10. CHAPTER X
How the interval of suspense in which I was now condemned might
have affected other men in my position, I cannot pretend to say.
The influence of the two hours' probation upon my temperament was
simply this. I felt physically incapable of remaining still in any
one place, and morally incapable of speaking to any one human being,
until I had first heard all that Ezra Jennings had to say to me.
In this frame of mind, I not only abandoned my contemplated
visit to Mrs. Ablewhite--I even shrank from encountering
Gabriel Betteredge himself.
Returning to Frizinghall, I left a note for Betteredge,
telling him that I had been unexpectedly called away for a
few hours, but that he might certainly expect me to return
towards three o'clock in the afternoon. I requested him,
in the interval, to order his dinner at the usual hour,
and to amuse himself as he pleased. He had, as I well knew,
hosts of friends in Frizinghall; and he would be at no loss
how to fill up his time until I returned to the hotel.
This done, I made the best of my way out of the town again,
and roamed the lonely moorland country which surrounds Frizinghall,
until my watch told me that it was time, at last, to return
to Mr. Candy's house.
I found Ezra Jennings ready and waiting for me.
He was sitting alone in a bare little room, which communicated by a
glazed door with a surgery. Hideous coloured diagrams of the ravages
of hideous diseases decorated the barren buff-coloured walls.
A book-case filled with dingy medical works, and ornamented at the top
with a skull, in place of the customary bust; a large deal table
copiously splashed with ink; wooden chairs of the sort that are seen
in kitchens and cottages; a threadbare drugget in the middle of the floor;
a sink of water, with a basin and waste-pipe roughly let into the wall,
horribly suggestive of its connection with surgical operations--
comprised the entire furniture of the room. The bees were humming among
a few flowers placed in pots outside the window; the birds were singing
in the garden, and the faint intermittent jingle of a tuneless piano
in some neighbouring house forced itself now and again on the ear.
In any other place, these everyday sounds might have spoken pleasantly
of the everyday world outside. Here, they came in as intruders on a
silence which nothing but human suffering had the privilege to disturb.
I looked at the mahogany instrument case, and at the huge roll of lint,
occupying places of their own on the book-shelves, and shuddered inwardly
as I thought of the sounds, familiar and appropriate to the everyday use of
Ezra Jennings' room.