“Not even with Mike?”
“Not even with Mike.”
“What of Angel?”
“I will drink it with no one but you as long as I live.”
“I will drink it then.”
They held up their glasses.
“Dear old Esther!”
“Dear old Henry!”
And then they laughed at their solemnity. It was deeply sworn!
When Esther reached home that evening, she found a further telegram from Mike, announcing his arrival at Euston; and she had scarcely read it when she heard her father’s voice calling her. She went immediately to the dining-room.
“Esther, dear,” he said, “your mother and I want a word with you.”
“No, James, you must speak for yourself in this,” said Mrs. Mesurier, evidently a little perturbed.
“Well, dear, if I must be alone in the matter, I must bear it; I cannot shrink from my duty on that account.” Then, turning to Esther, “I called you in to speak to you about Mike Laflin—”
“Yes, father,” exclaimed Esther, with a little gasp of surprise.
“I met Mr. Laflin on the boat this morning, and was much astonished and grieved to hear of the rash step his son has chosen to take. The matter has evidently been kept from me,”—strictly speaking, it had; “I understand, though on that again I have not been consulted, that you and Mike have for some time been informally engaged to each other. Now you know my views on the theatre, and I am sure that you must see that Mike’s having taken such a step must at once put an end to any such idea. Your own sense of propriety would, I am sure, tell you that, without any words from me—”
“Father!” cried Esther, in astonishment.
“You know that I considered Mike a very nice lad. His family is respectable; and he would have come into a very comfortable business, if he hadn’t taken this foolish freak into his head—”
“But, father, you have laughed at his recitations, yourself, many a time, here of an evening. What difference can there be?”
“There is the difference of the theatre, the contaminating atmosphere, the people it attracts, the harm it does—your father, as you know, has never been within a theatre in his life; is it likely that he can look with calmness upon his daughter marrying a man whose livelihood is to be gained in a scandalous and debasing profession?”
“Father, I cannot listen to your talking of Mike like that. If it is wrong to make people innocently happy, to make them laugh and forget their troubles, to—to—well, if it’s wrong to be Mike—I’m sorry; but, wrong or right, I love him, and nothing will ever make me give him up.”
Mrs. Mesurier here interrupted, “I told you, James, how it would be. You cannot change young hearts. The times are not the same as when you and I were young; and, though I’m sure I don’t want to go against you, I think you are too hard on Esther. Love is love after all—and Mike’s one of the best-hearted lads that ever walked.”