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“Yes, but I’m sure I made mistakes - and I failed to refer to old Crilly’s pertinent points, the ones he stressed so much in his last lecture. God help me.”

Manfred smiled and we headed away. The sun was still high as he joined me in the walk to my residence, a haze of factory smoke hanging motionless over the distant, dun-coloured buildings. It grew thicker the farther we looked, all but obscuring the church spires, and painting the far docklands grey.

“I’ll be glad to be away from here for a while,” said Manfred, looking out over what he saw as a depressing tapestry.

I followed his eyes through the rows of elms and down the hill, into the low flat plain that held the major buildings of the city. My sentiments were not the same. I enjoyed my life in London. I enjoyed the sounds of industry and the movement of people, all going about the important things in their lives. I even enjoyed the city’s moodiness - the way it was right now - the hanging mist of smoke as the day was running down. I felt like a cog in the works of a great machine, and I liked that. In its way, it made me feel like I was going somewhere, as though, in my own small way, I was a part of what made the big city tick.

The two of us were nearly back to my residence when Manfred turned to me and said, “Why don’t you come with me tonight, Alan? Come down on the train.”

“But I can’t,” I replied. “I’m taking my own train.”

“But why?” he said. “Your parents are on the continent. Who are you going home to?”

I thought for a moment and realised Manfred did make a good point. The idea was suddenly tempting. My parents and younger sister would not be back in Sudbury for another fortnight.

“I would have to wire them,” I then said, “and also Mrs Appleby, next door. She knows I’m due tonight.”

“Then do it,” laughed Manfred, “and come on down to the beach house with me.”

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