"Hold on," said Mr. Crewe, listening, "a lot of people are coming in now."
What Mr. Crewe had heard, however, was the arrival of the Ladies' Auxiliary,--five and thirty strong, from Leith. But stay! Who are these coming? More ladies--ladies in groups of two and three and five! ladies of Ripton whose husbands, for some unexplained reason, have stayed at home; and Mr. Tooting, as he watched them with mingled feelings, became a woman's suffragist on the spot. He dived into the private office once more, where he found Mr. Crewe seated with his legs crossed, calmly reading a last winter's playbill. (Note for a more complete biography.)
"Well, Tooting," he said, "I thought they'd begin to come."
"They're mostly women," Mr. Tooting informed him.
"Hold on!" said Mr. Tooting, who had the true showman's instinct. "Can't you see that folks are curious? They're afraid to come 'emselves, and they're sendin' their wives and daughters. If you get the women tonight, they'll go home and club the men into line."
Eight strokes boomed out from the tower of the neighbouring town hall, and an expectant flutter spread over the audience,--a flatter which disseminated faint odours of sachet and other mysterious substances in which feminine apparel is said to the laid away. The stage was empty, save for a table which held a pitcher of water and a glass.
"It's a pretty good imitation of a matinee," Hastings Weare remarked. "I wonder whom the front seats are reserved for. Say, Victoria, there's your friend Mr. Vane in the corner. He's looking over here."
"He has a perfect right to look where he chooses," said Victoria. She wondered whether he would come over and sit next to her if she turned around, and decided instantly that he wouldn't. Presently, when she thought Hastings was off his guard, she did turn, to meet, as she expected, Austen's glance fixed upon her. Their greeting was the signal of two people with a mutual understanding. He did not rise, and although she acknowledged to herself a feeling of disappointment, she gave him credit for a nice comprehension of the situation. Beside him was his friend Tom Gaylord, who presented to her a very puzzled face. And then, if there had been a band, it would have been time to play "See, the Conquering Hero Comes!"