On the night of his arrival in London, Alexander went immediately to the hotel on
the Embankment at which he always stopped, and in the lobby he was accosted
by an old acquaintance, Maurice Mainhall, who fell upon him with effusive
cordiality and indicated a willingness to dine with him. Bartley never dined alone
if he could help it, and Mainhall was a good gossip who always knew what had
been going on in town; especially, he knew everything that was not printed in the
newspapers. The nephew of one of the standard Victorian novelists, Mainhall
bobbed about among the various literary cliques of London and its outlying
suburbs, careful to lose touch with none of them. He had written a number of
books himself; among them a "History of Dancing," a "History of Costume," a
"Key to Shakespeare's Sonnets," a study of "The Poetry of Ernest Dowson," etc.
Although Mainhall's enthusiasm was often tiresome, and although he was often
unable to distinguish between facts and vivid figments of his imagination, his
imperturbable good nature overcame even the people whom he bored most, so
that they ended by becoming, in a reluctant manner, his friends. In appearance,
Mainhall was astonishingly like the conventional stage-Englishman of American
drama: tall and thin, with high, hitching shoulders and a small head glistening
with closely brushed yellow hair. He spoke with an extreme Oxford accent, and
when he was talking well, his face sometimes wore the rapt expression of a very
emotional man listening to music. Mainhall liked Alexander because he was an
engineer. He had preconceived ideas about everything, and his idea about
Americans was that they should be engineers or mechanics. He hated them
when they presumed to be anything else.
While they sat at dinner Mainhall acquainted Bartley with the fortunes of his old
friends in London, and as they left the table he proposed that they should go to
see Hugh MacConnell's new comedy, "Bog Lights."
"It's really quite the best thing MacConnell's done," he explained as they got into
a hansom. "It's tremendously well put on, too. Florence Merrill and Cyril
Henderson. But Hilda Burgoyne's the hit of the piece. Hugh's written a delightful
part for her, and she's quite inexpressible. It's been on only two weeks, and I've
been half a dozen times already. I happen to have MacConnell's box for tonight
or there'd be no chance of our getting places. There's everything in seeing Hilda
while she's fresh in a part. She's apt to grow a bit stale after a time. The ones
who have any imagination do."
"Hilda Burgoyne!" Alexander exclaimed mildly. "Why, I haven't heard of her for--
Mainhall laughed. "Then you can't have heard much at all, my dear Alexander.
It's only lately, since MacConnell and his set have got hold of her, that she's