E. Arnold Bennett
Part 6 out of 6
that the play was favourably received by an apparently enthusiastic
"Nevertheless!" ... "Apparently!"
Edward Henry turned the page to the theatrical advertisements.
"REGENT THEATRE. (Twenty yards from Piccadilly Circus.) 'The
Orient Pearl,' by Carlo Trent. Miss ROSE EUCLID. Every evening
at 8.30. Matinees every Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30.
Box-office open 10 to 10. Sole Proprietor--E.H. Machin."
Unreal! Fantastic! Was this he, Edward Henry? Could it be his mother's
Still--"Matinees every Wednesday and Saturday." "_Every_ Wednesday and
Saturday." That word implied and necessitated a long run--anyhow a run
extending over months. That word comforted him. Though he knew as well
as you do that Mr. Marrier had composed the advertisement, and that he
himself was paying for it, it comforted him. He was just like a child.
"I say, Cunningham's made a hit!" Mr. Marrier almost shouted at him as
he entered the managerial room at the Regent.
"Cunningham? Who's Cunningham?"
Then he remembered. She was the girl who played the Messenger. She had
only three words to say, and to say them over and over again; and she
had made a hit!
"Seen the notices?" asked Marrier.
"Yes. What of them?"
"Oh! Well!" Marrier drawled. "What would you expect?"
"That's just what _I_ said!" observed Edward Henry.
"You did, did you?" Mr. Marrier exclaimed, as if extremely interested
by this corroboration of his views.
Carlo Trent strolled in; he remarked that he happened to be just
passing. But discussion of the situation was not carried very far.
That evening the house was nearly full, except the pit and the
gallery, which were nearly empty. Applause was perfunctory.
"How much?" Edward Henry inquired of the box-office manager when
figures were added together.
"Thirty-one pounds, two shillings."
"Of course," said Mr. Marrier, "in the height of the London season,
with so many counter-attractions--! Besides, they've got to get used
to the idea of it."
Edward Henry did not turn pale. Still, he was aware that it cost him
a trifle over sixty pounds "to ring the curtain up" at every
performance--and this sum took no account of expenses of production
nor of author's fees. The sum would have been higher, but he was
calculating as rent of the theatre only the ground-rent plus six per
cent on the total price of the building.
What disgusted him was the duplicity of the first-night audience, and
he said to himself violently, "I was right all the time, and I knew I
was right! Idiots! Chumps! Of course I was right!"
On the third night the house held twenty-seven pounds and sixpence.
"Naturally," said Mr. Marrier, "in this hot weathah! I never knew such
a hot June! It's the open-air places that are doing us in the eye. In
fact I heard to-day that the White City is packed. They simply can't
bank their money quick enough."
It was on that day that Edward Henry paid salaries. It appeared to him
that he was providing half London with a livelihood: acting-managers,
stage-managers, assistant ditto, property men, stage-hands,
electricians, prompters, call-boys, box-office staff, general
staff, dressers, commissionaires, programme-girls, cleaners, actors,
actresses, understudies, to say nothing of Rose Euclid at a purely
nominal salary of a hundred pounds a week. The tenants of the bars
were grumbling, but happily he was getting money from them.
The following day was Saturday. It rained--a succession of
thunderstorms. The morning and the evening performances produced
together sixty-eight pounds.
"Well," said Mr. Marrier, "in this kind of weathah you can't expect
people to come out, can you? Besides, this cursed week-ending habit--"
Which conclusions did not materially modify the harsh fact that Edward
Henry was losing over thirty pounds a day--or at the rate of over ten
thousand pounds a year.
He spent Sunday between his hotel and his club, chiefly in reiterating
to himself that Monday began a new week and that something would have
to occur on Monday.
Something did occur.
Carlo Trent lounged into the office early. The man was for ever being
drawn to the theatre as by an invisible but powerful elastic cord. The
papers had a worse attack than ever of Isabel Joy, for she had been
convicted of transgression in a Chicago court of law, but a tremendous
lawyer from St. Louis had loomed over Chicago and, having examined the
documents in the case, was hopeful of getting the conviction quashed.
He had discovered that in one and the same document "Isabel" had been
spelt "Isobel" and--worse--Illinois had been deprived by a careless
clerk of one of its "l's." He was sure that by proving these grave
irregularities in American justice he could win an appeal.
Edward Henry glanced up suddenly from the newspaper. He had been
"I say, Trent," he remarked, without any warning or preparation,
"you're not looking at all well. I want a change myself. I've a good
mind to take you for a sea-voyage."
"Oh!" grumbled Trent. "I can't afford sea-voyages."
"_I_ can!" said Edward Henry. "And I shouldn't dream of letting it
cost you a penny. I'm not a philanthropist. But I know as well
as anybody that it will pay us theatrical managers to keep you in
"You're not going to take the play off?" Trent demanded suspiciously.
"Certainly not!" said Edward Henry.
"What sort of a sea-voyage?"
"Well--what price the Atlantic? Been to New York?... Neither have I!
Let's go. Just for the trip. It'll do us good."
"You don't mean it?" murmured the greatest dramatic poet, who had
never voyaged further than the Isle of Wight. His eyeglass swung to
Edward Henry feigned to resent this remark.
"Of course I mean it. Do you take me for a blooming gas-bag?" He rose.
"Marrier!" Then more loudly: "Marrier!" Mr. Marrier entered. "Do you
know anything about the sailings to New York?"
"Rather!" said Mr. Marrier, beaming. After all, he was a most precious
"We may be able to arrange for a production in New York," said Edward
Henry to Carlo, mysteriously.
Mr. Marrier gazed at one and then at the other, puzzled.
Throughout the voyage of the _Lithuania_ from Liverpool to New York,
Edward Henry, in common with some two thousand other people on board,
had the sensation of being hurried. He who in a cab rides late to
an important appointment, arrives with muscles fatigued by mentally
aiding the horse to move the vehicle along. Thus were Edward Henry's
muscles fatigued, and the muscles of many others; but just as much
more so as the _Lithuania_ was bigger than a cab.
For the _Lithuania_, having been seriously delayed in Liverpool by men
who were most ridiculously striking for the fantastic remuneration of
one pound a week, was engaged on the business of making new records.
And every passenger was personally determined that she should therein
succeed. And, despite very bad June weather towards the end, she did
sail past the Battery on a grand Monday morning with a new record to
So far Edward Henry's plan was not miscarrying. But he had a very
great deal to do, and very little time in which to do it, and whereas
the muscles of the other passengers were relaxed as the ship drew to
her berth, Edward Henry's muscles were only more tensely tightened.
He had expected to see Mr. Seven Sachs on the quay, for in response to
his telegram from Queenstown the illustrious actor-author had sent him
an agreeable wireless message in full Atlantic; the which had inspired
Edward Henry to obtain news by Marconi both from London and New York,
at much expense; from the east he had had daily information of the
dwindling receipts at the Regent Theatre, and from the west daily
information concerning Isabel Joy. He had not, however, expected Mr.
Seven Sachs to walk into the _Lithuania's_ music-saloon an hour before
the ship touched the quay. Nevertheless, this was what Mr. Seven
Sachs did, by the exercise of those mysterious powers wielded by the
influential in democratic communities.
"And what are you doing here?" Mr. Seven Sachs greeted Edward Henry
Edward Henry lowered his voice.
"I'm throwing good money after bad," said he.
The friendly grip of Mr. Seven Sachs's hand did him good, reassured
him, and gave him courage. He was utterly tired of the voyage, and
also of the poetical society of Carlo Trent, whose passage had cost
him thirty pounds, considerable boredom, and some sick-nursing during
the final days and nights. A dramatic poet with an appetite was a full
dose for Edward Henry; but a dramatic poet who lay on his back and
moaned for naught but soda-water and dry land amounted to more than
Edward Henry could conveniently swallow.
He directed Mr. Sachs's attention to the anguished and debile organism
which had once been Carlo Trent, and Mr. Sachs was so sympathetic
that Carlo Trent began to adore him, and Edward Henry to be somewhat
disturbed in his previous estimate of Mr. Sachs's common sense. But at
a favourable moment Mr. Sachs breathed humorously into Edward Henry's
ear the question:
"What have you brought _him_ out for?"
"I've brought him out to lose him."
As they pushed through the bustle of the enormous ship, and descended
from the dizzy eminence of her boat-deck by lifts and ladders down
to the level of the windy, sun-steeped rock of New York, Edward Henry
"Now, I want you to understand, Mr. Sachs, that I haven't a minute to
spare. I've just looked in for lunch."
"Going on to Chicago?"
"She isn't at Chicago, is she?" demanded Edward Henry, aghast. "I
thought she'd reached New York!"
"Oh! Isabel's in New York, sure enough. She's right here. They say
she'll have to catch the _Lithuania_ if she's going to get away with
"Get away with what?"
The precious word reminded Edward Henry of an evening at Wilkins's and
raised his spirits even higher. It was a word he loved.
"And I've got to catch the _Lithuania_, too!" said he. "But Trent
doesn't know!... And let me tell you she's going to do the quickest
turn-round that any ship ever did. The purser assured me she'll leave
at noon to-morrow unless the world comes to an end in the meantime.
Now what about a hotel?"
"You'll stay with me--naturally."
"But--" Edward Henry protested.
"Oh, yes, you will. I shall be delighted."
"But I must look after Trent."
"He'll stay with me too--naturally. I live at the Stuyvesant Hotel,
you know, on Fifth. I've a pretty private suite there. I shall arrange
a little supper for to-night. My automobile is here."
"Is it possible that I once saved your life and have forgotten all
about it?" Edward Henry exclaimed. "Or do you treat everybody like
"We like to look after our friends," said Mr. Sachs, simply.
In the terrific confusion of the quay, where groups of passengers
were mounted like watch-dogs over hillocks of baggage, Mr. Sachs stood
continually between the travellers and the administrative rigour and
official incredulity of a proud republic. And in the minimum of time
the fine trunk of Edward Henry and the modest packages of the poet
were on the roof of Mr. Sachs's vast car. The three men were inside,
and the car was leaping, somewhat in the manner of a motor-boat at
full speed, over the cobbles of a wide mediaeval street.
"Quick!" thought Edward Henry. "I haven't a minute to lose!"
His prayer reached the chauffeur. Conversation was difficult; Carlo
Trent groaned. Presently they rolled less perilously upon asphalt,
though the equipage still lurched. Edward Henry was for ever bending
his head towards the window aperture in order to glimpse the roofs of
the buildings, and never seeing the roofs.
"Now we're on Fifth," said Mr. Sachs, after a fearful lurch, with
Vistas of flags, high cornices, crowded pavements, marble, jewellery
behind glass--the whole seen through a roaring phantasmagoria of
competing and menacing vehicles!
And Edward Henry thought:
"This is my sort of place!"
The jolting recommenced. Carlo Trent rebounded limply, groaning
between cushions and upholstery. Edward Henry tried to pretend that he
was not frightened. Then there was a shock as of the concussion of
two equally unyielding natures. A pane of glass in Mr. Seven Sachs's
limousine flew to fragments and the car stopped.
"I expect that's a spring gone!" observed Mr. Sachs with tranquillity.
"Will happen, you know, sometimes!"
Everybody got out. Mr. Sachs's presumption was correct. One of the
back wheels had failed to leap over a hole in Fifth Avenue some
eighteen inches deep and two feet long.
"What is that hole?" asked Edward Henry.
"Well," said Mr. Sachs, "it's just a hole. We'd better transfer to a
taxi." He gave calm orders to his chauffeur.
Four empty taxis passed down the sunny magnificence of Fifth Avenue
and ignored Mr. Sachs's urgent waving. The fifth stopped. The baggage
was strapped and tied to it: which process occupied much time. Edward
Henry, fuming against delay, gazed around. A nonchalant policeman on
a superb horse occupied the middle of the road. Tram-cars passed
constantly across the street in front of his caracoling horse,
dividing a route for themselves in the wild ocean of traffic as Moses
cut into the Red Sea. At intervals a knot of persons, intimidated and
yet daring, would essay the voyage from one pavement to the opposite
pavement; there was no half-way refuge for these adventurers, as in
decrepit London; some apparently arrived; others seemed to disappear
for ever in the feverish welter of confused motion and were never
heard of again. The policeman, easily accommodating himself to the
caracolings of his mount, gazed absently at Edward Henry, and Edward
Henry gazed first at the policeman, and then at the high decorated
grandeur of the buildings, and then at the Assyrian taxi into which
Mr. Sachs was now ingeniously inserting Carlo Trent. He thought:
"No mistake--this street is alive. But what cemeteries they must
He followed Carlo, with minute precautions, into the interior of
the taxi. And then came the supremely delicate operation--that of
introducing a third person into the same vehicle. It was accomplished;
three chins and six knees fraternized in close intimacy; but the door
would not shut. Wheezing, snorting, shaking, complaining, the taxi
drew slowly away from Mr. Sachs's luxurious automobile and left it
forlorn to its chauffeur. Mr. Sachs imperturbably smiled. ("I have two
other automobiles," said Mr. Sachs.) In some sixty seconds the taxi
stopped in front of the tremendous glass awning of the Stuyvesant. The
baggage was unstrapped; the passengers were extracted one by one from
the cell, and Edward Henry saw Mr. Sachs give two separate dollar
bills to the driver.
"By Jove!" he murmured.
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Sachs, politely.
"Nothing!" said Edward Henry.
They walked into the hotel, and passed through a long succession of
corridors and vast public rooms surging with well-dressed men and
"What's all this crowd for?" asked Edward Henry.
"What crowd?" asked Mr. Sachs, surprised.
Edward Henry saw that he had blundered.
"I prefer the upper floors," remarked Mr. Sachs as they were being
flung upwards in a gilded elevator, and passing rapidly all numbers
from 1 to 14.
The elevator made an end of Carlo Trent's manhood. He collapsed. Mr.
Sachs regarded him, and then said:
"I think I'll get an extra room for Mr. Trent. He ought to go to bed."
Edward Henry enthusiastically concurred.
"And stay there!" said Edward Henry.
Pale Carlo Trent permitted himself to be put to bed. But, therein, he
proved fractious. He was anxious about his linen. Mr. Sachs telephoned
from the bedside, and a laundry-maid came. He was anxious about his
best lounge-suit. Mr. Sachs telephoned, and a valet came. Then he
wanted a siphon of soda-water, and Mr. Sachs telephoned, and a waiter
came. Then it was a newspaper he required. Mr. Sachs telephoned and
a page came. All these functionaries, together with two reporters,
peopled Mr. Trent's bedroom more or less simultaneously. It was Edward
Henry's bright notion to add to them a doctor--a doctor whom Mr. Sachs
knew, a doctor who would perceive at once that bed was the only proper
place for Carlo Trent.
"Now," said Edward Henry, when he and Mr. Sachs were participating in
a private lunch amid the splendours and the grim, silent service of
the latter's suite at the Stuyvesant, "I have fully grasped the fact
that I am in New York. It is one o'clock and after, and as soon as
ever this meal is over I have just _got_ to find Isabel Joy. You must
understand that on this trip New York for me is merely a town where
Isabel Joy happens to be."
"Well," replied Mr. Sachs, "I reckon I can put you on to that. _She's
going to be photographed at two o'clock by Rentoul Smiles_. I happen
to know because Rent's a particular friend of mine."
"A photographer, you say?"
Mr. Sachs controlled himself. "Do you mean to say you've not heard
of Rentoul Smiles?... Well, he's called 'Man's photographer.' He has
never photographed a woman! Won't! At least, wouldn't! But he's going
to photograph Isabel. So you may guess that he considers Isabel _some_
"And how will that help me?" inquired Edward Henry.
"Why! I'll take you up to Rent's," Mr. Sachs comforted him. "It's
close by--corner of Thirty-ninth and Five."
"Tell me," Edward Henry demanded, with immense relief, "she hasn't got
herself arrested yet, has she?"
"No. And she won't!"
"The police have been put wise," said Mr. Sachs.
"Yes. _Put wise_!"
"I see," said Edward Henry.
But he did not see. He only half saw.
"As a matter of fact," said Mr. Sachs, "Isabel can't get away with the
goods unless she fixes the police to lock her up for a few hours. And
she'll not succeed in that. Her hundred days are up in London next
Sunday. So there'll be no time for her to be arrested and bailed out
either at Liverpool or Fishguard. And that's her only chance. I've
seen Isabel, and if you ask me my opinion she's down and out."
"Never mind!" said Edward Henry with glee.
"I guess what you're after her for," said Mr. Seven Sachs, with an air
of deep knowledge.
"The deuce you do!"
"Yes, sir! And let me tell you that dozens of 'em have been after her
already. But she wouldn't! Nothing would tempt her."
"Never mind!" Edward Henry smiled.
When Edward Henry stood by the side of Mr. Sachs in a doorway half
shielded by a _portiere_, and gazed unseen into the great studio of
Mr. Rentoul Smiles, he comprehended that he was indeed under powerful
protection in New York. At the entrance on Fifth Avenue he and Sachs
had passed through a small crowd of assorted men, chiefly young, whom
Sachs had greeted in the mass with the smiling words, "Well, boys!"
Other men were within. Still another went up with them in the
elevator, but no further. They were reporters of the entire world's
press, to each of whom Isabel Joy had been specially "assigned." They
were waiting; they would wait.
Mr. Rentoul Smiles having been warned by telephone of the visit of his
beloved friend, Seven Sachs, Mr. Sachs and his English _protege_ had
been received at Smiles's outer door by a clerk who knew exactly what
to do with them, and did it.
"Is she here?" Mr. Sachs had murmured.
"Yep," the clerk had negligently replied.
And now Edward Henry beheld the objective of his pilgrimage, her whose
personality, portrait and adventures had been filling the newspapers
of two hemispheres for three weeks past. She was not realistically
like her portraits. She was a little, thin, pale, obviously nervous
woman, of any age from thirty-five to fifty, with fair untidy hair,
and pale grey-blue eyes that showed the dreamer, the idealist and
the harsh fanatic. She looked as though a moderate breeze would have
overthrown her, but she also looked, to the enlightened observer, as
though she would recoil before no cruelty and no suffering in pursuit
of her vision. The blind dreaming force behind her apparent frailty
would strike terror into the heart of any man intelligent enough to
understand it. Edward Henry had an inward shudder. "Great Scott!" he
reflected. "I shouldn't like to be ill and have Isabel for a nurse!"
And his mind at once flew to Nellie, and then to Elsie April. "And
so she's going to marry Wrissell!" he reflected, and could scarcely
Then he violently wrenched his mind back to the immediate
objective. He wondered why Isabel Joy should wear a bowler hat and a
mustard-coloured jacket that resembled a sporting man's overcoat; and
why these garments suited her. With a whip in her hand she could have
sat for a jockey. And yet she was a woman, and very feminine, and
probably old enough to be Elsie April's mother! A disconcerting world,
The "man's photographer," as he was described in copper on Fifth
Avenue and in gold on his own doors, was a big, loosely-articulated
male, who loured over the trifle Isabel like a cloud over a sheep in a
great field. Edward Henry could only see his broad bending back as he
posed in athletic attitudes behind the camera.
Suddenly Rentoul Smiles dashed to a switch, and Isabel's wistful face
was transformed into that of a drowned corpse, into a dreadful harmony
of greens and purples.
"Now," said Rentoul Smiles, in a deep voice that was like a rich
unguent, "we'll try again. We'll just play around that spot. Look into
my eyes. Not _at_ my eyes, my dear woman, _into_ them! Just a little
more challenge--a little more! That's it. Don't wink, for the land's
He seized a bulb at the end of a tube and slowly squeezed--squeezed
it tragically and remorselessly, twisting himself as if suffering in
sympathy with the bulb, and then in a wide, sweeping gesture he flung
the bulb on to the top of the camera and ejaculated:
Edward Henry thought:
"I would give ten pounds to see Rentoul Smiles photograph Sir John
Pilgrim." But the next instant the forgotten sensation of hurry was
upon him once more. Quick, quick, Rentoul Smiles! Edward Henry's
scorching desire was to get done and leave New York.
"Now, Miss Isabel," Mr. Smiles proceeded, exasperatingly deliberate,
"d'you know, I feel kind of guilty? I have got a little farm out in
Westchester County and I'm making a little English pathway up the
garden with a gate at the end. I woke up this morning and began to
think about the quaint English form of that gate, and just how I would
have it." He raised a finger. "But I ought to have been thinking
about you. I ought to have been saying to myself, 'To-day I have to
photograph Isabel Joy,' and trying to understand in meditation the
secrets of your personality. I'm sorry! Now, don't talk. Keep like
that. Move your head round. Go on! Go on! Move it. Don't be afraid.
This place belongs to you. It's yours. Whatever you do, we've got
people here who'll straighten up after you.... D'you know why I've
made money? I've made money so that I can take _you_ this afternoon,
and tell a two-hundred-dollar client to go to the deuce. That's
why I've made money. Put your back against the chair, like an
Englishwoman. That's it. No, don't _talk_, I tell you. Now look
joyful, hang it! Look joyful.... No, no! Joy isn't a contortion. It's
something right deep down. There, there!"
The lubricant voice rolled on while Rentoul Smiles manipulated the
camera. He clasped the bulb again and again threw it dramatically
"I'm through!" he said. "Don't expect anything very grand,
Miss Isabel. What I've been trying to do this afternoon is my
interpretation of you as I've studied your personality in your
speeches. If I believed wholly in your cause, or if I wholly
disbelieved in it, my work would not have been good. Any value that
it has will be due to the sympathetic impartiality of my spiritual
attitude. Although"--he menaced her with the licensed familiarity of a
philosopher--"although, lady, I must say that I felt you were working
against me all the time.... This way!"
(Edward Henry, recalling the comparative simplicity of the London
photographer at Wilkins's, thought: "How profoundly they understand
photography in America!")
Isabel Joy rose and glanced at the watch in her bracelet, then
followed the direction of the male hand and vanished.
Rentoul Smiles turned instantly to the other doorway.
"How do, Rent?" said Seven Sachs, coming forward.
"How do, Seven?" Mr. Rentoul Smiles winked.
"This is my good friend, Alderman Machin, the theatre-manager from
"Glad to meet you, sir."
"She's not gone, has she?" asked Sachs, hurriedly.
"No, my housekeeper wanted to talk to her. Come along."
And in the waiting-room, full of permanent examples of the results of
Mr. Rentoul Smiles's spiritual attitude towards his fellow-men, Edward
Henry was presented to Isabel Joy. The next instant the two men and
the housekeeper had unobtrusively retired, and he was alone with his
objective. In truth, Seven Sachs was a notable organizer.
She was sitting down in a cosy-corner, her feet on a footstool, and
she seemed a negligible physical quantity as he stood in front of her.
This was she who had worsted the entire judicial and police system of
Chicago, who spoke pentecostal tongues, who had circled the globe,
and held enthralled--so journalists computed--more than a quarter of
a million of the inhabitants of Marseilles, Athens, Port Said, Candy,
Calcutta, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Hawaii, San Francisco, Salt Lake
City, Denver, Chicago, and lastly, New York! This was she!
"I understand we're going home on the same ship!" he was saying.
She looked up at him, almost appealingly.
"You won't see anything of me, though," she said.
"Tell me," said she, not answering his question, "what do they say
of me, really, in England? I don't mean the newspapers. For instance,
well--the Azure Society. Do you know it?"
"Tell me," she repeated.
He related the episode of the telegram at the private first
performance of "The Orient Pearl."
She burst out in a torrent of irrelevant protest:
"The New York police have not treated me right. It would have cost
them nothing to arrest me and let me go. But they wouldn't. Every man
in the force--you hear me, every man--has had strict orders to leave
me unmolested. It seems they resent my dealings with the police in
Chicago, where I brought about the dismissal of four officers, so they
say. And so I'm to be boycotted in this manner! Is that argument, Mr.
Machin? Tell me. You're a man, but honestly, is it argument? Why, it's
just as mean and despicable as brute force."
"I agree with you," said Edward Henry, softly.
"Do they really think it will harm the militant cause? Do they
_really_ think so? No, it will only harm me. I made a mistake in
tactics. I trusted--fool!--to the chivalry of the United States. I
might have been arrested in a dozen cities, but I on purpose reserved
my last two arrests for Chicago and New York, for the sake of the
superior advertisement, you see! I never dreamt--! Now it's too late.
I am defeated! I shall just arrive in London on the hundredth day. I
shall have made speeches at all the meetings. But I shall be short of
one arrest. And the ten thousand pounds will be lost to the cause. The
militants here--such as they are--are as disgusted as I am. But they
scorn me. And are they not right? Are they not right? There should be
no quarter for the vanquished."
"Miss Joy," said Edward Henry, "I've come over from London specially
to see you. I want to make up the loss of that ten thousand pounds as
far as I can. I'll explain at once. I'm running a poetical play of
the highest merit, called 'The Orient Pearl,' at my new theatre in
Piccadilly Circus. If you will undertake a small part in it--a part
of three words only--I'll pay you a record salary, sixty-six pounds
thirteen and four-pence a word--two hundred pounds a week!"
Isabel Joy jumped up.
"Are you another of them, then?" she muttered. "I did think from the
look of you that you would know a gentlewoman when you met one!
Did you imagine for the thousandth part of one second that I would
"Stoop!" exclaimed Edward Henry. "My theatre is not a music-hall--"
"You want to make it into one!" she stopped him.
"Good day to you," she said. "I must face those journalists again, I
suppose. Well, even they--! I came alone in order to avoid them. But
it was hopeless. Besides, is it my duty to avoid them--after all?"
It was while passing through the door that she uttered the last words.
"Where is she?" Seven Sachs inquired, entering.
"Fled!" said Edward Henry.
"Everything all right?"
Mr. Rentoul Smiles came in.
"Mr. Smiles," said Edward Henry, "did you ever photograph Sir John
"I did, on his last visit to New York. Here you are!"
He pointed to his rendering of Sir John.
"What did you think of him?"
"A great actor, but a mountebank, sir."
During the remainder of the afternoon Edward Henry saw the whole of
New York, with bits of the Bronx and Yonkers in the distance, from
Seven Sachs's second automobile. In his third automobile he went to
the theatre and saw Seven Sachs act to a house of over two thousand
dollars. And lastly he attended a supper and made a speech. But he
insisted upon passing the remainder of the night on the _Lithuania_.
In the morning Isabel Joy came on board early and irrevocably
disappeared into her berth. And from that moment Edward Henry spent
the whole secret force of his individuality in fervently desiring the
_Lithuania_ to start. At two o'clock, two hours late, she did start.
Edward Henry's farewells to the admirable and hospitable Mr. Sachs
were somewhat absent-minded, for already his heart was in London. But
he had sufficient presence of mind to make certain final arrangements.
"Keep him at least a week," said Edward Henry to Seven Sachs, "and I
shall be your debtor for ever and ever."
He meant Carlo Trent, still bedridden.
As from the receding ship he gazed in abstraction at the gigantic
inconvenient word--common to three languages--which is the first
thing seen by the arriving, and the last thing seen by the departing,
visitor, he meditated:
"The dearness of living in the United States has certainly been
For his total expenses, beyond the confines of the quay, amounted
to one cent, disbursed to buy an evening paper which had contained a
brief interview with himself concerning the future of the intellectual
drama in England. He had told the pressman that "The Orient Pearl"
would run a hundred nights. Save for putting "The Orient Girl" instead
of "The Orient Pearl," and two hundred nights instead of one hundred
nights, this interview was tolerably accurate.
Two entire interminable days of the voyage elapsed before Edward Henry
was clever enough to encounter Isabel Joy--the most notorious and the
least visible person in the ship. He remembered that she had said:
"You won't see anything of me." It was easy to ascertain the number
of her state-room--a double-berth which she shared with nobody. But it
was less easy to find out whether she ever left it, and if so, at what
time of day. He could not mount guard in the long corridor; and
the stewardesses on the _Lithuania_ were mature, experienced and
uncommunicative women, their sole weakness being an occasional
tendency to imagine that they, and not the captain, were in supreme
charge of the steamer. However, Edward Henry did at last achieve his
desire. And on the third morning, at a little before six o'clock, he
met a muffled Isabel Joy on the D deck. The D deck was wet,
having just been swabbed; and a boat--chosen for that dawn's
boat-drill--ascended past them on its way from sea-level to the dizzy
boat-deck above; on the other side of an iron barrier, large crowds
of early-rising third-class passengers were standing and talking and
staring at the oblong slit of sea which was the only prospect offered
by the D deck; it was the first time that Edward Henry aboard had
set eyes on a steerage passenger; with all the conceit natural to the
occupant of a costly state-room, he had unconsciously assumed that he
and his like had sole possession of the ship.
Isabel responded to his greeting in a very natural way. The sharp
freshness of the summer morning at sea had its tonic effect on both of
them; and as for Edward Henry, he lunged and plunged at once into the
subject which alone preoccupied and exasperated him. She did not seem
to resent it.
"You'd have the satisfaction of helping on a thing that all your
friends say ought to be helped," he argued. "Nobody but you can do it.
Without you there'll be a frost. You would make a lot of money, which
you could spend in helping on things of your own. And surely it isn't
the publicity that you're afraid of!"
"No," she agreed. "I'm not afraid of publicity." Her pale grey-blue
eyes shone as they regarded the secret dream that for her hung always
unseen in the air. And she had a strange, wistful, fragile, feminine
mien in her mannish costume.
"But can't you see it's humiliating?" cried she, as if interested in
"It's not humiliating to do something that you can do well--I know you
can do it well--and get a large salary for it, and make the success of
a big enterprise by it. If you knew the play--"
"I do know the play," she said. "We'd lots of us read it in manuscript
Edward Henry was somewhat dashed by this information.
"Well, what do you think of it?"
"I think it's just splendid!" said she with enthusiasm.
"And will it be any worse a play because you act a small part in it?"
"No," she said shortly.
"I expect you think it's a play that people ought to go and see, don't
"I do, Mr. Socrates," she admitted.
He wondered what she could mean, but continued:
"What does it matter what it is that brings the audience into the
theatre, so long as they get there and have to listen?"
"It's no use discussing with you," she murmured. "You're too simple
for this world. I daresay you're honest enough--in fact, I think you
are--but there are so many things that you don't understand. You're
evidently incapable of understanding them."
"Thanks!" he replied, and paused to recover his self-possession. "But
let's get right down to business now. If you'll appear in this play
I'll not merely give you two hundred pounds a week, but I'll explain
to you how to get arrested and still arrive in triumph in London
before midnight on Sunday."
She recoiled a step and raised her eyes.
"How?" she demanded, as with a pistol.
"Ah!" he said. "That's just it. How? Will you promise?"
"I've thought of everything," she said musingly. "If the last day was
any day but Sunday I could get arrested on landing and get bailed
out and still be in London before night. But on Sunday--no--! So you
needn't talk like that."
"Still," he said, "it can be done."
"How?" she demanded again.
"Will you sign a contract with me if I tell you?... Think of what your
reception in London will be if you win after all! Just think!"
Those pale eyes gleamed; for Isabel Joy had tasted the noisy flattery
of sympathetic and of adverse crowds, and her being hungered for it
again; the desire of it had become part of her nature.
She walked away, her hands in the pockets of her ulster, and returned.
"What is your scheme?"
"Yes, if it works."
"I can trust you?"
The little woman of forty or so blazed up. "You can refrain from
insulting me by doubting my word," said she.
"Sorry! Sorry!" he apologized.
That same evening, in the colossal many-tabled dining-saloon of the
_Lithuania_ Edward Henry sat as usual to the left of the purser's
empty chair, at the purser's table, where were about a dozen other
men. A page brought him a marconigram. He opened it and read the
single word "Nineteen." It was the amount of the previous evening's
receipts at the Regent, in pounds. He was now losing something like
forty pounds a night--without counting the expenses of the present
excursion. The band began to play as the soup was served, and the ship
rolled politely, gently, but nevertheless unmistakably, accomplishing
one complete roll to about sixteen bars of the music. Then the entire
saloon was suddenly excited. Isabel Joy had entered. She was in the
gallery, near the orchestra, at a small table alone. Everybody became
aware of the fact in an instant, and scores of necks on the lower
floor were twisted to glimpse the celebrity on the upper. It was
remarked that she wore a magnificent evening-dress.
One subject of conversation now occupied all the tables. And it was
fully occupying the purser's table when the purser, generally a little
late, owing to the arduousness of his situation on the ship, entered
and sat down. Now the purser was a northerner, from Durham, a
delightful companion in his lighter moods, but dour, and with a high
conception of authority and of the intelligence of dogs. He would
relate that when he and his wife wanted to keep a secret from their
Yorkshire terrier they had to spell the crucial words in talk, for
the dog understood their every sentence. The purser's views about
the cause represented by Isabel Joy were absolutely clear. None
could mistake them, and the few clauses which he curtly added to the
discussion rather damped the discussion, and there was a pause.
"What should you do, Mr. Purser," said Edward Henry, "if she began to
play any of her tricks here?"
"If she began to play any of her tricks in this ship," answered the
purser, putting his hands on his stout knees, "we should know what to
"Of course you can arrest?"
"Most decidedly. I could tell you things--" The purser stopped, for
experience had taught him to be very discreet with passengers until he
had voyaged with them at least ten times. He concluded: "The captain
is the representative of English law on an English ship."
And then, in the silence created by the resting orchestra, all in the
saloon could hear a clear, piercing woman's voice, oratorical at first
and then quickening:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to talk to you to-night on the subject
of the injustice of men to women." Isabel Joy was on her feet and
leaning over the gallery rail. As she proceeded a startled hush
changed to uproar. And in the uproar could be caught now and then a
detached phrase, such as "For example, this man-governed ship."
Possibly it was just this phrase that roused the northerner in the
purser. He rose and looked towards the captain's table. But the
captain was not dining in the saloon that evening. Then he strode to
the centre of the saloon, beneath the renowned dome which has been so
often photographed for the illustrated papers, and sought to destroy
Isabel Joy with a single marine glance. Having failed, he called out
"Be quiet, madam. Resume your seat."
Isabel Joy stopped for a second, gave him a glance far more homicidal
than his own, and resumed her discourse.
"Steward," cried the purser, "take that woman out of the saloon."
The whole complement of first-class passengers was now standing
up, and many of them saw a plate descend from on high and graze
the purser's shoulder. With the celebrity of a sprinter the man
of authority from Durham disappeared from the ground-floor and was
immediately seen in the gallery. Accounts differed, afterwards, as to
the exact order of events; but it is certain that the leader of the
band lost his fiddle, which was broken by the lusty Isabel on the
purser's head. It was known later that Isabel, though not exactly in
irons, was under arrest in her state-room.
"She really ought to have thought of that for herself, if she's as
smart as she thinks she is," said Edward Henry, privately.
Though he was on the way to high success his anxieties and solicitudes
seemed to increase every hour. Immediately after Isabel Joy's arrest
he became more than ever a crony of the Marconi operator, and began
to dispatch vivid and urgent telegrams to London, without counting the
cost. On the next day he began to receive replies. (It was the most
interesting voyage that the Marconi operator had had since the sinking
of the _Catherine of Siena_, in which episode his promptness through
the air had certainly saved two hundred lives.) Edward Henry could
scarcely sleep, so intense was his longing for Sunday night--his
desire to be safe in London with Isabel Joy! Nay, he could not
properly eat! And then the doubt entered his mind whether after all he
would get to London on Sunday night. For the _Lithuania_ was lagging.
She might have been doing it on purpose to ruin him. Every day, in the
auction-pool on the ship's run, it was the holder of the lower field
that pocketed the money of his fellow-men. The _Lithuania_ actually
descended below five hundred and forty knots in the twenty-four hours.
And no authoritative explanation of this behaviour was ever given.
Upon leaving New York there had been talk of reaching Fishguard on
Saturday evening. But now the prophesied moment of arrival had been
put forward to noon on Sunday. Edward Henry's sole consolation was
that each day on the eastward trip consisted of only twenty-three
Further, he was by no means free from apprehension about the personal
liberty of Isabel Joy. Isabel had exceeded the programme arranged
between them. It had been no part of his scheme that she should cast
plates, nor even break violins on the shining crown of an august
purser. The purser was angry, and he had the captain, a milder man,
behind him. When Isabel Joy threatened a hunger-strike if she was not
immediately released, the purser signified that she might proceed with
her hunger-strike; he well knew that it would be impossible for her to
expire of inanition before the arrival at Fishguard.
The case was serious, because Isabel Joy had created a precedent.
Policemen and Cabinet Ministers had for many months been regarded
as the lawful prey of militants, but Isabel Joy was the first of the
militants to damage property and heads which belonged to persons
of neither of those classes. And the authorities of the ship were
assuredly inclined to hand Isabel Joy over to the police at Fishguard.
What saved the situation for Edward Henry was the factor which saves
most situations--namely, public opinion. When the saloon clearly
realized that Isabel Joy had done what she had done with the pure
and innocent aim of winning a wager, all that was Anglo-Saxon in the
saloon ranged itself on the side of true sport, and the matter was
lifted above mere politics. A subscription was inaugurated to buy
a new fiddle, and to pay for shattered crockery. And the amount
collected would have purchased, after settling for the crockery,
a couple of dozen new fiddles. The unneeded balance was given to
Seamen's Orphanages. The purser was approached. The captain was
implored. Influence was brought to bear. In short, the wheels that are
within wheels went duly round. And Miss Isabel Joy, after apologies
and promises, was unconditionally released.
But she had been arrested.
And then early on Sunday morning the ship met a storm that had a sad
influence on divine service; a storm of the eminence that scares even
the brass-buttoned occupants of liners' bridges. The rumour went round
the ship that the captain would not call at Fishguard in such weather.
Edward Henry was ready to yield up his spirit in this fearful crisis,
which endured two hours. The captain did call at Fishguard, in pouring
rain, and men came aboard selling Sunday newspapers that were full
of Isabel's arrest on the steamer, and of the nearing triumph of her
arrival in London before midnight. And newspaper correspondents also
came aboard, and all the way on the tender, and in the sheds, and
in the train, Edward Henry and Isabel Joy were subjected to the
journalistic experiments of hardy interviewers. The train arrived at
Paddington at 9 P.M. Isabel had won by three hours. The station was
a surging throng of open-mouthed curiosities. Edward Henry would not
lose sight of his priceless charge, but he sent Harrier to despatch a
telegram to Nellie, whose wifely interest in his movements he had till
then either forgotten or ignored.
And even now his mind was not free. He saw in front of him still
twenty-four hours of anguish.
The next night, just before the curtain went up, he stood on the stage
of the Regent Theatre, and it is a fact that he was trembling--not
with fear but with simple excitement.
Through what a day he had passed! There had been the rehearsal in the
morning; it had gone off very well, save that Rose Euclid had behaved
impossibly, and that the Cunningham girl, the hit of the piece but
ousted from her part, had filled the place with just lamentations and
And then had followed the appalling scene with Rose Euclid. Rose,
leaving the theatre for lunch, had beheld workmen removing her name
from the electric sign and substituting that of Isabel Joy! She was
a woman and an artist, and it would have been the same had she been a
man and an artist. She would not submit to this inconceivable affront.
She had resigned her _role_. She had ripped her contract to bits and
flung the bits to the breeze. Upon the whole Edward Henry had been
glad. He had sent for Miss Cunningham, who was Rose's understudy,
had given her her instructions, called another rehearsal for the
afternoon, and effected a saving of nearly half Isabel Joy's fantastic
salary. Then he had entered into financial negotiations with four
evening papers and managed to buy, at a price, their contents-bills
for the day. So that all the West End was filled with men and boys
wearing like aprons posters which bore the words: "Isabel Joy to
appear at the Regent to-night." A great and an original stroke!
And now he gazed through the peep-hole of the curtain upon a crammed
and half-delirious auditorium. The assistant stage-manager ordered him
off. The curtain went up on the drama in hexameters. He waited in the
wings, and spoke soothingly to Isabel Joy, who, looking juvenile in
the airy costume of the Messenger, stood flutteringly agog for her
cue.... He heard the thunderous crashing roar that met her entrance.
He did not hear her line. He walked forth to the glazed balcony at
the front of the house, where in the _entr'actes_ dandies smoked
cigarettes baptized with girlish names. He could see Piccadilly
Circus, and he saw Piccadilly Circus thronged with a multitude of
loafers who were happy in the mere spectacle of Isabel Joy's name
glowing on an electric sign. He went back at last to the managerial
room. Marrier was there, hero-worshipping.
"Got the figures yet?" he asked.
"Two hundred and sixty pounds. As long as it keeps up it means a
profit of getting on for two hundred a naight!"
"But, dash it, man, the house only holds two hundred and thirty."
"But my good sir," said Marrier, "they're paying ten shillings a piece
to stand up in the dress-circle."
Edward Henry dropped into a chair at the desk. A telegram was lying
there, addressed to himself.
"What's this?" he demanded.
He opened it and read:
* * * * *
"I absolutely forbid this monstrous outrage on a work of art.--TRENT."
* * * * *
"Bit late in the day, isn't he?" said Edward Henry, showing the
telegram to Marrier.
"Besides," Marrier observed, "he'll come round when he knows what his
"Well," said Edward Henry, "I'm going to bed." And he gave a
One afternoon Edward Henry sat in the king of all the easy-chairs in
the drawing-room of his house in Trafalgar Road, Bursley. Although
the month was September, and the weather warm even for September,
a swansdown quilt lay spread upon his knees. His face was pale--his
hands were paler; but his eye was clear and his visage enlightened.
His beard had grown to nearly its original dimensions. On a chair
by his side were a number of letters to which he had just dictated
answers. At a neighbouring table a young clerk was using a typewriter.
Stretched at full length on the sofa was Robert Machin, engaged in the
perusal of the second edition of that day's _Signal_. Of late Robert,
having exhausted nearly all available books, had been cultivating
during his holidays an interest in journalism, and he would give great
accounts, in the nursery, of events happening in each day's instalment
of the _Signal's_ sensational serial. His heels kicked idly one
against the other.
A powerful voice resounded in the lobby, and Dr Stirling entered the
room with Nellie.
"Well, doc.!" Edward Henry greeted him.
"So you're in full blast again!" observed the doctor, using a metaphor
invented by the population of a district where the roar of furnaces
wakens the night.
"No!" Edward Henry protested, as an invalid always will. "I'm only
just keeping an eye on one or two pressing things."
"Of course he's in full blast!" said Nellie with calm conviction.
"What's this I hear about ye ganging away to the seaside, Saturday?"
asked the doctor.
"Well, can't I?" said Edward Henry.
"Ye can," said the doctor. "Let's have a look at ye, man."
"What was it you said I've had?" Edward Henry questioned.
"Yes, that's the word. I thought I couldn't have got it wrong. Well,
you should have seen my mother's face when I told her what you called
it. She said, 'He may call it that if he's a mind to, but we had
another name for it in my time.' You should have heard her sniff!...
Look here, doc., do you know you've had me down now for pretty near
"Nay," said Stirling, "it's yer own obstinacy that's had ye down, man.
If ye'd listened to yer London doctor at first, mayhap ye wouldn't
have had to travel from Euston in an invalid's carriage. If ye hadn't
had the misfortune to be born an obstinate simpleton ye'd ha' been
up and about six weeks back. But there's no doing anything with you
geniuses. It's all nerves with you and your like."
"Nerves!" exclaimed Edward Henry, pretending to scorn. But he was
delighted at the diagnosis.
"Nerves," repeated the doctor, firmly. "Ye go gadding off to America.
Ye get yeself mixed up in theatres.... How's the theatre? I see yer
famous play's coming to an end next week."
"And what if it is?" said Edward Henry, jealous for reputations,
including his own. "It will have run for a hundred and one nights. And
right through August too! No modern poetry play ever did run as long
in London, and no other ever will. I've given the intellectual theatre
the biggest ad. it ever had. And I've made money on it. I should have
made more if I'd ended the run a fortnight ago, but I was determined
to pass the hundredth night. And I shall do!"
"And what are ye for giving next?"
"I'm not for giving anything next, doc. I've let the Regent for five
years at seven thousand five hundred pounds a year to a musical comedy
syndicate, since you're so curious. And when I've paid the ground rent
and taxes and repairs, and something towards a sinking-fund, and six
per cent on my capital, I shall have not far off two thousand pounds a
year clear annual profit. You may say what you like, but that's what I
It was a remarkable fact that, while giving undemanded information to
Dr. Stirling, Edward Henry was in reality defending himself against
the accusations of his wife--accusations which, by the way, she had
never uttered, but which he thought he read sometimes in her face. He
might of course have told his wife these agreeable details directly,
and in private. But he was a husband, and, like many husbands, apt to
Nellie said not a word.
"Then you're giving up London?" The doctor rose to depart.
"I am," said Edward Henry, almost blushing.
"Well," the genius answered. "Those theatrical things are altogether
too exciting and risky! And they're such queer people--Great Scott!
I've come out on the right side, as it happens, but--well, I'm not as
young as I was. I've done with London. The Five Towns are good enough
Nellie, unable to restrain a note of triumph, indiscreetly remarked,
with just the air of superior sagacity that in a wife drives husbands
to fury and to foolishness:
"I should think so indeed!"
Edward Henry leaped from his chair, and the swansdown quilt swathed
his slippered feet.
"Nell," he exploded, clenching his hand. "If you say that once more
in that tone--once more, mind!--I'll go and take a flat in London
The doctor crackled with laughter. Nellie smiled. Even Robert, who had
completely ignored the doctor's entrance, glanced round with creased
"Sit down, dearest," Nellie quietly enjoined the invalid.
But he would not sit down, and, to show his independence, he helped
his wife to escort Stirling into the lobby.
Robert, now alone with the ignored young clerk tapping at the table,
turned towards him, and in his deliberate, judicial, disdainful,
childish voice said to him:
"Isn't father a funny man?"
Back to Full Books