On the previous day he had received an enheartening, challenging, sardonic letter from his stepfather, who referred to politics and envisaged a new epoch for the country. Edwin Clayhanger was a Radical of a type found only in the Midlands and the North. For many years Clayhanger's party, to which he was passionately faithful, had had no war-cry and no programme worthy of its traditions.
At one point the contiguous demesnes of the Orgreaves and the Clayhangers were separated only by a poor, sparse hedge, a few yards in length. Somebody was pushing his way through this hedge. It was Edwin Clayhanger. Despite the darkness of the night she could be sure that the dim figure was Edwin Clayhanger's by the peculiar, exaggerated swing of the loose arms.
Darius Clayhanger's printing office was a fine example of the policy of makeshift which governed and still governs the commercial activity of the Five Towns. It consisted of the first floor of a nondescript building which stood at the bottom of the irregularly shaped yard behind the house and shop, and which formed the southern boundary of the Clayhanger premises.
The position of Mr Clayhanger's easy-chair a detail apparently trifling was in reality a strongly influencing factor in the family life, for it meant that the father's presence obsessed the room. And it could not be altered, for it depended on the window; the window was too small to be quite efficient.
Mrs Hamps was the widowed younger sister of their mother, and she had taken a certain share in the supervision of Darius Clayhanger's domestic affairs after the death of Mrs Clayhanger. This latter fact might account, partially but not wholly, for the intense and steady dislike in which she was held by Maggie, Clara, and Mrs Nixon.
The only unintimidating phenomena in the crowded place were the lye-brushes, the dusty job-files that hung from the great transverse beams, and the proof-sheets that were scattered about. These printed things showed to what extent Darius Clayhanger's establishment was a channel through which the life of the town had somehow to pass.
Some knew that it was "Clayhanger's lad," a nice-behaved young gentleman, and the spitten image of his poor mother. They all knew what a lad is the feel of his young skin under his "duds," the capricious freedom of his movements, his sudden madnesses and shoutings and tendernesses, and the exceeding power of his unconscious wistful charm. They could divine all that in a glance.
One of the new servants entered the room and handed a letter to Hilda, and left the room and shut the door. The envelope was addressed "Miss Lessways, 59 Preston Street, Brighton," in Edwin Clayhanger's beautiful handwriting. Every evening came thus a letter, which he had posted in Bursley on the previous day. Hilda thought: "Will this contain another reproach at my irregularity?
This ground-floor had been a stable for many years; it was now, however, a baker's storeroom. Once there had been an interior staircase leading from the ground-floor to the first-floor, but it had been suppressed in order to save floor space, and an exterior staircase constructed with its foot in Clayhanger's yard.
As he was closing the safe, Stifford, agitated, hurried into the room. "Please, sir, Mr Clayhanger's in the Square. I thought I'd better tell you." "What? Father?" "Yes, sir. He's standing opposite the chapel and he keeps looking this way. I thought you'd like "