The toast having been seconded and drunk with resounding cordiality, Henry responded in a speech of mingled playfulness and emotion, assuring them, on his part, that though they might not be poets, he thought no worse of them for that, but should always remember them as the best fellows he had ever known. The talk then became general, and tender with reminiscence. After all, what a lot of pleasant things those hard years had given them to remember! So they kept the evening going, and it was not till an early hour of the following day that this important volume of Henry’s life was finally closed.
MIKE’S TURN TO MOVE
While Henry had been busily engaged in winning Angelica and writing and printing his little book, Mike’s fortunes had not been idle. Meanwhile, the Sothern Dramatic Club had given two more performances, in which his parts had been considerable, and been played by him with such success as to make the former pieman’s apprentice one of the chief members of the club. Mike and his friends therefore became more and more eager for him to try his talents on the great stage. But this was an experiment not so easy to make.
However unknown a writer may be, he can still at least write his book in his obscurity, and, when done, bring it to market, with a reasonable hope of its finding a publisher; moreover, though he may remain for years unappreciated, his writings still go on fighting for him till his due recognition is won. He has not to find his publisher before he begins to write. Yet it is actually such a disability under which the unproved and often the proved actor must labour. Unless some one engages him to act, and provides an audience for him, he has no opportunity of showing his powers. And such opportunities are difficult to find, unless you are a dissolute young lord, or belong to one of the traditional theatrical families,—whose members are brought up to the stage, as the sons of a lawyer are brought up to law. For the avenues to the stage are blocked by perhaps more frivolous incompetents than any other profession. Any idle girl with good looks, and any idle gentleman with something of a good carriage, deem themselves qualified for one of the most arduous of the arts.
Mike’s plan had been to try every considerable actor that came to Tyre, who might possibly have a vacant place in his company; but he had tried many in vain. While one or two were unable to see him at all, most of them treated him with a kindness remarkable in men daily besieged by the innumerable hopeless. They gave him good advice; they wished him well; but already they had long lists of experienced applicants waiting their turn for the coveted vacancy. At last, however, there came to Tyre a famous romantic actor who was said to be more sympathetic towards the youthful aspirant than the other heads of his profession, and as, too, he was rumoured to be vulnerable on the side of literature, Mike and Henry agreed to make a joint attack upon him. Mike should write a brief note asking for an interview, and Henry should follow it up with another letter to the same effect, and at the same time send him a copy of “The Book of Angelica.”