The door stood wide open, as he had left it open, careless of all the little jealousies and privacies of occupation and ownership. Even the windows were wide open as though he had needed air; he who had always so sedulously shut his windows since first he came to England. Across the empty fireplace stretched the great bough of oak he had brought in for Billy, but now its twigs and leaves had wilted, and many had broken off and fallen on the floor. Billy’s cage stood empty upon a little table in the corner of the room. Instead of packing, the young man had evidently paced up and down in a state of emotional elaboration; the bed was disordered as though he had several times flung himself upon it, and his books had been thrown about the room despairfully. He had made some little commencements of packing in a borrowed cardboard box. The violin lay as if it lay in state upon the chest of drawers, the drawers were all partially open, and in the middle of the floor sprawled a pitiful shirt of blue, dropped there, the most flattened and broken-hearted of garments. The fireplace contained an unsuccessful pencil sketch of a girl’s face, torn across....
Husband and wife regarded the abandoned room in silence for a time, and when Mr. Britling spoke he lowered his voice.
“I don’t see Billy,” he said.
“Perhaps he has gone out of the window,” said Mrs. Britling also in a hushed undertone....
“Well,” said Mr. Britling abruptly and loudly, turning away from this first intimation of coming desolations, “let us go down to our hockey! He had to go, you know. And Billy will probably come back again when he begins to feel hungry....”
Monday was a public holiday, the First Monday in August, and the day consecrated by long-established custom to the Matching’s Easy Flower Show in Claverings Park. The day was to live in Mr. Britling’s memory with a harsh brightness like the brightness of that sunshine one sees at times at the edge of a thunderstorm. There were tents with the exhibits, and a tent for “Popular Refreshments,” there was a gorgeous gold and yellow steam roundabout with motor-cars and horses, and another in green and silver with wonderfully undulating ostriches and lions, and each had an organ that went by steam; there were cocoanut shies and many ingenious prize-giving shooting and dart-throwing and ring-throwing stalls, each displaying a marvellous array of crockery, clocks, metal ornaments, and suchlike rewards. There was a race of gas balloons, each with a postcard attached to it begging the finder to say where it descended, and you could get a balloon for a shilling and have a chance of winning various impressive and embarrassing prizes if your balloon went far enough—fish carvers, a silver-handled walking-stick, a bog-oak gramophone-record cabinet, and things like that. And by a special gate one could go for sixpence into the Claverings gardens, and the sixpence would be doubled by Lady Homartyn and devoted next winter to the Matching’s Easy coal club. And Mr. Britling went through all the shows with his boys, and finally left them with a shilling each and his blessing and paid his sixpence for the gardens and made his way as he had promised, to have tea with Lady Homartyn.