‘But isn’t that rather mean?’
‘Certainly not,’ retorted Wopples, haughtily; ’the opulent Melbourne managers refuse to let me have their new pieces, so I have to take the law into my own hands. I’ll get all the latest London successes in the same way. We play “Ours” under the title of “The Hero’s Return, or the Soldier’s Bride”: we have done the “Silver King” as “The Living Dead”, which was an immense success.’
Villiers thought that under such a contradictory title it would rather pique the curiosity of the public.
‘To-morrow night,’ pursued Mr Wopples, ’we act “Called Back”, but it is billed as “The Blind Detective”; thus,’ said the actor, with virtuous scorn, ’do we evade the grasping avarice of the Melbourne managers, who would make us pay fees for them.’
‘By the way,’ said Mr Wopples, breaking off suddenly in a light and airy manner, ’as I came down here I saw a lovely girl—a veritable fairy, sir—with golden hair, and a bright smile that haunts me still. I exchanged a few remarks with her regarding the beauty of the day, and thus allegorically referred to the beauty of herself—a charming flight of fancy, I think, sir.’
‘It must have been Kitty Marchurst,’ said Villiers, not attending to the latter portion of Mr Wopples’ remarks.
‘Ah, indeed,’ said Mr Wopples, lightly, ’how beautiful is the name of Kitty; it suggests poetry immediately—for instance:
Kitty, ah Kitty, You are so pretty, Charming and witty, That ’twere a pity I sung not this ditty In praise of my Kitty.
On the spur of the moment, sir, I assure you; does it not remind you of Herrick?’
Mr Villiers bluntly said it did not.
‘Ah! perhaps it’s more like Shakespeare?’ observed the actor, quite unabashed. ‘You think so?’
Mr Villiers was doubtful, and displayed such anxiety to get away that Mr Wopples held out his hand to say goodbye.
‘You’ll excuse me, I know,’ said Mr Wopples, in an apologetic tone, ’but the show commences at eight, and it is now half-past six. I trust I shall see you tonight.’
‘It’s very kind of you to give me this ticket,’ said Villiers, in whom the gentlemanly instinct still survived.
‘Not at all; not at all,’ retorted Mr Wopples, with a wink. ’Business, my boy, business. Always have a good house first night, so must go into the highways and byways for an audience. Ha! Biblical illustration, you see;’ and with a gracious wave of his hand he skipped lightly down the path and disappeared from sight.
It was now getting dark; so Mr Villiers went on his own way, and having selected a mining shaft where he could hide the nugget, he climbed up to the top of the hill, and lying down under the shadow of a rock where he could get a good view of Marchurst’s house, he waited patiently till such time as his wife would start for home.
‘I’ll pay you out for all you’ve done,’ he muttered to himself, as he lay curled up in the black shadow like a noisome reptile. ’Tit for tat, my lady!-tit for tat!’