Part 4 out of 4
"Why, Julian, is it you. This _is_ good of you!"
It was evident that the past was to be waived. I took my cue.
"Thanks, Eva," I said; "it suits you admirably."
Events at this point move quickly.
Another card of invitation is produced. Would I care to use it, and
take Eva to the ball?
"But I'm not in fancy dress."
Overruled. Fancy dress not an essential. Crowds of men there in
ordinary evening clothes.
So we drove off.
We hardly exchanged a syllable. No one has much to say just before a
I looked at Eva out of the corner of my eye, trying to discover just
what it was in her that attracted men. I knew her charm, though I
flattered myself that I was proof against it. I wanted to analyse it.
Her photograph is on the table before me as I write. I look at it
critically. She is not what I should describe as exactly a type of
English beauty. You know the sort of beauty I mean? Queenly,
statuesque, a daughter of the gods, divinely fair. Her charm is not in
her features. It is in her expression.
Tonight, for instance, as we drove to the ball, there sparkled in her
eyes a light such as I had never seen in them before. Every girl is
animated at a ball, but this was more than mere animation. There was a
latent devilry about her; and behind the sparkle and the glitter a
film, a mist, as it were, which lent almost a pathos to her appearance.
The effect it had on me was to make me tend to forget that I hated her.
We arrive. I mutter something about having the pleasure.
Eva says I can have the last two waltzes.
Here comes a hiatus. I am told that I was seen dancing, was observed to
eat an excellent supper, and was noticed in the smoking-room with a
cigarette in my mouth.
At last the first of my two waltzes. The Eton Boating Song--one of my
favourites. I threaded my way through the room in search of her. She
was in neither of the doorways. I cast my eyes about the room. Her
costume was so distinctive that I could hardly fail to see her.
I did see her.
She was dancing my waltz with another man.
The thing seemed to numb my faculties. I stood in the doorway, gaping.
I couldn't understand it. The illogical nature of my position did not
strike me. It did not occur to me that as I hated the girl so much, it
was much the best thing that could happen that I should see as little
of her as possible. My hatred was entirely concentrated on the bounder
who had stolen my dance. He was a small, pink-faced little beast, and
it maddened me to see that he danced better than I could ever have
As they whirled past me she smiled at him.
I rushed to the smoking-room.
Whether she gave my other waltz to the same man, or whether she chose
some other partner, or sat alone waiting for me, I do not know. When I
returned to the ballroom the last waltz was over, and the orchestra was
beginning softly to play the first extra. It was _"Tout Passe,"_
an air that has always had the power to thrill me.
My heart gave a bound. Standing in the doorway just in front of me was
I drew back.
Two or three men came up, and asked her for the dance. She sent them
away, and my heart leaped as they went.
She was standing with her back towards me. Now she turned. Our eyes
met. We stood for a moment looking at one another.
Then I heard her give a little sigh; and instantly I forgot
everything--my hatred, my two lost dances, the pink-faced
blighter--everything. Everything but that I loved her.
"Tired, Eva?" I said.
"Perhaps I am," she replied. "Yes, I am, Julian."
"Give me this one," I whispered. "We'll sit it out."
"Very well. It's so hot in here. We'll go and sit it out in a hansom,
shall we? I'll get my cloak."
I waited, numbed by her absence. Her cloak was pale pink. We walked out
together into the starry night. A few yards off stood a hansom. "Drive
to the corner of Sloane Street," I said to the man, "by way of the
The night was very still.
I have said that I had forgotten everything except that I loved her.
Could I remember now? Now, as we drove together through the empty
streets alone, her warm, palpitating body touching mine.
James, and his awful predicament, which would last till Eva gave him
up; Eva's callous treatment of my former love for her; my own
newly-acquired affection for Margaret; my self-respect--these things
had become suddenly of no account.
"Eva," I murmured; and I took her hand.
Her wonderful eyes met mine. The mist in them seemed to turn to dew.
"My darling," she whispered, very low.
The road was deserted. We were alone.
I drew her face to mine and kissed her.
* * * * *
My love for her grows daily.
Old Gunton-Cresswell has introduced me to a big firm of linoleum
manufacturers. I am taking over their huge system of advertising next
week. My salary will be enormous. It almost frightens me. Old Mr.
Cresswell tells me that he had had the job in his mind for me for some
time, and had, indeed, mentioned to his wife and Eva at lunch that day
that he intended to write to me about it. I am more grateful to him
than I can ever make him understand. Eva, I know, cares nothing for
money--she told me so--but it is a comfort to feel that I can keep her
almost in luxury.
I have given up my rooms in Rupert Street.
I sleep in a bed.
I do Sandow exercises.
I am always down to breakfast at eight-thirty sharp.
I smoke less.
I am the happiest man on earth.
_(End of Julian Eversleigh's narrative.)_
by James Orlebar Cloyster
A RIFT IN THE CLOUDS
O perfidy of woman! O feminine inconstancy! That is the only allusion I
shall permit to escape me on the subject of Eva Eversleigh's engagement
to that scoundrel Julian.
I had the news by telegraph, and the heavens darkened above me, whilst
the solid earth rocked below.
I had been trapped into dishonour, and even the bait had been withheld
But it was not the loss of Eva that troubled me most. It should have
outweighed all my other misfortunes and made them seem of no account,
but it did not. Man is essentially a materialist. The prospect of an
empty stomach is more serious to him than a broken heart. A broken
heart is the luxury of the well-to-do. What troubled me more than all
other things at this juncture was the thought that I was face to face
with starvation, and that only the grimmest of fights could enable me
to avoid it. I quaked at the prospect. The early struggles of the
writer to keep his head above water form an experience which does not
bear repetition. The hopeless feeling of chipping a little niche for
oneself out of the solid rock with a nib is a nightmare even in times
of prosperity. I remembered the grey days of my literary
apprenticeship, and I shivered at the thought that I must go through
I examined my position dispassionately over a cup of coffee at Groom's,
in Fleet Street. Groom's was a recognised _Orb rendezvous_. When I
was doing "On Your Way," one or two of us used to go down Fleet Street
for coffee after the morning's work with the regularity of machines. It
formed a recognised break in the day.
I thought things over. How did I stand? Holiday work at the _Orb_
would begin very shortly, so that I should get a good start in my race.
Fermin would be going away in a few weeks, then Gresham, and after that
Fane, the man who did the "People and Things" column. With luck I ought
to get a clear fifteen weeks of regular work. It would just save me. In
fifteen weeks I ought to have got going again. The difficulty was that
I had dropped out. Editors had forgotten my work. John Hatton they
knew, and Sidney Price they knew; but who was James Orlebar Cloyster?
There would be much creaking of joints and wobbling of wheels before my
triumphal car could gather speed again. But, with a regular salary
coming in week by week from the _Orb_, I could endure this. I
became almost cheerful. It is an exhilarating sensation having one's
back against the wall.
Then there was Briggs, the actor. The very thought of him was a tonic.
A born fighter, with the energy of six men, he was an ideal model for
me. If I could work with a sixth of his dash and pluck, I should be
safe. He was giving me work. He might give me more. The new edition of
the _Belle of Wells_ was due in another fortnight. My lyrics would
be used, and I should get paid for them. Add this to my _Orb_
salary, and I should be a man of substance.
I glared over my coffee-cup at an imaginary John Hatton.
"You thought you'd done me, did you?" I said to him. "By Gad! I'll have
the laugh of you all yet."
I was shaking my fist at him when the door opened. I hurriedly tilted
back my chair, and looked out of the window.
I looked round. It was Fermin. Just the man I wanted to see.
He seemed depressed. Even embarrassed.
"How's the column?" I asked.
"Oh, all right," he said awkwardly. "I wanted to see you about that. I
was going to write to you."
"Oh, yes," I said, "of course. About the holiday work. When are you
"I was thinking of starting next week."
"Good. Sorry to lose you, of course, but----"
He shuffled his feet.
"You're doing pretty well now at the game, aren't you, Cloyster?" he
It was not to my interests to cry myself down, so I said that I was
doing quite decently. He seemed relieved.
"You're making quite a good income, I suppose? I mean, no difficulty
about placing your stuff?"
"Editors squeal for it."
"Because, otherwise what I wanted to say to you might have been
something of a blow. But it won't affect you much if you're doing
plenty of work elsewhere."
A cold hand seemed laid upon my heart. My mind leaped to what he
meant. Something had gone wrong with the _Orb_ holiday work, my
"Do you remember writing a par about Stickney, the butter-scotch man,
you know, ragging him when he got his peerage?"
It was one of the best paragraphs I had ever done. A two-line thing,
full of point and sting. I had been editing "On Your Way" that day,
Fermin being on a holiday and Gresham ill; and I had put the paragraph
conspicuously at the top of the column.
"Well," said Fermin, "I'm afraid there was rather trouble about it.
Hamilton came into our room yesterday, and asked if I should be seeing
you. I said I thought I should. 'Well, tell him,' said Hamilton, 'that
that paragraph of his about Stickney has only cost us five hundred
pounds. That's all.' And he went out again. Apparently Stickney was on
the point of advertising largely with the _Orb_, and had backed
out in a huff. Today, I went to see him about my holiday, and he wanted
to know who was coming in to do my work. I mentioned you, and he
absolutely refused to have you in. I'm awfully sorry about it."
I was silent. The shock was too great. Instead of drifting easily into
my struggle on a comfortable weekly salary, I should have to start the
tooth-and-nail fighting at once. I wanted to get away somewhere by
myself, and grapple with the position.
I said good-bye to Fermin, retaining sufficient presence of mind to
treat the thing lightly, and walked swiftly along the restless Strand,
marvelling at what I had suffered at the hands of Fortune. The deceiver
of Margaret, deceived by Eva, a pauper! I covered the distance between
Groom's and Walpole Street in sombre meditation.
In a sort of dull panic I sat down immediately on my arrival, and tried
to work. I told myself that I must turn out something, that it would be
madness to waste a moment.
I sat and chewed my pen from two o'clock till five, but not a page of
printable stuff could I turn out. Looking back at myself at that
moment, I am not surprised that my ideas did not flow. It would have
been a wonderful triumph of strength of mind if I had been able to
write after all that had happened. Dr. Johnson has laid it down that a
man can write at any time, if he sets himself to it earnestly; but mine
were exceptional circumstances. My life's happiness and my means for
supporting life at all, happy or otherwise, had been swept away in a
single morning; and I found myself utterly unable to pen a coherent
At five o'clock I gave up the struggle, and rang for tea.
While I was having tea there was a ring at the bell, and my landlady
brought in a large parcel.
I recognised the writing on the label. The hand was Margaret's. I
wondered in an impersonal sort of way what Margaret could be sending to
me. From the feel of it the contents were paper.
It amuses me now to think that it was a good half-hour before I took
the trouble to cut the string. Fortune and happiness were waiting for
me in that parcel, and I would not bother to open it. I sat in my
chair, smoking and thinking, and occasionally cast a gloomy eye at the
parcel. But I did not open it. Then my pipe went out, and I found that
I had no matches in my pocket. There were some at the farther end of
the mantelpiece. I had to get up to reach them, and, once up, I found
myself filled with a sufficient amount of energy to take a knife from
the table and cut the string.
Languidly I undid the brown paper. The contents were a pile of
typewritten pages and a letter.
It was the letter over which my glassy eyes travelled first.
"My own dear, brave, old darling James," it began, and its purport was
that she had written a play, and wished me to put my name to it and
hawk it round: to pass off as my work her own amateurish effort at
playwriting. Ludicrous. And so immoral, too. I had always imagined that
Margaret had a perfectly flawless sense of honesty. Yet here she was
asking me deliberately to impose on the credulity of some poor,
trusting theatrical manager. The dreadful disillusionment of it shocked
Most men would have salved their wounded susceptibilities by putting a
match to the manuscript without further thought or investigation.
But I have ever been haunted by a somewhat over-strict conscience, and
I sat down there and then to read the stupid stuff.
At seven o'clock I was still reading.
My dinner was brought in. I bolted it with Margaret's play propped up
against the potato dish.
I read on and on. I could not leave it. Incredible as it would appear
from anyone but me, I solemnly assure you that the typewritten nonsense
I read that evening was nothing else than _The Girl who Waited_.
BRIGGS TO THE RESCUE
_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued)_
I finished the last page, and I laid down the typescript reverently.
The thing amazed me. Unable as I was to turn out a good acting play of
my own, I was, nevertheless, sufficiently gifted with an appreciation
of the dramatic to be able to recognise such a play when I saw it.
There were situations in Margaret's comedy which would grip a London
audience, and force laughter and tears from it.... Well, the public
side of that idiotic play is history. Everyone knows how many nights it
ran, and the Press from time to time tells its readers what were the
profits from it that accrued to the author.
I turned to Margaret's letter and re-read the last page. She put the
thing very well, very sensibly. As I read, my scruples began to vanish.
After all, was it so very immoral, this little deception that she
"I have written down the words," she said; "but the conception is
yours. The play was inspired by you. But for you I should never have
begun it." Well, if she put it like that----
"You alone are able to manage the business side of the production. You
know the right men to go to. To approach them on behalf of a stranger's
work is far less likely to lead to success."
"I have assumed, you will see, that the play is certain to be produced.
But that will only be so if you adopt it as your own,"
(There was sense in this.)
"Claim the authorship, and all will be well."
"I will," I said.
I packed up the play in its brown paper, and rushed from the house. At
the post-office, at the bottom of the King's Road, I stopped to send a
telegram. It consisted of the words, "Accept thankfully.--Cloyster."
Then I took a cab from the rank at Sloane Square, and told the man to
drive to the stage-door of the Briggs Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.
The cab-rank in Sloane Square is really a Home for Superannuated
Horses. It is a sort of equine Athenaeum. No horse is ever seen there
till it has passed well into the sere and yellow. A Sloane Square
cab-horse may be distinguished by the dignity of its movements. It is
happiest when walking.
The animal which had the privilege of making history by conveying me
and _The Girl who Waited_ to the Briggs Theatre was asthmatic,
and, I think, sickening for the botts. I had plenty of time to cool my
brain and think out a plan of campaign.
Stanley Briggs, whom I proposed to try first, was the one man I should
have liked to see in the part of James, the hero of the piece. The part
might have been written round him.
There was the objection, of course, that _The Girl who Waited_ was
not a musical comedy, but I knew he would consider a straight play, and
put it on if it suited him. I was confident that _The Girl who
Waited_ would be just what he wanted.
The problem was how to get him to himself for a sufficient space of
time. When a man is doing the work of half a dozen he is likely to get
on in the world, but he has, as a rule, little leisure for
My octogenarian came to a standstill at last at the stage-door, and
seemed relieved at having won safely through a strenuous bit of work.
I went through in search of my man.
His dressing-room was the first place I drew. I knew that he was not
due on the stage for another ten minutes. Mr. Richard Belsey, his
valet, was tidying up the room as I entered.
"Mr. Briggs anywhere about, Richard?" I asked.
"Down on the side, sir, I think. There's a new song in tonight for Mrs.
Briggs, and he's gone to listen how it goes."
"Which side, do you know?"
"O.P., sir, I think."
I went downstairs and through the folding-doors into the wings. The
O.P. corner was packed--standing room only--and the overflow reached
nearly to the doors. The Black Hole of Calcutta was roomy compared with
the wings on the night of a new song. Everybody who had the least
excuse for being out of his or her dressing-room at that moment was
peering through odd chinks in the scenery. Chorus-girls, show-girls,
chorus-men, principals, children, scene-shifters, and other theatrical
fauna waited in a solid mass for the arrival of the music-cue.
The atmosphere behind the scenes has always had the effect of making me
feel as if my boots were number fourteens and my hands, if anything,
larger. Directly I have passed the swing-doors I shuffle like one
oppressed with a guilty conscience. Outside I may have been composed,
even jaunty. Inside I am hangdog. Beads of perspiration form on my
brow. My collar tightens. My boots begin to squeak. I smile vacuously.
I shuffled, smiling vacuously and clutching the type-script of _The
Girl who Waited_, to the O.P. corner. I caught the eye of a tall
lady in salmon-pink, and said "Good evening" huskily--my voice is
always husky behind the scenes: elsewhere it is like some beautiful
bell. A piercing whisper of "Sh-h-h-!" came from somewhere close at
hand. This sort of thing does not help bright and sparkling
conversation. I sh-h-hed, and passed on.
At the back of the O.P. corner Timothy Prince, the comedian, was
filling in the time before the next entrance by waltzing with one of
the stage-carpenters. He suspended the operation to greet me.
"Hullo, dear heart," he said, "how goes it?"
"Seen Briggs anywhere?" I asked.
"Round on the prompt side, I think. He was here a second ago, but he
At this moment the music-cue was given, and a considerable section of
the multitude passed on to the stage.
Locomotion being rendered easier, I hurried round to the prompt side.
But when I arrived there were no signs of the missing man.
"Seen Mr. Briggs anywhere?" I asked.
"Here a moment ago," said one of the carpenters. "He went out after
Miss Lewin's song began. I think he's gone round the other side."
I dashed round to the O.P. corner again. He had just left.
Taking up the trail, I went to his dressing-room once more.
"You're just too late, sir," said Richard; "he was here a moment ago."
I decided to wait.
"I wonder it he'll be back soon."
"He's probably downstairs. His call is in another two minutes."
I went downstairs, and waited on the prompt side. Sir Boyle Roche's
bird was sedentary compared with this elusive man.
Presently he appeared.
"Hullo, dear old boy," he said. "Welcome to Elsmore. Come and see me
before you go, will you? I've got an idea for a song."
"I say," I said, as he flitted past, "can I----"
"Tell me later on."
And he sprang on to the stage.
By the time I had worked my way, at the end of the performance, through
the crowd of visitors who were waiting to see him in his dressing-room,
I found that he had just three minutes in which to get to the Savoy to
keep an urgent appointment. He explained that he was just dashing off.
"I shall be at the theatre all tomorrow morning, though," he said.
"Come round about twelve, will you?"
* * * * *
There was a rehearsal at half-past eleven next morning. When I got to
the theatre I found him on the stage. He was superintending the chorus,
talking to one man about a song and to two others about motors, and
dictating letters to his secretary. Taking advantage of this spell of
comparative idleness, I advanced (l.c.) with the typescript.
"Hullo, old boy," he said, "just a minute! Sit down, won't you? Have a
I sat down on the Act One sofa, and he resumed his conversations.
"You see, laddie," he said, "what you want in a song like this is tune.
It's no good doing stuff that your wife and family and your aunts say
is better than Wagner. They don't want that sort of thing here--Dears,
we simply can't get on if you won't do what you're told. Begin going
off while you're singing the last line of the refrain, not after you've
finished. All back. I've told you a hundred times. Do try and get it
right--I simply daren't look at a motor bill. These fellers at the
garage cram it on--I mean, what can you _do_? You're up against
it--Miss Hinckel, I've got seventy-five letters I want you to take
down. Ready? 'Mrs. Robert Boodle, Sandringham, Mafeking Road, Balham.
Dear Madam: Mr. Briggs desires me to say that he fears that he has no
part to offer to your son. He is glad that he made such a success at
his school theatricals.' 'James Winterbotham, Pleasant Cottage,
Rhodesia Terrace, Stockwell. Dear Sir: Mr. Briggs desires me to say
that he remembers meeting your wife's cousin at the public dinner you
mention, but that he fears he has no part at present to offer to your
daughter.' 'Arnold H. Bodgett, Wistaria Lodge....'"
My attention wandered.
At the end of a quarter of an hour he was ready for me.
"I wish you'd have a shot at it, old boy," he said, as he finished
sketching out the idea for the lyric, "and let me have it as soon as
you can. I want it to go in at the beginning of the second act. Hullo,
what's that you're nursing?"
"It's a play. I was wondering if you would mind glancing at it if you
"Yes. There's a part in it that would just suit you."
"What is it? Musical comedy?"
"No. Ordinary comedy."
"I shouldn't mind putting on a comedy soon. I must have a look at it.
Come and have a bit of lunch."
One of the firemen came up, carrying a card.
"Hullo, what's this? Oh, confound the feller! He's always coming here.
Look here: tell him that I'm just gone out to lunch, but can see him at
three. Come along, old boy."
He began to read the play over the coffee and cigars.
He read it straight through, as I had done.
"What rot!" he said, as he turned the last page.
"Isn't it!" I exclaimed enthusiastically. "But won't it go?"
"Go?" he shouted, with such energy that several lunchers spun round
in their chairs, and a Rand magnate, who was eating peas at the next
table, started and cut his mouth. "Go? It's the limit! This is just
the sort of thing to get right at them. It'll hit them where they live.
What made you think of that drivel at the end of Act Two?"
"Genius, I suppose. What do you think of James as a part for you?"
"Top hole. Good Lord, I haven't congratulated you! Consider it done."
We drained our liqueur glasses to _The Girl who Waited_ and to
Briggs, after a lifetime spent in doing three things at once, is not a
man who lets a great deal of grass grow under his feet. Before I left
him that night the "ideal cast" of the play had been jotted down, and
much of the actual cast settled. Rehearsals were in full swing within a
week, and the play was produced within ten days of the demise of its
Meanwhile, the satisfactory sum which I received in advance of
royalties was sufficient to remove any regrets as to the loss of
the _Orb_ holiday work. With _The Girl who Waited_ in active
rehearsal, "On Your Way" lost in importance.
_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued)_
On the morning of the day for which the production had been fixed, it
dawned upon me that I had to meet Mrs. Goodwin and Margaret at
Waterloo. All through the busy days of rehearsal, even on those awful
days when everything went wrong and actresses, breaking down, sobbed in
the wings and refused to be comforted, I had dimly recognised the fact
that when I met Margaret I should have to be honest with her. Plans for
evasion had been half-matured by my inventive faculties, only to be
discarded, unpolished, on account of the insistent claims of the
endless rehearsals. To have concocted a story with which to persuade
Margaret that I stood to lose money if the play succeeded would have
been a clear day's work. And I had no clear days.
But this was not all. There was another reason. Somehow my sentiments
with regard to her were changing again. It was as if I were awaking
from some dream. I felt as if my eyes had been blindfolded to prevent
me seeing Margaret as she really was, and that now the bandage had been
removed. As the day of production drew nearer, and the play began to
take shape, I caught myself sincerely admiring the girl who could hit
off, first shot, the exact shade of drivel which the London stage
required. What culture, what excessive brain-power she must have. How
absurdly _naive_, how impossibly melodramatic, how maudlinly
sentimental, how improbable--in fact, how altogether womanly she must
Womanly! That did it. I felt that she was womanly. And it came about
that it was my Margaret of the Cobo shrimping journeys that I was
prepared to welcome as I drove that morning to Waterloo Station.
And so, when the train rolled in, and the Goodwins alighted, and
Margaret kissed me, by an extraordinarily lucky chance I found that I
loved her more dearly than ever.
* * * * *
That _premiere_ is still fresh in my memory.
Mrs. Goodwin, Margaret, and myself occupied the stage box, and in
various parts of the house I could see the familiar faces of those whom
I had invited as my guests.
I felt it was the supreme event of my life. It was _the_ moment.
And surely I should have spoilt it all unless my old-time friends had
been sitting near me.
Eva and Julian were with Mr. and Mrs. Gunton-Cresswell in the box
opposite us. To the Barrel Club I had sent the first row of the dress
circle. It was expensive, but worth it. Hatton and Sidney Price were in
the stalls. Tom Blake had preferred a free pass to the gallery. Kit and
Malim were at the back of the upper circle (this was, Malim told me,
Kit's own choice).
One by one the members of the orchestra took their places for the
overture, and it was to the appropriate strains of "Land of Hope and
Glory" that the curtain rose on the first act of my play.
The first act, I should mention (though it is no doubt superfluous to
do so) is bright and suggestive, but ends on a clear, firm note of
pathos. That is why, as soon as the lights went up, I levelled my
glasses at the eyes of the critics. Certainly in two cases, and, I
think, in a third, I caught the glint of tear-drops. One critic was
blowing his nose, another sobbed like a child, and I had a hurried
vision of a third staggering out to the foyer with his hand to his
eyes. Margaret was removing her own tears with a handkerchief. Mrs.
Goodwin's unmoved face may have hidden a lacerated soul, but she did
not betray herself. Hers may have been the thoughts that lie too deep
for tears. At any rate, she did not weep. Instead, she drew from her
reticule the fragmentary writings of an early Portuguese author. These
she perused during the present and succeeding _entr'actes_.
Pressing Margaret's hand, I walked round to the Gunton-Cresswells's box
to see what effect the act had had on them. One glance at their faces
was enough. They were long and hard. "This is a real compliment," I
said to myself, for the whole party cut me dead. I withdrew, delighted.
They had come, of course, to assist at my failure. I had often observed
to Julian how curiously lacking I was in dramatic instinct, and Julian
had predicted to Eva and her aunt and uncle a glorious fiasco. They
were furious at their hopes being so egregiously disappointed. Had they
dreamt of a success they would have declined to be present. Indeed,
half-way through Act Two, I saw them creeping away into the night.
The Barrel Club I discovered in the bar. As I approached, I heard
Michael declare that "there'd not been such an act produced since his
show was put on at----" He was interrupted by old Maundrell asserting
that "the business arranged for valet reminded him of a story about
They, too, added their quota to my cup of pleasure by being distinctly
Ascending to the gallery I found another compliment awaiting me. Tom
Blake was fast asleep. The quality of Blake's intellect was in inverse
ratio to that of Mrs. Goodwin. Neither of them appreciated the stuff
that suited so well the tastes of the million; and it was consequently
quite consistent that while Mrs. Goodwin dozed in spirit Tom Blake
should snore in reality.
With Hatton and Price I did not come into contact. I noticed, however,
that they wore an expression of relief at the enthusiastic reception my
play had received.
But an encounter with Kit and Malim was altogether charming. They had
had some slight quarrel on the way to the theatre, and had found a
means of reconciliation in their mutual emotion at the pathos of the
first act's finale. They were now sitting hand in hand telling each
other how sorry they were. They congratulated me warmly.
* * * * *
A couple of hours more, and the curtain had fallen.
The roar, the frenzied scene, the picture of a vast audience, half-mad
with excitement--how it all comes back to me.
And now, as I sit in this quiet smoking-room of a St. Peter's Port
hotel, I hear again the shout of "Author!" I see myself again stepping
forward from the wings. That short appearance of mine, that brief
speech behind the footlights fixed my future....
* * * * *
"James Orlebar Cloyster, the plutocratic playwright, to Margaret, only
daughter of the late Eugene Grandison Goodwin, LL.D."