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"Copy": A Dialogue
by [?]

Mrs. Ambrose Dale–forty, slender, still young–sits in her drawing-room at the tea-table. The winter twilight is falling, a lamp has been lit, there is a fire on the hearth, and the room is pleasantly dim and flower-scented. Books are scattered everywhere–mostly with autograph inscriptions “From the Author”–and a large portrait of Mrs. Dale, at her desk, with papers strewn about her, takes up one of the wall-panels. Before Mrs. Dale stands Hilda, fair and twenty, her hands full of letters.

Mrs. Dale. Ten more applications for autographs? Isn’t it strange that people who’d blush to borrow twenty dollars don’t scruple to beg for an autograph?

Hilda (reproachfully). Oh–

Mrs. Dale. What’s the difference, pray?

Hilda. Only that your last autograph sold for fifty–

Mrs. Dale (not displeased). Ah?–I sent for you, Hilda, because I’m dining out to-night, and if there’s nothing important to attend to among these letters you needn’t sit up for me.

Hilda. You don’t mean to work?

Mrs. Dale. Perhaps; but I sha’n’t need you. You’ll see that my cigarettes and coffee-machine are in place, and: that I don’t have to crawl about the floor in search of my pen-wiper? That’s all. Now about these letters–

Hilda (impulsively). Oh, Mrs. Dale–

Mrs. Dale. Well?

Hilda. I’d rather sit up for you.

Mrs. Dale. Child, I’ve nothing for you to do. I shall be blocking out the tenth chapter of Winged Purposes and it won’t be ready for you till next week.

Hilda. It isn’t that–but it’s so beautiful to sit here, watching and listening, all alone in the night, and to feel that you’re in there (she points to the study-door) creating–.(Impulsively.) What do I care for sleep?

Mrs. Dale (indulgently). Child–silly child!–Yes, I should have felt so at your age–it would have been an inspiration–

Hilda (rapt). It is!

Mrs. Dale. But you must go to bed; I must have you fresh in the morning; for you’re still at the age when one is fresh in the morning! (She sighs.) The letters? (Abruptly.) Do you take notes of what you feel, Hilda–here, all alone in the night, as you say?

Hilda (shyly). I have–

Mrs. Dale (smiling). For the diary?

Hilda (nods and blushes).

Mrs. Dale (caressingly). Goose!–Well, to business. What is there?

Hilda. Nothing important, except a letter from Stroud & Fayerweather to say that the question of the royalty on Pomegranate Seed has been settled in your favor. The English publishers of Immolation write to consult you about a six-shilling edition; Olafson, the Copenhagen publisher, applies for permission to bring out a Danish translation of The Idol’s Feet; and the editor of the Semaphore wants a new serial–I think that’s all; except that Woman’s Sphere and The Droplight ask for interviews–with photographs–

Mrs. Dale. The same old story! I’m so toed of it all. (To herself, in an undertone.) But how should I feel if it all stopped? (The servant brings in a card.)

Mrs. Dale (reading it). Is it possible? Paul Ventnor? (To the servant.) Show Mr. Ventnor up. (To herself.) Paul Ventnor!

Hilda (breathless). Oh, Mrs. Dale–the Mr. Ventnor?

Mrs. Dale (smiling). I fancy there’s only one.

Hilda. The great, great poet? (Irresolute.) No, I don’t dare–

Mrs. Dale (with a tinge of impatience). What?

Hilda (fervently). Ask you–if I might–oh, here in this corner, where he can’t possibly notice me–stay just a moment? Just to see him come in? To see the meeting between you–the greatest novelist and the greatest poet of the age? Oh, it’s too much to ask! It’s an historic moment.

Mrs. Dale. Why, I suppose it is. I hadn’t thought of it in that light. Well (smiling), for the diary–

Hilda. Oh, thank you, thank you! I’ll be off the very instant I’ve heard him speak.

Mrs. Dale. The very instant, mind. (She rises, looks at herself in the glass, smooths her hair, sits down again, and rattles the tea-caddy.) Isn’t the room very warm?–(She looks over at her portrait.) I’ve grown stouter since that was painted–. You’ll make a fortune out of that diary, Hilda–