“Smart, what’s wrong? Where’s Alresca?” It was Sullivan who spoke.
“He’ll sail in all right,” Sir Cyril said calmly. “Don’t worry.”
The renowned impresario had advanced nearer to the front of our box, and was standing immediately behind my chair. My heart was beating violently with apprehension under my shirt-front. Where was Alresca? It was surely impossible that he should fail to appear! But he ought to have been on the stage, and he was not on the stage. I stole a glance at Sir Cyril’s face. It was Napoleonic in its impassivity.
And I said to myself:
“He is used to this kind of thing. Naturally slips must happen sometimes.”
Still, I could not control my excitement.
Emmeline’s hand was convulsively clutching at the velvet-covered balustrade of the box.
“It’ll be all right,” I repeated to myself.
But when the moment came for the king to bless the bridal pair, and there was no Lohengrin to bless, even the impassive Sir Cyril seemed likely to be disturbed, and you could hear murmurs of apprehension from all parts of the house. The conductor, however, went doggedly on, evidently hoping for the best.
At last the end of the procession was leaving the stage, and Elsa was sitting on the bed alone. Still no Lohengrin. The violins arrived at the muted chord of B flat, which is Lohengrin’s cue. They hung on it for a second, and then the conductor dropped his baton. A bell rang. The curtain descended. The lights were turned up, and there was a swift loosing of tongues in the house. People were pointing to Sir Cyril in our box. As for him, he seemed to be the only unmoved person in the audience.
“That’s never occurred before in my time,” he said. “Alresca was not mistaken. Something has happened. I must go.”
But he did not go. And I perceived that, though the calm of his demeanor was unimpaired, this unprecedented calamity had completely robbed him of his power of initiative. He could not move. He was nonplussed.
The door of the box opened, and an official with a blazing diamond in his shirt-front entered hurriedly.
“What is it, Nolan?”
“There’s been an accident to Monsieur Alresca, Sir Cyril, and they want a doctor.”
It was the chance of a lifetime! I ought to have sprung up and proudly announced, “I’m a doctor.” But did I? No! I was so timid, I was so unaccustomed to being a doctor, that I dared not for the life of me utter a word. It was as if I was almost ashamed of being a doctor. I wonder if my state of mind will be understood.
“Carl’s a doctor,” said Sullivan.
How I blushed!
“Are you?” said Sir Cyril, suddenly emerging from his condition of suspended activity. “I never guessed it. Come along with us, will you?”
“With pleasure,” I answered as briskly as I could.