At Piccadilly Circus it began to rain—cold, heavy March rain.
‘Window down, sir?’ asked the voice of the cabman.
‘Yes,’ he ordered sardonically. ‘Better be suffocated than drowned.’
‘You’re right, sir,’ said the voice.
Soon, through the streaming glass, which made every gas-jet into a shooting pillar of flame, Norris discerned vaguely the vast bulk of Hyde Park Mansions. ‘Good!’ he muttered, and at that very moment he was shot through the window into the thin, light-reflecting mire of the street. Enormous and strange beasts menaced him with pitiless hoofs. Millions of people crowded about him. In response to a question that seemed to float slowly towards him, he tried to give his address. He realized, by a considerable feat of intellect, that the horse must have fallen down; and then, with a dim notion that nothing mattered, he went to sleep.
In the boudoir of the magnificent flat on the first floor, shielded from the noise and the inclemency of the world by four silk-hung walls and a double window, and surrounded by all the multitudinous and costly luxury that a stockbroker with brains and taste can obtain for the wife of his love, May was leisurely finishing her toilette. And every detail in the long, elaborate process was accomplished with a passionate intention to bewitch the man at Winchester House.
These two had first met seven years before, when May, the daughter of a successful wholesale draper at Hanbridge, in the Five Towns district of Staffordshire, was aged twenty-two. Mr. Scarratt went to Manchester each Tuesday to buy, and about once a month he took May with him. One day, when they were lunching at the Exchange Restaurant, a young man came up whom her father introduced as Mr. Edward Norris, his stockbroker. Mr. Norris, whose years were thirty, glanced keenly at May, and accepted Mr. Scarratt’s invitation to join them. Ever afterwards May vividly remembered the wonderful sensation, joyous yet disconcerting, which she then experienced—the sensation of having captivated her father’s handsome and correct stockbroker. The three talked horses with a certain freedom, and since May was accustomed to drive the Scarratt dogcart, so famous in the Five Towns, she could bring her due share to the conversation. The meal over, Mr. Norris discussed business matters with his client, and then sedately departed, but not without the obviously sincere expression of a desire to meet Miss Scarratt again. The wholesale draper praised Edward’s financial qualities behind his back, and wondered that a man of such aptitude should remain in Manchester while London existed. As for May, she decided that she would have a new frock before she came to Manchester in the following month.