“Look here, I’ve had enough of this shilly-shallying!” she exclaimed sharply. “Do you mean taking me out on Thursday or do you not?—because there’s a gentleman who comes in here for his beer most every morning who’s most anxious I should dine out with him my next night off. I’ve only to say the word and he’ll fetch me in a taxicab. I’m not sure that he hasn’t got a motor of his own. No more nonsense, if you please, Mr. Waddington,” she continued, shaking out her duster. “Is that an engagement with you on Thursday night, or is it not?”
Mr. Waddington measured with his eye the distance to the door. He gripped Burton’s arm and looked over his shoulder.
“It is not,” he said firmly.
They left the place a little precipitately. Once in the open air, however, they seemed quickly to recover their equanimity. Burton breathed a deep sigh of relief.
“I must go and change my clothes, Mr. Waddington,” he declared. “I don’t know how on earth I could have come out looking such a sight. I feel like working, too.”
“Such a lovely morning!” Mr. Waddington sighed, gazing up at the sky. “If only one could escape from these hateful streets and get out into the country for a few hours! Have you ever thought of travelling abroad, Burton?”
“Have you?” Burton asked.
Mr. Waddington nodded.
“I have it in my mind at the present moment,” he admitted. “Imagine the joy of wandering about in Rome or Florence, say, just looking at the buildings one has heard of all one’s life! And the picture galleries—just fancy the picture galleries, Burton! What a dream! Have you ever been to Paris?”
“Never,” Burton confessed sadly.
“Nor I,” Mr. Waddington continued. “I have been lying awake at nights lately, thinking of Versailles. Why do we waste our time here at all, I wonder, in this ugly little corner of the universe?”
“There is something of the hedonist about you, Mr. Waddington,” he remarked. “To me these multitudes of people are wonderful. I seem driven always to seek for light in the crowded places.”
Mr. Waddington called a taxicab.
“Can I give you a lift?” he asked. “I have no sale until the afternoon. I shall go to one of the galleries. I want to escape from the memory of the last half-hour!”
There came a time when Burton finished his novel. He wrapped it up very carefully in brown paper and set out to call upon his friend the sub-editor. He gained his sanctum without any particular trouble and was warmly greeted.
“Why haven’t you brought us anything lately?” the sub-editor asked.
Burton tapped the parcel which he was carrying.
“I have written a novel,” he said.
The sub-editor was not in the least impressed—in fact he shook his head.