“And they want to see you about the linoleum for the gallery stairs,” she added timidly. “The County Council man says it must be taken up.”
The linoleum for the gallery stairs! Something snapped in him. He almost walked right through the young woman and the tea-tray.
“I’ll linoleum them!” he bitterly exclaimed, and disappeared.
Having duly “linoleumed them,” or rather having very annoyingly quite failed to “linoleum them,” Edward Henry continued his way up the right-hand gallery staircase, and reached the auditorium, where to his astonishment a good deal of electricity, at one penny three farthings a unit, was blazing. Every seat in the narrow and high-pitched gallery, where at the sides the knees of one spectator would be on a level with the picture-hat of the spectator in the row beneath, had a perfect and entire view of the proscenium opening. And Edward Henry now proved this unprecedented fact by climbing to the topmost corner seat and therefrom surveying the scene of which he was monarch. The boxes were swathed in their new white dust-sheets; and likewise the higgledy-piggledy stalls, not as yet screwed down to the floor, save three or four stalls in the middle of the front row, from which the sheet had been removed. On one of these seats, far off though it was, he could descry a paper bag—probably containing sandwiches—and on another a pair of gloves and a walking-stick. Several alert ladies with sketch-books walked uneasily about in the aisles. The orchestra was hidden in the well provided for it, and apparently murmuring in its sleep. The magnificent drop-curtain, designed by Saracen Givington, A.R.A., concealed the stage.
Suddenly Mr. Marrier and Carlo Trent appeared through the iron door that gave communication—to initiates—between the wings and the auditorium; they sat down in the stalls. And the curtain rose with a violent swish, and disclosed the first “set” of “The Orient Pearl.”
“What about that amber, Cosmo?” Mr. Marrier cried thickly, after a pause, his mouth occupied with sandwich.
“There you are!” came the reply.
“Right!” said Mr. Marrier. “Strike!”
“Don’t strike!” contradicted Carlo Trent.
“Strike, I tell you! We must get on with the second act.” The voices resounded queerly in the empty theatre.
The stage was invaded by scene-shifters before the curtain could descend again.
Edward Henry heard a tripping step behind him. It was the faithful typewriting girl.
“I say,” he said. “Do you mind telling me what’s going on here? It’s true that in the rush of more important business I’d almost forgotten that a theatre is a place where they perform plays.”
“It’s the dress-rehearsal, Mr. Machin,” said the woman, startled and apologetic.
“But the dress-rehearsal was fixed for three o’clock,” said he. “It must have been finished three hours ago.”