“I wonder what will happen to her—ultimately?” he said, meaning to work back from the ends of careers to their beginnings, and so to himself.
Mr. Sachs shook his head compassionately.
“How did Mr. Bryany get in with her?” asked Edward Henry.
“Bryany is a highly peculiar person,” said Mr. Seven Sachs, familiarly. “He’s all right so long as you don’t unstrap him. He was born to convince newspaper reporters of his own greatness.”
“I had a bit of a talk with him myself,” said Edward Henry.
“Oh, yes! He told me all about you.”
“But I never told him anything about myself,” said Edward Henry, quickly.
“No, but he has eyes, you know, and ears too. Seems to me the people of the Five Towns do little else of a night but discuss you, Mr. Machin. I heard a good bit when I was down there, though I don’t go about much when I’m on the road. I reckon I could write a whole biography of you.”
Edward Henry smiled self-consciously. He was, of course, enraptured, but at the same time it was disappointing to find Mr. Sachs already so fully informed as to the details of his career. However, he did not intend to let that prevent him from telling the story afresh, in his own manner.
“I suppose you’ve had your adventures, too,” he remarked with nonchalance, partly from politeness but mainly in order to avoid the appearance of hurry in his egotism.
“You bet I have!” Mr. Seven Sachs cordially agreed, abandoning the end of a cigarette, putting his hands behind his head, and crossing his legs.
Whereupon there was a brief pause.
“I remember—” Edward Henry began.
“I daresay you’ve heard—” began Mr. Seven Sachs, simultaneously.
They were like two men who by inadvertence had attempted to pass through a narrow doorway abreast. Edward Henry, as the host, drew back.
“I beg your pardon!” he apologized.
“Not at all,” said Seven Sachs. “I was only going to say you’ve probably heard that I was always up against Archibald Florance.”
“Really!” murmured Edward Henry, impressed in spite of himself. For the renown of Archibald Florance exceeded that of Seven Sachs as the sun the moon, and was older and more securely established than it as the sun the moon. The renown of Rose Euclid was as naught to it. Doubtful it was whether, in the annals of modern histrionics, the grandeur and the romance of that American name could be surpassed by any renown save that of the incomparable Henry Irving. The retirement of Archibald Florance from the stage a couple of years earlier had caused crimson gleams of sunset splendour to shoot across the Atlantic and irradiate even the Garrick Club, London, so that the members thereof had to shade their offended eyes. Edward Henry had never seen Archibald Florance, but it was not necessary to have seen him in order to appreciate the majesty of his glory. No male in the history of the world was ever more photographed, and few have been the subject of more anecdotes.