Burton was already holding it in his fingers and was gazing at it lovingly.
“It is perfect,” he admitted. “What workmanship! You are indeed fortunate, Mr. Waddington. And isn’t that Mona Lisa on the walls? What a beautiful reproduction! I am saving up money even now to go to Paris to see the original. Only a few nights ago I was reading Pater’s appreciation of it.”
He rose and wandered around the room, making murmured comments all the time. Presently he came back to the table and glanced down at the sheets of manuscript.
“Mr. Waddington,” he said, “let me take these to my friend. I feel that the last few hours must have been a sort of nightmare, and yet—”
He drew out a little box from his waistcoat pocket and peered inside. He was suddenly grave.
“It was no nightmare, then,” he muttered. “I have really taken a bean.”
“You took it not a quarter of an hour ago,” Mr. Waddington told him.
“It is awful to imagine that I should have needed it,” he confessed. “There must be some way out of this. You will trust me with these sheets, Mr. Waddington? If my friend in the country can do nothing for us, I will take them to the British Museum.”
“By all means,” Mr. Waddington replied. “Take care of them and bring them back safely. I should like, if possible, to have a written translation. It should indeed prove most interesting.”
Burton went out with the musky-smelling sheets in his pocket. All the temptations of the earlier part of the evening had completely passed away. He walked slowly because a big yellow moon hung down from the sky, and because Mr. Waddington’s rooms were in a neighborhood of leafy squares and picturesque houses. When he came back to the more travelled ways he ceased, however, to look about him. He took a ’bus to Westminster and returned to his rooms. Somehow or other, the possession of the sheets acted like a sedative. He felt a new confidence in himself. The absurdity of any return to his former state had never been more established. The remainder of the night he spent in the same way as many others. He drew his writing-table up to the open window, and with the lights of the city and the river spread out before him, and the faint wind blowing into the room, he worked at his novel.
THE LEGEND OF THE PERFECT FOOD
A foretaste of autumn had crept into the midst of summer. There were gray clouds in the sky, a north wind booming across the moors. Burton even shivered as he walked down the hill to the house where she lived. There was still gorse, still heather, still a few roses in the garden and a glimmering vision of the beds of other flowers in the background. But the sun which gave them life was hidden. Burton looked eagerly into the garden and his heart sank. There was no sign there of any living person. After a moment’s hesitation, he opened the gate, passed up the neat little path and rang the bell. It was opened after the briefest of delays by the trim parlor-maid.