As he turned away from the moving carriage the evening papers had just arrived at the bookstalls. He bought the four chief organs—one green, one yellowish, one white, one pink—and scanned them self-consciously on the platform. The white organ had a good heading: “Re-birth of the intellectual drama in London. What a provincial has done. Opinions of leading men.” Two columns altogether! There was, however, little in the two columns. The leading men had practised a sagacious caution. They, like the press as a whole, were obviously waiting to see which way the great elephantine public would jump. When the enormous animal had jumped they would all exclaim: “What did I tell you?” The other critiques were colourless. At the end of the green critique occurred the following sentence: “It is only fair to state, nevertheless, that the play was favourably received by an apparently enthusiastic audience.”
“Nevertheless!” ... “Apparently!”
Edward Henry turned the page to the theatrical advertisements.
“REGENT THEATRE. (Twenty yards from Piccadilly Circus.) ’The Orient Pearl,’ by Carlo Trent. Miss ROSE EUCLID. Every evening at 8.30. Matinees every Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30. Box-office open 10 to 10. Sole Proprietor—E.H. Machin.”
Unreal! Fantastic! Was this he, Edward Henry? Could it be his mother’s son?
Still—“Matinees every Wednesday and Saturday.” “Every Wednesday and Saturday.” That word implied and necessitated a long run—anyhow a run extending over months. That word comforted him. Though he knew as well as you do that Mr. Marrier had composed the advertisement, and that he himself was paying for it, it comforted him. He was just like a child.
“I say, Cunningham’s made a hit!” Mr. Marrier almost shouted at him as he entered the managerial room at the Regent.
“Cunningham? Who’s Cunningham?”
Then he remembered. She was the girl who played the Messenger. She had only three words to say, and to say them over and over again; and she had made a hit!
“Seen the notices?” asked Marrier.
“Yes. What of them?”
“Oh! Well!” Marrier drawled. “What would you expect?”
“That’s just what I said!” observed Edward Henry.
“You did, did you?” Mr. Marrier exclaimed, as if extremely interested by this corroboration of his views.
Carlo Trent strolled in; he remarked that he happened to be just passing. But discussion of the situation was not carried very far.
That evening the house was nearly full, except the pit and the gallery, which were nearly empty. Applause was perfunctory.
“How much?” Edward Henry inquired of the box-office manager when figures were added together.
“Thirty-one pounds, two shillings.”
“Of course,” said Mr. Marrier, “in the height of the London season, with so many counter-attractions—! Besides, they’ve got to get used to the idea of it.”