On the night of the first performance, Hubert asked Rose to dine in his rooms. Mr. Wilson proposed that they should have a roast chicken, and Annie was sent to fetch a bottle of champagne from the grocer’s. Annie had been given a ticket for the pit. Mrs. Wilson was going to the upper boxes. Annie said,—
’Why, you look as if you was going to a funeral, and not to a play. Why don’t ye laugh?’
In truth, Hubert and Rose were a little silent. Rose was thinking how she could say certain lines. She had said them right once at rehearsal, but had not since been able to reproduce to her satisfaction a certain effect of voice. Hubert was too nervous to talk. There was nothing in his mind but ‘Will the piece succeed? What shall I do if it fails?’ He could give heed to nothing but himself, all the world seemed blotted out, and he suffered the pain of excessive self-concentration. Rose, on the other hand, had lost sight of herself, and existed almost unconsciously in the soul of another being. She was sometimes like a hypnotised spectator watching with foolish, involuntary curiosity the actions of one whom she had been bidden to watch. Then a little cloud would gather over her eyes, and then this other being would rise as if out of her very entrails and recreate her, fashioning her to its own image and likeness.
She did not answer when she was spoken to, and when the question was repeated, she awoke with a little start. Dinner was eaten in morbid silence, with painful and fitful efforts to appear interested in each other. Walking to the theatre, they once took the wrong turning and had to ask the way. At the stage door they smiled painfully, nodded, glad to part. Hubert went up to Montague Ford’s room. He found the comedian on a low stool, seated before a low table covered with brushes and cosmetics, in front of a triple glass.
‘My dear friend, do not trouble me now. I am thinking of my part.’
Hubert turned to go.
‘Stay a moment,’ cried the actor. ’You know when the husband meets the wife he has divorced?’
Hubert remembered the moment referred to, and, with anxious, doubting eyes, the comedian sought from the author justification for some intonations and gestures which seemed to him to form part and parcel of the nature of the man whose drunkenness he had so admirably depicted on his face.
’"This is most unfortunate, very unlucky—very, my dear Louisa; but——”
’"I am no longer obliged to bear with your insults; I can now defend myself against you.”
[Illustration: “In the third row Harding stood talking to a young man.”]
‘Now, is that your idea of the scene?’
A pained look came upon Hubert’s face. ’Don’t question me now, my dear fellow. I cannot fix my attention. I can see, however, that your make-up is capital—you are the man himself.’
The actor was satisfied, and in his satisfaction he said, ’I think it will be all right, old chap.’