in the neighbourhood. Then he knocked at the door, which, after a great undoing of chains, was opened by an old woman, who with her son had the custody of the house when the family were out of town. Sir Thomas in these days had rooms of his own in Lombard Street in which he loved to dwell, and would dine at a City club, never leaving the precincts of the City throughout the week. The old woman was an old servant, and her son was a porter at the office. "Mr Tom! Be that you? Why you are as wet as a mop!" He was wet as any mop, and much dirtier than a mop should be. There was no fire except in the kitchen, and there he was taken. He asked for a greatcoat, but there was no such thing in the house, as the young man had not yet come home. Nor was there any food that could be offered him, or anything to drink; as the cellar was locked up, and the old woman was on board wages. But he sat crouching over the fire, watching the steam as it came up from his damp boots and trousers. "And ain't you had no dinner, Mr Tom?" said the old woman. Tom only shook his head. "And ain't you going to have none?" The poor wretch again shook his head. "That's bad, Mr Tom." Then she looked up into his face. "There is something wrong I know, Mr Tom. I hears that from Jem. Of course he hears what they do be saying in Lombard Street."
"What is it they say, Mrs Tapp?"
"Well -- that you ain't there as you used to be. Things is awk'ard, and Sir Thomas, they say, isn't best pleased. But of course it isn't no affair of mine, Mr Tom."
"They do say it's some'at about a young lady."
"Yes; by heavens!" said Tom, jumping up out of his chair. "Oh, Mrs Tapp, you can't tell the condition I'm in. A young lady indeed! D -- the fellow!"
"D -- the fellow! But there's no good in my standing here cursing. I'll go off again. You needn't say that I've been here, Mrs Tapp?" "But you won't go out into the rain, Mr Tom?"