They had reached the corner of the street in which the offices of Messrs. Waddington & Forbes were situated. Mr. Lynn came to a full stop.
“I can’t see but what we might just as well part here, young man,” he declared. “There’s no use in my coming to your office, after what you’ve told me.”
“Not the slightest,” Mr. Burton admitted frankly, “in fact you are better away. Mr. Waddington would certainly try to persuade you to take the house. If you’ll accept my advice, sir, you will go to Miller & Sons in St. James’s Place. They have all the best houses on their books and they are almost certain to find something to suit you.”
Mr. Lynn gazed once more at his companion curiously.
“Say, I’m not quite sure that I can size you up, even now,” he said. “At first I thought that you were a rare little hustler, right on the job. I was set against that house and yet you almost persuaded me into taking it. What’s come over you, anyway?”
Mr. Burton shook his head dubiously.
“I am afraid that it is no use asking me,” he replied, “for I really don’t quite know myself.”
Mr. Lynn still lingered. The longer he looked at his companion, the more he appreciated the subtle change of demeanor and language which had certainly transformed Mr. Alfred Burton.
“It was after you came out of that little room,” he continued, meditatively, “where that Oriental fellow had been shut up. The more I think of it, the odder it seems. You were as perky as mustard when you went in and you’ve been sort of dazed ever Since you came out.”
Mr. Burton lifted his hat.
“Good day, sir!” he said. “I trust that you will find a residence to suit you.”
Mr. Lynn strolled off with a puzzled frown upon his forehead, and Alfred Burton, with a slight gesture of aversion, pushed open the swinging doors which led into the offices of Messrs. Waddington & Forbes.
Burton stood for a moment upon the threshold of the office, looking around him. A new and peculiar distaste for these familiar surroundings seemed suddenly to have sprung into life. For the first time he realized the intense ugliness of this scene of his daily labors. The long desk, ink-splashed and decrepit, was covered with untidy piles of papers, some of them thick with dust; the walls were hung with seedy-looking files and an array of tattered bills; there were cobwebs in every corner, gaps in the linoleum floor-covering. In front of the office-boy—a youth about fourteen years of age, who represented the remaining clerical staff of the establishment—were pinned up several illustrations cut out from Comic Cuts, the Police News, and various other publications of a similar order. As Burton looked around him, his distaste grew. It seemed impossible that he had ever existed for an hour amid such an environment. The prospect of the future was suddenly hugely distasteful.