A Riddle Without an Answer

AGAIN Mr Mortimer Lightwood and Mr Eugene Wrayburn sat together in the Temple. This evening, however, they were not together in the place of business of the eminent solicitor, but in another dismal set of chambers facing it on the same second-floor; on whose dungeon-like black outer-door appeared the legend:




(Mr Lightwood’s Offices opposite.)

Appearances indicated that this establishment was a very recent institution. The white letters of the inscription were extremely white and extremely strong to the sense of smell, the complexion of the tables and chairs was (like Lady Tippins’s) a little too blooming to be believed in, and the carpets and floorcloth seemed to rush at the beholder’s face in the unusual prominency of their patterns. But the Temple, accustomed to tone down both the still life and the human life that has much to do with it, would soon get the better of all that.

“Well!” said Eugene, on one side of the fire, “I feel tolerably comfortable. I hope the upholsterer may do the same.”

“Why shouldn’t he?” asked Lightwood, from the other side of the fire.

“To be sure,” pursued Eugene, reflecting, “he is not in the secret of our pecuniary affairs, so perhaps he may be in an easy frame of mind.”

“We shall pay him,” said Mortimer.

“Shall we, really?” returned Eugene, indolently surprised. “You don’t say so!”

“I mean to pay him, Eugene, for my part,” said Mortimer, in a slightly injured tone.

“Ah! I mean to pay him too,” retorted Eugene. “But then I mean so much that I — that I don’t mean.”

“Don’t mean?”

“So much that I only mean and shall always only mean and nothing more, my dear Mortimer. It’s the same thing.”

His friend, lying back in his easy chair, watched him lying back in his easy chair, as he stretched out his legs on the hearth-rug, and said, with the amused look that Eugene Wrayburn could always awaken in him without seeming to try or care:

“Anyhow, your vagaries have increased the bill.”

“Calls the domestic virtues vagaries!” exclaimed Eugene, raising his eyes to the ceiling.

“This very complete little kitchen of ours,” said Mortimer, “in which nothing will ever be cooked—”

“My dear, dear Mortimer,” returned his friend, lazily lifting his head a little to look at him, “how often have I pointed out to you that its moral influence is the important thing?”

“Its moral influence on this fellow!” exclaimed Lightwood, laughing.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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