SHIEL TO THE RESCUE
Gladys did not feel too happy when she read notices such as these; she could not do other than see in them destruction to her father, and the worst of it all was she could do nothing to help him. Who could? Who could possibly invent anything as wonderful as the marvels of the Modern Sorcery Company Ltd.? And yet unless John Martin gave up altogether, that is what he must do. Nay, he must do more—he must not only equal the Modern Sorcery Company’s marvels, he must eclipse them. But after the affair of the challenge, it seemed to Gladys that there was no help for it—the Hall would have to be closed for a time. Now that Dick Davenport was dead, there was no one to take her father’s place. On the night succeeding the catastrophe, she had persuaded one of the Indian attendants to undertake the role of operator, but his skill was not equal to the tax upon it, and the audience—a poor one—was very lukewarm in its applause. The following day she talked the matter over with her father. The latter was in favour of keeping the show on at any cost; Gladys, for closing it temporarily.
“A bad performance is worse than no performance,” she said, “much better to close till you have invented some new tricks.”
John Martin groaned. “I fear my days of invention are over,” he muttered. “If I can read the papers and write letters, that will be about as much as I shall be able to do.”
“Couldn’t you retire?”
“I would if I were not a Britisher,” John Martin replied, “but being a Britisher I’d sooner shoot myself than give in to a d——d Yank!”
And Gladys, in terror lest her father should over-excite himself, promised she would see that the entertainment was carried on as usual, and that the Indian continued in the role of operator.
But when out of her father’s presence, Gladys gave way to despair. How could she—a woman—hope to cope with such a difficult situation? And she was racking her brains to know how to act for the best, when Shiel was announced.
A wave of relief swept over her. She could explain her difficulties to Shiel, in a way that she could not to any one who had no knowledge at all of her father’s affairs—and she told him just how matters stood.
“Look here!” he exclaimed, when she had finished, “why not let me take your father’s place at the Kingsway? I have done a little amateur acting, and am not nervous at the thought of appearing in public. Your father confided in you so much—you must know all his tricks by heart—couldn’t you coach me!”
Gladys looked at him critically.
“It wouldn’t be half a bad idea,” she said. “Supposing you come with me to the Hall, I can explain the tricks better if I show you the apparatus at the same time.”