“Whatever it is?”
“If it’s straight.”
“Of course it’s straight. And it would be a grand way of teasing Mr. Wrissell and all of ’em! A simply grand way! I should die of laughing.”
At this critical point the historic conversation was interrupted by phenomena in the hall which Lady Woldo recognized with feverish excitement. Lord Woldo had safely returned from Hyde Park. Starting up, she invited Edward Henry to wait a little. A few moments later they were bending over the infant together, and Edward Henry was offering his views on the cause and cure of rash.
Early on the same afternoon Edward Henry managed by a somewhat excessive obstreperousness to penetrate once more into the private room of Mr. Slosson, senior, who received him in silence.
He passed a document to Mr. Slosson.
“It’s only a copy,” he said. “But the original is in my pocket, and to-morrow it will be duly stamped. I’ll give you the original in exchange for the stamped lease of my Piccadilly Circus plot of land. You know the money is waiting.”
Mr. Slosson perused the document; and it was certainly to his credit that he did so without any superficial symptoms of dismay.
“What will Mr. Wrissell and the Woldo family say about that, do you think?” asked Edward Henry.
“Lady Woldo will never be allowed to carry it out,” said Mr. Slosson.
“Who’s going to stop her? She must carry it out. She wants to carry it out. She’s dying to carry it out. Moreover, I shall communicate it to the papers to-night—unless you and I come to an arrangement. And if by any chance she doesn’t carry it out—well, there’ll be a fine society action about it, you can bet your boots, Mr. Slosson.”
The document was a contract made between Blanche Lady Woldo of the one part and Edward Henry Machin of the other part, whereby Blanche Lady Woldo undertook to appear in musical comedy at any West End Theatre to be named by Edward Henry, at a salary of two hundred pounds a week for a period of six months.
“You’ve not got a theatre,” said Mr. Slosson.
“I can get half a dozen in an hour—with that contract in my hand,” said Edward Henry.
And he knew from Mr. Slosson’s face that he had won.
That evening, feeling that he had earned a little recreation, he went to the Empire Theatre—not in Hanbridge, but in Leicester Square, London. The lease, with a prodigious speed hitherto unknown at Slossons’, had been drawn up, engrossed and executed. The Piccadilly Circus land was his for sixty-four years.
“And I’ve got the old Chapel pulled down for nothing,” he said to himself.
He was rather happy as he wandered about amid the brilliance of the Empire Promenade. But after half an hour of such exercise and of vain efforts to see or hear what was afoot on the stage, he began to feel rather lonely. Then it was that he caught sight of Mr. Alloyd, the architect, also lonely.