THE END OF A WONDERFUL WORLD
Mr. Waddington turned his head away quickly and glanced half guiltily towards his companion. To his amazement, Burton had been gazing in the same direction. Their eyes met. Burton coughed.
“A remarkably fine woman, that,” Mr. Waddington declared.
Burton looked at him in astonishment.
“My dear Mr. Waddington!” he exclaimed. “You cannot really think so!”
They both turned their heads once more. The woman in question was standing upon the doorstep of a milliner’s shop, waiting for a taxicab. In appearance she was certainly somewhat striking, but her hair was flagrantly dyed, her eyebrows darkened, her costume daring, her type obvious.
“A very fine woman indeed, I call her,” Mr. Waddington repeated. “Shouldn’t mind taking her to lunch. Good mind to ask her.”
Burton hesitated for a moment. Then a curious change came into his own face.
“She is rather fetching,” he admitted.
The woman suddenly smiled. Mr. Waddington pulled himself together.
“It serves us right,” he said, a little severely, and hastening his companion on. “I was looking at her only as a curiosity.”
Burton glanced behind and move on reluctantly.
“I call her jolly good-looking,” he declared.
Mr. Waddington pretended not to hear. They turned into Jermyn Street.
“There are some vases here, at this small shop round the corner, which I want you particularly to notice, Burton,” he continued. “They are perfect models of old Etruscan ware. Did you ever see a more beautiful curve? Isn’t it a dream? One could look at a curve like that and it has something the same effect upon one as a line of poetry or a single exquisite thought.”
Burton glanced into the window and looked back again over his shoulder. The lady, however, had disappeared.
“Hm!” he remarked. “Very nice vase. Let’s get on to lunch. I’m hungry.”
Mr. Waddington stopped short upon the pavement and gripped his companion’s arm.
“Burton,” he said, a trifle hesitatingly, “you don’t think—you don’t imagine—”
“Not a bit of it!” Burton interrupted, savagely. “One must be a little human now and then. By Jove, old man, there are some ties, if you like! I always did think a yellow one would suit me.”
Mr. Waddington pressed him gently along.
“I am not sure,” he muttered, “that we are quite in the mood to buy ties. I want to ask you a question, Burton.”
“You were telling me about this wonderful scheme of your friend the professor’s, to make—Menatogen, I think you said. Did you part with both your beans?”
“Both,” Burton replied, almost fiercely. “But I’ve another fortnight or so yet. It can’t come before—it shan’t!”