After his employer, Julius de Coster, confesses to have defrauded his firm to the level of immediate liquidation, Popinga realizes that, not only will he lose his job, but he'll be penniless, for he had invested all his savings in the firm. De Coster's deception and impertinent, harsh put-downs spur Popinga to seek a way out from facing responsibility. At the age of 40, he chooses to do as he pleases -no restraints, no laws or rigid conventions. A chance to escape from the routine of life is grabbed, freeing himself from the nets of domesticity and duty, fleeing the judgments, the daily desultory remarks and opinions from "cocksured ignoramuses who think they know everything.""There was something that had an appeal for him in trains, especially in night- trains, which always put queer, vaguely improper notions into his head- though he would have been hard put to it to define them. Also he had an impression that those who leave by night- trains leave for ever - an impression heightened the previous night by his glimpse of those Italians piled into their carriage like emigrants."