He wandered on, asking no questions, perfectly content. The great city expanded before him. Streets became wider, carriages were more frequent, the faces of the people grew more cheerful. He laughed softly to himself from sheer lightness of heart. From down a side street he came into the Strand, and here, for the first time, he noticed that he himself was attracting some attention. Then he remembered his clothes, shabby enough, but semi-clerical, and he walked boldly into a large ready-made clothing establishment, where everything was marked in plain figures, and where layfigures of gentlemen with waxy faces, attired in the height of fashion, were gazing blandly out into the world from behind a huge plate-glass window. He bought a plain blue serge suit, and begged leave to change in the “trying-on” room. Half an hour later he walked out again, with his own clothes done up in a bundle, feeling that his emancipation was now complete.
The lights of Waterloo Bridge attracted him, and he turned down before them. From one of the parapets he had his first view of the Thames. He leaned over, gazing with fascinated eyes at the ships below, dimly seen now through the gathering darkness, at the black waters in which flashed the reflection of the long row of lamps. The hugeness of the hotels on the Embankment, all afire with brilliant illuminations, almost took away his breath. Whilst he lingered there Big Ben boomed out the hour of six, and he realised with beating heart that those must be the Houses of Parliament across on the other side. A cold breeze came up and blew in his face, but he scarcely heeded it. It was the mother river which flowed beneath him—the greatest of the world’s cities into which he had come, a wanderer, yet at heart one of her sons. Now at last he was in touch with his kind. Oh, what a welcome present—how gladly he realised that henceforth he must date his life from that day. He lifted his parcel cautiously to the ledge and waited for a moment. There was no one looking. Now was his time. He let it go, and heard the muffled splash as it fell upon the water. Not until it had slipped from his fingers and gone beyond recovery did he realise that the card which she had given him was carefully tucked away in the breast pocket of the coat. He knew neither her name nor where to look for her.
THE YOUNG MAN FROM THE COUNTRY HEARS SOME NEWS
“I say, mister.”
Douglas started round, cramped with his long lingering against the stone wall. A girl was standing by his side. There were roses in her hat and a suspicion of powder upon her cheeks.
“Were you speaking to me?” he asked hesitatingly.
She laughed shortly.
“No one else within earshot that I know of,” she answered. “I saw you throw that parcel over.”
“I was just wishing,” he remarked, “that I could get it back.”