The outgoers looked at Arnold curiously as he made his way among them in a direction which was not that of the exit. He went with hurried purpose in the face of them all toward the region, badly lighted and imperfectly closed, which led to the rear of the stage. He opened doors into dark closets, and one which gave upon the road, retraced his unfamiliar steps and asked a question, to which— it was so unusual from one in his habit—he received a hesitating but correct reply. A moment later he passed Mr. Llewellyn Stanhope, who stood in his path with a hostile stare, and got out of it with a deferential bow, and knocked at a door upon which was pasted the name, in large red letters cut from a poster, of Miss Hilda Howe. It was a little ajar, so he entered, when she cried “Come in!” with the less hesitation. Hilda sat on the single chair the place contained, in the dress and make-up of the last scene. A servant, who looked up incuriously, was unlacing her shoes. Various garments hung about on nails driven into the unpainted walls, others overflowed from a packing-box in one corner. A common teakwood dressing-table held make up saucers and powder-puffs and some remnants of cold fowl which had not been partaken of, apparently, with the assistance of a knife and fork. A candle stood in an empty soda-water bottle on each side of the looking-glass, and there was no other light. On the floor a pair of stays, old and soiled, sprawled with unconcern. The place looked sordid and miserable, and Hilda sitting in the middle of it, still in the yellow wig and painted face of Mrs. Halliday, all wrong at that range, gave it a note of false artifice, violent and grievous. Stephen stood in the doorway grasping the handle, saying nothing, and an instant passed before she knew with certainty, in the wretched light, that it was he. Then she sprang up and made a step toward him as if toward victory and reward, but checked herself in time. “Is it possible!” she exclaimed. “I did not know you were in the theatre.”
“Yes,” he said, with moderation, “I have seen this—this damnable play.”
“It has caused me,” he went on, “to regret the substance of my letter this morning. I failed to realise that this was the kind of work you devote your life to. I now see that you could not escape its malign influence—that no women could. I now think that the alternative that has been revealed to you, of remaining in Calcutta, is a chance of escape offered you by God Himself. Take it. I withdraw my foolish, ignorant opposition.”
“Oh,” she cried, “do you really think—”
“Take it,” he repeated, and closed the door.
Hilda sat still for some time after the servant had finished unlacing her shoes. A little tender smile played oddly about her carmined lips. “Dear heart,” she said aloud, “I was going to.”