'Miss Gertie Millar's star-chamber was most comfortable and alluring. I'll say one thing for London theatres, and it is that they don't ''stye'' their artists, as is often the case in New York. The London star dressing-room is commodious, even ''elegant,'' and it has repose - like everything in London. It is restful, not suggestive of hustle, and it is, furthermore, picturesque. Miss Millar had just pirouetted from the stage when I was ushered in. The act was over. She had quite a long wait, and as she greeted me she allowed a gracious smile to illumine her thin features.
'Very thin is Gertie Millar. Her movements are quick, electric and vivacious. Her dark eyes fix you and scintillate as she talks. She isn't a bit like the usual London favorite. It dawned upon me that it would be seemly and pious to appear deferential. After all, I have to do a bit of acting myself on these hectic occasions, and by dint of long practise I have become a tolerably successful actor.
'''I used to read you every day when I was in New York,'' she said, ''so I know all about you, and you can consider yourself introduced.''
'Of course, that was very graceful. If I had been ten years younger I should have been flattered. Most scribbling fledglins like to be told by pretty girls that they have been ''read.'' I fancy I used to like it myself, once upon a time. Now, alas! it cuts no ice. When an actress tells me that she ''reads'' me, it sounds like a platitude - a mere substitute for ''We're having fine weather,'' or ''We're not having fine weather.''
'''You recall New York to me,'' she continued with a plaintive sigh. ''And I loved it. Oh, I had a lovely time in New York, and I want to go back.''
'I was sorry for this conventionality and felt it my duty to nip it in the bud. The day was long since passed when ''I love dear America'' had the slightest interest for anybody. And as for dear America, it got tired of being loved at least a quarter of a century ago.
'''You are so much on the alert,'' she continued, piling on the agony, ''and you have such delightful ingenues and soubrettes. Here in London nothing new happens and no new favorite occurs. It is really dreadful. Personally, I should welcome the advent of new blood. It inspires competition, and it is healthy. But year in and year out we have the same people. I look around everywhere for some new personality. This is nobody.''
'This sounded awfully good. Miss Millar's eyes flashed. I wondered what she was ''getting at.'' For a star to complain that there was nobody to vie with her seemed ominous. I was puzzled.
'''You wouldn't like'' - I began.
'''But I should,'' she said most energetically. ''Indeed, I should. Why, the other night, when that little girl played my part, I was really delighted. I had given her a chance, and I fancy that she made good.''
'Miss Millar looked at me steadily. My face, I believe, was immobile. I've never yet met a stage lady who liked a successful understudy. In fact, I've known many stage ladies who have recovered from the acutest forms of nervous prostration as soon as they head of their understudies' pleasing success. Of course, I didn't say this.
'''You were very angry that night when you didn't go on,'' I suggested.
'Miss Millar looked pained - not angry, but grieved. ''Not at all,'' she said. ''I was feeling very ill indeed. I simply couldn't face the situation. I felt I should collapse, so I withdrew. It was annoying, but I couldn't help it.''
'I was hoping for something more sensational. I should have known better. Yet I could still see ''temperament'' in the dark pool of her eyes, and I liked her. I liked her very much better than the soft, pretty, clamlike little ladies, who cling and look helpless.
'''You mustn't imagine,'' said Miss Millar, ''that because my husband, Lionel Monckton, writes all the music for me that I can't sing anybody else's. That would be quite wrong. I appeared in The Waltz Dream, and honestly enjoyed it immensely. It was quite a relief singing somebody else's music. And that lovely music!''
'but Mr. Monckton's music is delicious,'' I suggested.
'''Oh, he is very clever,'' said Mrs Gertie Millar-Monckton, ''and, of course, he understands me. He ought to do so, don't you think?'' (She laughed rather amusingly.) ''He knows the sort of thing that I ought to song, and he tried to fit me, and if he doesn't fit I shall tell him so. I do not stand upon any ceremony with him.''
'I could believe it. I could almost hear Monckton curtain-lectures on the subject of songs, seemly and otherwise.
'''It would be very foolish of me if I sang songs that I didn't like, just because my husband, Mr. Monckton, wrote them. Wouldn't it? Why, only the other day he gave me a new ditty to introduce into The Quaker Girl, and I wouldn't introduce it. I didn't like it, and I told him so.''
'Miss Millar said this very emphatically and made a charming little grimace into the bargain. In that grimace I saw more ''temperament.'' I could even hear clair-audiently such phrases as ''I won't sing that, you pie-face!'' I believe in clair-audience.
'''Mr. Monckton studies me, of course,'' said said, ''and he can usually gauge my qualities. I never took singing lessons in my life, and I never studies dancing. I can't understand why I am considered a dancer, because I really do nothing. I just jig to the rhythm of the music. I don't consider that there is any art in it. I love dancing, and I adore watching it, but I don't admire my own at all.''
'''Suppose somebody possibly new did occur in London,'' I queried, reverting to her own theme, ''wouldn't you feel just a little tiny bit vexed?''
'''Not at all,'' she said. ''I am tired of it all, anyway. I've been at work now for a very long time without any holiday worth speaking of. I am tired and I'd like to settle down.''