“One meets with the harsher realities of an actress’s life,” she said, “in the provinces. It is all very fine in London, when all the friends you happen to have are in town, and where there is constant amusement, and pleasant parties, and nice people to meet; and then you have the comforts of your own home around you, and quiet and happy Sundays. But a provincial tour!—the constant travelling, and rehearsals with strange people, and damp lodgings, and miserable hotels, and wet Sundays in smoky towns! Papa is very good and kind, you know; but he is interested in his books, and he goes about all day hunting after curiosities, and one has not a soul to speak to. Then the audiences: I have witnessed one or two scenes lately that would unnerve any one; and of course I have to stand helpless and silent on the stage until the tumult is stilled and the original offenders expelled. Some sailors the other evening amused themselves by clambering down the top gallery to the pit, hanging on to the gas-brackets and the pillars; and one of them managed to reach the orchestra, jump from the drum on to the stage, and then offered me a glass of whiskey from a big black bottle he had in his hand. When I told papa, he laughed, and said I should be proud of my triumph over the man’s imagination. But when the people roared with laughter at my discomfiture, I felt as though I would rather be earning my bread by selling watercresses in the street or by stitching in a garret.”
Of course the cry of the poor injured soul found a ready echo in his heart. It was monstrous that she should be subjected to such indignities. And then that cruel old pagan of a father—was he not ashamed of himself to see the results of his own cold-blooded theories? Was this the glory of art? Was this the reward of the sacrifice of a life? That a sensitive girl should be publicly insulted by a tipsy maniac, and jeered at by a brutal crowd? Macleod laid down the letter for a minute or two, and the look on his face was not lovely to see.
“You may think it strange that I should write thus to you,” she said; “but if I say that it was yourself who first set me thinking about such things? And since I have been thinking about them I have had no human being near me to whom I could speak. You know papa’s opinions. Even if my dearest friend, Mrs. Ross, were here, what would she say? She has known me only in London. She thinks it a fine thing to be a popular actress. She sees people ready to pet me, in a way—so long as society is pleased to have a little curiosity about me. But she does not see the other side of the picture. She does not even ask how long all this will last. She never thinks of the cares and troubles and downright hard work. If ever you heard me sing, you will know that I have very little of a voice, and that not worth much; but trifling as it is, you would scarcely believe the care and cultivation I have to spend on it, merely for business purposes.