“I am afraid I can’t promise that.”
“Can’t promise that,” John Martin cried, his eyes suffusing with sudden passion. “Can’t you! Then damn it, you must. I’m not going to have my daughter throw herself away on a penniless puppy. There, curse it all, you know what I think of you now—you’re a bumptious puppy, and I swear you shall not come within a mile of her.”
“I shall,” Shiel retorted, drawing himself up to his full height. “I shall see her whenever she will permit me—and since she is not at home at the present moment, I shall now await her return outside the house, and defy the savage old bull-dog inside it.” Leaving John Martin too taken aback with astonishment to articulate a syllable, Shiel withdrew.
True to his word, he waited to see Gladys. He paced up and down the road in front of the house from eleven o’clock in the morning, when his interview with John Martin had terminated, till eight o’clock in the evening, and was just beginning to think he would have to give up all hope of seeing her that day, when she came in sight.
“Really!” she exclaimed, after Shiel had explained the situation. “Do you mean to say you have stayed here all day?”
“Of course I have,” Shiel answered. “I told your father I would see you, and I meant to stay here till I did.”
“And what good has it done you?”
“All the good in the world. I shall sleep twice as well for it. I’m more in love with you than you think, and I mean to marry you one day. My prospects at present are absolutely Thames Embankmentish, but no matter, I’ve hit upon a capital way of ferreting out the secrets of the Modern Sorcery Company. I shall get employed by them”—and he told Gladys of the advertisement he had seen in the paper.
“Well! I wish you all success,” she said, “but I’m afraid you’ve upset my father dreadfully, and the doctor says excitement is the very worst thing for him and may lead to another stroke. You must on no account come here again, until I give you leave.”
“But I may see you elsewhere?”
“If you’re a wise man, you’ll do one thing at a time. You’ll discover the secret of the Sorcery Company first, and then—”
“When I have discovered it?”
“My father may forgive you. Have I told you I’m going on the stage? I know Bromley Burnham, and he’s offered me a part at the Imperial. It is imperative now, that I should do something to help my father.”
“If you become an actress,” Shiel said bitterly, “my chances of marrying you will indeed be small.”
“Not smaller than they are now,” Gladys observed. “Au revoir.” And with one of those tantalising and perplexing smiles, with which some women, consciously or unconsciously, counteract—and sometimes, perhaps, for reasons best known to themselves—completely nullify the needless severity of their speech, shook hands with Shiel, and left him.