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Sir C. It seems to me the loss will also be ours.

Francis [soothingly]. St. John means that the public and ourselves will share the loss. But whereas we shall know exactly how much we have lost, the public will be under the disadvantage of never guessing that it has lost anything at all.

Sir C. [in a low tone to Francis]. Just let me speak, will you? [Francis

gives a courteous humorous smile of consent.]

St. John. Besides, who says the public won't come?

Sir C. I do. Another thing-"The Lion's Share" contains no decent part for Miss Blackwood.

St. John. I can't help that. At my theatre the company has got to fit the play. Let the old girl have a rest. God knows she's been working like a camel. [Enter Page-boy with Mr. and Mrs. Cleland.]

Sir C. [to Page-boy]. Boy! [Pageboy comes round to Sir Charles and waits.]

Mrs. C. I do hope we aren't late. The fact is we met my dear old father in the Strand. I hadn't seen him for months, and it gave me quite a turn. How d'ye do, Sir Charles? [greeting him].

Cleland [who has been shaking hands round; quietly to Sir Charles]. I got your letter this morning.

Sir C. [nods]. Now Mrs. Clelandhave this chair, St. John is thinking of producing a play with no part for you. What do you say to that? [Hands dictaphone records to Page-boy. Exit Page-boy.]

Mrs. C. [after shaking hands round and kissing Emily]. I know what I should have said twenty years ago. But I often say nowadays that my idea of bliss is a dozen oysters and go to bed comfortably at ten o'clock. So long as you pay my salary, I don't mind. Salaries have been SO very regular

lately, I wouldn't like it disturbed. Would you, my dear? [to Emily].

Sir C. The question is, how long we should be able to keep on paying salaries, with you out of the bill.

Mrs. C. Now that's very nice of you, Sir Charles.

Cleland [rubbing his hands]. "Lion's Share," I suppose you're talking about? Sir C. What's your view of this wonderful piece, Cleland?

Cleland [askance at St. John]. Well, I only saw the dress-rehearsal. Of course it's clever, undoubtedly clever. It may please the Stage Society; but if you ask me my frank opinion

St. John. Sam's opinion is worth nothing at all, especially if it's frank. When he tries to imitate me it isn't always so bad. I didn't engage Sam as a connoisseur. I engaged him because his wife can act

Mrs. C. My old father said to me this morning, "Henrietta," he says, "you and I are the only members of the Blackwood family that can really act. I could act a railway engine. And I believe you could, too," he says. Didn't he, Sam? Excuse me, Chief.

St. John. And also because he's the only stage-manager in London who'll do what you tell him without any d-d improvements of his own. But as for his views they are invariably vulgar. Sam would make a fortune if he were let alone.

Cleland. I should. Just give me a chance.

St. John. Not much, Sammy! Not if I know it!

Sir C. What is your opinion of "The Lion's Share," Mrs. Cleland?

Mrs. C. [indignant]. Don't ask me. How should I know? My own nephew's playing in it, but could he get a seat for me last night? No! I've been before the London public for twenty-six years, but could I get in on my card? No.

Francis. If you'll give me the

pleasure of your company this afternoon, Mrs. Cleland, I've got a couple of stalls.

Mrs. C. Much obliged, Mr. Worgan. But if I can't go on Sunday I don't go at all. I'm not proud; but either I'm Henrietta Blackwood or I'm not! At least, that's how I look at it.

Sir C. Mrs. Vernon has seen the play

Mrs. C. Congratulations, my dear! Sir C. But I haven't yet asked her views, formally

St. John. You needn't, Sir Charles. I feel somehow that I can struggle on without 'em.

Sir C. But she was put on the Board simply because she'd always been used to reading plays for you! How often have you said what fine taste she has!

St. John. That's true. I value her opinion-when I want it. But in this case my mind is made up. You were sitting together last night, you two! saw you.


Sir C. That was a mere accident. St. John. Agreed! Accidents will happen. [Hums an air.]

Sir C. [controlling himself]. As I said before, I don't pretend to be a judge

St. John. As I said before, I do. That about settles that, doesn't it.

Sir C. No [gravely and obstinately]. Speaking simply as a member of the public, my objections to the piece, if only I could put them properly-of course it's not my line to explain

St. John. Don't let that trouble you. I can explain your objections. You've got three objections. The first is that this play is true to life, the second is that it's original, and the third is that it's beautiful. You're a bold financier, but you're afraid of beauty; you detest originality; and as for truth, it makes you hold your nose. Do you think I don't know all about your confounded objections? I'm turned fifty. I've

spent a quarter of a century in trying to make this d-d town appreciate beauty, and though I've succeeded once or twice, the broad result is that I can't look my greengrocer in the face. But I wouldn't swop places with you. It would be like being blind and deaf. [Suddenly to Francis, as to one who understands.] I wish you'd seen "The Lion's Share." I know what you'd say!

Sir C. [quickly]. Come now, St. John, whatever the private opinions of any of us may be, I am quite sure we shall all be agreed that this wonderful play of yours won't please the public. [Looks at Emily, as if for confirmation.] It would be bound to be a frost. You yourself

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St. John [springing up]. Nothing of the kind! Nothing of the kind! No one ever caught me saying that any play on earth would be a frost. No really new thing ever yet succeeded but what all the blessed wiseacres who know the public best swore it would be a rank failure. Let me tell you that in the end you chaps are always wrong. Public taste is continually changing. Is it you chaps who change it? Not much. It's we who change But before we can begin to work, we must get past a pack of infernal rotters who say they have their finger on the public pulse. [More quietly.] Well, we do get past, that's one comfort.


Mrs. C. Oh, Chief! How you carry on, to be sure! It's worse than a rehearsal. And this isn't your stage, you


Sir C. [smiling]. That's all right, that's all right. St. John is always enthusiastic. A month ago he was just as enthusiastic for Shakespeare.

St. John. Yes, but then I hadn't got my eye on a good modern piece.

Sir C. I suppose you'll admit that "The Lion's Share" is not as good a play as "The Merchant of Venice."

I've been reading "The Merchant of Venice" myself. A most interesting old play! Now there's beauty, to use your own word, if you like.

St. John. Sudden discovery of a hitherto neglected author by the proprietor of the "Daily Mercury."

Sir C. All this is not argument. St. John. My excellent Sir Charles, any ass of an actor-manager can produce Shakespeare.

Francis. Excuse me, St. John, I don't wish to interrupt a duel, but you told me exactly the contrary not long since. You said there wasn't an actormanager in London who understood Shakespeare enough to make even a decent call-boy in a Shakespearean production.

St. John. And I was right. Some day I'll show 'em. But I'm not going to spend my time on Shakespeare when I've got a first-class modern production all waiting. It's the Shakespeares of the future that I'm on.

Sir C. Now seriously, St. John[A pause.]

Cleland. The wife is a really tremendous Portia, Chief. Aren't you, Henrietta?

Mrs. C. He knows. He saw me at the old Novelty in '89.

Sir C. And I was thinking that Jessica was the very part for Mrs. Vernon -I hope you won't deny that it's about time Mrs. Vernon had a decent show [half laughing].

St. John [coldly]. Since you've mentioned it, I may as well tell you, I've decided that Mrs. Vernon must leave the Prince's company.

Emily. Chief-you aren't—— [stops]. Sir C. [annoyed]. Now what's this? [General surprise.]

St. John. I'm not satisfied with her work. The truth is, I never was. I was taken by her enthusiasm for a good thing. But what's that got to do with acting?

Emily [deeply moved]. You aren't go

ing to throw me over? I've always tried my very best. What do you think I shall do if you throw me over?

St. John. I don't know. Whatever you do you oughtn't to act any more. Because it ain't your line. You're simply painful in "The Mayor of Casterbridge," and no one knows it better than you.

Mrs. C. Don't listen to him, Emily. St. John [growling]. You needn't think I'm not sorry for her. But I won't have all my productions messed up for evermore just because I've been unfortunate enough to engage an actress who can't act. I want a fine production, and I mean to have it. I don't care twopence for anything else. I'm not a philanthropist. I'm a brute. Everybody knows that. [Emily moves away from the others, and tries to control herself.]

Sir C. You're not going to

St. John [challenging him with a stiff look]. I'm not going to have any favorites in the company.

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St. John. Without her I shouldn't have had your help.

Sir C. Exactly, since you care to put it that way.

St. John. Well, since I care to put it that way, Sir Charles, I don't know that I'm SO desperately grateful. What have you done, after all? You insisted on an orchestra, to keep the audience from thinking. You invented a costume for the programme girls and made a rule that they must be under twenty-five and pretty, and you put up the price of the programmes from twopence to sixpence. You plastered the West End all over with colored posters that would make a crocodile swoon. And that's about all.

Sir C. I put order into the concern. And I gave you the support of all my journals, including the most powerful daily paper in London.

St. John. Thank you for nothing! The most powerful daily paper in London has got me laughed at by all my friends. I'm not likely to forget the morning after the first performance of "The Broken Heart," when the most powerful daily paper in London talked for three-quarters of a column about the essential, English, breezy, healthful purity of the Elizabethan drama. Mrs. C. I remember they called me Harriet instead of Henrietta.

Francis. A misprint. [To St. John] It was all a misprint.

Sir C. [quietly]. Still, the public comes, now.

St. John. Yes, and what a public!

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Sir C. You are the manager, but I'm the largest shareholder, and I hold all the debentures. I can always outvote you. I won't consent to Shakespeare being shelved. Shakespeare was your own idea, not mine. Why can't you stick to it? Why do you want to produce a morbid play that must fail? You may take it from me, I've got no use for a frost. Every one knows I'm in the Prince's. I don't choose to be associated with failures. And above all I won't consent to the dismissal of Mrs. Vernon. Is that clear?

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St. John [approaching him, very quietly]. Do you want to get rid of me?

Sir C. No. I only want you to behave reasonably.

St. John. Oh! That's all you want, is it? Will you buy me out?

Sir C. Certainly, if you wish it. St. John [furiously]. Well, then, do! I resign! See? I resign. You've saved a fine enterprise, and ruined it at the same time. Cleland's your man. Put your two wooden heads together, and you're bound to make a howling

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Sir C. Well, he'd got me to deal with!

Emily. The thing that surprised me most was the way you kept your temper.

Sir C. Oh! that's nothing! I can generally keep my temper when I see the other man is losing his. It was only when he began talking about favorites that I nearly let myself go.

Emily. Seeing us together last night at the theatre-that must have made him think we'd been plotting against him.

Sir C. And yet we hadn't, had we? I don't know even now what you really think about that play.

Emily. "The Lion's Share?" I quite agree with you that it wouldn't have a chance with the public.

Sir C. Emily.


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Sir C. [after a glance at Emily]. I'll telephone you later in the day with an appointment. I haven't time now. Cleland. Good! [Shakes hands.] Splendid, Sir Charles. [Exit.]

Emily. I must go too [rising].

Sir C. Here! Wait a bit. Sit down half a minute. You can't go like that. Emily [sits]. I don't suppose there ever was another man as rude as the Chief. What a brute! But he's always the same-simply never cares for anything except his own ideas. There's nothing he wouldn't sacrifice for them. Nothing!

But you think it's a fine play? Why do you think I think

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Sir C.

Yes, I think it's fine.

Do you? [genuinely puzzled】 And you think Francis'll like it too? Emily. Yes.

Sir C. Queer! I suppose there must be something in it. I wish you'd explain it to me-I mean what you see in it.

Emily. Oh! I can't explain. It's just a matter of taste.

Sir C. You explained lots of things in "The Merchant of Venice," anyway. Emily. Oh, Charlie, I didn't! I only just

Sir C. Yes, you did. In fact, you made me quite keen on it. That's one reason why I was determined not to let St. John throw it over. But if "The Merchant of Venice" were a great success, I wouldn't mind "The Lion's Share" being done at matinées.

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