“And will it be any worse a play because you act a small part in it?”
“No,” she said shortly.
“I expect you think it’s a play that people ought to go and see, don’t you?”
“I do, Mr. Socrates,” she admitted.
He wondered what she could mean, but continued:
“What does it matter what it is that brings the audience into the theatre, so long as they get there and have to listen?”
“It’s no use discussing with you,” she murmured. “You’re too simple for this world. I daresay you’re honest enough—in fact, I think you are—but there are so many things that you don’t understand. You’re evidently incapable of understanding them.”
“Thanks!” he replied, and paused to recover his self-possession. “But let’s get right down to business now. If you’ll appear in this play I’ll not merely give you two hundred pounds a week, but I’ll explain to you how to get arrested and still arrive in triumph in London before midnight on Sunday.”
She recoiled a step and raised her eyes.
“How?” she demanded, as with a pistol.
“Ah!” he said. “That’s just it. How? Will you promise?”
“I’ve thought of everything,” she said musingly. “If the last day was any day but Sunday I could get arrested on landing and get bailed out and still be in London before night. But on Sunday—no—! So you needn’t talk like that.”
“Still,” he said, “it can be done.”
“How?” she demanded again.
“Will you sign a contract with me if I tell you?... Think of what your reception in London will be if you win after all! Just think!”
Those pale eyes gleamed; for Isabel Joy had tasted the noisy flattery of sympathetic and of adverse crowds, and her being hungered for it again; the desire of it had become part of her nature.
She walked away, her hands in the pockets of her ulster, and returned.
“What is your scheme?”
“Yes, if it works.”
“I can trust you?”
The little woman of forty or so blazed up. “You can refrain from insulting me by doubting my word,” said she.
“Sorry! Sorry!” he apologized.
That same evening, in the colossal many-tabled dining-saloon of the Lithuania Edward Henry sat as usual to the left of the purser’s empty chair, at the purser’s table, where were about a dozen other men. A page brought him a marconigram. He opened it and read the single word “Nineteen.” It was the amount of the previous evening’s receipts at the Regent, in pounds. He was now losing something like forty pounds a night—without counting the expenses of the present excursion. The band began to play as the soup was served, and the ship rolled politely, gently, but nevertheless unmistakably, accomplishing one complete roll to about sixteen bars of the music. Then the entire saloon was suddenly excited. Isabel Joy had entered. She was in the gallery, near the orchestra, at a small table alone. Everybody became aware of the fact in an instant, and scores of necks on the lower floor were twisted to glimpse the celebrity on the upper. It was remarked that she wore a magnificent evening-dress.