“I’m going to the Italian Opera to try on,” said Miss Wren, taking away her hand after a little while, and laughing satirically to hide that she had been crying; “I must see your back before I go, Mr. Wrayburn. Let me first tell you, once for all, that it’s of no use your paying visits to me. You wouldn’t get what you want, of me, no, not if you brought pincers with you to tear it out.”

“Are you so obstinate on the subject of a doll’s dress for my godchild?”

“Ah!” returned Miss Wren with a hitch of her chin, “I am so obstinate. And of course it’s on the subject of a doll’s dress — or address — whichever you like. Get along and give it up!”

Her degraded charge had come back, and was standing behind her with the bonnet and shawl.

“Give ’em to me and get back into your corner, you naughty old thing!” said Miss Wren, as she turned and espied him. “No, no, I won’t have your help. Go into your corner, this minute!”

The miserable man, feebly rubbing the back of his faltering hands downward from the wrists, shuffled on to his post of disgrace; but not without a curious glance at Eugene in passing him, accompanied with what seemed as if it might have been an action of his elbow, if any action of any limb or joint he had, would have answered truly to his will. Taking no more particular notice of him than instinctively falling away from the disagreeable contact, Eugene, with a lazy compliment or so to Miss Wren, begged leave to light his cigar, and departed.

“Now you prodigal old son,” said Jenny, shaking her head and her emphatic little forefinger at her burden, “you sit there till I come back. You dare to move out of your corner for a single instant while I’m gone, and I’ll know the reason why.”

With this admonition, she blew her work candles out, leaving him to the light of the fire, and, taking her big door-key in her pocket and her crutch-stick in her hand, marched off.

Eugene lounged slowly towards the Temple, smoking his cigar, but saw no more of the dolls’ dressmaker, through the accident of their taking opposite sides of the street. He lounged along moodily, and stopped at Charing Cross to look about him, with as little interest in the crowd as any man might take, and was lounging on again, when a most unexpected object caught his eyes. No less an object than Jenny Wren’s bad boy trying to make up his mind to cross the road.

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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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