“Other women have lost their husbands. I can bear it. Why don’t you go? Don’t you know the way out?”
Burton offered his hand. She frankly scoffed at him.
“I don’t understand all that rigmarole about truth,” she concluded, “but I’m no sort of a one at pretense. Outside, my man, and stay outside!”
She slammed the door. Burton found himself in the street. Instinctively he felt that her hasty dismissal was intended to conceal from him the torrent of tears which were imminent. A little dazed, he still groped his way to the spot where Ellen had thrown the beans. A man was there with a fruit barrow, busy, apparently, rearranging his stock. Something about his appearance struck Burton with a chill premonition. He came to a standstill and looked at him.
“Did you wish to buy any fruit, sir?” the man asked, in a tone unusually subdued for one of his class.
Burton shook his head.
“I was just wondering what you were doing,” he remarked.
The man hesitated.
“To tell you the truth, guvnor,” he confessed, “I was mixing up my apples and bananas a bit. You see, those at the top were all the best, and it has been my custom to add a few from underneath there—most of them a little going off. It was the only way,” he added with a sigh, “that one could make a profit. I have made up my mind, though, to either throw them away or sell them separately for what they are worth, which isn’t much. I’ve had enough of deceiving the public. If I can’t get a living honestly with this barrow, I’ll try another job.”
“Do you happen to have eaten anything just lately?” Burton asked him, with a sinking heart.
The man looked at his questioner, for a moment, doubtfully.
“’Ad my breakfast at seven,” he replied. “Just a bite of bread and cheese since, with my morning beer.”
“Nothing since—not anything at all?” Burton pressed.
“I picked up a funny-colored bean and ate it, a few minutes ago. Queer flavor it had, too. Nothing else that I can think of.”
Burton looked at the man and down at his barrow. He glanced around at the neighborhood in which he had to make a living. Then he groaned softly to himself.
“Good luck to you!” he murmured, and turned away.
THE GATE INTO PARADISE
The girl looked up from her seat wonderingly. His coming had been a little precipitate. His appearance, too, betokened a disturbed mind.
“There is a front door,” she reminded him. “There are also bells.”
“I could not wait,” he answered simply. “I saw the flutter of your gown as I came along the lane, and I climbed the wall. All the way down I fancied that you might be wearing blue.”
A slight air of reserve which she had carefully prepared for him, faded away. What was the use? He was such an extraordinary person! It was not possible to measure him by the usual standards. She was obliged to smile.