He felt a cold pain in his heart. Looking at her through the twilight he could almost fancy that there was a gleam in her face of something which he had seen shining out of her father’s eyes. His arms fell away from her. The passion which had thrilled him but a moment ago seemed crushed by that great resurgent impulse which he was powerless to control.
“You think that I should do this?” he cried, hoarsely.
“Why not?” she answered. “Money is only vulgar if you spend it vulgarly. It might mean so much to you and to me.”
“Tell me how?” he faltered.
“Mr. Bomford is very fond of money,” she continued. “He is fonder of money, I think, than he is of me. And then,” she added, her voice sinking to a whisper, “there is Garden Green. Of course, I do not know much about these things, but I suppose if you really wanted to, and spent a great deal of money, you could buy your freedom, couldn’t you?”
The air seemed full of jangling discords. He closed his eyes. It was as though a shipwreck was going on around him. His dream was being broken up into pieces. The girl with the fair hair was passing into the shadows from which she had come. She called to him across the lawn as he hurried away, softly at first and then insistently. But Burton did not return. He spent his night upon the Common.
A BAD HALF-HOUR
Burton slept that night under a gorse bush. He was no sooner alone on the great unlit Common with its vast sense of spaciousness, its cool silence, its splendid dome of starlit sky, than all his anger and disappointment seemed to pass away. The white, threatening faces of the professor and Mr. Bomford no longer haunted him. Even the memory of Edith herself tugged no longer at his heartstrings. He slept almost like a child, and awoke to look out upon a million points of sunlight sparkling in the dewdrops. A delicious west wind was blowing. Little piled-up masses of white cloud had been scattered across the blue sky. Even the gorse bushes creaked and quivered. The fir trees in a little spinney close at hand were twisted into all manners of shapes. Burton listened to their music for a few minutes, and exchanged civilities with a dapple-breasted thrush seated on a clump of heather a few yards away. Then he rose to his feet, took in a long breath of the fresh morning air, and started briskly across the Common towards the nearest railway station.
He was conscious, after the first few steps, of a dim premonition of some coming change. It did not affect—indeed, it seemed to increase the lightness of his spirits, yet he was conscious at the back of his brain of a fear which he could not put into words. The first indication of real trouble came in the fact that he found himself whistling “Yip-i-addy-i-ay” as he turned into the station yard. He knew then what was coming.