’Oh, how glad I am! Then it is done at last. Why not write at once and engage the theatre? When shall we go to London?’
’Well, I don’t mean that the play could be put into rehearsal to-morrow. It still requires a good deal of overhauling. Besides, even if it were completely finished, I should not care to produce it at once. I should like to lay it aside for a couple of months, and see how it read then.’
’What a lot of trouble you do take! Does every one who writes plays take so much trouble?’
’No, I’m afraid they do not, nor is it necessary they should. Their plays are merely incidents strung together more or less loosely; whereas my play is the development of a temperament, of temperamental characteristics which cannot be altered, having been inherited through centuries; it must therefore pursue its course to a fatal conclusion. In Shakespeare—— But no, no! these things have no interest for you. You shall have the nicest dress that money can buy; and if the play succeeds——’
The girl raised her pathetic eyes. In truth, she cared not at all what he talked to her about; she was occupied with her own thoughts of him, and just to sit in the room with him, and to look at him occasionally, was sufficient. But for once his words had pained her. It was because she could not understand that he did not care to talk to her. Why did she not understand? It was hard for a little girl like her to understand such things as he spoke about; but she would understand; and then her thoughts passed into words, and she said—
’I understand quite as well as Julia. She, knows the names of more books than I, and she is very clever at pretending that she knows more than she does.’
At that moment Mrs. Bentley entered. She saw that Emily was enjoying her talk with her cousin, and tried to withdraw. But Hubert told her that he had written the last act; she pretended to be looking for a book, and then for some work which she said had dropped out of her basket.
‘If Emily would only continue the talking,’ she thought, ’I should be able to get away.’ But Emily said not a word. She sat as if frozen in her chair; and at length Mrs. Bentley was obliged to enter, however cursorily, into the conversation.
’If you have written out The Gipsy from end to end, I should advise you to produce it without further delay. Once it is put on the stage, you will be able to see better where it is wrong.’
’Then it will be too late. The critics will have expressed their opinion; the work will be judged. There are only one or two points about which I am doubtful. I wish Harding were here. I cannot work unless I have some one to talk to about my work. I don’t mean to say that I take advice; but the very fact of reading an act to a sympathetic listener helps me. I wrote the first act of Divorce in that way. It was all wrong. I had some vague ideas about how it might be mended. A friend came in; I told him my difficulties; in telling them they vanished, and I wrote an entirely new act that very night.’