BOOK THE THIRD: A LONG LANE
Chapter 10: Scouts Out (continued)
A more ridiculous and feeble spectacle than this tottering wretch
making unsteady sallies into the roadway, and as often staggering
back again, oppressed by terrors of vehicles that were a long way
off or were nowhere, the streets could not have shown. Over and
over again, when the course was perfectly clear, he set out, got half
way, described a loop, turned, and went back again; when he
might have crossed and re-crossed half a dozen times. Then, he
would stand shivering on the edge of the pavement, looking up the
street and looking down, while scores of people jostled him, and
crossed, and went on. Stimulated in course of time by the sight of
so many successes, he would make another sally, make another
loop, would all but have his foot on the opposite pavement, would
see or imagine something coming, and would stagger back again.
There, he would stand making spasmodic preparations as if for a
great leap, and at last would decide on a start at precisely the
wrong moment, and would be roared at by drivers, and would
shrink back once more, and stand in the old spot shivering, with
the whole of the proceedings to go through again.
'It strikes me,' remarked Eugene coolly, after watching him for
some minutes, 'that my friend is likely to be rather behind time if
he has any appointment on hand.' With which remark he strolled
on, and took no further thought of him.
Lightwood was at home when he got to the Chambers, and had
dined alone there. Eugene drew a chair to the fire by which he was
having his wine and reading the evening paper, and brought a
glass, and filled it for good fellowship's sake.
'My dear Mortimer, you are the express picture of contented
industry, reposing (on credit) after the virtuous labours of the day.'
'My dear Eugene, you are the express picture of discontented
idleness not reposing at all. Where have you been?'
'I have been,' replied Wrayburn, '--about town. I have turned up at
the present juncture, with the intention of consulting my highly
intelligent and respected solicitor on the position of my affairs.'
'Your highly intelligent and respect solicitor is of opinion that your
affairs are in a bad way, Eugene.'