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   Chapter 14 No.14

The Regent By Arnold Bennett Characters: 7355

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Well," said Edward Henry, "shall I tell you what I've decided?"

"Please do!" Rose Euclid entreated him.

"I've decided to make you a present of my half of the option."

"But aren't you going in with us?" exclaimed Rose, horror-struck.

"No, madam."

"But Mr. Bryany told us positively you were! He said it was all arranged!"

"Mr. Bryany ought to be more careful," said Edward Henry. "If he doesn't mind he'll be telling a downright lie some day."

"But you bought half the option!"

"Well," said Edward Henry, reasoning. "What is an option? What does it mean? It means you are free to take something or leave it. I'm leaving it."

"But why?" demanded Mr. Marrier, gloomier.

Carlo Trent played with his eyeglasses and said not a word.

"Why?" Edward Henry replied. "Simply because I feel I'm not fitted for the job. I don't know enough. I don't understand. I shouldn't go the right way about the affair. For instance, I should never have guessed by myself that it was the proper thing to settle the name of the theatre before you'd got the lease of the land you're going to build it on. Then I'm old-fashioned. I hate leaving things to the last moment; but seemingly there's only one proper moment in these theatrical affairs, and that's the very last. I'm afraid there'd be [125] too much trusting in providence for my taste. I believe in trusting in providence, but I can't bear to see providence overworked. And I've never even tried to be intellectual, and I'm a bit frightened of poetry plays-"

"But you've not read my play!" Carlo Trent mutteringly protested.

"That is so," admitted Edward Henry.

"Will you read it?"

"Mr. Trent," said Edward Henry, "I'm not so young as I was."

"We're ruined!" sighed Rose Euclid, with a tragic gesture.

"Ruined?" Edward Henry took her up smiling. "Nobody is ruined who knows where he can get a square meal. Do you mean to tell me you don't know where you're going to lunch to-morrow?" And he looked hard at her.

It was a blow. She blenched under it.

"Oh, yes," she said, with her giggle, "I know that."

("Well you just don't!" he answered her in his heart. "You think you're going to lunch with John Pilgrim. And you aren't. And it serves you right!")

"Besides," he continued aloud, "how can you say you're ruined when I'm making you a present of something that I paid £100 for?"

"But where am I to find the other half of the money-£2250?" she burst out. "We were depending absolutely on you for it. If I don't get it, the option will be lost, and the option's very valuable."

"All the easier to find the money then!"

"What? In less than twenty-four hours? It can't be done. I couldn't get it in all London."

"Mr. Marrier will get it for you ... one of his certainties!" Edward Henry smiled in the Five Towns manner.

[126] "I might, you knaoo!" said Marrier, brightening to full hope in the fraction of a second.

But Rose Euclid only shook her head.

"Mr. Seven Sachs, then?" Edward Henry suggested.

"I should have been delighted," said Mr. Sachs, with the most perfect gracious tranquillity. "But I cannot find another £2250 to-morrow."

"I shall just speak to that Mr. Bryany!" said Rose Euclid, in the accents of homicide.

"I think you ought to," Edward Henry concurred. "But that won't help things. I feel a little responsible, especially to a lady. You have a quarter of the whole option left in your hands, Miss Euclid. I'll pay you at the same rate as Bryany sold to me. I gave £100 for half. Your quarter is therefore worth £50. Well, I'll pay you £50."

"And then what?"

"Then let the whole affair slide."

"But that won't help me to my th

eatre!" Rose Euclid said, pouting. She was now decidedly less unhappy than her face pretended, because Edward Henry had reminded her of Sir John Pilgrim, and she had dreams of world-triumphs for herself and for Carlo Trent's play. She was almost glad to be rid of all the worry of the horrid little prospective theatre.

"I have bank-notes," cooed Edward Henry, softly.

Her head sank.

Edward Henry rose in the incomparable yellow dressing-gown and walked to and fro a little, and then from his secret store he produced a bundle of notes, and counted out five tens and, coming behind Rose, stretched out his arm, and laid the treasure on the table in front of her under the brilliant chandelier.

[127] "I don't want you to feel you have anything against me," he cooed still more softly.

Silence reigned. Edward Henry resumed his chair, and gazed at Rose Euclid. She was quite a dozen years older than his wife, and she looked more than a dozen years older. She had no fixed home, no husband, no children, no regular situation. She accepted the homage of young men, who were cleverer than herself save in one important respect. She was always in and out of restaurants and hotels and express trains. She was always committing hygienic indiscretions. She could not refrain from a certain girlishness which, having regard to her years, her waist and her complexion, was ridiculous. His wife would have been afraid of her and would have despised her, simultaneously. She was coarsened by the continual gaze of the gaping public. No two women could possibly be more utterly dissimilar than Rose Euclid and the cloistered Nellie.... And yet, as Rose Euclid's hesitant fingers closed on the bank-notes with a gesture of relief, Edward Henry had an agreeable and kindly sensation that all women were alike, after all, in the need of a shield, a protection, a strong and generous male hand. He was touched by the spectacle of Rose Euclid, as na?ve as any young lass when confronted by actual bank-notes; and he was touched also by the thought of Nellie and the children afar off, existing in comfort and peace, but utterly, wistfully, dependent on himself.

"And what about me?" growled Carlo Trent.

"You!"

The fellow was only a poet. He negligently dropped him five fivers, his share of the option's value.

Mr. Marrier said nothing, but his eye met Edward Henry's, and in silence five fivers were meted out to Mr. Marrier also.... It was so [128] easy to delight these persons who apparently seldom set eyes on real ready money.

"You might sign receipts, all of you, just as a matter of form," said Edward Henry.

A little later the three associates were off.

"As we're both in the hotel, Mr. Sachs," said Edward Henry, "you might stay for a chat and a drink."

Mr. Seven Sachs politely agreed.

Edward Henry accompanied the trio of worshippers and worshipped to the door of his suite, but no further, because of his dressing-gown. Rose Euclid had assumed a resplendent opera-cloak. They rang imperially for the lift. Lackeys bowed humbly before them. They spoke of taxi-cabs and other luxuries. They were perfectly at home in the grandeur of the hotel. As the illuminated lift carried them down out of sight, their smiling heads disappearing last, they seemed exactly like persons of extreme wealth. And indeed for the moment they were wealthy. They had parted with certain hopes, but they had had a windfall; and two of them were looking forward with absolute assurance to a profitable meal and deal with Sir John Pilgrim on the morrow.

"Funny place, London!" said the provincial to himself as he re-entered his suite to rejoin Mr. Seven Sachs.

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