Everybody had agreed that this climax was the best the young dramatist had yet constructed. A critic who had been invited to a reading had declared that it lacked little of being great. And at this late hour the star wanted it changed in order to bring her alone in the lime-light! It was preposterous. As Warrington was on the first wave of popularity, the business manager and the stage manager both agreed to leave the matter wholly in the dramatist’s hands. He resolutely declined to make a single alteration in the scene. There was a fine storm. The star declared that if the change was not made at once she would leave the company. In making this declaration she knew her strength. Her husband was rich; a contract was nothing to her. There was not another actress of her ability to be found; the season was too late. There was not another woman available, nor would any other manager lend one. As the opening performance was but two weeks hence, you will realize why Warrington’s mood this night was anything but amiable.
He scowled at his cigar. There was always something, some sacrifice to make, and seldom for art’s sake. It is all very well to witness a play from the other side of the footlights; everything appears to work out so smoothly, easily and without effort. To this phenomenon is due the amateur dramatist—because it looks simple. A play is not written; it is built, like a house. In most cases the dramatist is simply the architect. The novelist has comparatively an easy road to travel. The dramatist is beset from all sides, now the business manager—that is to say, the box-office—now the stage manager, now the star, now the leading man or woman. Jealousy’s green eyes peer from behind every scene. The dramatist’s ideal, when finally presented to the public, resembles those mutilated marbles that decorate the museums of Rome and Naples. Only there is this difference: the public can easily imagine what the sculptor was about, but seldom the dramatist.
Warrington was a young man, tolerably good-looking, noticeably well set up. When they have good features, a cleft chin and a generous nose, clean-shaven men are good to look at. He had fine eyes, in the corners of which always lurked mirth and mischief; for he possessed above all things an inexhaustible fund of dry humor. His lines seldom provoked rough laughter; rather, silent chuckles.
Warrington’s scowl abated none. In business, women were generally nuisances; they were always taking impossible stands. He would find some way out; he was determined not to submit to the imperious fancies of an actress, however famous she might be.
“Sir, will you aid a lady in distress?” The voice was tremulous, but as rich in tone as the diapason of an organ.
Warrington looked up from his cigar to behold a handsome young woman standing at the side of his table. Her round, smooth cheeks were flushed, and on the lower lids of her splendid dark eyes tears of shame trembled and threatened to fall. Behind her stood a waiter, of impassive countenance, who was adding up the figures on a check, his movement full of suggestion.