Now he was committed to the evening, he felt excited and, strangely, free. It couldn’t be worse than it already was. Methodically, and with pleasure in his own efficiency, as though preparing for some hazardous journey or military exploit, he accomplished the familiar little chores—located his keys, found a ten-shilling note inside his wallet, brushed his teeth, smelled his breath against a cupped hand, from the desk snatched up his letter and folded it into an envelope, loaded his cigarette case and checked his lighter. One last time, he braced himself in front of the mirror. He bared his gums, and turned to present his profile and looked across his shoulder at his image. Finally, he patted his pockets, then loped down the stairs, three at a time again, called a farewell to his mother, and stepped out onto the narrow brick path which led between the flower beds to a gate in the picket fence.