At eleven o’clock the play was over; the superbly-dressed women, with their escorts, were descending the wide staircase, laughing and discussing the piece, which seemed likely to become the success of the season. Outside, the pavement was filled with the gay, excited crowds. Whistles resounded for taxis hovering in the immediate vicinity, like steel-plated birds of prey. Carriages were being shouted for, and throughout all the bustle and excitement, a slight girlish form doggedly kept its vigil near the main entrance.
The crowd of pleasure-seekers and onlookers had melted away, and the attendants were busy turning out the lights, when the glass doors swung open again, and three or four gentlemen came out, laughing and talking.
“Quite a success,” said one of them.
“Yes, indeed,” from another. “Paxhorn, I congratulate you again, old man.”
“Thank you,” replied the author, his face beaming with satisfaction. “Thanks to Leroy, it will run for a hundred nights, and my name will be made.”
“On Bon-bons,” sneered Shelton; “what a thing it is to be a popular playwright.”
“Better to be a popular dancer,” whispered Paxhorn, as the door swung open again, and Adrien came out, with Ada Lester on his arm, Mr. Jasper Vermont following behind them.
“All here?” asked Leroy in his clear voice, as they descended the steps to where the motors stood waiting. “Come along”—turning to the rest of the party—“we are all going to supper to celebrate Ada’s triumph. Paxhorn, dismiss your car, old man, and come with us; we want to hear the rustle of your laurels.”
Laughingly, they entered the vehicles, while, above all the others, rang the harsh voice of the woman, and Jessica, hearing it, shuddered involuntarily. Then they were gone.
Suddenly, while the girl’s eyes were straining after them, the last motor stopped, and Jasper Vermont jumped out and hastened back into the theatre. More out of idle curiosity than anything else, or perhaps again prompted by the guardian angel of Leroy’s honour, she waited to see him come out again. In a few minutes he re-emerged, bearing in his hand a small roll of papers, one of which he was reading, with a malicious smile on his face.
Jessica unwittingly stood in his path, and he crashed into her with such force as to knock his hat to the ground. With an oath he struggled to regain it, pushing her roughly aside.
“Out of my way, girl,” he exclaimed, thinking she was about to beg from him. “I have nothing for you.”
At the sound of his voice Jessica’s face whitened, and she turned away, frightened, and trembling; as she did so, her foot struck against something light lying on the kerb. She stooped and found it was a small roll of papers, part of those which had been in the gentleman’s hand, and which he had been studying so attentively.
She did not trouble to open it, but slipped it into the bosom of her dress and walked dreamily away.