“Of course it’s not,” said Mike; “but be careful not to mention it to Henry just yet. I shouldn’t like to disappoint him—for, of course, before we took any final steps in the purchase, we’d have to make sure that it wasn’t, as some people think, made of green cheese.”
“But never mind about the moon. Tell us how you got on with The Sothern.”
The Sothern was an amateur dramatic club in Tyre which took itself very seriously, and to which Mike was seeking admission, as a first step towards London management. He had that day passed an examination before three of the official members, solemn and important as though they had been the Honourable Directors of Drury Lane, and had been admitted to membership in the club, with the promise of a small part in their forthcoming performance.
“Oh, that’s good!” said Esther. “What were they like?”
“Oh, they were all right,—rather humorous. They gave me ‘Eugene Aram’ to read—Me reading ’Eugene Aram’!—and a scene out of ’London Assurance,’ which was, of course, better. Naturally, not one of the men was the remotest bit like himself. One was a queer kind of Irving, another a sad sort of Arthur Roberts, and the other was—shall we say, a Tyrian Wyndham.”
Actors, like poets, have provincial parodists of their styles in even greater numbers, so adoringly imitative is humanity. Some day, Mike would have his imitators,—boys who pulled faces like his, and prided themselves on having the Laflin wrinkles; just as it was once the fashion for girls to look like Burne-Jones pictures, or young poets to imitate Mr. Swinburne.
“Yes, I’ve got my first part. I’ve got it in my pocket,” said Mike.
“Oh, really! That’s splendid!” exclaimed Esther, with delight.
“Wait till you see it,” said Mike, bringing out a French’s acting edition of some forgotten comedy. “Yes; guess how many words I’ve got to say! Just exactly eleven. And such words!”
“Well, never mind, dear. It’s a beginning.”
“Certainly, it’s a beginning,—the very beginning of a beginning.”
“Come, let me see it, Mike. What are you supposed to be?”
At last Mike was persuaded to confess the humble little role for which the eminent actors who had consented to be his colleagues had cast him. He was to be the comic boy of a pastry-cook’s man, and his distinguished part in the action of the piece was to come in at a certain moment with the pie that had been ordered, and, as he delivered it, he was to remark, “That’s a pie as is a pie, is that there pie!”
“Oh, Mike, what a shame!” exclaimed Esther. “How absurd! Why, you’re a better actor with your little finger than any one of them with their whole body.”
“Ah, but they don’t know that yet, you see.”
“Any one could see it if they looked at your face half-a-minute.”
“I wanted to play the part of Snodgrass; but they couldn’t think of giving me that, of course. So, do you know what I pretended, to comfort myself? I pretended I was Edward Kean waiting in the passages at Drury Lane, with all the other fine fellows looking down at the shabby little gloomy man from the provinces. That was conceit for you, wasn’t it?”