The Town Council duly met in special conclave, and Josiah Topham Curtenty became Mayor of Bursley.
Shortly after Christmas it was announced that the Mayor and Mayoress had decided to give a New Year’s treat to four hundred poor old people in the St. Luke’s covered market. It was also spread about that this treat would eclipse and extinguish all previous treats of a similar nature, and that it might be accepted as some slight foretaste of the hospitality which the Mayor and Mayoress would dispense in that memorable year of royal festival. The treat was to occur on January 9, the Mayoress’s birthday.
On January 7 Josiah happened to go home early. He was proceeding into the drawing-room without enthusiasm to greet his wife, when he heard voices within; and one voice was the voice of Gas Gordon.
Jos stood still. It has been mentioned that Gordon and the Mayor were in love with the same woman. The Mayor had easily captured her under the very guns of his not formidable rival, and he had always thereafter felt a kind of benevolent, good-humoured, contemptuous pity for Gordon—Gordon, whose life was a tragic blank; Gordon, who lived, a melancholy and defeated bachelor, with his mother and two unmarried sisters older than himself. That Gordon still worshipped at the shrine did not disturb him; on the contrary, it pleased him. Poor Gordon!
‘But, really, Mrs. Curtenty,’ Gordon was saying—’really, you know I—that—is—really—’
‘To please me!’ Mrs. Curtenty entreated, with a seductive charm that Jos felt even outside the door.
Then there was a pause.
‘Very well,’ said Gordon.
Mr. Curtenty tiptoed away and back into the street. He walked in the dark nearly to Oldcastle, and returned about six o’clock. But Clara said no word of Gordon’s visit. She had scarcely spoken to Topham for three weeks.
The next morning, as Harry was departing to the works, Mrs. Curtenty followed the handsome youth into the hall.
‘Harry,’ she whispered, ’bring me two ten-pound notes this afternoon, will you, and say nothing to your father.’
Gas Gordon was to be on the platform at the poor people’s treat. As he walked down Trafalgar Road his eye caught a still-exposed fragment of a decayed bill on a hoarding. It referred to a meeting of the local branch of the Anti-Gambling League a year ago in the lecture-hall of the Wesleyan Chapel, and it said that Councillor Gordon would occupy the chair on that occasion. Mechanically Councillor Gordon stopped and tore the fragment away from the hoarding.