“Curtain rising for fourth act, sir,” cried the call-boy, putting his head in at the door at that moment.
“You see I shall have to say good-bye,” said the good-natured manager, rising and moving towards the door; “but I shall look forward to seeing you in October. My good wishes to your friend;” and so the happiest person in that theatre slipped back to his seat by the side of a friend who was surely as happy at his good news as though it had been his own.
Meanwhile Esther had been counting the hours till ten, when she made a pretence of going to bed with the rest. But there was no sleep for her till she had heard Mike’s news. Her bedroom looked out from the top of the house into the front garden, and she had arranged to have a lamp burning at the window, so that Mike, on his way home, should understand that all was safe for a snatched five minutes’ talk in the porch. She sat trying to read till about midnight, when through her half-opened windows came the soft whistle she had been waiting for. Turning down the lamp to show that she had heard, she stole down through the quiet house and cautiously opened the front door, fastened, it seemed, with a hundred bolts and chains.
“Is that you, Mike?”
For answer two arms, which she didn’t mistake for a burglar’s, were thrown round her.
“Esther, I’ve found my million pounds.”
“Oh, Mike! He’s really going to help you?”
And here there is no further necessity for eaves-dropping. All persons except Mike and Esther will please leave the porch.
On the morning after the dinner with which he bade farewell to Messrs. Lingard and Fields, Henry awoke at his usual hour to a very unusual feeling. For the first time in his life he could stay in bed as long as he pleased.
On the other side of the room Ned Hazell lay sleeping the deep sleep of the unpunctual clerk; and Henry, when he had for a moment or two dwelt upon his own happiness, took a malicious joy in arousing him.
“Ned,” he shouted, “get up! You’ll be late for the office.”
Ned gave out a deep sound, something between a snore, a moan, and an imprecation.
“Ned!” his tormentor persisted, drawing the clothes warmly round him, in a luxury of indifference to the time of day.
Ned presently began rubbing his head vigorously, which was one of his preliminaries of awakening, and then mournfully raised himself in bed, a pillar of somnolence.
“You might let a fellow have his sleep out,” he said; “why don’t you get up yourself?—oh, I remember, you’re a literary gentleman from to-day. That’s why you’re so mighty ready to root me out,” and he aimed a pillow at Henry’s bed in derision.
Yes, Henry was free, an independent gentleman of time and space. The clock might strike itself hoarse, yet, if he wished, he might go on staying in bed. He was free! His late task-masters had no jurisdiction here. It would even be in his power here to order Mr. Fields out of the room, and, if he refused, forcibly to eject him into the street. Why didn’t Mr. Fields appear to gratify him in this matter?