"She couldn't come to-night. She's not well."
"Sorry to hear it — nothing serious, I hope."
"No, just feeling a little ill."
"I remember Mrs. Hurstwood when she was traveling once with you over to St. Joe — " and here the newcomer launched off in a trivial recollection, which was terminated by the arrival of more friends.
"Why, George, how are you?" said another genial West Side politician and lodge member. "My, but I'm glad to see you again; how are things, anyhow?"
"Very well; I see you got that nomination for alderman."
"Yes, we whipped them out over there without much trouble."
"What do you suppose Hennessy will do now?"
"Oh, he'll go back to his brick business. He has a brick-yard, you know."
"I didn't know that," said the manager. "Felt pretty sore, I suppose, over his defeat." "Perhaps," said the other, winking shrewdly.
Some of the more favored of his friends whom he had invited began to roll up in carriages now. They came shuffling in with a great show of finery and much evident feeling of content and importance.
"Here we are," said Hurstwood, turning to one from a group with whom he was talking.
"That's right," returned the newcomer, a gentleman of about forty-five.
"And say," he whispered, jovially, pulling Hurstwood over by the shoulder so that he might whisper in his ear, "if this isn't a good show, I'll punch your head."
"You ought to pay for seeing your old friends. Bother the show!"
To another who inquired, "Is it something really good?" the manager replied:
"I don't know. I don't suppose so." Then, lifting his hand graciously, "For the lodge."
"Lots of boys out, eh?"
"Yes, look up Shanahan. He was just asking for you a moment ago."
It was thus that the little theatre resounded to a babble of successful voices, the creak of fine clothes, the commonplace of good-nature, and all largely because of this man's bidding. Look at him any time within the half hour before the curtain was up, he was a member of an eminent group — a rounded company of five or more whose stout figures, large white bosoms, and shining pins bespoke the character of their success. The gentlemen who brought their wives called him out to shake hands. Seats clicked, ushers bowed while he looked blandly on. He was evidently a light among them, reflecting in his personality the ambitions of those who greeted him. He was acknowledged, fawned upon, in a way lionized. Through it all one could see the standing of the man. It was greatness in a way, small as it was.