After referring to the deplorable condition of the modern stage, the writer pointed out how dramatic writing has of late years come to be practised entirely by men who have failed in all other branches of literature. Then he drew attention to the fact that signs of weariness and dissatisfaction with the old stale stories, the familiar tricks in bringing about ’striking situations,’ were noticeable, not only in the newspaper criticisms of new plays, but also among the better portion of the audience. He admitted, however, that hitherto the attempts made by younger writers in the direction of new subject-matter and new treatment had met with little success. But this, he held, was not a reason for discouragement. Did those who believed in the old formulas imagine that the new formula would be discovered straight away, without failures preliminary? Besides, these attempts were not utterly despicable; at least one play written on the new lines had met with some measure of success, and that play was Mr. Hubert Price’s Divorce.
’Yes, the fellow is right. The public is ready for a good play: it wasn’t when Divorce was given. I must finish The Gipsy. There are good things in it; that I know. But I wish I could get that third act right. The public will accept a masterpiece, but it will not accept an attempt to write a masterpiece. But this time there’ll be no falling off in the last acts. The scene between the gipsy lover and the young lord will fetch ’em.’ Taking up the review, Hubert glanced over the article a second time. ’How anxious the fellows are for me to achieve a success! How they believe in me! They desire it more than I do. They believe in me more than I do in myself. They want to applaud me. They are hungry for the masterpiece.’
At that moment his eye was caught by some letters written on blue paper. His face resumed a wearied and hunted expression. ’There’s no doubt about it, money I must get somehow. I am running it altogether too fine. There isn’t twenty pounds between me and the deep sea.’
* * * * *
He was the son of the Rev. James Price, a Shropshire clergyman. The family was of Welsh extraction, but in Hubert none of the physical characteristics of the Celt appeared. He might have been selected as a typical Anglo-Saxon. The face was long and pale, and he wore a short reddish beard; the eyes were light blue, verging on grey, and they seemed to speak a quiet, steadfast soul. Hubert had always been his mother’s favourite, and the scorn of his elder brothers, two rough boys, addicted in early youth to robbing orchards, and later on to gambling and drinking. The elder, after having broken his father’s heart with debts and disgraceful living, had gone out to the Cape. News of his death came to the Rectory soon after; but James’s death did not turn Henry from his evil courses, and one day his father and mother had to go to London on his account, and they brought him back a hopeless invalid. Hubert was twelve years of age when he followed his brother to the grave.