Already I was down from the high peaks and standing flat-footed upon earth.
Yet some good reasons given might still lift me to the clouds once more.
I rushed down the garden path, hammered at the door, heard the voice of Gladys within, pushed past the staring maid, and strode into the sitting-room.
She was seated in a low settee under the shaded standard lamp by the piano.
In three steps I was across the room and had both her hands in mine.
"Gladys!" I cried,
She looked up with amazement in her face.
She was altered in some subtle way.
The expression of her eyes, the hard upward stare, the set of the lips, was new to me.
She drew back her hands.
"What do you mean?" she said.
"Gladys!" I cried.
"What is the matter?
You are my Gladys, are you not—little Gladys Hungerton?"
"No," said she, "I am Gladys Potts.
Let me introduce you to my husband."
How absurd life is!
I found myself mechanically bowing and shaking hands with a little ginger-haired man who was coiled up in the deep arm-chair which had once been sacred to my own use.
We bobbed and grinned in front of each other.
"Father lets us stay here.
We are getting our house ready," said Gladys.
"Oh, yes," said I.
"You didn't get my letter at Para, then?"
"No, I got no letter."
"Oh, what a pity!
It would have made all clear."
"It is quite clear," said I.
"I've told William all about you," said she.
"We have no secrets.
I am so sorry about it. But it couldn't have been so very deep, could it, if you could go off to the other end of the world and leave me here alone.
You're not crabby, are you?"
"No, no, not at all.
I think I'll go."
"Have some refreshment," said the little man, and he added, in a confidential way, "It's always like this, ain't it?
And must be unless you had polygamy, only the other way round; you understand."
He laughed like an idiot, while I made for the door.
I was through it, when a sudden fantastic impulse came upon me, and I went back to my successful rival, who looked nervously at the electric push.
"Will you answer a question?" I asked.
"Well, within reason," said he.
"How did you do it?
Have you searched for hidden treasure, or discovered a pole, or done time on a pirate, or flown the Channel, or what?
Where is the glamour of romance?
How did you get it?"
He stared at me with a hopeless expression upon his vacuous, good-natured, scrubby little face.
"Don't you think all this is a little too personal?" he said.
"Well, just one question," I cried.
"What are you?
What is your profession?"
"I am a solicitor's clerk," said he.