Now he crossed the Circus again to his own pavement and gazed like a stranger at his own posters. On several of them, encircled in a scarlet ring, was the sole name of Rose Euclid—impressive! (And smaller, but above it, the legend, “E.H. Machin, Sole Proprietor.”) He asked himself impartially, as his eyes uneasily left the poster and slipped round the Circus—deserted save by a few sinister and idle figures at that hour—“Should I have sent that interview to the papers, or shouldn’t I?... I wonder. I expect some folks would say that on the whole I’ve been rather hard on Rose since I first met her!... Anyhow, she’s speaking up all right to-night!” He laughed shortly.
A newsboy floated up from the Circus bearing a poster with the name of Isabel Joy on it in large letters.
“Be blowed to Isabel Joy!”
He did not care a fig for Isabel Joy’s competition now.
And then a small door opened in the wall close by, and an elegant cloaked woman came out on to the pavement. The door was the private door leading to the private box of Lord Woldo, owner of the ground upon which the Regent Theatre was built. The woman he recognized with confusion as Elsie April, whom he had not seen alone since the Azure Society’s night.
“What are you doing out here, Mr. Machin?” she greeted him with pleasant composure.
“I’m thinking,” said he.
“It’s going splendidly,” she remarked. “Really!... I’m just running round to the stage-door to meet dear Rose as she comes off. What a delightful woman your wife is! So pretty, and so sensible!”
She disappeared round the corner before he could compose a suitable husband’s reply to this laudation of a wife.
Then the commissionaires at the entrance seemed to start into life. And then suddenly several preoccupied men strode rapidly out of the theatre, buttoning their coats, and vanished phantom-like....
Critics, on their way to destruction!
The performance must be finishing. Hastily he followed in the direction taken by Elsie April.
He was in the wings, on the prompt side. Close by stood the prompter, an untidy youth with imperfections of teeth, clutching hard at the red-scored manuscript of “The Orient Pearl.” Sundry players, of varying stellar degrees, were posed around in the opulent costumes designed by Saracen Givington, A.R.A. Miss Lindop was in the background, ecstatically happy, her cheeks a race-course of tears. Afar off, in the centre of the stage, alone, stood Rose Euclid, gorgeous in green and silver, bowing and bowing and bowing—bowing before the storm of approval and acclamation that swept from the auditorium across the footlights. With a sound like that of tearing silk, or of a gigantic contralto mosquito, the curtain swished down, and swished up, and swished down again. Bouquets flew on to the stage from the auditorium (a custom newly imported from the United States by Miss Euclid, and encouraged by her, though contrary to the lofty canons of London taste). The actress already held one huge trophy, shaped as a crown, to her breast. She hesitated, and then ran to the wings, and caught Edward Henry by the wrist impulsively, madly. They shook hands in an ecstasy.