His money was all in his business. ‘If I leave my wife,’ he thought, ‘I will lose all my money. She can make me homeless!’ No. He could not afford a divorce. He thought about the marriage vows. He was married – ‘for better, or worse.’
But sometimes, tragic things happened. Sometimes, marriages ended very badly indeed. Bricklayers kicked their wives to death and small clerks and shopkeepers cut their wives’ throats….
Mr Coombes thought about such terrible things for a long time. He thought about razors and breadknives and pistols; he thought about going to jail and praying for forgiveness. But eventually he grew bored. His anger lessened, and he became sad. He looked down at himself, at his overcoat. When he married his wife, he had worn it. He looked at the path. In the early days of their marriage, they had walked along it, hand in hand. What had happened? Why had it all worked out so badly?
He looked at the canal’s water. Should he just stand in the middle of it with his arms out stretched and…?
While he was thinking of drowning himself, he saw the purple pileus for the first time. At first, he thought it was a leather purse. Then he saw it was a strange, poisonous-looking purple fungus. He touched it. It was slimy. It smelt bad too. He stared at the purple fungus as the thought of poisoning crossed his mind.