IV
AFTERNOON OF A BICKET

JUST about that moment Bicket entered his sittingroom and deposited his tray. All the morning under the shadow of St. Paul's he had relived Bank Holiday. Exceptionally tired in feet and legs, he was also itching mentally. He had promised himself a refreshing look from time to time at what was almost like a photo of Vic herself. And he had lost the picture! Yet he had taken nothing out of his pockets--just hung his coat up. Had it joggled out in the crush at the station, or had he missed his pocket opening and dropped it in the carriage? And he had wanted to see the original, too. He remembered that the Gallery began with a 'D,' and at lunchtime squandered a penny-halfpenny to look up the names. Foreign, he was sure--the picture being naked. 'Dumetrius'? ah!

Back at his post, he had a bit of luck. 'That alderman,' whom he had not seen for months, came by. Intuition made him say at once: "Hope I see you well, sir. Never forgotten your kindness."

The 'alderman,' who had been staring up as if he saw a magpie on the dome of St. Paul's, stopped as though attacked by cramp.

"Kindness?" he said; "what kindness? Oh, balloons! They were no good to me!"

"No, sir, I'm sure," said Bicket humbly.

"Well, here you are!" muttered the 'alderman'; "don't expect it again."

Half-a-crown! A whole half-crown! Bicket's eyes pursued the hastening form. "Good luck!" he said softly to himself, and began putting up his tray. "I'll go home

-244-

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