Rose often came to see Hubert in his rooms. Her manner was disappointing, and he thought he must be mistaken in his first judgment of her talents. But one afternoon she gave him a recitation of the sleep-walking scene in Macbeth. It was strange to see this little dark-complexioned, dark-eyed girl, the merest handful of flesh and bone, divest herself at will of her personality, and assume the tragic horror of Lady Macbeth, or the passionate rapture of Juliet detaining her husband-lover on the balcony of her chamber. Hubert watched in wonderment this girl, so weak and languid in her own nature, awaking only to life when she assumed the personality of another. There she lay, her wispy form stretched in his arm-chair, her great dark eyes fixed, her mind at rest, sunk in some inscrutable dream. Her thin hand lay on the arm of the chair: when she woke from her day-dream she burst into irresponsible laughter, or questioned him with petulant curiosity. He looked again: her dark curling hair hung on her swarthy neck, and she was somewhat untidily dressed in blue linen.
‘Were you ever in love?’ she said suddenly. ’I don’t suppose you could be; you are too occupied with your play. I don’t know, though; you might be in love, but I don’t think that many women would be in love with you.... You are too good a man, and women don’t like good men.’
Hubert laughed, and without a trace of offended vanity in his voice he said, ‘I don’t profess to be much of a lady-killer.’
‘You don’t know what I mean,’ she said, looking at him fixedly, a maze of half-childish, half-artistic curiosity in her handsome eyes.
Perplexed in his shy, straightford nature, Hubert inquired if she took sugar in her tea. She said she did; stretched her feet to the fire, and lapsed into dream. She was one of the enigmas of Stageland. She supported herself, and went about by herself, looking a poor, lost little thing. She spoke with considerable freedom of language on all subjects, but no one had been able to fix a lover upon her.
’What a part Lady Hayward is! But tell me,—I don’t quite catch your meaning in the second act. Is this it?’ and starting to her feet, she became in a moment another being. With a gesture, a look, an intonation, she was the woman of the play,—a woman taken by an instinct, long submerged, but which has floated to the surface, and is beginning to command her actions. In another moment she had slipped back into her weary lymphatic nature, at once prematurely old and extravagantly childish. She could not talk of indifferent things; and having asked some strange questions, and laughed loudly, she wished Hubert ‘Good-afternoon’ in her curious, irresponsible fashion, taking her leave abruptly.
The next two days Hubert devoted entirely to his play. There were things in it which he knew were good, but it was incomplete. Montague Ford would not produce it in its present form. He must put his shoulder to the wheel and get it right; one more push, that was all that was wanted. And he could be heard walking to and fro, up and down, along and across his tiny sitting-room, stopping suddenly to take a note of an idea that had occurred to him.