It was a bare room, wainscoted round the walls a few inches up, papered beyond in some common palish pattern. Laurie stood in the center of the uncarpeted boards, with his back turned to her, looking, it seemed, with an intense expectation at the very dull door in the wall opposite him. He was in his evening dress, she saw, knee-breeches and buckles all complete; and his hands were clenched, as they hung held out a little from his sides, as he himself, crouching a little, stared at the door.
She, too, looked at the door, at its conventional panels and its brass handle; and it appeared to her as if both he and she were expectant of some visitor. The door would open presently, she perceived; and the reason why Laurie was so intent upon the entrance, was that he, no more than she, had any idea as to the character of the person who was to come in. She became quite interested as she watched—it was a method she followed sometimes when wooing sleep—and she began, in her fancy, to go past Laurie as if to open the door. But as she passed him she was aware that he put out a hand to check her, as if to hold her back from some danger; and she stopped, hesitating, still looking, not at Laurie, but at the door.
She began then, with the irresponsibility of deepening sleep, to imagine instead what lay beyond the door—to perceive by intuitive vision the character of the house. She got so far as understanding that it was all as unfurnished as this room, that the house stood solitary among trees, and that even these, and the tangled garden that she determined must surround the house, were as listening and as expectant as herself and the waiting figure of the boy. Once more, as if to verify her semi-passive imaginative excursion, she moved to the door....
Ah! what nonsense it was. Here she was, wide awake again, in her own familiar room, with the firelight on the walls.
... Well, well; sleep was a curious thing; and so was imagination....
... At any rate she had written to Mr. Cathcart.
The “Cock Inn” is situated in Fleet Street, not twenty yards from Mitre Court and scarcely fifty from the passage that leads down to the court where Mr. James Morton still has his chambers.
It was a convenient place, therefore, for Laurie to lunch in, and he generally made his appearance there a few minutes before one o’clock to partake of a small rump steak and a pewter mug of beer. Sometimes he came alone, sometimes in company; and by a carefully thought out system of tips he usually managed to have reserved for him at least until one o’clock a particular seat in a particular partition in that row of stable-like shelters that run the length of the room opposite the door on the first floor.
On the twenty-third of February, however—it was a Friday, by the way, and boiled plaice would have to be eaten instead of rump steak—he was a little annoyed to find his seat already occupied by a small, brisk-looking man with a grey beard and spectacles, who, with a newspaper propped in front of him, was also engaged in the consumption of boiled plaice.