Ford looked at Hubert questioningly; then he said ’I have always noticed that when a fellow wants to finish a play, the only way to do it is to go away to the country and leave no address.’
But the country was always so full of pleasure for him, that he doubted his power to remain indoors with the temptation of fields and rivers before his eyes, and he thought that to escape from dunning creditors it would be sufficient to change his address. So he left Norfolk Street for the more remote quarter of Fitzroy Street, where he took a couple of rooms on the second floor. One of his fellow-lodgers, he soon found, was Rose Massey, an actress engaged for the performance of small parts at the Queen’s Theatre. The first time he spoke to her was on the doorstep. She had forgotten her latch-key, and he said, ‘Will you allow me to let you in?’ She stepped aside, but did not answer him. Hubert thought her rude, but her strange eyes and absent-minded manner had piqued his curiosity, and, having nothing to do that night, he went to the theatre to see her act. She was playing a very small part, and one that was evidently unsuited to her—a part that was in contradiction to her nature; but there was something behind the outer envelope which led him to believe she had real talent, and would make a name for herself when she was given a part that would allow her to reveal what was in her.
In the meantime, Rose had been told that the gentleman she had snubbed in the passage was Mr. Hubert Price, the author of Divorce.
‘Oh, it was very silly of me,’ she said to Annie. ‘If I had only known!’
‘Lor’, he don’t mind; he’ll be glad enough to speak to you when you meets him again.’
And when they met again on the stairs, Rose nodded familiarly, and Hubert said—
‘I went to the Queen’s the other night.’
‘Did you like the piece?’
’I did not care about the piece; but when you get a wild, passionate part to play, you’ll make a hit. The sentimental parts they give you don’t suit you.’
A sudden light came into the languid face. ’Yes, I shall do something if I can get a part like that.’
Hubert told her that he was writing a play containing just such a part.
Her eyes brightened again. ‘Will you read me the play?’ she said, fixing her dark, dreamy eyes on him.
‘I shall be very glad.... Do you think it won’t bore you?’ And his wistful grey eyes were full of interrogation.
‘No, I’m sure it won’t.’
And a few days after she sent Annie with a note, reminding him of his promise to read her what he had written. As she had only a bedroom, the reading had to take place in his sitting-room. He read her the first and second acts. She was all enthusiasm, and begged hard to be allowed to study the part—just to see what she could do with it—just to let him see that he was not mistaken in her. Her interest in his work captivated him, and he couldn’t refuse to lend her the manuscript.