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A Mummer's Wife by George Moore

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'That's all very well, but I tell you he has no right to lock us out; he's
a licensed hotel-keeper. Are you game, Mortimer? We pan burst in the door
with our shoulders.'

'Game!' said Mortimer, in a nasal note that echoed down the courtyard;
'partridges are in season in September. Here goes!' and taking a run, he
jumped with his full weight against the door.

'Out of the way,' cried Dick, breaking away from Kate, and hurling his huge
frame a little closer to the lock than the comedian had done.

The excitement being now at boiling pitch, the work was begun in real
earnest, and as they darted in regular succession out of the shadow of the
buttress across the clear stream of moonlight flowing down the flagstones,
they appeared like a procession of figures thrown on a cloth by a
magic-lantern. Mr. Hayes' white stocking served for a line, and bump, bump,
they went against the door. Each effort was watched with different degrees
of interest by the ladies. When little Dubois toddled forward, and sprang
with what little impetus his short legs could give him, it was difficult
not to laugh, and when Montgomery's reed-like shanks were seen passing,
Kate clung to Miss Leslie in fear that he would crush his frail body
against the door; but when it came to the turn of any of the big ones, the
excitement was great. Mortimer and Bret were watched eagerly, but most
faith was placed in Dick, not only for his greater weight, but for his
superior and more plucky way of jumping. Springing from the very middle of
the passage, his head back and his shoulder forward, he went like a
thunderbolt against the door. It seemed wonderful that he did not bring
down the wall as well as the woodwork, and a round of applause rewarded
each effort. Hayes, who fancied himself in bed, and that the waiter was
calling him at some strange hour in the morning, shouted occasionally the
most fearful of curses from his dark corner. The noise was terrific, and
the clapping of hands, shrieks of laughter, and cries of encouragement
reverberated through the echoing passage and the silent moonlight.

At last Dick's turn came again, and enraged by past failures, he put forth
his whole strength and jumped from the white stocking with his full weight
against the door. It gave way with a crash, and at that moment the
proprietor appeared, holding a candle in his hand.

Everybody made a rush, and picking up Dick, who was not in the least hurt,
they struck matches on the wall and groped their way up to their rooms,
heedless of the denunciations of the enraged proprietor, who declared that
he would take an action against them all. In his dressing-gown, and by the
light of his candle, he surveyed his dismantled threshold, thinking how he
might fasten up his house for the night. The first object he caught sight
of was Mr. Hayes' white stocking. As he did so a wicked light gleamed in
his eyes, and after a few efforts to awake the drunkard he walked to the
gateway and looked up and down the street to see if a policeman were in
sight. In real truth he was doubtful as to his rights to lock visitors out
of their hotel, and, did not feel disposed to discuss the question before a
magistrate. But what could be said against him for requesting the removal
of a drunken man? He did not know who he was, nor was he bound to find out.
So argued the proprietor of the Hen and Chickens, and Mr. Hayes, still
protesting he did not want to be called before ten, was dragged off to the
station.

Next morning the hotel-keeper denied knowing anything whatever about the
matter. It was true he had called the policeman's attention to the fact
that there was a man asleep under the archway, but he did not know that the
man was Mr. Hayes. This story was rejected by the company, and vowing that
they would never again go within a mile of his shop, they all went to see
poor Hayes pulled out before the beak. It was a forty-shilling affair or
the option of a week, and in revenge, Dick invited last night's party to
dinner at a restaurant. They weren't going to put their money into the
pocket of that cad of an inn-keeper. Hayes was the hero of the hour, and he
made everybody roar with laughter at the way in which he related his
experiences. But after a time Dick, who had always an eye to business, drew
his chair up to Mortimer's, and begged of him to try to think of some
allusions to the adventures which could be worked into the piece. The
question was a serious one, and until it was time to go to the theatre the
art of gagging was warmly argued. Dubois held the most liberal views. He
said that after a certain number of nights the author's words should be
totally disregarded in favour of topical remarks. Bret, who was slow of
wit, maintained that the dignity of a piece could only be maintained by
sticking to the text, and cited examples to support his opinion. It was,
however, finally agreed that whenever Mortimer came on the stage, he should
say, 'Derby isn't a safe place to get drunk in,' and that Dubois should
reply, 'Rather not.'

Owing to these little emendations, the piece went with a scream, the
receipts were over a hundred, and Morton and Cox's Operatic Company, having
done a very satisfactory week's business, assembled at the station on
Sunday morning bound for Blackpool.

Kate and Dick jumped into a compartment with the same people as before,
plus a chorus-girl who was making up to Montgomery in the hopes of being
allowed to say on the entrance of the duke, 'Oh, what a jolly fellow he
is!' Mortimer shouted to Hayes, who always went with the pipe-smokers, and
Dick spoke about the possibility of producing some new piece at Liverpool.
Dubois, Mortimer, Bret, and the chorus-girl settled down to a game of nap.
Dick, Leslie, and Montgomery were singing tunes or fragments of tunes to
each other, and talking about 'effects' that might be introduced into the
new piece. But would Dick produce a new piece?

The conversation changed, and it was asked if no money could be saved this
trip in the taking of the tickets, and Dick was closely questioned as to
when, in his opinion, it would be safe to try their little plant on again.
Instead of answering he leant back, and gradually a pleasant smile began to
trickle over his broad face. He was evidently maturing some plan. 'What is
it, Dick? Do say like a good fellow,' was repeated many times, but he
refused to give any reply. This aroused the curiosity of the company, and
it grew to burning pitch when the train drew up at a station and Dick began
a conversation with the guard concerning the length of time they would have
at Preston, and where they would find the train that was to take them on to
Blackpool.

'You'll have a quarter of an hour's wait at Preston. You'll arrive there at
4.20 and at thirty-five past you'll find the train for Blackpool drawn up
on the right-hand side of the station.'

'Thanks very much,' replied Dick as he tipped the guard; and then, turning
his head towards his friends, he whispered, 'It's as right as a trivet; I
shall be back in a minute.'

'Where's he off to?' asked everybody.

'He's just gone into the telegraph office,' said Montgomery, who was
stationed at the window.

A moment after Dick was seen running up the platform, his big hat giving
him the appearance of an American. As he passed each compartment of their
carriage he whispered something in at the window.

'What can he be saying? What can he be arranging?' asked Miss Leslie.

'I don't care how he arranges it as long as I get a drink on the cheap at
Preston,' said Mortimer.

'That's the main point,' replied Dubois.

'Well, Dick, what is it?' exclaimed everybody, as the big man sat down
beside Kate.

'The moment the train arrives at Preston we must all make a rush for the
refreshment-rooms and ask for Mr. Simpson's lunch.'

'Who's Mr. Simpson? What lunch? Oh, do tell us! What a mysterious fellow
you are!' were the exclamations reiterated all the way along the route. But
the only answer they received was, 'Now what does it matter who Mr. Simpson
is? Eat and drink all you can, and for the life of you don't ask who Mr.
Simpson is, but only for his lunch.'

And as soon as the train stopped actors, actresses, chorus-girls and men,
conductor, prompter, manager, and baggage-man rushed like a school towards
the glass doors of the refreshment-room, where they found a handsome
collation laid out for forty people.

'Where's Mr. Simpson's lunch?' shouted Dick.

'Here, sir, here; all is ready,' replied two obliging waiters.

'Where's Mr. Simpson's lunch?' echoed Dubois and Montgomery.

'This way, sir; what will you take, sir? Cold beef, chicken and ham, or a
little soup?' asked half a dozen waiters.

The ladies were at first shy of helping themselves, and hung back a little,
but Dick drove them on, and, the first step taken, they ate of everything.
But Kate clung to Dick timidly, refusing all offers of chicken, ham, and
cold beef.

'But is this paid for?' she whispered to him.

'Of course it is. Mr. Simpson's lunch. Take care of what you're sayin'.
Tuck into this plate of chicken; will you have a bit of tongue with it?'
and not having the courage to refuse, Kate complied in silence. Dick
crammed her pockets with cakes. But soon the waiters began to wonder at the
absence of Mr. Simpson, and had already commenced their inquiries.

Approaching Mortimer, the head waiter asked that gentleman if Mr. Simpson
was in the room.

'He's just slipped round to the bookstall to get a Sunday paper. He'll be
back in a minute, and if you'll get me another bit of chicken in the
meantime I shall feet obliged.'

In five minutes more the table was cleared, and everybody made a movement
to retire, and it was then that the refreshment-room people began to
exhibit a very genuine interest in the person of Mr. Simpson. One waiter
begged of Dick to describe the gentleman to him, another besought of Dubois
to say at what end of the table Mr. Simpson had had his lunch. In turn they
appealed to the ladies and to the gentlemen, but were always met with the
same answer. 'Just saw him a minute ago, going up to the station; if you
run after him you're sure to catch him.' 'Mr. Simpson? Why, he was here a
minute ago; I think he was speaking about sending a telegram; perhaps he's
up in the office.' The train bell then rang, and, like a herd in motion,
the whole company crowded to the train. The guard shouted, the
panic-stricken waiters tumbled over the luggage, and, running from carriage
to carriage, begged to be informed as to Mr. Simpson's whereabouts.

'He's in the end carriage, I tell you, back there, just at the other end of
the train.'

The seedy black coats were then seen hurrying down the flags, but only to
return in a minute, breathless, for further information. But this could not
last for ever, and the guard blew his whistle, the actors began gagging.
And, oh, the singing, the whistling, the cheers of the mummers as the train
rolled away into the country, now all agleam with the sunset! Tattoos were
beaten with sticks against the woodwork of each compartment. Dick, with his
body half out of the window and his curls blowing in the wind, yelled at
Hayes. Montgomery disputed with Dubois for possession of the other window,
and three chorus-girls giggled and, munching stolen cakes, tried to get
into conversation with Kate. But though love had compensated her for
virtue, nothing could make amends to her for her loss of honesty. She could
break a moral law with less suffering than might be expected from her
bringing up, but the sentiment the most characteristic, and naturally so,
of the middle classes is a respect for the property of others; and she had
eaten of stolen bread. Oppressed and sickened by this idea, she shrank back
in her corner, and filled with a sordid loathing of herself, she moved
instinctively away from Dick.

At Blackpool Mr. Williams's pimply face was the first thing that greeted
them. There was the usual crowd of landladies who presented their cards and
extolled the comfort and cleanliness of their rooms. One of these women was
introduced and specially recommended by Mr. Williams. He declared that her
place was a little paradise, and an hour later, still plunged in
conscientious regrets at having eaten a luncheon that had not been paid
for, Kate sat sipping her tea in a rose-coloured room.

XIII

But next morning at Blackpool Kate woke up languid, and seeing Dick fast
asleep, she thought it would be a pity to awaken him, and twisting her
pretty legs out of bed, she went into the sitting-room, with the intention
of looking after Dick's breakfast, and found it laid out on the round table
in the rose-coloured sitting-room, the napery of exceeding whiteness. The
two armchairs drawn by the quietly burning fire inspired indolence, and
tempted at once by the freshness of her dressing-gown and the warmth of the
room, she fell into a sort of happy reverie, from which she awoke in a few
minutes prompted by a desire to see Dick; to see him asleep; to awaken him;
to talk to him; to upbraid him for his laziness. The room, full of the
intimacy of their life, enchanted her, and half in shame, half in delight,
she affected to arrange the pillows while he buttoned his collar. When this
was accomplished she led him triumphantly to the breakfast table, and with
one arm resting on his knees watched the white shapes of the eggs seen
through the bubbling water. This was the great business of the morning. He
would pay twopence apiece to have fresh eggs, and was most particular that
they should be boiled for three minutes, and not one second more. The
landlady brought up the beefsteak and the hot milk for the coffee, and if
any friend came in orders were sent down instantly for more food. Such
extravagance could not fail to astonish Kate, accustomed as she had been
from her earliest years to a strict and austere mode of life. Frequently
she begged of Dick to be more economical, but having always lived
Bohemian-like on the money easily gained, he paid very little attention to
what she said, beyond advising her to eat more steak and put colour into
her cheeks. And once the ice of habit was broken, she likewise began to
abandon herself thoroughly to the pleasures of these rich warm breakfasts,
and to look forward to the idle hours of digestion which followed, and the
happy dreams that could then be indulged in. Before the tea-things were
removed Dick opened the morning paper, and from time to time read aloud
scraps of whatever news he thought interesting. These generally concerned
the latest pieces produced in London; and, as if ignorant of the fact that
she knew nothing of what he was speaking of, he explained to her his views
on the subject--why such and such plays would, and others would not, do for
the country. Kate listened with riveted attention, although she only
understood half of what was told her, and the flattery of being taken into
his confidence was a soft and fluttering joy. In these moments all fear
that he would one day desert her died away like an ugly wind; and, with the
noise of the town drumming dimly in the distance, they abandoned themselves
to the pleasure of thinking of each other. Dick congratulated himself on
the choice he had made, and assured himself that he would never know again
the ennui of living alone. She was one of the prettiest women you could see
anywhere, and, luckily, not too exacting. In fact, she hadn't a fault if it
weren't that she was a bit cold, and he couldn't understand how it was;
women were not generally cold with him. The question interested him
profoundly, and as he considered it his glance wandered from the loose blue
masses of hair to the white satin shoe which she held to the red blaze.

'Dick, do you think you'll always love me as you do now?'

'I'm sure of it, dear.'

'It seems to me, if one really loves once one must love always. But I don't
know how I can talk to you like this, for how can you respect me? I've been
so very wicked.'

'What nonsense, Kate! How can you talk like that? I wouldn't respect you if
you went on living with a man you didn't care about.'

'Well, I liked him well enough till you came, dear, but I couldn't then--it
wasn't all my fault; but if you should cease to care for me I think I
should die. But you won't; tell me that you won't, dear Dick.'

At that moment the door opened; it was Montgomery come to see them. Kate
jumped off Dick's knees, and, settling her skirts with the pretty movement
of a surprised woman, threw herself into a chair on the opposite side of
the fireplace. The musician had come to speak about his opera, especially
the opening chorus, about which he could not make up his mind.

'My boy,' said Dick, 'don't be afraid of making it too long. There's
nothing like having a good strong number to begin with--something with grip
in it, you know.'

Montgomery looked vaguely into space; he was obviously not listening, but
was trying to follow out some musical scheme that was running in his head.
After a long silence he said:

'What I can't make up my mind about is whether I ought to concert that
first number or have it sung in unison. Now listen. The scene is the
wedding festivities of Prince Florimel, who is about to wed Eva, the
daughter of the Duke of Perhapsburg--devilish good name, you know. Well
then, the flower-girls come on first, scattering flowers; they proceed two
by two and arrange themselves in line on both sides of the stage. They are
followed by trumpeters and a herald; then come the ladies-in-waiting, the
pages, the courtiers, and the palace servants. Very well; the first four
lines, you know--"Hail! hail! the festive day"--that, of course, is sung
by the sopranos.'

'You surely don't want to concert that, do you?' interrupted Dick.

'Of course not; you must think me an ignoramus. The first four lines are
sung naturally in unison; then there is a repeat, in which the tenors and
basses are singing against the women's voices. By that time the stage will
be full. Well, then, what I'm thinking of doing, when I get to the second
part, you know--"May the stars much pleasure send you, may romance and love
attend you," is to repeat "May the stars."'

'Oh, I see what you mean,' said Dick, who began to grow interested. You'll
give 'May the stars' first to the sopranos, and then repeat with the tenors
and basses?'

'That's it. I'll show you,' replied Montgomery, rushing to the piano. 'Here
are the sopranos singing in G, "May the stars"; tenors, "May the stars";
tenors and sopranos, "Much pleasure send you"; basses an octave lower, "May
the stars--may stars." Now I'm going to join them together--"May the
Stars."'

Twisting round rapidly on the piano-stool, Montgomery pushed his glasses
high up on his beak-like nose, and demanded an opinion. But before Dick
could say a word a kick of the long legs brought the musician again face to
the keyboard, and for several minutes he crashed away, occasionally
shouting forth an explanatory remark, or muttering an apology when he
failed to reach the high soprano notes. The lovesong, however, was too much
for him, and, laughing at his own breakdown, he turned from the piano and
consented to resume the interrupted conversation. Then the plot and musical
setting of Montgomery's new work was discussed. The names of Offenbach and
Herve were mentioned; both were admitted to be geniuses, but the latter, it
was declared, would have been the greater had he had the advantage of a
musical education. Various anecdotes were related as to how the latter had
achieved his first successes, and Montgomery, who questioned the
possibility of a man who could not write down the notes being able to
compose the whole score of an opera, maintained it was ridiculous to talk
of dictating a finale.

Kate often asked herself if she would ever be able to take part in these
artistic discussions; she was afraid not. Even when she succeeded in
picking up the thread of an idea, it soon got tangled with another, and she
began to fear she would never know why Herve was a better composer than
Offenbach, and why a certain quintette was written on classical lines and
such-like. She asked Montgomery to explain things to her, but he was more
anxious to speak of his own music, and when the names of the ladies of the
company were being run over in search of one who could take the part of a
page, with a song and twenty lines of dialogue to speak, Dick said

'Well, perhaps it isn't for me to say it, but I assure you that I don't
know a nicer soprano voice than Mrs Ede's.'

'Ho, ho!' cried Montgomery, twisting his legs over the arm of the chair,
'how is it I never heard of this before? But won't you sing something, Mrs.
Ede? If you have any of your songs here I'll try the accompaniment over.'

Kate, who did not know a crotchet from a semiquaver, grew frightened at
this talk of trying over accompaniments, and tried to stammer out some
apologies and excuses.

'Oh, really, Mr. Montgomery, I assure you Dick is only joking. I don't sing
at all--I don't know anything about music.'

'Don't you mind her; 'tis as I say: she's got a very nice soprano voice;
and as for an ear, I never knew a better in my life. There's no singing
flat there, I can tell you. But, seriously speaking,' he continued, taking
pity on Kate, whose face expressed the agony of shame she was suffering,
'of course I know well enough she don't know how to produce her voice; she
never had a lesson in her life, but I think you'll agree with me, when you
hear it, that the organ is there. Do sing something, Kate.'

Kate cast a beseeching glance at her lover, and murmured some
unintelligible words, but they did not save her. Montgomery crossed himself
over the stool, and, after running his fingers over the keys, said:

'Now, sing the scale after me--do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, la--that's the
note; try to get that clear--sol, do!' and Kate, not liking to disoblige
Dick, sang the scale after Montgomery in the first instance, and then,
encouraged by her success, gave it by herself, first in one octave and then
in the other. 'Well, don't you agree with me?' said Dick. 'The organ is
there, and there's no fluffing the notes; they come out clear, don't they?'

'They do indeed,' replied Montgomery, casting a warm glance of admiration
at Kate; 'but I should so much like to hear Mrs. Ede sing a song.'

'Oh, I really couldn't--'

'Nonsense! Sing the song of "The Bells" in the _Cloches_,' said Dick,
taking her by the arm. She pleaded and argued, but it was no use, and when
at last it was decided she was to sing, Montgomery, who had in the meantime
been trying the finale of his first act in several different ways, stopped
short and said suddenly:

'Oh, I beg your pardon; you're going to sing the song of "The Bells." I'll
tell you when to begin--now, "Though they often tell us of our ancient
masters."'

When Kate had finished singing Montgomery spun round, bringing himself face
to face with Dick, and speaking professionally, said:

''Pon my word, it's extraordinary. Of course it is a head voice, but as
soon as we get a few chest notes--you know I don't pretend to be able to
teach singing, but after a year's training under my grandfather Beaumont
wouldn't be in the same street with you.'

'Yes, but as he isn't here,' replied Dick, who always kept an eye on the
possible, 'don't you think it would be as well for her to learn a little
music?'

'I shall be only too delighted to teach Mrs. Ede the little I know myself.
I'll come in the morning, and we'll work away at the piano; and you know,'
continued Montgomery, who began to regret the confession of his inability
to teach singing, 'although I don't pretend to be able to do what my
grandfather could with a voice, still, I know something about it. I used to
attend all his singing-classes, and am pretty well up in his method,
and--and--if Mrs. Ede likes, I shall be only too happy to do some singing
with her; and, between you and me, I think that in a few lessons I could
get rid of that throatiness, and show her how to get a note or two from the
chest.'

'I'm sure you could, my boy; and I shall be delighted with you if you will.
Of course we must consider it as a matter of business.'

'Oh, nonsense, nonsense, between pals!' exclaimed Montgomery, who saw a
perspective of long hours passed in the society of a pretty woman--a luxury
which his long nose and scraggy figure prevented him from indulging in as
frequently as he desired.

After some further discussion, it was arranged that Montgomery should call
round some time after breakfast, and that Dick should then leave them
together to work away at do, re, mi, fa. Hamilton's system was purchased,
and it surprised and amused Kate to learn that the notes between the spaces
spelt 'face.' But it was in her singing lessons that she took the most
interest, and her voice soon began to improve both in power and quality.
She sang the scales for three-quarters of an hour daily, and before the end
of the week she so thoroughly satisfied Montgomery in her rendering of a
ballad he had bought for her that he begged Dick to ask a few of the 'Co.'
in to tea next Sunday evening. The shine would be taken out of Beaumont, he
declared with emphasis. Kate, however, would not hear of singing before
anybody for the present, and she gave up going to the theatre in the
evening so that she might have two or three hours of quiet to study
music-reading by herself. In the morning she woke to talk of Montgomery,
who generally came in while they were at breakfast; and when the lesson was
over he would often stop on until they were far advanced in the afternoon;
and, looking at each other from time to time, they spoke of the next town
they were going to, and alluded to the events of their last journey. Kate
would have liked to speak much of Dick, but she felt ashamed, and listened
with interest to all Montgomery told her of himself, of the difficulties he
had to contend against, of his hopes for the future. He spoke a great deal
of his opera, and often sprang up in the middle of a sentence to give a
practical illustration of his meaning on the instrument. But these musical
digressions did not weary Kate, and to the best of her ability she judged
the different versions of the finale. 'Give the public what they want,' was
his motto, and he intended to act up to it. He had written two or three
comic songs that had been immense successes, not to speak of the yards of
pantomime music he had composed, and he knew that when he got hold of a
good book in three acts he'd be able to tackle it. What he was doing now
was not much more than a curtain-raiser; but never mind, that was the way
to begin. You couldn't expect a manager to trust you with the piece of the
evening until you'd proved that you could interest the public in smaller
work. At this point of the argument Montgomery generally spoke of Dick,
whom he declared was a dear good fellow, who would be only too glad to give
a pal a lift when the time came. Kate, on her side, longed to hear
something of her lover from an outside source. All she knew of him she had
learned from his own lips. Montgomery, in whose head all sorts of reveries
concerning Kate were floating, was burning to talk to her of her lover, and
to hear from her own lips of the happiness which he imagined a true and
perfect affection bestowed upon human life. Kate had not spoken on this
important subject; and Montgomery, for fear of wounding her feelings, had
avoided it; but they were conscious that the restraint jarred their
intimacy. One afternoon Dick suddenly burst in upon them, and after some
preamble told them that he had arranged to meet there some gentleman with
whom he had important business to transact. Montgomery took up his hat and
prepared to go, and Kate offered to sit with the landlady in the kitchen.

'I'm afraid you'll bore yourself, dear,' Dick said after a pause. 'But I'll
tell you what you might do--I shan't be able to take you out to-day. Why
not go for a walk with Montgomery?'

'I shall be delighted; I'll take you for a charming walk up the hill, and
show you the whole town.'

Kate had no objection to make, and she returned to the sitting-room sooner
than they expected her. 'A quick-change artist,' Dick said.

She wore a brown costume, trimmed with feathers to match; a small bonnet
crowned the top of her head, and her face looked adorably coquettish amid
the big bows into which she had tied the strings. Her companion was very
conscious of this fact, and with his heart full of pride he occasionally
jerked his head round to watch the passers-by, doubting at the same time if
any were as happy as he.

It was a great pleasure to be alone with Kate in the open air, walking by
her side, escorting her, and telling her as they walked all he knew about
Blackpool: that it bore the same relation to the other towns of Lancashire
as the seventh day does to the other six of the week; that it was the huge
Lancashire Sunday, where the working classes of Accrington, Blackburn,
Preston, and Burnley, during a week or a fortnight of the year, go to
recreate themselves.

'The streets are built with large pavements,' he told her, 'so that
jostling may be avoided, and there are many open spaces where people may
loiter and congregate; the bonnets exhibited in the plate-glass windows,
you can see, are obviously intended for holiday wear.' She stopped to look
at these. 'Not one,' he said, 'is as pretty as the one you're wearing.'

'It's a pretty little hat,' she answered, and he pointed to the
spider-legged piers and to a high headland, a sort of green cap over the
ocean.

'Do you know that the fellow who owns that building has made a fortune?'
said Montgomery, pointing to the roofs which began to appear above the edge
of the common.

'Did he really?' replied Kate, trying to appear interested.

'Yes; he began with a sort of shanty where he sold ginger-beer and
lemonade. It became the fashion to go out there, and now he's got
dining-rooms and a spirit licence. We went up there last week, a lot of us,
and we had such fun; we went donkey-riding, and Leslie had a fall. Did she
tell you of it?'

'No; I've scarcely spoken to her for the last few days.'

'How's that? I thought you were such friends.'

'I like her very much; but she's always on the stage at night, and I don't
like--I mean I should like--but I don't know that she would like me to go
and see her.'

'And why not, pray?'

'Well, I thought she mightn't like me to come and see her, because,
I'm--well, on account of Dick.'

'There's nothing between them now; that's all over ages ago, and she's dead
nuts on Bret.'

Kate had been nearly a fortnight with the mummers, but she had lived almost
apart. She had not yet learnt that in the company she was in no opprobrium
was attached to the fact of a woman having a lover, and she still supposed
that because she had left her husband Leslie might not like to associate
with her. To learn, then, that she had only replaced another woman in
Dick's affections came upon her with a shock, and it was the very
suddenness of the blow that saved her from half the pain; for it was
impossible for a woman who saw in the world nothing but the sacrifice she
had made for the man she loved, to realize the fact that Dick's love of her
was a toy that had been taken up, just as love of Miss Leslie was a toy
that had been laid down. It did not occur to her to think that the man she
was living with might desert her, nor did she experience any very cruel
pangs of jealousy; she was more startled than anything else by the
appearance of a third person in the world which for the last week had
seemed so entirely her own.

'What do you mean?' she said, stopping abruptly. 'Was Dick in love with
Miss Leslie before he knew me?'

Montgomery coloured, and strove to improvise excuses.

'No,' he said, 'of course he wasn't really in love with her; but we used to
chaff him about her; that's all.'

'Why should you do that, when she is in love with Bret?' said Kate harshly.

Montgomery, who dreaded a quarrel with Dick as he would death, grasped at a
bit of truth to help him out of his difficulty.

'But I assure you Bret and Leslie's affair only began a couple of months
ago, when we first went out on tour. We joked Dick about her to vex him,
that's all. If you don't believe me, you can ask the rest of the company.'

To this Kate made no reply, and with her eyes upon the ground she remained
for some moments thinking. The light and the matter-of-course way in which
her companion spoke of the affections troubled her exceedingly, and very
naively she asked herself if the company did not admit fornication among
the sins.

''Tis too bad to be taken up in that way,' he said. 'There's always a bit
of chaff going on; but if it were all taken for gospel truth I don't know
where we should be. I give you my word of honour that I don't think he ever
looked twice at her; anyhow, he didn't hesitate between you; nor could he,
for, of course, you know you're a fifty times prettier woman.'

Kate answered the flattery with a delightful smile, and Montgomery thought
that he had convinced her. But the young man was deceived by appearances.
He had succeeded more in turning the current of her thoughts than in
persuading her.

'You seem to think very lightly of such things,' she said, raising her
brown eyes with a look that melted her face to a heavenly softness.

Montgomery did not understand, and she was forced to explain. This was
difficult to do, but, after a slight hesitation, she said:

'Then you really do believe that Miss Leslie and Mr. Bret are lovers?'

'Oh, I really don't know,' he said hastily, for he saw himself drawn into a
fresh complication; 'I never pry into other people's affairs. They seem to
like each other, that's all.'

It was now Kate's turn to see that indiscreet questions might lead to the
quarrels she was most anxious to avoid, and they walked along the breezy
common in silence, seeing the sea below them, and far away the weedy waste
of stone filled with the white wings of gulls, touched here and there with
the black backs of the shrimp-fishers.

'How strange it is that the sea should go and come like that! I'd never
seen it as it is now till the day before yesterday, and Dick was so amused,
for I thought it was going to dry up. The morning after our arrival here we
sat down by the bathing-boxes on the beach and listened to the waves. They
roared along the shore. It's very wonderful. Don't you think so?'

'Yes, indeed I do. When I was here before, I spent one whole morning
listening to the waves, and their surging suggested a waltz to me. This is
the way it went,' and leaning on the rough paling that guarded the
precipitous edge, Montgomery sang his unpublished composition. 'I never got
any further,' he said, stopping short in the middle of the second part; 'I
somehow lost the character of the thing; but I like the opening.'

'Oh, so do I. I wonder how you can think of such tunes. How clever you must
be!'

Montgomery smiled nervously, and he proposed that they should go over to
the hotel to have a drink.

'Oh, I don't like to go up there,' she said, after examining for some
moments this hillside bar-room. 'There're too many men.'

'What does it matter? We'll have a table to ourselves. Besides, you'd
better have something to eat, for now we're out we may as well stay out.
There's no use going back yet awhile;' and he talked so rapidly of his
waltz--of whether he should call it the 'Wave,' the 'Seashore,' or the
'Cliff,' that he didn't give her time to collect her thoughts.

'I can't go in there,' she said; 'why, it's only a public-house.'

'Everybody comes up here to have a drink. It's quite the fashion.'

The men round the doorway stared at her, and seeing some of the
chorus-girls coming from where the donkeys were stationed, in the company
of young men with high collars and tight trousers, she almost ran into the
bar-room.

'Now you see what a scrape you've led me into, I wouldn't have met those
people for anything.'

'What does it matter? If it were wrong do you think I'd bring you in here?
You ask Dick when you get home.'

A doubt of the possibility of Dick thinking anything wrong clouded Kate's
mind, and Montgomery ordered sandwiches and two brandies-and-sodas. The
sandwiches were excellent, and Kate, who had scarcely tasted anything but
beer in her life, thought the brandy-and-soda very refreshing. The question
then came of how to get out of the place, and after much hesitation and
conjecturing, they slipped out the back way through the poultry-yard and
stables.

In front of them was a very steep path that led to the sea strand. Large
masses of earth had given way, and these had formed ledges which, in turn,
had somehow become linked together, and it was possible to climb down
these.

'Do you think you could manage?' he said, holding out his hand.

'I don't know; do you think it dangerous?'

'No, not if you take care; but the cliff is pretty high; it would not do to
fall over. Perhaps you'd better come back across the common by the road.'

'And meet all those girls?'

'I don't see why you should be afraid of meeting them,' said Montgomery,
who was secretly anxious to show the chorus that if he were not the
possessor, he was at least on intimate terms of friendship with this pretty
woman.

'No, I'd sooner not meet them, and coming out of a public-house; I don't
see why we shouldn't come down this way. I'm sure I can manage it if you'll
give me your hand and go first.'

The descent then began. Kate's high-heeled boots were hard to walk in, and
every now and then her feet would fail her, and she would utter little
cries of fear, and lean against the cliff's side. It was delightful to
reassure her, and Montgomery profited by those occasions to lay his hands
upon her shoulders and hold her arms in his hands. No human creature was in
hearing or in sight, and solitude seemed to unite them, and the mimic
danger of the descent to endear them to each other. The quiet and
enchantment of earth and air melted into her thoughts until she enjoyed a
perfect bliss of unreasoned emotion. He, too, was conscious of the day, and
his happiness, touched with a diffused sense of desire, was intense, even
to a savour of bitterness. Like all young men, he longed to complete his
youth by some great passion, but out of horror of the gross sensualities
with which he was always surrounded, his delicate artistic nature took
refuge in a half-platonic affection for his friend's mistress. It was an
infinite pleasure, and could it have lasted for ever he would not have
thought of changing it. To take her by the hand and help her to cross the
weedy stones; to watch her pretty stare of wonderment when he explained
that the flux and the reflux of the tides were governed by the moon; to
hear her speak of love, and to dream what that love might be, was enough.

Along the coast there were miles and miles of reaches, and to gain the sea
they were obliged to make many detours. Sometimes they came upon long
stretches of sand separated by what seemed to them to be a river, and
Montgomery often proposed that he should carry Kate across the streamlet.
But she would not hear of it, although on one occasion she did not refuse
until he had placed his arms around her waist. Escaping from him, she ran
along the edge, saying she would find a crossing. Montgomery pursued her,
amused by the fluttering of her petticoats; but after a race of twenty or
thirty yards, they found that their discovered river was only a long pool
that owned no outlet to the sea, and they both stopped like disappointed
children.

'Well, never mind,' said Kate; 'did you ever see such beautiful clear
water? I must have a drink.'

'You've no cup,' he said, turning away so that she should not see him
laughing. 'You might manage to get up a little in your hands.'

'So I might. Oh, what fun! Tell me how I'm to do it.'

He told her how to hollow her hands, and waited to enjoy the result, and,
forgetful that the sea was salt she lifted the brine to her lips; but when
she spat out the horrible mouthful and turned on him a questioning face, he
only answered that if she didn't take care she would be the death of him.

'And didn't ums know the sea was salt, and did ums think it very nasty, and
not half as nice as a brandy-and-soda?'

Kate watched him for a moment, and then her face clouded, and pouting her
pretty lips, she said:

'Of course I don't pretend to be as clever as you, but if you'd never seen
the sea until a week ago you might forget.'

'Yes, yes, for-for-get that it--it wasn't as nice as brandy-and-soda,'
cried Montgomery, holding his sides.

'I wasn't going to say that, and it was very rude of you to interrupt me in
that way.'

'Now come, don't get cross. You should understand a joke better than that,'
he replied, for seeing the tears in her eyes he began to fear that he had
spoilt the delight of their day.

'I think it is unkind of you to laugh at me and play tricks on me like
that,' said Kate, trying to master her emotion; and as they walked under
the sunset, Montgomery broke long and irritating silences by apologizing
for his indiscretion, but Kate did not answer him until they arrived at a
place where a little boy and girl were fishing for shrimps. Here there was
quite a little lake, and amid the rocks and weedy stones the clear water
flowed as it might in an aquarium, the liquid surface reflecting as
perfectly as any mirror the sky's blue, with clouds going by and many
delicate opal tints, and the forms of the children's plump limbs.

'Oh, how nice they look! What little dears!' exclaimed Kate, but as she
pressed forward to watch the children her foot dislodged a young lobster
from the corner of rock in which he had been hiding.

'That's a lobster,' cried Montgomery.

'Is it?' cried Kate, and she pursued the ungainly thing, which sought
vainly for a crevice.

After an animated chase, with the aid of her parasol she caught it, and was
about to take it up with her fingers when Montgomery stopped her.

'You'd better take care; it will pretty well nip the fingers off you.'

'You aren't joking?' she asked innocently.

'No, indeed I'm not; but I hope you don't mind my telling you.'

At that moment their eyes met, and Kate, seeing how foolish she had been,
burst into fits of laughter.

'No, no, no, I--I don't mind your telling me that--that a lobster bites,
but--'

'But when it comes to saying sea-water is not as nice as brandy-and-soda,'
he replied, bursting into a roar of merriment, 'we cut up rough, don't we?'

The children climbed up on the rocks to look at them, and it was some time
before Kate could find words to ask them to show what they had caught.

The little boy was especially clever at his work, and regardless of wetting
himself, he plunged into the deepest pools, intercepting with his net at
every turn the shrimps that vainly sought to escape him. His little sister,
too, was not lacking in dexterity, and between them they had filled a
fairly-sized basket. Kate examined everything with an almost feverish
interest. She tore long gluey masses of seaweed from the rocks and insisted
on carrying them home; the mussels she found on the rocks interested her;
she questioned the little shrimp fishers for several minutes about a dead
starfish, and they stared in open-eyed amazement, thinking it very strange
that a grown-up woman should ask such questions. At last the little boy
showed her what she was to do with the lobster. He wedged the claws with
two bits of wood, and attached a string whereby she might carry it in her
hand, and in silences that were only interrupted by occasional words they
picked their way along the strand.

Kate thought of Dick--of what he was doing, of what he was saying. She saw
him surrounded by men; there were glasses on the table. She looked into his
large, melancholy blue eyes, and dreamed of the time she would again sit on
his knees and explain to him for the hundredth time that love was
all-sufficing, and that he who possessed it could possess nothing more.
Montgomery was also thinking of Dick, and for the conquest of so pretty a
woman the dreamy-minded musician viewed his manager with admiration. The
morality of the question did not appeal to him, and his only fear was that
Kate would one day be deserted. 'If so, I shall have to support her.' He
thought of the music he would have to compose--songs, all of which would be
dedicated to her.

'Have you known Dick,' she asked suddenly, 'a long time?'

'Two or three years or so,' replied Montgomery, a little abashed at a
question which sounded at that moment like a distant echo of his own
thoughts. 'Why do you ask?'

'For no particular reason, only you seem such great friends.'

'Yes, I like him very much; he's a dear good fellow, he'd divide his last
bob with a pal.'

The conversation then came to a pause. Both suddenly remembered how they
had set out on their walk determined to seek information of each other on
certain subjects.

Montgomery wished to hear from Kate how Dick had persuaded her to run away
with him; Kate wanted to learn from Montgomery something of her lover's
private life--if he were faithful to a woman when he loved her, if he had
been in love with many women before.

As she considered how she would put her questions a grey cloud passed over
her face, and she thought of Leslie. But just as she was going to speak
Montgomery interrupted her. He said:

'You didn't know Dick before he came to lodge in your house at Hanley, did
you?'

Kate raised her eyes with a swift and startled look, but being anxious to
speak on the subject she replied, speaking very softly:

'No, and perhaps it would have been well if he had never come to my house.'

There was not so much insincerity in the phrase as may at first appear.
Nearly all women consider it necessary to maintain to themselves and to
others that they deeply regret having sinned. The delusion at once pleases
and consoles them, and they cling to it to the last.

'I often think of you,' said Montgomery. 'Yours appears to me such a
romantic story ... you who sat all day and mi-mi--' he was going to say
minding a sick husband, but for fear of wounding her feelings he altered
the sentence to 'and never, or hardly ever, left Hanley in your life,
should be going about the country with us.'

Kate, who guessed what he had intended saying, answered:

'Yes, I'm afraid I've been very wicked. I often think of it and you must
despise me. That's what makes me ashamed to go about with the rest of the
company. I'm always wondering what they think of me. Tell me, do tell me
the truth; I don't mind hearing it. What do they say about me? Do they
abuse me very much?'

'Abuse you? They abuse you for being a pretty woman, I suppose; but as for
anything else, good heavens! they'd look well! Why, you're far the most
respectable one among the lot. Don't you know that?'

'I suspected Beaumont was not quite right, perhaps; but you don't mean to
say there isn't one? Not that little thing with fair hair who sings in the
chorus?'

'Well, yes, they say she's all right. There are one or two, perhaps; but
when it comes to asking me if Beaumont and Leslie are down on you--well!'
Montgomery burst out laughing.

This decided expression of opinion was grateful to Kate's feelings, and the
conversation might have been pursued with advantage, but seeing an
opportunity of speaking of Dick, she said:

'But you told me there was nothing between Mr. Bret and Miss Leslie.'

'I told you I didn't know whether there was or not; but I'm quite sure
there never was between her and Dick. You see I can guess what you're
trying to get at.'

'I can scarcely believe it. Now I think of it, I remember she was in his
room the night of the row, when he turned me out.'

'Yes, yes; but there were a lot of us. The principals in a company
generally stick together. It's extraordinary how you women will keep on
nagging at a thing. I swear to you that I'm as certain as I stand here
there was never anything between them. Do let us talk of something else.'

They had now wandered back to the fine pebbly beach, to within a hundred
yards of the pier, and above the high cliff they could just see the red
chimney-stacks of the town.

Montgomery sang his waltz softly over, but before he arrived at the second
part his thoughts wandered, and he said:

'Have you heard anything of your husband since you left Hanley?'

The abruptness of the question made Kate start; but she was not offended,
and she answered:

'No, I haven't. I wonder what he'll do.'

'Possibly apply for a divorce. If he does, you'll be able to marry Dick.'

A flush of pleasure passed over Kate's face, and when she raised her eyes
her look seemed to have caught some of the brightness of the sunset. But it
died into grey gloom even as the light above, and she said sighing:

'I don't suppose he'd marry me.'

'Well, if he wouldn't, there are lots who would.'

'What do you mean?' asked Kate simply.

'Oh, nothing; only I should think that anyone would be glad to marry you,'
the young man answered, hoping that she would not repeat the conversation
to her lover.

'I hope he will; for if he were to leave me, I think I should die. But tell
me--you will, won't you? For you are my friend, aren't you?'

'I hope so,' he replied constrainedly.

'Well, tell me the truth: do you think he can be constant to a woman? Does
he get tired easily? Does he like change?'

Kate laid her hand on Montgomery's shoulder, and looked pleadingly in his
face.

'Dick is an awful good fellow, and I'm sure he couldn't but behave well to
anyone he liked--not to say loved; and I know that he never cared for
anybody as he does for you; he as much as told me.'

Kate's smile was expressive of pleasure and, weariness, and after a pause,
she said:

'I hope what you say is true; but I don't think men ever love as women do.
When we give our heart to one man, we cannot love another. I don't know
why, but I don't believe that a man could be quite faithful to a woman.'

'That's all nonsense. I'm sure that if I loved a woman it wouldn't occur to
me to think of another.'

'Perhaps you might,' she answered; and, unconsciously comparing them with
Dick's jovial features, she examined intently the enormous nose and the
hollow, sunken cheeks. Montgomery wondered what she was thinking of, and he
half guessed that she was considering if it were possible that any woman
could care for him. To die without ever having been able to inspire an
affection was a fear that was habitual to him, and often at night he lay
awake, racked by the thought that his ugliness would ever debar him from
attaining this dearly desired end.

'Were you ever in love with anybody?' she asked, after a long silence.

'Yes, once.'

'And did she care for you?'

'Yes, I think she did at first. We used to meet at dinner every day; but
then she fell in love with an acrobat--I suppose you would call him an
acrobat--I mean one of those gutta-percha men who tie their legs in a knot
over their heads. The child was deformed. I was awfully cut up about it at
the time, but it's all over now.'

The conversation then came to a pause. Kate did not like to ask any further
questions, but as she stared vaguely at the pale sun setting, she wondered
what the acrobat was like, and how a girl could prefer a gutta-percha man
to the musician. As the minutes passed, the silence grew more irritating,
and the evening colder.

'I'm afraid we shall catch a chill if we remain here much longer, said
Montgomery, who had again begun to sing his waltz over.

'Yes, I think we'd better be getting home,' Kate answered dreamily.

After some searching, they found a huge stairway cut for the use of bathers
in the side of the cliff, and up this feet-torturing path Montgomery helped
Kate carefully and lovingly.

XIV

From Blackpool Morton and Cox's opera company proceeded to Southport, and,
still going northward, they visited Newcastle, Durham, Dundee, Glasgow, and
Edinburgh. But in no one town did they remain more than a week Every Sunday
morning, regardless as swallows of chiming church-bells, they met at the
station and were whirled as fast as steam could take them to new streets,
lodging-houses, and theatres. To Kate this constant change was at once
wearying and perplexing, and she often feared that she would never become
accustomed to her new mode of life. But on the principle that we can
scarcely be said to be moving when all around is moving in a like
proportion, Kate learned to regard locality as a mere nothing, and to fix
her centre of gravity in the forty human beings who were wandering with
her, bound to her by the light ties of _opera bouffe_.

Wherever she went her life remained the same. She saw the same faces, heard
the same words. Were they likely to do good business? was debated when they
alighted from the train; that they had or had not done good business was
affirmed when they jumped into the train. Soon even the change of
apartments ceased to astonish her, and she saw nothing surprising in the
fact that her chest of drawers was one week on the right and the following
on the left-hand side of her bed. Nor did she notice after two or three
months of travelling whether wax flowers did or did not decorate the
corners of her sitting-room, and it seemed to her of no moment whether the
Venetian blinds were green or brown. The dinners she ate were as good in
one place as in another; the family resemblance which slaveys bear to each
other satisfied her eyes, and the difference of latitude and longitude
between Glasgow and Aberdeen she found did not in the least alter her daily
occupations.

Montgomery came to see her every morning, and the tunefulness of the piano
was really all that reminded them of their change of residence. From twelve
until three they worked at music, both vocal and instrumental. Dick sought
for excuses to absent himself, but when he returned he always insisted that
Montgomery should remain to dinner. All formalities between them were
abolished, and Kate did not hesitate to sit on her lover's knees hi the
presence of her music-master. But he did not seem to care, he only laughed
a little nervously. Kate sometimes wondered if he really disliked
witnessing such familiarities. In her heart of hearts she was conscious
that there were affinities of sentiment between them, and during the music
lessons they talked continually of love. The sight of Montgomery's lanky
face often interrupted an emotional mood, but she recovered it again when
he sat looking at her, talking to her of his music. In this way he became a
necessity to her existence, a sort of spiritual light. They never wearied
of talking about Dick; between them it was always Dick, Dick, Dick! He told
her anecdotes concerning him--how he had acted certain parts; how he had
stage-managed certain pieces; of supper parties; of adventures they had
been engaged in. These stories amused Kate, although the odour of woman in
which they were bathed, as in an atmosphere, annoyed and troubled her. As
if to repay him for his kindness, she became confidential, and one day she
told him the story of her life.

It would, she said, were it taken down, make the most wonderful story-book
ever written; and beginning at the beginning, she gave rapidly an account
of her childhood, accentuating the religious and severe manner in which she
had been brought up, until the time she and her mother made the
acquaintance of the Edes. There it was necessary to hesitate. She did not
wish to tell an absolute lie, but was yet desirous to convey the impression
that her marriage with Mr. Ede had been forced upon her; but Montgomery had
already accepted it as a foregone conclusion. With his fingers twisted
through his hair, and his head thrust forward in the position in which we
are accustomed to see composers seeking inspiration depicted, he listened,
passionately interested. And when it came to telling of the mental struggle
she had gone through when struggling between her love for Dick and her duty
towards her husband, Montgomery's face, under the influence of many
emotions, straightened and contracted. He asked a hundred questions, and
was anxious to know what she had thought of Dick when she saw him for the
first time. She told him all she could remember. Her account of the visit
to the potteries proved very amusing, but before she told him of their fall
amid the cups and saucers she made Montgomery swear he would never breathe
a word. 'Oh, the devil! Was that the way he cut his legs? He told us that
he had forgotten his latchkey, and that he had done it in getting over the
garden-wall.'

Running his hand over the piano, Montgomery begged of Kate to continue her
story; but as she proceeded with the analysis of her passion the events
became more and more difficult to narrate; and she knew not how to tell the
tale how one dark night her husband sent her down to open the door to Dick;
but she must tell everything so that the whole of the blame should not fall
upon him. She alluded vaguely to violence and to force; Montgomery's face
darkened and he protested against his friend's conduct.

To Kate it was consoling to meet someone who thought she was not entirely
to blame, and the conversation came to a pause.

'And now I'm going about the country with you all, and am thinking of going
on the stage.'

'And will be a success, too--that I'll bet my life.'

'Do you really think so? Do tell me the real truth; do you think I shall
ever be able to sing?'

'I'm sure of it.'

'Well, I'm glad to hear you say so, for it's now more necessary than ever.'

'How do you mean? Has anything fresh happened? You're not on bad terms with
Dick, are you? Tell me.'

'Oh, not the least! Dick is very good to me; but if I tell you something
you promise not to mention it?'

'I promise.'

'Well, we were--I don't know what you call it--summoned, I think--by a man
before we left Blackpool to appear in the Divorce Court.'

For nearly half a minute they looked at each other in silence; then
Montgomery said:

'I suppose it was after all about the best thing that could happen.'

This answer surprised Kate. 'Why,' she said, 'do you think it's the best
thing that could happen to me?'

'Because when you get your divorce, if you play your cards well, you'll be
able to get Dick to marry you.'

Kate made no reply, and for some time both considered the question in
silence. She wondered if Dick loved her sufficiently to make such a
sacrifice for her: Montgomery reflected on the best means of persuading his
friend 'to do right by the woman,' At last he said:

'But what did you mean just now when you said that it was more necessary
than ever that you should go on the stage?'

'I don't know, only that if I'm going to be divorced I suppose I'd better
see what I can do to get my living.'

'Well, it isn't my fault if you aren't on the stage already. I've been
trying to induce you to make up your mind for the last month past.'

'Oh, the chorus! that horrid chorus! I never could walk about before a
whole theatre full of people in those red tights.'

'There's nothing indecent in wearing tights. Our leading actresses play in
travestie. In Faust Trebelli Bettini wears tights, and I'm sure no one can
say anything against her.'

Tights were a constant subject of discussion between the three, friend,
mistress, and lover. All sorts of arguments had been adduced, but none of
them had shaken Kate's unreasoned convictions on this point. A sense of
modesty inherited through generations rose to her head, and a feeling of
repugnance that seemed almost invincible, forbade her to bare herself thus
to the eyes of a gazing public. But although inborn tendencies cannot be
eradicated, the will that sustains them can be broken by force of
circumstances, and her resolutions began to fail her when Dick declared
that the thirty shillings a week she would thus earn would be a real
assistance to them.

In reality the manager had no immediate need of the money, but it went
against his feelings to allow principles, and above all principles he could
not but think absurd, to stand in the way of his turning over a bit of
coin. 'Besides, he said, 'how can I put you into a leading business all at
once? No matter how well you knew your words, you'd dry up when you got
before the footlights. You must get over your stage fright in the chorus.
On the first occasion I'll give you a line to speak, then two or three, and
then when you've learnt to blurt them out without hesitation, we'll see
about a part.'

These and similar phrases were dinned into her ears, until at last the
matter got somehow decided, and the London costumier was telegraphed to for
a new dress. When it arrived a few days after, the opening of the package
caused a good deal of merriment. Dick held up the long red stockings, as
Kate called the tights, before Montgomery. It was too late now to retract.
The dress looked beautiful, and tempted on all sides, she consented to
appear that night in _Les Cloches_. So at half-past six she walked
down to the theatre with her bundle under her arm. Dick had not allotted to
her a dressing-room, and to avoid Miss Beaumont, who was always rude, she
went of her own accord up to number six. An old woman opened the door to
her, and when Kate had explained what she had come for, she said:

'Very well, ma'am. I'm sure I don't mind; but we're already eight in this
room, and have only one basin and looking-glass between the lot. I'm afraid
you won't be very comfortable.'

'Oh! that won't matter. It may be only for to-night. If I'm too much in the
way I'll ask Mr. Lennox to put me somewhere else.'

On that Kate entered. It was a long, narrow, whitewashed room, smelling
strongly of violet-powder and clothes. Nobody had arrived yet, and the
dresses lay spread out on chairs awaiting the wearers. One was a
peasant-girl's dress--a short calico skirt trimmed with wreaths of wild
flowers, and she regretted that she could not exchange the page's attire
for one of these.

'And as regards the tights,' added the old woman, 'you'd have to wear them
just the same with peasant-girls' frocks as with these trunks, for, as you
can see, the skirts only just come below the knees.'

At this moment the conversation was interrupted by the clattering of feet
on the rickety staircase and two girls entered talking loudly; Kate had
often spoken to them in the wings. Then some more women arrived, and Kate
withdrew her chair as far out of reach as possible of the flying petticoats
and the scattered boots and shoes. One lady could not find her tights,
another insisted on the bodice of her dress being laced up at once; three
voices shouted at once for the dresser, and the call-boy was heard outside:

'Ladies! ladies! Mr. Lennox is waiting; the curtain is going up.'

'All right! all right!' cried an octave of treble voices, and tripping over
their swords, those who were ready hurried downstairs, leaving the others
screaming at the dresser, who was vainly attempting to tidy the room.

When Kate got on the stage the first person she saw was Montgomery, the
very one she wished most to avoid. After having conducted the overture he
had come up to find out the reason of the 'wait.' Dick was rushing about,
declaring that if this ever occurred again half a-crown would be stopped
out of all the salaries.

'Oh! how very nice we look! and they're not thin,' exclaimed Montgomery,
pushing his glasses up on his nose. And forgetting his difficulties as if
by magic, Dick smiled with delight as, holding her at arm's length, he
looked at her critically.

'Charming, my dear! There won't be a man in front who won't fall in love
with you. But I must see where I can place you.'

All the rest passed as rapidly as in a dream, and before she could again
think distinctly she was walking round the stage in the company of a score
of other girls. Treading in time to the music, they formed themselves into
lines, making place for Leslie, who came running down to the footlights.
There was no time for thinking; she was whirled along. Between the acts she
had to rush upstairs to put on another dress; between the scenes she had to
watch to know when she had to go on. Sometimes Dick spoke to her, but he
was generally far away, and it was not until the curtain had been rung down
for the last time that she got an opportunity of speaking to him.

As they walked home up the dark street when all was over, she laid her hand
affectionately on his arm:

'Tell me, Dick, are you satisfied with me? I've done my best to please
you.'

'Satisfied with you?' replied the big man, turning towards her in his kind
unctuous way, 'I should think so: you looked lovely, and your voice was
heard above everybody's. I wish you'd heard what Montgomery said. I'll give
you a line to speak when you've got a bit of confidence. You're a bit
timid, that's all.' And delighted Kate listened to Dick, who had begun to
sketch out a career for her. Her voice, he said, would improve. She'd have
twice the voice in a year from now, and with twice the voice she'd not only
be able to sing Clairette in _Madame Angot_, but all Schneider's great
parts.

He talked on and on, and in the early hours of the morning he was relating
how _The Brigands_ had failed at the Globe, the conditions of his
capitalist being that his mistress was to play one of the leading parts at
a high salary, and that he was to take over the bars. That was thirty
pounds a week gone; and the woman sang so fearfully out of tune that she
was hissed--a pity, for the piece contained some of Offenbach's best music.
A casual reference to the dresses led up to a detailed account of how he
had bought the satin down at the Docks at the extraordinary low price of
two shillings a yard, and this bargain prepared the way for a long story
concerning a girl who had worn one of these identical dresses. She was now
a leading London actress, and every step of her upward career was gone
into. Then followed several biographies. Charlie ---- sang in the chorus
and was now a leading tenor. Miss ---- had married a rich man on the Stock
Exchange; and so on. Indeed, everybody in that ill-fated piece seemed to
have succeeded except the manager himself. But no such criticism occurred
to Kate. Her heart was swollen with admiration for the man who had been
once at the head of all this talent, and the rich-coloured future he would
shape for her flowed hazily through her mind.

And Kate grew happier as the days passed until she began to think she must
be the happiest woman living. Her life had now an occupation, and no hour
that went pressed upon her heavier than would a butterfly's wing. The
mornings when Dick was with her had always been delightful; and the
afternoons had been taken up with her musical studies. It was the long
evenings she used to dread; now they had become part and parcel of her
daily pleasures. They dined about four, and when dinner was over it was
time to talk about what kind of house they were going to have, to fidget
about in search of brushes and combs, the curling-tongs, and to consider
what little necessaries she had better bring down to the theatre with her.
At first it seemed very strange to her to go tripping down these narrow
streets at a certain hour--streets that were filled with people, for the
stage and the pit entrance are always within a few yards of each other, and
to hear the passers-by whisper as she went by, 'She's one of the
actresses.' One day she found a letter addressed to her under the name
chosen by Dick--a picturesque name he thought looked well on posters--and
not suspecting what was in it, she tore open the envelope in presence of
half-a-dozen chorus-girls, who had collected in the passage. A diamond ring
fell on the floor, and in astonishment Kate read:

'DEAR MISS D'ARCY,--In recognition of your beauty and the graceful way in
which you play your part, I beg to enclose you a ring, which I hope to see
on your finger to-night. If you wear it on the right hand I shall
understand that you will allow me to wait for you at the stage-door. If,
however, you decide that my little offering suits better your left hand, I
shall understand that I am unfortunate.

'(Signed) AN ADMIRER.'

'Who left this here?' asked Kate of the doorkeeper.

'A tall young gent--a London man, I should think, by the cut of him, but he
left no name.'

'A very pretty ring, anyhow,' said a girl, picking it up.

'Not bad,' said another; 'I got one like it last year at Sheffield,'

'But what shall I do with it?' asked Kate.

'Why, wear it, of course,' answered two or three voices simultaneously.

'Wear it!' she repeated, and feeling very much like one in possession of
stolen goods, she hurried on to the stage, intending to ask Dick what she
was to do with the ring. She found him disputing with the property man, and
it was some time before he could bring himself to forget the annoyance that
a scarcity of daggers had occasioned him. At last, however, with a violent
effort of will, he took the note from her hand and read it through. When he
had mastered the contents a good-natured smile illumined his chub-cheeked
face, and he said:

'Well, what do you want to say? I think the ring a very nice one; let's see
how it looks on your hand,'

'You don't mean that I'm to wear it?'

'And why not? I think it's a very nice ring,' the manager said
unaffectedly. 'Wear it first on one hand and then on the other, dear; that
will puzzle him,'

'But supposing he comes to meet me at the stage-door?'

'Well, what will that matter? We'll go out together; I'll see that he keeps
his distance. But now run up and get dressed.'

'Now then, come in,' cried Dolly, who was walking about in a pair of blue
stockings. 'You're as bashful as an undergraduate.'

A roar of laughter greeted this sally, and feeling humiliated, she began to
dress.

'You haven't heard Dolly's story of the undergraduate?' shouted a girl from
the other end of the room.

'No, and don't want to,' replied Kate, indignantly. 'The conversation in
this room is perfectly horrid. I shall ask Mr. Lennox to change me. And
really, Miss Goddard, I think you might manage to dress yourself with a
little more decency.'

'Well, if you call this dress,' exclaimed Dolly, fanning herself. 'I
suppose one must take off one's stockings to please you. You're as bad
as----'

Dolly was the wit of No. 6 dressing-room, and having obtained her laugh she
sought to conciliate Kate. To achieve this she began by putting on her
tights.

'Now, Mrs. Lennox,' she said, 'don't be angry; if I've a good figure I
can't help it. And I do want to hear about the diamond ring.'

This was said so quaintly, so cunningly, as the Americans would say, that
Kate couldn't help smiling, and abandoning her hand she allowed Dolly to
examine the ring.

'I never saw anything prettier in my life. It wasn't an undergra--?' said
the girl, who was a low comedian at heart and knew the value of repetition.

'I must drink to his health. Who has any liquor? Have you, Vincent?'

'Just a drain left,' said a fat girl, pulling a flat bottle out of a dirty
black skirt, 'but I'm going to keep it for the end of the second act.'

'Selfishness will be your ruin,' said Dolly. 'Let's subscribe to drink the
gentleman's health,'she added, winking at the bevy of damsels who stood
waiting, their hands on their hips. And it being impossible for Kate to
misunderstand what was expected of her she said:

'I shall be very glad to stand treat. What shall it be?'

After some discussion it was agreed that they could not do better than a
bottle of whisky. The decrepit dresser was given the money, with strict
injunctions from Dolly not to uncork the bottle. 'We can do that
ourselves,' the girl added, facetiously; and a noisy interest was
manifested in the ring, the sender and the letter. Kate said that Dick had
advised her to wear the ring first on one hand and then on the other.

'To keep changing it from one hand to another,' cried Dolly; 'not a bad
idea; and now to the health and success of the sender of the ring.'

'I cannot drink to that toast,' Kate answered, laying aside her glass.

'That the word "success" be omitted from the toast' cried Dolly, and the
merriment did not cease until the call-boy was heard crying, 'Ladies,
ladies! Mr. Lennox is waiting on the stage.' Then there was a scramble for
the glass and the dresser, and Dolly's voice was heard screaming:

'Now then, Mother Hubbard, have you the sweet-stuff I told you to get? I
don't want to go downstairs stinking of raw spirit.'

'I couldn't get any,' said the old woman, 'but I brought two slices of
bread; that'll do as well.'

'You're a knowing old card,' said Dolly. 'Eat a mouthful or two, it'll take
the smell off, Mrs. Lennox,' and the girls rattled down the staircase,
arriving on the stage only just in time for their cue.

'Cue for soldiers' entrance,' the prompter cried, and on they went,
Montgomery taking the music a little quicker than usual till Kate, who was
now in the big eight, clean forgot how often she had changed her ring from
the left hand to the right. But she did wear it on different hands, and no
admirer came up and spoke to her at the stage-door. Dick was there waiting
for her; she felt quite safe on his arm, and as soon as they had had a
mouthful of supper they began the weekly packing.

Next morning it was train and station, station and train, but despite many
delays they managed to catch the train, and on Monday night her
gracefulness was winning for her new admirers: in every town the company
visited she received letters and presents; none succeeded, however, in
weakening her love, or persuading her from Dick.

'Yet lovers around her are sighing,' Montgomery chuckled, and Dick began to
consider seriously the means to be adopted to secure Kate's advancement in
her new profession. One night Montgomery returned home with them after the
performance, Bringing with him the script, and till one in the morning the
twain sat together trying to devise some extra lines for the first scene in
_Les Cloches_.

'The scene,' Dick said, 'is on the seashore. The girls are on their way to
market.'

'Supposing she said something like this, eh? "Mr. Baillie, do you like
brown eyes and cherry lips?" And then another would reply, "Cherry brandy
most like."'

'No, I don't think the public would see the point; you must remember we're
not playing to a London public. I think we'd better have something
broader.'

'Well, what?'

'You remember the scene in _Chilperic_ when----'

The conversation wandered; and Mr. Diprose's version of the opera and his
usual vile taste in the stage management was severely commented on. In such
pleasant discussion an hour was agreeably spent; but at last the sudden
extinguishing of a cigarette reminded them that they had met for the
purpose of writing some dialogue. After a long silence Dick said:

'Supposing she were to say, "Mr. Baillie, you've a fine head." You know I
want something she'd get a laugh with.'

'If she said the truth, she'd say a fat head,' replied Montgomery with a
laugh.

'And why shouldn't she? That's the very thing. She's sure to get a laugh
with that--"Mr. Baillie, you have a fat head." Let's get that down first.
But what shall she say after?' And in silence they ransacked their memories
for a joke which could be fitted to the one they had just discovered.

After some five minutes of deep consideration, and wearied by the
unaccustomed mental strain put upon his mind, Dick said:

'Do you know the music of _Trone d'Ecosse_? Devilish good. If the book
had been better it would have been a big success.'

'The waltz is about the prettiest thing Herve has done.'

This expression of opinion led up to an animated discussion, in which the
rival claims of Herve and Planquette were forcibly argued. Many cigarettes
were smoked, and not until the packet was emptied did it occur to them that
only one 'wheeze' had been found.

'I never can do anything without a cigarette; do try to find me one in the
next room, Kate, dear. Listen, Montgomery, we've got "Baillie, you've a fat
head." That'll do very well for a beginning; but I'm not good at finding
wheezes.'

'And then I can say, "Baillie, you've a fine head,"' said Kate, who had
been listening dreamily for a long time, afraid to interrupt.

'Not a bad idea,' said Dick. 'Let's get it down.'

'And then,' screamed Montgomery, as he perched both his legs over the arm
of his chair, 'she can say, "I mean a great head, Mr. Baillie."'

For a moment Dick's eyes flashed with the light of admiration, and he
seemed to be considering if it were not his duty to advise the conductor
that his talents lay in dialogue rather than in music. But his sentiments,
whatever they may have been, disappeared in the burst of inspiration he had
been waiting for so long.

'We can go through the whole list of heads,' he exclaimed triumphantly.
'Fat head, fine head, broad head, thick head, massive head--yes, massive
head. The Baillie will appear pleased at that, and will repeat the phrase,
and then she will say "Dunderhead!" He'll get angry, and she'll run away.
That'll make a splendid exit--she'll exit to a roar.'

Dick noted down the phrases on a piece of paper, to be pasted afterwards
into the script. When this was done, he said:

'My dear, if you don't get a roar with these lines, you can call me a ----.
And when we play the piece at Hull, I shouldn't be surprised if you got
noticed in the papers. But you must pluck up courage and check the Baillie.
We must put up a rehearsal to-morrow for these lines. Now listen,
Montgomery, and tell me how it reads.'

XV

'Rehearsal to-morrow at twelve for all those in the front scene of the
_Cloches_,' cried the stage-door keeper to half-a-dozen girls as they
pushed past him.

'Well I never! and I was going out to see the castle and the ramparts of
the town,' said one girl.

'I wonder what it's for,' said another; 'it went all right, I
thought--didn't you? Did you hear any reason, Mr. Brown?'

'I 'ear there are to be new lines put in,' replied the stage-door keeper,
surlily, 'but I don't know. Don't bother me.'

At the mention of the new lines the faces of the girls brightened, but
instantly they strove to hide the hope and anxiety the announcement had
caused them, and in the silence that followed each tried to think how she
could get a word with Mr. Lennox. At length one more enterprising than the
rest said:

'I must run back. I've forgotten my handkerchief.'

'You needn't mind your handkerchief, you won't see Mr. Lennox to-night,'
exclaimed Dolly, who always trampled on other people's illusions as readily
as she did on her own. 'The lines aren't for you nor me, nor any of us,'
she continued. 'You little silly, can't you guess who they're for? For his
girl, of course!'

Murmurs of assent followed this statement, and, her hands on her hips,
Dolly triumphantly faced her auditors.

'It's damned hard, but you can't expect the man to take her out of her
linen-drapery for nothing.'

The old stage-door keeper, whose attention had been concentrated on what he
was eating out of a jam-pot, now suddenly woke up to the fact that the
passage was blocked, and that a group of musicians with boxes in their
hands were waiting to get through.

'Now, ladies, I must ask you to move on; there're a lot of people behind
you.'

'Yes, get on, girls; we're all up a tree this time, and the moral of it is
that we haven't yet learnt how to fall in love with the manager. The
paper-collar woman has beaten us at our own game.'

A roar of laughter followed this remark, which was heard by everybody, and
pushing the girls before her, Dolly cleared the way.

These girls, whose ambitions in life were first to obtain a line--that is
to say, permission to shout, in their red tights, when the low comedian
appears on the stage, 'Oh, what a jolly good fellow the Duke
is!'--secondly, to be asked out to dinner by somebody they imagine looks
like a gentleman, revolted against hearing this paper-collar woman, as they
now called her, speak the long-dreamed-of, long-described phrases; and at
night they did everything they dared to 'queer' her scene. They crowded
round her, mugged, and tried to divert the attention of the house from her.

She had to say, 'Mr. Baillie, you've a fine head.' _Baillie (patting his
crown)_: 'Yes, a fine head!' _Kate_: 'A fat head.' _Baillie
(indignantly)_: 'A fat head!' _Kate (hurriedly)_: 'I mean a broad
head.' _Baillie_: 'Yes, a broad head.' _Kate_: 'A thick head.'
_Baillie (indignantly)_: 'A thick head!' _Kate_: 'No, no; a solid
head.' And so on _ad lib._ for ten minutes.

The scene went splendidly. The pit screamed, and the gallery was in
convulsions, and in the street next day nothing was heard but ironical
references to fat and thick heads. The girls had not succeeded in spoiling
the scene, for, encouraged by the applause, Kate had chaffed and mocked at
the Baillie so winningly that she at once won the sympathy of the house.
But the following night a tall, sour-faced girl, who wore pads, and with
whom Kate had had some words concerning her coarse language, hit upon an
ingenious device for 'queering the scene!' Her trick was to burst into a
roar of laughter just before she had time to say, 'A fat head.' The others
soon tumbled to the trick, and in a night or two they worked so well
together that Kate grew nervous and she could not speak her lines. This
made her feel very miserable; and her stage experience being limited, she
ascribed her non-success to her own fault, until one night Dick rushed on
to the stage as soon as the curtain was down, and putting up his arms with
a large gesture, he called the company back.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' he said, 'I've noticed that the front scene in this
act has not been going as well as it used to. I don't want anyone to tell
me why this is so; the reason is sufficiently obvious, at least to me. I
shall expect, therefore, the ladies whom this matter concerns to attend a
rehearsal to-morrow at twelve, and if after that I notice what I did
tonight, I shall at once dismiss the delinquents from the company. I hope I
make myself understood.'

After this explanation, any further interference with Kate's scene was, of
course, out of the question, and the verdict of each new town more and more
firmly established its success. But if Dick's presence controlled the girls
whilst they were on the stage, his authority did not reach to the
dressing-rooms. Kate's particular enemy was Dolly Goddard. Not a night
passed that this girl did not refer to the divorce cases she had read of in
the papers, or pretended to have heard of. Her natural sharp wit enabled
her to do this with considerable acidity. 'Never heard such a thing in my
life, girls,' she would begin. 'They talk of us, but what we do is child's
play compared with the doings of the respectable people. A baker's wife in
this blessed town has just run away with the editor of a newspaper, leaving
her six little children behind her, one of them being a baby no more than a
month old'

'What will the husband do?'

'Get a divorce.' (Chorus--'He'll get a divorce, of course, of course, of
course!')

To this delicate irony no answer was possible, and Kate could only bite her
lips, and pretend not to understand. But it was difficult not to turn pale
and tremble sometimes, so agonizing were the anecdotes that the active
brain of Dolly conjured up concerning the atrocities that pursuing husbands
had perpetrated with knife and pistol on the betrayers of their happiness.
And when these scarecrows failed, there were always the stories to fall
back upon. A word sufficed to set the whole gang recounting experiences,
and comparing notes. A sneer often curled the corners of Kate's lips, but
to protest she knew would be only to expose herself to a rude answer, and
to appeal to Dick couldn't fail to excite still further enmity against her.
Besides, what could he do? How could he define what were and what were not
proper conversations for the dressing-rooms? But she might ask him to put
her to dress with the principals, and this she decided to do one evening
when the words used in No. 6 had been more than usually warm.

Dick made no objection, and with Leslie and Beaumont Kate got on better.

'I'm so glad you've come,' said Leslie, as she bent to allow the dresser to
place a wreath of orange-blossom on her head. 'I wonder you didn't think of
asking Mr. Lennox to put you with us before.'

'I didn't like to. I was afraid of being in your way,' Kate answered. 'I
hope Beaumont won't mind my being here.'

'What matter if she does? Beaumont isn't half a bad sort once you begin to
understand her. Just let her talk to you about her diamonds and her men,
and it will be all right.'

'But why haven't you been to see me lately? I want you to come out shopping
with me one day next week. We shall be at York. I hear there are some good
shops there.'

'Yes, there are, and I should have been to see you before, but Frank has
just got some new scores from London, and he wanted me to try them over
with him. There's one that's just been produced in Paris--the loveliest
music you ever heard in all your life. Come up to my place to-morrow and
I'll play it over to you. But talking of music, I hear that you're getting
on nicely.'

'I think I'm improving; Montgomery comes to practise with me every
morning.'

'He's all very well for the piano, but he can't teach you to produce your
voice. What does he know? That brat of a boy! I'll tell you what I'll do,'
cried Leslie, suddenly confronting Kate: 'we're going to York next week.
Well, I'll introduce you to a first-rate man. He'd do more with you in six
lessons than Montgomery in fifty. And the week after we shall be at Leeds.
I can introduce you to another there.'

'The curtain is just going up, Miss Leslie,' cried the call boy.

'All right,' cried the prima donna, throwing the hare's-foot to the
dresser, 'I must be off now. We'll talk of this to-morrow.'

Immediately after the stately figure of Beaumont entered. Putting her black
bag down with a thump on the table she exclaimed:

'Good heavens! not dressed yet! My God! you'll be late.'

'Late for what?' asked Kate in astonishment.

'Didn't Mr. Lennox tell you that you had to sing my song, the
market-woman's song, in the first act?'

'No, I heard nothing of it.'

'Then for goodness' sake make haste. Here, stick your face out. I'll do
your make-up while the dresser laces you. But you'll be able to manage the
song, won't you? It's quite impossible for me to get dressed in time. I
can't understand Mr. Lennox not having told you.'

'Oh yes, I shall be able to get through it--at least I hope so,' Kate
answered, trembling with the sudden excitement of the news. 'I think I know
all the words except the encore verse.'

'Oh, you won't need that,' said Beaumont, betrayed by a twinge of
professional jealousy. 'Now turn the other cheek. By Jove! we've no time to
lose; they're just finishing the wedding chorus. If you're late it won't be
my fault. I sent down word to the theatre to ask if you'd sing my song in
the first act, as I had some friends coming down from London to see me. You
know the Marquis of Shoreham--has been a friend of mine for years. That'll
do for the left eye.'

'If you put out your leg a little further I'll pull your stocking, and then
you'll be all right,' said the dresser, and just staying a moment to pull
up her garters in a sort of nervous trance, she rushed on to the stage,
followed into the wings by Beaumont, who had come to hear how the song
would go.

She was a complete success, and got a double encore from an enthusiastic
pit. But in _Madame Favart_ she had nothing to do, and wearied waiting
in the chorus for another chance which never came, for after her success
with the fish-wife's song in _Madame Angot_, Beaumont took good care
not to give her another chance. What was to be done? Dick said he couldn't
sack the principals.

'Kate could play Serpolette as it was never played before,' exclaimed
Montgomery, 'and I see no reason why she shouldn't understudy Leslie.'

'But What's-her-name is understudying it.'

'Why shouldn't there be two understudies?'

Dick could advance no reason, and once begun, the studies proceeded gaily.
Apparently deeply interested, Dick lay back in the armchair smoking
perpetual cigarettes. Montgomery hammered with nervous vigour at the piano,
and Kate stood by his side, her soul burning in the ardours of her task.
She would have preferred the part of Germaine; it would have better suited
her gentle mind than the frisky Serpolette; but it seemed vain to hope for
illness or any accident that would prevent Beaumont from playing. True,
Leslie was often imprudent, and praying for a bronchial visitation they
watched at night to see how she was wrapped up.

As soon as Kate knew the music, a rehearsal was called for her to go
through the business, and it was then that the long-smouldering indignation
broke out against her. In the first place the girl who till now had been
entrusted with the understudy, and had likewise lived in the hopes of
coughs and colds, burst into floods of passionate tears and storms of
violent words. She attacked Kate vigorously, and the scene was doubly
unpleasant, as it took place in the presence of everybody. Bitter
references were made to dying and deserted husbands, and all the acridness
of the chorus-girl was squeezed into allusions anent the Divorce Court.
This was as disagreeable for Dick as for Kate. The rehearsal had to be
dismissed, and the lady in question was sent back to London. Sympathy at
first ran very strongly on the side of the weak, and the ladies of the
theatre were united in their efforts to make it as disagreeable as possible
for Kate. But she bore up courageously, and after a time her continual
refusal to rehearse the part again won a reaction in her favour; and when
Miss Leslie's cold began to grow worse, and it became clear that someone
must understudy Serpolette, the part fell without opposition to her share.

And now every minute of the day was given to learning or thinking out in
her inner consciousness some portion of her part. In the middle of her
breakfast she would hurriedly lay down her cup with a clink in the saucer
and say, 'Look here, Dick; tell me how I'm to do that run in--my first
entrance, you know.'

'What are your words, dear?'

'"Who speaks ill of Serpolette?"'

The breakfast-table would then be pushed out of the way and the entrance
rehearsed. Dick seemed never to weary, and the run was practised over and
over again. Coming home from the theatre at night, it was always a question
of this effect and that effect; of whether Leslie might not have scored a
point if she had accentuated the lifting of her skirt in the famous song.

That was, as Dick declared, the 'number of grip'; and often, at two o'clock
in the morning, just as she was getting into bed, Kate, in her chemise,
would begin to sing:

'"Look at me here! look at me there!
Criticize me everywhere!
From head to feet I am most sweet,
And most perfect and complete."'

There was a scene in the first act in which Serpolette had to run screaming
with laughter away from her cross old uncle, Gaspard, and dodge him, hiding
behind the Baillie, and to do this effectively required a certain
_chic_, a gaiety, which Kate did not seem able to summon up; and this
was the weak place in her rendering of the part. 'You're all right for a
minute, and then you sober down into a Germaine,' Dick would say, at the
end of a long and critical conversation. The business she learned to
'parrot.' Dick taught her the gestures and the intonations of voice to be
used, and when she had mastered these Dick said he would back her to go
through the part quite as well as Leslie.

Leslie! The word was now constantly in their minds. Would her cold get
worse or better? was the question discussed most frequently between Dick,
Kate, and Montgomery. Sometimes it was better, sometimes worse; but at the
moment of their greatest despondency the welcome news came that she had
slipped downstairs and sprained her foot badly.

'Oh, the poor thing!' said Kate; 'I'm so sorry. Had I known that was----'

'Was going to happen you wouldn't have learnt the part,' exclaimed
Montgomery, with his loud, vacant laugh.

She beat her foot impatiently on the ground, and after a long silence she
said, 'I shall go and see her.'

'You'd much better run through your music with Montgomery, and don't forget
to see the dresser about your dress. And, for God's sake, do try and put a
bit of gaiety into the part. Serpolette is a bit of a romp, you know.'

'Try to put a bit of gaiety into the part,' rang in Kate's ears
unceasingly. It haunted her as she took in the waist of Leslie's dress,
while she leaned over Montgomery's shoulder at the piano or listened to his
conversation. He was enthusiastic, and she thought it very pretty of him to
say, 'I'm glad to have had a share in your first success. No one ever
forgets that--that's sure to be remembered.'

It was the nearest thing to a profession of love he had ever made, but she
was preoccupied with other thoughts, and had to send him away for a last
time to study the dialogue before the glass.

'Try to put a little gaiety into the part. Serpolette is a romp, you know.'

'Yes, a romp; but what is a romp?' Kate asked herself; and she strove to
realize in detail that which she had accepted till now in outline.

XVI

'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Mr. Hayes, who had been pushed, much against
his will, before the curtain of the Theatre Royal, Bristol, to make the
following statement, 'I'm sorry to inform you that in consequence of
indisposition--that is to say, the accidental spraining of her ankle--Miss
Leslie will not be able to appear to-night. Your kind indulgence is
therefore requested for Miss D'Arcy, who has, on the shortest notice,
consented to play the part of Serpolette.'

'Did yer ever 'ear of anyone spraining an ankle on purpose?' asked a
scene-shifter.

'Hush!' said the gas-man, 'he'll 'ear you.'

Amid murmurs of applause, Mr. Hayes backed into the wings.

'Well, was it all right?' he asked Dick.

'Right, my boy, I should think it was; there was a touch of Gladstone in
your accidentally sprained ankle.'

'What do you mean?' said the discomfited acting manager.

'I haven't time to tell you now. Now then, girls, are you ready?' he said,
rushing on to the stage and hurriedly changing the places of the
choristers. Putting his hand on a girl's shoulder, he moved her to the
right or left as his taste dictated. Then retiring abruptly, he cried, 'Now
then, up you go!' and immediately after thirty voices in one sonority sang:

'"In Corneville's wide market-pla-a-ces,
Sweet servant-girls, with rosy fa-a-ces,
Wait here, wait here."'

'Now, then, come on. You make your entrance from the top left.'

'I don't think I shall ever be able to do that run in.'

'Don't begin to think about anything. If you don't like the run, I'll tell
you how to do it,' said Dick, his face lighting up with a sudden
inspiration; 'do it with a cheeky swagger, walking very slowly, like this;
and then when you get quarter of the way down the stage, stop for a moment
and sing, "Who speaks ill of Serpolette?" Do you see?'

'Yes, yes, that will suit me better; I understand.'

Then standing under the sloping wing, they both listened anxiously for the
cue.

'She loves Grenicheux.'

'There's your cue. On you go; give me your shawl.'

The footlights dazzled her; a burst of applause rather frightened than
reassured her, and a prey to a sort of dull dream, she sang her first
lines. But she was a little behind the beat. Montgomery brought down his
stick furiously, the _repliques_ of the girls buffeted her ears like
palms of hands, and it was not until she was halfway through the gossiping
couplets, and saw Montgomery's arm swing peacefully to and fro over the
bent profiles of the musicians that she fairly recovered her presence of
mind. Then came the little scene in which she runs away from her uncle
Gaspard and hides behind the Baillie. And she dodged the old man with such
sprightliness from one side of the stage to the other that a murmur of
admiration floated over the pit, and, arising in echoes, was prolonged
almost until she stepped down to the footlights to sing the legend of
Serpolette.

The quaintly tripping cadences of the tune and the humour of the words,
which demanded to be rather said than sung, were rendered to perfection. It
was impossible not to like her when she said:

'"I know not much of my relations,
I never saw my mother's face;
And of preceding generations
I never found a single trace.

'"I may have fallen from the sky,
Or blossomed in a rosebud sweet;
But all I know is this, that I
Was found by Gaspard in his wheat."'

A smile of delight filled the theatre, and Kate felt the chilling sense of
separation which exists between the public and a debutante being gradually
filled in by a delicious but almost incomprehensible notion of contact--a
sensation more delicate than the touch of a lover's breath on your face.
This reached a climax when she sang the third verse, and had not etiquette
forbade, she would have had an encore for it alone.

'"I often think that perhaps I may
The heiress to a kingdom be,
But as I wore no clothes that day
I brought no papers out with me."'

These words, that had often seemed coarse in Leslie's mouth, in Kate's
seemed adorably simple. So winning was the smile and so coquettishly
conscious did she seem of the compromising nature of the statement she was
making, that the entire theatre was actuated by the impulse of one thought:
Oh! what a little dear you must have been lying in the wheat-field! The
personality of the actress disappeared in the rosy thighs and chubby arms
of the foundling, and notwithstanding the length of the song, she had to
sing it twice over. Then there was an exit for her, and she rushed into the
wings. Several of the girls spoke to her, but it was impossible for her to
reply to them. Everything swam in and out of sight like shapes in a mist,
and she could only distinguish the burly form of her lover. He wrapped a
shawl about her, and a murmur of amiable words followed her, and, with her
thoughts fizzing like champagne, she tried to listen to his praises.

Then followed moments in which she anxiously waited for her cues. She was
nervously afraid of missing her entrance, and she dreaded spoiling her
success by some mistake. But it was not until the end of the act when she
stepped out of the crowd of servant-girls to sing the famous coquetting
song that she reached the summit of her triumph.

Kate was about the medium height, a shade over five feet five. When she
swung her little dress as she strutted on the stage she reminded you
immediately of a pigeon. In her apparent thinness from time to time was
revealed a surprising plumpness.

For instance, her bosom, in a walking dress no more than an indication, in
a low body assumed the roundness of a bird's, and the white lines of her
falling shoulders floated in long undulations into the blue masses of her
hair. The nervous sensibility of her profession had awakened her face, and
now the brown eyes laughed with the spiritual maliciousness with which we
willingly endow the features of a good fairy. The hips were womanly, the
ankle was only a touch of stocking, and the whole house rose to a man and
roared when coquettishly lifting the skirt, she sang:

'"Look at me here! look at me there!
Criticize me everywhere!
From head to feet I am most sweet,
And most perfect and complete."'

The audience, principally composed of sailors--men home from months of
watery weariness, nights of toil and darkness, maddened by the irritating
charm of the music and the delicious modernity of Kate's figure and dress,
looked as if they were going to precipitate themselves from the galleries.
Was she not the living reality of the figures posted over the hammocks in
oil-smelling cabins, the prototype of the short-skirted damsels that
decorated the empty match-boxes which they preserved and gazed at under the
light of the stars?

Her success was enormous, and she was forced to sing

'Look at me here!'

five times before her friends would allow the piece to proceed. At the end
of the act she received an ovation. Two reporters of the local newspapers
obtained permission to come behind to see her. London engagements were
spoken of, and in the general enthusiasm someone talked about grand opera.
Even her fellow artists forgot their jealousies, and in the nervous
excitement of the moment complimented her highly. Beaumont, anxious to kick
down her rival, declared, 'That, to say the least of it, it was a better
rendering of the part than Leslie's.' And on hearing this, Bret, whose
forte was not repartee, moved away; Mortimer, in his least artificial
manner, said that it was not bad for a beginning and that she'd get on if
she worked at it. Dubois strutted and spoke learnedly of how the part had
been played in France, and he was pleased to trace by an analysis which was
difficult to follow a resemblance between Kate and Madame Judic.

The second act went equally well. And after seeing the ghosts she got a
bouquet thrown to her, so cheekily did she sing the refrain:

'For a regiment of soldiers wouldn't make me afraid.'

She had therefore now only to maintain her prestige to the end, and when
she had got her encore for the cider song, and had been recalled before the
curtain at the end of the third act, with unstrung nerves she wandered to
her dressing-room, thinking of what Dick would say when they got home. But
the pleasures of the evening were not over yet: there was the supper, and
as she came down from her dressing-room she whispered to Montgomery in the
wings that they hoped to see him at their place later on. He thanked her
and said he would be very glad to come in a little later on, but he had
some music to copy now and must away, and feeling a little disappointed
that he had to leave she walked up and down the rough boards, stepping out
of the way of the scene-shifters. 'By your leave, ma'am,' they cried, going
by her with the long swinging wings. She was glad now that Montgomery had
left her, for alone she could relive distinctly every moment of the
performance.

As the chorus-girls crossed the stage they stopped to compliment her with a
few mechanical words and a hard smile. Kate thanked them and returned to
her dream all aglow and absorbed in remembrances of her success. The word

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