Suddenly another thought pulled him up, sending a flush to his sallow temples. He remembered a word he had tossed to the lawyer some six weeks earlier, at the Century Club. “Yes—my play’s as good as taken. I shall be calling on you soon to go over the contract. Those theatrical chaps are so slippery—I won’t trust anybody but you to tie the knot for me!” That, of course, was what Ascham would think he was wanted for. Granice, at the idea, broke into an audible laugh—a queer stage-laugh, like the cackle of a baffled villain in a melodrama. The absurdity, the unnaturalness of the sound abashed him, and he compressed his lips angrily. Would he take to soliloquy next?
He lowered his arms and pulled open the upper drawer of the writing-table. In the right-hand corner lay a thick manuscript, bound in paper folders, and tied with a string beneath which a letter had been slipped. Next to the manuscript was a small revolver. Granice stared a moment at these oddly associated objects; then he took the letter from under the string and slowly began to open it. He had known he should do so from the moment his hand touched the drawer. Whenever his eye fell on that letter some relentless force compelled him to re-read it.
It was dated about four weeks back, under the letter-head of “The Diversity Theatre.” “MY DEAR MR. GRANICE:
“I have given the matter my best consideration for the last month, and it’s no use—the play won’t do. I have talked it over with Miss Melrose—and you know there isn’t a gamer artist on our stage—and I regret to tell you she feels just as I do about it. It isn’t the poetry that scares her—or me either. We both want to do all we can to help along the poetic drama—we believe the public’s ready for it, and we’re willing to take a big financial risk in order to be the first to give them what they want. But we don’t believe they could be made to want this. The fact is, there isn’t enough drama in your play to the allowance of poetry—the thing drags all through. You’ve got a big idea, but it’s not out of swaddling clothes.
“If this was your first play I’d say: Try again. But it has been just the same with all the others you’ve shown me. And you remember the result of ‘The Lee Shore,’ where you carried all the expenses of production yourself, and we couldn’t fill the theatre for a week. Yet ‘The Lee Shore’ was a modern problem play—much easier to swing than blank verse. It isn’t as if you hadn’t tried all kinds—”
Granice folded the letter and put it carefully back into the envelope. Why on earth was he re-reading it, when he knew every phrase in it by heart, when for a month past he had seen it, night after night, stand out in letters of flame against the darkness of his sleepless lids?
“It has been just the same with all the others you’ve shown me.”
That was the way they dismissed ten years of passionate unremitting work!