“You! But it’s monstrous. Is there nobody else?”
“I wouldn’t let anybody else,” Hilda laughed. “Don’t forget, please, that we are only strolling players, odds and ends of people, mostly from the Antipodes. Don’t confound our manners and customs with anything you’ve heard about the Lyceum. Good-bye. It has been charming. Goodbye, Mr. Arnold.”
But Alicia held her hand. “The papers say it is to be The Offence of Galilee, after all,” she said.
“Yes. Hamilton Bradley is all right again, and we’ve found a pretty fair local Judas—amateur. We couldn’t possibly put it on without Mr. Bradley. He takes the part of”—Hilda glanced at the hem of the listening priestly robe—“of the chief character, you know.”
“That was the great Nonconformist success at home last year, wasn’t it?” Arnold asked; “Leslie Patullo’s play? I knew him at Oxford. I can’t imagine—he’s a queer chap to be writing things like that.”
“It works out better than you—than one might suppose,” Hilda returned, moving toward the door. “Some of the situations are really almost novel, in spite of all your centuries of preaching.” She sent a disarming smile with that, looking over her shoulder in one of her most effective hesitations, one hand holding back the portiere.
“And next week?” cried Alicia.
“Oh, next week we do L’Amourette de Giselle—Frank Golding’s re-vamp. Good-bye! Good-bye!”
“I wonder very much what Patullo has done with The Offence of Galilee,” Arnold said, after she had gone.
“Come and see, Stephen. We have a box, and there will be heaps of room. It’s—suitable, isn’t it?”
“Then dine with us—the Yardleys are coming—and go on. Why not?”
“Thanks very much indeed. It is sure to reward one. I think I shall be able to give myself that pleasure.”
Arnold made a longer visit than usual; his cup of coffee, indeed, became a cup of tea; and his talk, while he stayed, seemed to suffer less from the limitations of his Order than it usually did. He was fluent and direct; he allowed it to appear that he read more than his prayers; that his glance at the world had still a speculation in it; and when he went away, he left Alicia with flushed cheeks and brightened eyes, murmuring a vague inward corollary upon her day—
“It pays! It pays!”
Mr. Llewellyn Stanhope’s Company was not the only combination that offered itself to the entertainment of Calcutta that December Saturday night. The ever-popular Jimmy Finnigan and his “Surprise Party”—he sailed up the Bay as regularly as the Viceroy descended from the hills—had been advertising “Side-splitting begins at 9.30. Prices as usual” with reference to this particular evening for a fortnight. In the Athenian Theatre—it had a tin roof and nobody could hear the orchestra