Beatrice replaced the programme which she had been studying, on the ledge of the box, and turned towards Philip, who was seated in the background. There was something a little new in her manner. Her tone was subdued, her eyes curious.
“You really are a wonderful person, Philip,” she declared. “It’s the same play, just as you used to tell it me, word for word. And yet it isn’t. What is it that you have gained, I wonder?—a sense of atmosphere, breadth, something strangely vital.”
“I am glad you like it,” he said simply.
“Like it? It’s amazing! And what an audience! I never thought that the people were so fashionable here, Philip. I am sitting right back in the box, but ten minutes after I have cashed my draft tomorrow I shall be buying clothes. You won’t be ashamed to be seen anywhere with me then.”
He drew his chair up to her side, a little haggard and worn with the suspense of the evening. She laughed at him mockingly.
“What an idiot you are!” she exclaimed. “You ought to be one of the happiest men in the world, and you look like a death’s-head.”
“The happiest man in the world,” he repeated.
“Beatrice, sometimes I think that there is only one thing in the world that makes for happiness.”
“And what’s that, booby?” she asked, with some of her old familiarity.
“A clear conscience.”
She laid her hand upon his arm.
“Look here, Philip,” she said, “the one thing I determined, when I threw up the sponge, was that whether the venture was a success or not I’d never waste a single moment in regrets. Things didn’t turn out too brilliantly with me, as you know. But you—see what you’ve attained! Why, it’s wonderful! Your play, the one thing you dreamed about, produced in one of the greatest cities in the world, and a packed house to listen to it, people applauding all the time. I didn’t realise your success when we talked this evening. I am just beginning to understand. I’ve been reading some of these extracts from the newspapers. You’re Merton Ware, the great dramatist, the coming man of letters. You’ve won, Philip. Can’t you see that it’s puling cowardice to grumble at the price?”
He, for his part, was wondering at her callousness, of which he was constantly discovering fresh evidences. The whole shock of her discovery seemed already, in these few hours, to have passed away.
“If you can forget—so soon,” he muttered, “I suppose I ought to be able to.”
She made a little grimace, but immediately afterwards he saw the cold tightening of her lips.
“Listen, Philip,” she said. “I started life with the usual quiverful of good qualities, but there’s one I’ve lost, and I don’t want it back again. I’m a selfish woman, and I mean to stay a selfish woman. I am going to live for myself. I’ve paid a fair price, and I’m going to have what I’ve paid for. See?”