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The Regent By Arnold Bennett Characters: 3218

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


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 [309] ousted from her part, had filled the place with just lamentations and recriminations.

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 r?le. 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 sta

ge-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 [310] 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.

Marrier beamed.

"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.

"Just cam."

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 royalties are."

"Well," said Edward Henry, "I'm going to bed." And he gave a devastating yawn.

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