To avoid commiseration of heartless friends and the triumphant glances of literary enemies, Hubert passed through the door leading on to the stage. Scene-shifters were brutally pushing away what remained of his play; and the presence of Hamilton Brown, the dramatic author, talking to Ford, was at that moment particularly disagreeable. On catching sight of Hubert, Brown ran to him, shook him by the hand, and murmured some discreet congratulations. He preferred the piece, however, as it had been originally written, and suggested to Ford the advisability of returning to the first text. Then Ford went upstairs to take his paint off, and Hubert walked about the stage with Brown. Brown’s insincerity was sufficiently transparent; but men in Hubert’s position catch at straws, and he soon began to believe that the attitude of the public towards his play was not so unfavourable as he had imagined.
Hubert tried to summon up a smile for the stage-door keeper, who, he feared, had heard that the piece had failed, and then the moment they got outside he begged Rose to tell him the exact truth. She assured him that Ford had said that he had always counted on a certain amount of opposition; but that he believed that the general public, being more free of prejudice and less sophisticated, would be impressed by the simple humanity of the play. The conversation paused, and at the end of an irritating silence he said, ’You were excellent, as good as any one could be in a part that did not suit them. Ah, if he had cast you for the adventuress, how you would have played it!...’
’I’m so glad you are pleased. I hope my notices will be good. Do you think they will?’
‘Yes, your notices will be all right,’ he answered, with a sigh.
’And your notices will be all right too. No one can say what is going to succeed. There was a call after each of the last three acts.... I don’t see how a piece could go better. It is the suspense....’
‘Ah, yes, the suspense!’
They lingered on the landing, and Hubert said, ’Won’t you come in for a moment?’ She followed him into the room. His calm face, usually a perfect picture of repose and self-possession, betrayed his emotion by a certain blankness in the eyes, certain contractions in the skin of the forehead. ‘I’m afraid,’ he said, ‘there’s no hope.’
‘Oh, you mustn’t say that!’ she replied. ’I think it went very well indeed.... I know I did nothing with the young girl. I oughtn’t to have undertaken the part.’
’You were excellent. If we only get some good notices. If we don’t, I shall never get another play of mine acted.’ He looked at her imploringly, thirsting for a woman’s sympathy. But the little girl was thinking of certain effects which she would have made, and which the actress who had played the adventuress had failed to make.
‘I watched her all the time,’ she said, ’following every line, saying all the time, “Oh yes, that’s all very nice and very proper, my young woman; but it’s not it; no, not at all—not within a hundred miles of it.” I don’t think she ever really touched the part—do you?’ Hubert did not answer, and a quiver of distraction ran through the muscles of her face.