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TRUTH. (1848- 1849.)



How the interval of suspense to 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. AblewhiteI
even shrank from encountering Gabriel Betteredge

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

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 connexion
with surgical operationscomprised 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
bookshelves, and shuddered inwardly as I thought
of the sounds, familiar and appropriate to the
everyday use of Ezra Jennings's room.

"I make no apology, Mr. Blake, for the
place in which I am receiving you," he said.
"It is the only room in the house, at this hour
of the day, in which we can feel quite sure of
being left undisturbed. Here are my papers
ready for you; and here are two books to which
we may have occasion to refer, before we have
done. Bring your chair to the table, and we
shall be able to consult them together."

I drew up to the table; and Ezra Jennings
handed me his manuscript notes. They
consisted of two large folio leaves of paper. One
leaf contained writing which only covered the
surface at intervals. The other presented writing,
in red and black ink, which completely filled
the page from top to bottom. In the irritated
state of my curiosity, at that moment, I laid
aside the second sheet of paper in despair.

"Have some mercy on me!" I said. "Tell
me what I am to expect, before I attempt to
read this."

"Willingly, Mr. Blake! Do you mind my
asking you one or two more questions?"

"Ask me anything you like!"

He looked at me with the sad smile on his
lips, and the kindly interest in his soft brown

"You have already told me," he said, "that
you have never- to your knowledgetasted
opium in your life."

"To my knowledge?" I repeated.

"You will understand directly, why I speak
with that reservation. Let us go on. You are
not aware of ever having taken opium. At
this time, last year, you were suffering from