There was an outburst of sedate applause, and a turning of heads to the right. Edward Henry looked in that direction. Rose Euclid herself was bowing from one of the two boxes on the first tier. Instantly she had been recognized and acknowledged, and the clapping had in no wise disturbed her. Evidently she accepted it as a matter of course. How famous, after all, she must be, if such an audience would pay her such a meed! She was pale, and dressed glitteringly in white. She seemed younger, more graceful, much more handsome, more in accordance with her renown. She was at home and at ease up there in the brightness of publicity. The imposing legend of her long career had survived the eclipse in the United States. Who could have guessed that some ten days before she had landed heart-broken and ruined at Tilbury from the Minnetonka?
Edward Henry was impressed.
“She’s none so dusty!” he said to himself in the incomprehensible slang of the Five Towns. The phrase was a high compliment to Rose Euclid, aged fifty and looking anything you like over thirty. It measured the extent to which he was impressed.
Yes, he felt guilty. He had to drop his eyes, lest hers should catch them. He examined guiltily the programme, which announced “The New Don Juan,” a play “in three acts and in verse”—author unnamed. The curtain went up.
And with the rising of the curtain began Edward Henry’s torture and bewilderment. The scene disclosed a cloth upon which was painted, to the right, a vast writhing purple cuttle-fish whose finer tentacles were lost above the proscenium arch, and to the left an enormous crimson oblong patch with a hole in it. He referred to the programme, which said: “Act II. or A castle in a forest”; and also, “Scenery and costumes designed by Saracen Givington, A.R.A.” The cuttle-fish, then, was the purple forest, or perhaps one tree in the forest, and the oblong patch was the crimson castle. The stage remained empty, and Edward Henry had time to perceive that the footlights were unlit and that rays came only from the flies and from the wings.
He glanced round. Nobody had blenched. Quite confused, he referred again to the programme and deciphered in the increasing gloom: “Lighting by Cosmo Clark,” in very large letters.
Two yellow-clad figures of no particular sex glided into view, and at the first words which they uttered Edward Henry’s heart seemed in apprehension to cease to beat. A fear seized him. A few more words and the fear became a positive assurance and realization of evil. “The New Don Juan” was simply a pseudonym for Carlo Trent’s “Orient Pearl"!... He had always known that it would be. Ever since deciding to accept the invitation he had lived under just that menace. “The Orient Pearl” seemed to be pursuing him like a sinister destiny.