“Burton,” he hissed under his breath, “get out of this before I throw you down! Never let me see your idiot face again! If you’re at the office when I come back, I’ll kill you! I’ll clerk myself. Be off with you!”
Burton rose quietly and departed. As he left the room, he heard Mr. Waddington volubly explaining that no deception was intended and that the catalogue spoke for itself. Then he passed out into the street and drew a little breath of relief. The shackles had fallen away. He was a free man. Messrs. Waddington & Forbes had finished with him.
BURTON’S NEW LIFE
Burton spent the rest of the day in most delightful fashion. He took the Tube to South Kensington Museum, where he devoted himself for several hours to the ecstatic appreciation of a small section of its treasures. He lunched off some fruit and tea and bread and butter out in the gardens, wandering about afterwards among the flower-beds and paying especial and delighted attention to the lilac trees beyond the Memorial. Towards evening he grew depressed. The memory of Ellen, of little Alfred, and his gingerbread villa, became almost like a nightmare to him. And then the light came! His great resolution was formed. With beating heart he turned to a stationer’s shop, bought a sheet of paper and an envelope, borrowed a pen and wrote:
My dear Ellen,
I am not coming home for a short time. As you remarked, there is something the matter with me. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps in a few days I shall find out. I shall send your money as usual on Saturday, and hope that you and the boy will continue well.
From your husband,
Burton sighed a long sigh of intense relief as he folded up and addressed this epistle. Then he bought four stamps and sent it home. He was a free man. He had three pounds fifteen in his pocket, a trifle of money in the savings-bank, no situation, and a wife and son to support. The position was serious enough, yet never for a moment could he regard it without a new elasticity of spirit and a certain reckless optimism, the source of which he did not in the least understand. He was to learn before long, however, that moods and their resulting effect upon the spirit were part of the penalty which he must pay for the greater variety of his new life.
He took a tiny bedroom somewhere Westminster way—a room in a large, solemn-looking house, decayed and shabby, but still showing traces of its former splendor. That night he saw an Ibsen play from the front row of a deserted gallery, and afterwards, in melancholy mood, he walked homeward along the Embankment by the moonlight. For the first time in life he had come face to face with a condition of which he had had no previous experience—the condition of intellectual pessimism. He was depressed because