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The Real And The Make-believe
by [?]

On his way down-town Phillips stopped at a Subway news-stand and bought all the morning papers. He acknowledged that he was vastly excited. As he turned in at the stage door he thrilled at sight of the big electric sign over the theater, pallid now in the morning sunshine, but symbolizing in frosted letters the thing for which he had toiled and fought, had hoped and despaired these many years. There it hung, a dream come true, and it read, “A Woman’s Thrall, By Henry Phillips.”

The stage-door man greeted him with a toothless smile and handed him a bundle of telegrams, mumbling: “I knew it would go over, Mr. Phillips. The notices are swell, ain’t they?”

“They seem to be.”

“I ain’t seen their equal since ‘The Music Master’ opened. We’ll run a year.”

This differed from the feverish, half-hysterical praise of the evening before. Phillips had made allowances then for the spell of a first-night enthusiasm and had prepared himself for a rude awakening this morning–he had seen too many plays fail, to put much faith in the fulsomeness of first-nighters–but the words of the doorman carried conviction. He had felt confident up to the last moment, to be sure, for he knew he had put his life’s best work into this drama, and he believed he had written with a master’s cunning; nevertheless, when his message had gone forth a sudden panic had seized him. He had begun to fear that his judgment was distorted by his nearness to the play, or that his absorption in it had blinded him to its defects. It was evident now, however, that these fears had been ill-founded, for no play could receive such laudatory reviews as these and fail to set New-Yorkers aflame.

Certain printed sentences kept dancing through his memory: “Unknown dramatist of tremendous power,” “A love story so pitiless, so true, that it electrifies,” “The deep cry of a suffering heart,” “Norma Berwynd enters the galaxy of stars.”

That last sentence was the most significant, the most wonderful of all. Norma Berwynd a star! Phillips could scarcely credit it; he wondered if she had the faintest notion of how or why her triumph had been effected.

The property man met him, and he too was smiling.

“I just came from the office,” he began. “Say! they’re raving. It’s the biggest hit in ten years.”

“Oh, come now! It’s too early for the afternoon papers–“

“The papers be blowed! It’s the public that makes a play; the whole town knows about this one already. It’s in and over, I tell you; we’ll sell out tonight. Believe me, this is a knock-out–a regular bull’s-eye. It won’t take no government bonds to bridge us over the next two weeks.”

“Did you get the new props?”

“Sure! The electrician is working on the drop light for the first act; we’ll have a better glass crash tonight, and I’ve got a brand-new dagger. That other knife was all right, but Mr. Francis forgot how to handle it.”

“Nevertheless, it’s dangerous. We came near having a real tragedy last evening. Don’t let’s take any more chances.”

“It wasn’t my fault, on the level,” the property man insisted. “Francis always ‘goes up’ at an opening.”

“Thank Heaven the papers didn’t notice it.”

“Huh! We could afford to kill an actor for notices like them. It would make great advertising and please the critics. Say! I knew this show was a hit.”

Under the dim-lit vault of the stage Phillips found the third-act scenery set for the rehearsal he had called, then, having given his instructions to the wardrobe woman, he drew a chair up before a bunch light and prepared to read for a second time the morning reviews.

He had attempted to read them at breakfast, but his wife–The playwright sighed heavily at the memory of that scene. Leontine had been very unjust, as usual. Her temper had run away with her again and had forced him to leave the house with his splendid triumph spoiled, his first taste of victory like ashes in his mouth. He was, in a way, accustomed to these endless, senseless rows, but their increasing frequency was becoming more and more trying, and he was beginning to doubt his ability to stand them much longer. It seemed particularly nasty of Leontine to seize upon this occasion to vent her open dislike of him–their relations were already sufficiently strained. Marriage, all at once, assumed a very lopsided aspect to the playwright; he had given so much and received so little.