The party in the box had become dead silent. They looked down. The conductor was at his stand. The music began. They all remained silent and motionless during the next scene, each thinking his own thoughts. Jim was uncomfortable. He wanted to make good. He sat with his elbows on his knees, grinning slightly, looking down. At the next interval he stood up suddenly.
“It IS the chap—What?” he exclaimed excitedly, looking round at his friends.
“Who?” said Tanny.
“It IS he?” said Josephine quietly, meeting Jim’s eye.
“Sure!” he barked.
He was leaning forward over the ledge, rattling a programme in his hand, as if trying to attract attention. Then he made signals.
“There you are!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “That’s the chap.”
“Who? Who?” they cried.
But neither Jim nor Josephine would vouchsafe an answer.
The next was the long interval. Jim and Josephine gazed down at the orchestra. The musicians were laying aside their instruments and rising. The ugly fire-curtain began slowly to descend. Jim suddenly bolted out.
“Is it that man Aaron Sisson?” asked Robert.
“Where? Where?” cried Julia. “It can’t be.”
But Josephine’s face was closed and silent. She did not answer.
The whole party moved out on to the crimson-carpeted gangway. Groups of people stood about chatting, men and women were passing along, to pay visits or to find drinks. Josephine’s party stared around, talking desultorily. And at length they perceived Jim stalking along, leading Aaron Sisson by the arm. Jim was grinning, the flautist looked unwilling. He had a comely appearance, in his white shirt—a certain comely blondness and repose. And as much a gentleman as anybody.
“Well!” cried Josephine to him. “How do you come here?”
“I play the flute,” he answered, as he shook hands.
The little crowd stood in the gangway and talked.
“How wonderful of you to be here!” cried Julia.
“Do you think so?” he answered.
“Yes, I do.—It seems so FAR from Shottle House and Christmas Eve.—Oh, wasn’t it exciting!” cried Julia.
Aaron looked at her, but did not answer.
“We’ve heard all about you,” said Tanny playfully.
“Oh, yes,” he replied.
“Come!” said Josephine, rather irritated. “We crowd up the gangway.” And she led the way inside the box.
Aaron stood and looked down at the dishevelled theatre.
“You get all the view,” he said.
“We do, don’t we!” cried Julia.
“More than’s good for us,” said Lilly.
“Tell us what you are doing. You’ve got a permanent job?” asked Josephine.
“Ah! It’s more interesting for you than at Beldover.”
She had taken her seat. He looked down at her dusky young face. Her voice was always clear and measured.