STAGE WAITS, MR. LAFLIN
Esther’s impatience was to be appeased, perhaps a little to her regret after all, by an unexpected remission of the time appointed between Mike and his first real engagement. Suddenly one day came an exciting letter from the great actor, saying that he saw his way to giving him a part in his own London company, if he could join him for rehearsal in a week’s time.
Here was news! At last a foundation-stone of the new heaven was to be laid! In a week’s time Mike would be working at one of the alabaster walls. Perhaps in two years’ time, perhaps even in a year, with good fortune, the roof would be on, the door wreathed with garlands, and a modest little heaven ready for occupation.
Now all that remained was to make the momentous break with the old life. Old Mr. Laflin had been left in peaceful ignorance of the mine which must now be exploded beneath his evening armchair. Mike loved his father, and this had been a dread long and wisely postponed. But now, when the moment for inevitable decision had come, Mike remembered, with a certain shrinking, that responsibility of which Dot had spoken,—the responsibility of being a man. It was his dream to be an actor, to earn his bread with joy. To earn it with less than joy seemed unworthy of man. Yet there was another dream for him, still more, immeasurably more, important—to be Esther’s husband. If he stayed where he was, in slow revolutions of a dull business, his father’s place and income would become his. If he renounced that certain prospect, he committed himself to a destiny of brilliant chances; and for the first time he realised that among those chances lurked, too, the chance of failure. Esther must decide; and Henry’s counsel, too, must be taken. Mike thought he knew what the decision and the counsel would be; and, of course, he was not mistaken.
“Why, Mike, how can you hesitate?” said Esther. “Fail, if you like, and I shall still love you; but you don’t surely think I could go on loving a man who was frightened to try?”
That was a little hard of Esther, for Mike’s fear had been for her sake, not his own. However, that and the even more vehement counsel of Henry had the desired bracing effect; and Mike nerved himself to deal the necessary blow at his father’s tranquillity.
As the writer of this book takes no special joy in heart-breaking scenes with fathers, the painful and somewhat violent scene with Mr. Laflin is here omitted, and left to the imagination of any reader with a taste for such unnatural collisions. Any one over thirty will agree that all the reason was on Mr. Laflin’s side, as all the instinct was on his son’s. Luckily for Mike, the instinct was to prove genuine, and his father to live to be prouder of his rebellion than ever he would have been of his obedience.
This scene over, it was only a matter of days—five alone were left—before Mike must up and away in right good earnest.