Page:Court Royal.djvu/422

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badly, a thief was in it. Lazarus snuffed the wick with his fingers, and snuffed out the light.

At once, from all sides, came the rustling of the blackbeetles emerging from their holes and spreading over the floor. Lazarus fancied they were about his chair, scrambling up his legs. He stood up, shook himself, relit the candle, and ran about, stamping on the retreating insects.

How lonely he felt in the house! How still it was, like a house that was dead! A chill sense of solitude crept over him. What if he had another fit in the night. What if he woke up, feeling ill, wanting brandy, or to be bled, and no one was in the house to come to his help; and he was senseless or weak in the morning, unable to open the door when Mrs. Thresher came? But—would Mrs. Thresher come? Perhaps she did not know that he had driven away Joanna and her mother. Lazarus was alarmed. He went to the house door, and unchained and unlocked it, opened, and stood in the doorway, looking out into the doleful night. The rain came down like a fine spray between him and the lamp. The illuminated windows of the houses were surrounded by fog bows and magnified to stars of the first magnitude. Those persons who went by were buried under umbrellas. A rill ran in the gutter, spinning cabbage leaves, stray fish heads on its surface. He would get very wet if he went along the Barbican quay to the ham and sausage shop. Besides, he was ashamed to appear there and confess that he was afraid to spend the night alone in the house. Mrs. Thresher knew nothing of his fit. That insulting old Radical, Mr. Thresher, would twit him with the events of Saturday evening.

As he stood in the door, doubtful what to do, something rubbed against his shin and stole past him. He looked down, but could make nothing out in the dark. He re-shut and re-barred the door, and went back to the kitchen.

‘I will try again to light a fire,’ he said; ‘then I sha’n’t feel so miserable and solitary. It is all Joanna’s doing.’

He relaid the fire, and poured some paraffin over the coals. He was successful this time. The flames ascended to the sticks, the sticks crackled, and then with a leap the fire was on the top, the mineral oil was ablaze, and the coals emitted puffs of flame, and began to glow.

Lazarus was so occupied with the fire that he did not observe the presence of a black cat, watching him out of its green eyes, seated on the table. Only when the Jew got up