“I don’t understand you,” Shiel said feebly; “why in six months’ time?”
Lilian Rosenberg then told him what she knew about the compact.
“So you see,” she added, “that if the final stage is reached no woman will be safe—the trio will have any girl they fancy entirely at their mercy.”
“How inconceivably awful!” Shiel exclaimed. “Surely there is some way of stopping them.”
“There is only one way,” Lilian said slowly, “the union between the three must be broken—they must quarrel, and dissolve partnership.”
“You may be sure they will take good care not to do that.”
“Don’t be too sure,” Lilian Rosenberg replied. “Matthew Kelson is very fond of me. With a little persuasion he would do anything I asked.”
“Then do you think you could bring about a rupture between him and Hamar!” Shiel asked eagerly.
“And you will—you will save Gladys Martin after all!”
Lilian did not reply at once.
“Do you think she is the sort of girl who would marry poverty,” she said, evasively, “poverty like this!” and she glanced round the room.
“I won’t ask her to!” Shiel exclaimed. “Whilst I have been lying in bed, ill, I have thought of many things—and have come to the conclusion I have no right ever to think of marrying. It is difficult for me to earn enough to keep one person in comfort—and I’ve lost all hope of ever earning enough to keep two.”
“Well, if you don’t ask her,” Lilian Rosenberg said, “there’s one thing, she will never ask you. And I think you are remarkably well out of it. If you do ever marry, marry a girl that has grit—a girl that would be a real ‘pal’ to you—a girl that would help you to win fame!”
WHOM WILL HE MARRY?
Had Lilian Rosenberg been able to see the effect of her conversation upon Shiel after she had left him, she would have been disappointed. He had, prior to this interview with Lilian Rosenberg, as he told her, made up his mind to abandon all idea of marrying Gladys Martin; and there is a possibility that had her name not been mentioned, had she not been recalled so vividly to his mind, he would have adhered to that resolution—at all events so long as he refrained from seeing her. But such is human nature—or at least man’s nature—that directly Lilian Rosenberg had left him, Shiel’s love for Gladys burst out with such wild, invigorated force that it swept reason and everything else before it. Gladys! He could think of nothing else! Every detail in her appearance, every word she had spoken, came back to him with exaggerated intensity. Her beauty was sublime. There was no one like her, no one that could inspire him with such a sense of ideality, no one that could lead him on to such dizzy heights of greatness. It was all nonsense to say, as Lilian Rosenberg had said, there were just