Mrs. Carstair’s Last Bet
How She Contrived to Shock Some of Her Aristocratic Acquaintances by a Rather Startling Plan and Thereby Managed to Get Rid of Financial Worries, About Which She did Not Care to Apprise her Husband.
NETTIE CARSTAIRS sat alone in her pretty boudoir. Her three guests had departed, and only the cards and scoreboard, which lay on the table remained to tell the tale of the afternoon’s dissipation.
“One hundred and fifty pounds !” muttered Nettie, with puckered brows. She gazed into the fire, then: “That woman has the devil’s own luck ! And it’s always my bad fortune to be drawn against her!”
She heaved a deep sigh as she picked up the scoreboard and glanced down the formidable array of figures against her.
“Oh, it’s awful ! I vow I’ll never play again—yet how on earth am I to get clear of these dreadful debts?”
The big Persian cat on the rug at her feet looked up and yawned.
“Ah, Magnificat!” said Nettie, “It’s all very well for you to look bored, but you don’t understand the situation. You’re a dear pet, but if only you could help me to raise £1,000, I should consider you even more useful than ornamental !”
She stroked the cat’s head meditatively with the toe of her dainty, beaded slipper.
Mrs. Carstairs was one of the prettiest grass widows in London at this time, and more than one voted her husband a fool for leaving behind him a wife so young and charming. Some were even kind enough to hint as much to him, but, evidently, Captain Carstairs thought lie knew his own business best, for, despite all the smiles and shrugs and the remarks of his prim maiden sisters, he sailed for India, and Nettie remained on in the snug little flat in Eccleston Square. Ever since they had been married
Archie had always promised her six months’ stay in London, but for four years lie had been a fixture in India, and his wife had dutifully remained by his side.
Nettie WcS Irish. She had been born and brought up in her native country until she was eighteen, when the Hon. Archie Carstairs, on a visit in the neighborhood, met and fell in love with her. There was a speedy wooing, followed a few months later by a wedding; then, after a brief honeymoon on the Continent, they sailed for India, where for four years thev had been obliged to remain. However, the long-looked for leave came at last, and Captain Carstairs brought his wife home to enjoy the promised holiday in London. Since November her life had been one whirl of gaiety, then, unfortunately, Captain Carstairs had been ordered abroad again three months earlier then he had expected. Nettie hated India, and her husband, seeing her disappointment, had kindly suggested that she could remain in England and finish her six months’ holiday. She had been quite unable to resist the tempting offer, and it was arranged that he should go and that she should join him in the spring.
Archie had been very generous. Knowing his wife’s somewhat extravagant tastes, he had left her a substantial sum to last her the extra three months in London. Unfortunately this had all gone—how she could not imagine—and now, with dressmakers’ bills, bridge, and what not, she realized that she had not only run through all the money, but was heavily in debt to boot. The last two months had been a perfect rush— she had been here, there, and everywhere, and had no time to think how
much she was spending. But during the last few days it had been unpleasantly brought home to her. What was she to do, and what would Archie say? She had promised to be so very good and so careful if he let her remain behind, and this was the result!
Now, unless she cabled to him for more money, there was not time to get an answer, for in three weeks she was due to sail. She had no relations of her own, and she knew that Archie would never forgive her if she attempted to get help from his family. They had never quite approved of the “wild Irish girl,” as Nettie well realized.
It was a horrible position; the more she thought of it the more difficult it became.
To appeal to any of her men friends never for a moment entered her head, though, if the truth be told, there were many who would have been only too glad of an opportunity to place the pretty Mrs. Carstairs under obligations to them. But, though she knew lots of the society women of her acquaintance got their debts paid in this manner, she would have scorned to stoop to such baseness.
Still, she must find some way out. She could not possibly leave England in debt to the amount of £1,000 and more.
“If only I could pay off that horrid Lady Violet,” she muttered as she vigorously smashed a lump of coal with the poker. “Sue’s such a cat! Always so sourly sweet, I know she’d love to see me in an awkward place—but £150!”
“Sir Reuben Van Laun,” announced the expressionless voice of the maid.
The next minute a tall, dark man strode across the room towards her.
“How do you do, Mrs. Carstairs? I am, indeed, fortunate to find you in— and actually all alone, sitting among the cinders !”
She smiled faintly as she gave him her hand. He bent over it with exaggerated gallantry.
“I came to ask you if you’d join my party for the Grand National next, week,” he went on, as he helped himself to a chair on the opposite side of the hearth. “The whole thing will be spoilt without you, Mrs. Carstairs !”
Nettie slowly shook her head, while she still remained thoughtfully gazing into the glowing embers.
“Oh, come, you musn’t look so serious —it's not like you, Madame Butterfly!” he said jauntily, yet looking at her in some surprise.. “Don’t tell me you’re going to miss the National! Why, I thought you stayed in England especially for it!”
Again she shook her head.
“Eve given up racing.”
“Oh, rubbish!” he said quickly. “You’ll be telling me next that you’ve given up baccarat and bridge.”
“Yes, Eve given up cards too.”
He burst out laughing.
“Since when? And for how long?” Then, seeing her face still thoughtful and troubled, he suddenly dropped his bantering tone.
“By Jove!” he said, looking searchingly at her. “So it’s like that, is it? Well, my experience of women’s ‘never agains’ is that they’ve pulled off some grand coup and intend to do the discreet and retire on their booty, or else—well, that they’ve come to the end of their resources. In your case, Mrs. Carstairs, I can only hope it is the former.” Nettie, however, had not the slightest intention of making Sir Reuben Van Laun the recipient of her confidences, so, instead of answering him, she simply shrugged her shoulders and laughed.
“I see you are of an observant nature, Sir Reuben,” she remarked after a few minutes’ silence, “but I shouldn’t lay down hard-and-fast rules with regard to women, because you’ll find them a very uncertain species and quite unreliable.” “Not to mention ‘coy and hard to please,’” he finished, smiling. “Well, anyway, Em glad to see that nasty little pucker Las gone from your forehead, and that you can still laugh.”
“Em afraid I seem horribly dull,” she said, resolutely shaking off the heavyweight that was oppressing her. “But to further prove to you the uncertainty of my sex, you will find that I can change in one minute from grave to gay!” And all her pretty dimples showed in a brilliant smile.
“What are you doing to-night?” he
asked suddenly, while his dark, eager eyes took in every detail of her fair face and perfect figure.
“For once I’m going to have a quiet evening at home with Magnificat.”
“What? And sit moping over the fire as you were doing when I came in? No, no, we can’t allow the prettiest woman in London to court wrinkles and worry like that! Come and have dinner at the Savoy with me, Mrs. Carstairs, and we’ll do a theatre afterwards, or anything else you fancy.”
At any other time Nettie would have flatly refused—now she hesitated. The idea of the long evening by herself, with only the stubborn fact of those appalling debts as company, was not alluring.
Sir Reuben saw his opportunity and pressed it.
“Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow-”
“To-morrow we pay,” she finished, with a touch of recklessness in her laugh. “Very well, I’ll accept your invitation, Sir Reuben. What is the time now? Halfpast six; all right, I’ll go and change— and you-?”
“I’ll be back before 7.30 to fetch you,” he replied, as he took up his hat. “Au revoir !”
The next minute he was gone, and Nettie retired to her room to dress.
At the appointed hour Sir Reuben drove up in his private hansom and bore off Nettie to the Savoy.
It must be admitted that her conscience was pricking her cruelly as she sat down to dinner, but her companion’s jovial manner and the champagne which he kept plying her with soon had the effect of restoring her usual good spirits.
“I think we are rather late for a theatre,” he remarked* when they at length rose from the table. “It is already after nine; perhaps you would like to look in at the Frivoli for an hour?”
“I’m ready for anything,” answered Nettie gaily, her blue eyes sparkling with excitement. “I’ve only been once to a music hall; Archie doesn’t care for them, but I think it would be great sport!”
So to the Frivoli they went, and were soon seated side by side in the stalls listening to the inevitable coon song, fol-
lowed by the still more inevitable cakewalk.
Nettie had by this time got beyond the stage of self-reproach, and was entering into the evening’s enjoyment with a thoroughly “sufficient unto the day” spirit. Sir Reuben meanwhile was hugging himself with delight. He admired Nettie tremendously; but although she was frankly good pals with a number of men, she never allowed them to step an inch over the bounds of friendship. Tonight, however, he had just caught her in the right mood ; she had accepted his invitation, and the rest, he told himself, was merely a matter of time.
“Trixie Vane is the next on the programme,” announced Nettie, with interest. “What is she like?”
“Charming, judging by the number of her admirers and the quantity of picture post cards that are sold every day with the lady’s portrait on them,” answered Sir Reuben dryly. “Personally, I don’t admire dark women.”
“Here she is!” cried Nettie, as a lady in a short scarlet frock, amid roars of applause, skipped on to the stage. “I guess she must be a favorite—and—oh, yes—she’s very pretty!”
“Humph!” sniffed Sir Reuben. “The dress is a becoming one certainly. Now, I should just like to see you in that costume.”
Nettie made no reply, but continued to stare straight before her at the stage, utterly oblivious of the eager, admiring glances her companion kept casting upon her. She was far too interested in Miss Trixie Vane to bother about him, though she failed to see anything particularly prettv or edifying in her songs. Still, the dress was, as Sir Reuben had remarked, distinctly becoming—a very dull, gauzy scarlet frock, with the skirt reaching just below her knees, black silk stockings, and very high-heeled shoes with siiver buckles. She had a pert little face, and the wreath of scarlet berries entwined among her black locks gave the finishing touch to the whole. But what amused Nettie most were the sly winks and side glances she threw at the men in the stalls and boxes.
“I wonder,” she remarked suddenly,
“if it requires a great deal of nerve to appear for the first time on the stage like that?”
Sir Reuben laughed.
“Not for that type of woman—they’re as bold as brass ! But were it a modest, irreproachable lady like your charming self—well, I should say—‘yes.’ ”
Nettie fancied she detected an underlying vein of sarcasm in the words, and turned upon him defiantly.
“I suppose you think I haven’t sufficient dash and go—but you don’t know me !” ®
Sir Reuben looked at her in amusement.
“Don’t I?” he said. “I know you possess enough ‘dash’ to go ‘no trumps’ on a very risky hand or to ‘double hearts’ on the strength of the king and three
others, but that-” nodding towards
“Well?” demanded Nettie. “What?”
“Well, I bet you five hundred to one you’d never do it!”
“That I wouldn’t appear on a music hall stage in a dress like that?” cried Nettie, with flashing eyes. “Yes, I would —I will—I-”
“Five hundred pounds to one you don’t!” he burst out, his dark face ablaze with eagerness. “Mind you, it must be at this theatre, within a stated time, and I must be an eye witness!”
“It shall be within three weeks !” she said, her voice trembling with excitement. “And I’ll notify you of the date of my debut!”
“Done!” cried Sir Reuben. “I’ll make a note of that—and now, ma belle, I think we’d better be moving.”
“Yes—yes,” answered Nettie quickly. “Let us go—I’ve had enough of it.”
He put her cloak carefully round her shoulders, and together they left the theatre.
She was very silent as they drove homewards, and Sir Reuben glanced curiously at her from time to time at a loss to understand this sudden change from almost reckless hilarity to sober pensiveness.
“Please do not trouble to get out,” she said as they drew up in Eccleston
Square. “And thank you very much for the pleasant evening.”
Sir Reuben looked baffled. He had certainly not expected this sudden dismissal, and felt angry at her so persistently ignoring his open admiration and would-be devotion to herself.
“You’re surely not going to say goodbye already! Why, it isn’t eleven o’clock yet!” he said in an aggrieved tone. “We ought to finish up with supper somewhere.” I ^
“Oh, no, thank you!” answered Nettie decidedly as she tried to withdraw her hand from his grasp. “Archie would hate me to do that-—besides, I’m tired. Good-night, Sir Reuben.”
Pie muttered something under his breath about Archie and the devil, but Nettie’s manner admitted of no further argument. Under her surprised and almost haughty stare he could not do otherwise than release her hand and let her go “I won’t forget our bet,” she called out gaily as she gathered up her skirts and disappeared in at the doorway. “Good-night!”
Sir Reuben with a grunt flung himself back in the hansom and was driven away.
Next morning Nettie remained indoors and was at home to no one. To win that £500 was her one idea now, and a grand scheme of how to do it was gradually forming in her mind. It would require careful management and a great deal of thinking out, but once she set her mind on a thing she was pretty sure to carry it through. So from ten till half-past twelve she shut herself up in her boudoir with only the Persian cat as counsel, the result being that before lunch the following letter was written and ^ despatched to the manager of the Frivoli Theatre, with “Important” writ large on the cover:
DEAR SIR—I should be much obliged if you could favor me with fifteen minutes’ private conversation one day this week, at any hour most convenient to yourself. Awaiting an early reply,—I am, yours faithfully, Thora Desmond.
She had decided it would be best to conceal her identity, and to take her old
servant Thora into her.confidence. Thora had been Nettie’s nurse, and had remained with her ever since her childhood. She worshipped her beautiful young mistress, and would have entered into even madder schemes to assist her. On this occasion Nettie knew that she would be a necessary and invaluable confidant, so it was agreed that she should take the maid’s name and pose as Miss Thora Desmond to the manager of the Frivoli Theatre.
On the evening of the following day the answer to the letter arrived ; the manager would be pleased to grant Miss Desmond an interview the next afternoon at three o’clock.
Punctually at the time appointed, Nettie, with Thora in attendance, drove up to the Frivoli Theatre, and after a few minutes’ delay was shown into the manager’s office.
“I’m afraid you will think mine rather a strange errand,” began Nettie, while a bright flush suffused her cheeks, “but
“I am anxious to learn it and be of assistance if possible,” he put in, with a reassuring smile, while his quick eye took in all the details of her dainty personality.
Thus encouraged, Nettie came straight to the point.
“I want to appear one night on the stage at this theatre,” she said rather breathlessly. “Just like that Trixie Vane does, in the same style of costume.” “Have you had much experience?” he asked politely. “I haven’t heard your name at all in connection with the stage.” “No, I have had no experience,” answered Nettie, “but I can sing a little.” “Then it would be rather a risky speculation for me, don’t you think?” he suggested, smiling. “You see, Miss Desmond-”
“But I’m not asking for any fee, and it’s only for one turn. Oh, I assure you I could do that all right!”
The manager looked at her curiously. That she was a lady he had seen at a glance ; but that there was some mysterious game on he was equally sure.
“Are you contemplating taking up this
sort of thing?” he asked, eyeing her sharply.
“You’re afraid I might go on to other halls, representing myself as a ‘Frivoli Star’? No, no, you can set your mind at rest on that score. This is to be my first and last appearance on the stage.”
Mr. Hilson looked at the bright, eager face before him in some perplexity. There certainly was something peculiarly attractive about those innocent-looking blue eyes. At any rate there would be no harm in keeping her in view.
He glanced at his watch.
“Well, Miss Desmond, I cannot promise you anything definite at present—and I can’t spare another minute just now; but I will bear you in mind and, should I find an opening, I will not fail to let you know.”
Nettie’s face fell.
“But unless the date can be fixed within the next three weeks it’s no good !”
Within three weeks ! What on earth could her game be? The manager was distinctly interested in his fair visitor. Perhaps after all she might prove a valuable find. He held out his hand.
“I must have time to thing it over. Come and see me again in a week or ten days.”
Then he bowed her out, and she and Thora entered their cab and drove away.
“It’s not so easy as I thought !” was Nettie’s mental comment. “Still, I’ve succeeded in rousing his curiosity, which is something, and I’ll work the oracle yet, even though I have to bribe him !”
Pier mind was still running in the same direction when Thora was dressing her that evening.
“Anyway,” she said, with grim resolution, “I shall count that £ soo practically safe.”
“But, sure, dear misthress, and wid all them dreadful debts, it’ll niver be enough !” said Thora anxiously.
“I shall find some means of paying them off,” murmured Nettie thoughtfully, as she surveyed her image in the mirror. “And now, Thora, I must be quick —the Trehernes dine punctually at eight and I would not offend them for the world !”
Ten minutes later she was driving towards Lancaster Gate.
“There must be some way out !” she muttered, as she struggled with the buttons of her glove, “and I’ll pay off these debts, even though I have to sell my jewels to do it!”
She sat back for some minutes, her brows puckered in deep thought. “If only I could make another bet, that might bring success!”
Suddenly she threw up her head, while her blue eyes sparkled with excitement. “Why—wiry on earth shouldn’t I make the same bet with someone else—two or three others—if I can get them to take it on? Oh, excellent scheme!—I will— I’ll have a good try, anyway! And then —then, why I’ll make that old manager give in, if I have to go down on my knees to him !”
By the time she reached the Trehernes’ house her plan was settled. It might require a good deal of tact and diplomacy to lure her victims into the trap, but provided she got the opportunities, Nettie felt pretty sure of the result.
“Yes,” she told herself as she mounted the front doorsteps, “that is the way out ! And I’ll start to-night if I see anything like an opening!”
It so happened that chance favored her project that evening, and it was in this way. After dinner, when they all adjourned for cards, Nettie, much to the surprise of everyone, refused to play.
“Here’s another one joined your league, Major French!” exclaimed Mrs. Treherne, turning to a tall, grey-haired man who stood by. “Here’s Mrs. Carstairs declaring she’s given up bridge.”
“Shake hands, Mrs. Carstairs!” cried the Major heartily. “I’m glad to hear it. Most pernicious habit of the age— bridge.”
“Well,” laughed their hostess, “since you won’t be persuaded, Nettie, you don’t mind if I take your place, and leave you and Major French to entertain one another, do you?”
“Of course we don’t mind,” replied Nettie pleasantly. “We’ll have some music—eh ?” _
“Capital icfea !” cried the Major. “You
shall come and sing something for me,
Mrs. Carstairs. Allow me to escort you to the drawing-room.”
So it was that victim number one walked into the net.
After singing one or two songs, Nettie artfully drew the conversation round to the subject nearest her heart by mentioning that she had recently been to the Frivoli and seen Trixie Vane. Then, in much the same manner as she had unwittingly led Sir Reuben to make his bet she wittingly drew the unsuspicious Major on.
“Well, I’ll bet any money you wouldn’t!” he was saying, for the fourth time, after she had skilfully worked him up to the vital point. “And, although I cannot say I admire the music hall profession for ladies, still I must admit I would dearly love to see you in the role, just once. However, of course it is quite impossible. You acknowledge you have no experience—no influence in that quarter either—and yet you imagine that you could appear in the best hall in London on any date you choose to mention and-”
“What do you bet I don’t?” cut in Nettie, with sparkling eyes and beating heart.
“One hundred pounds to a penny! No — £200—anything you like,” answered the Major. “I always enjoy a good sporting bet!”
“Right you are!” cried Nettie. “We will consider that booked—£200 to a penny I don’t appear at the Frivoli on —let’s see, shall we say April 3rd?”
The Major considered a minute, then nodded.
“Yes—suit me admirably,” then he laughed. “Just as well you only stand to lose a penny over this deal, because I know the whole thing is out of the question.”
“We shall see,” smiled Nettie as she rose from the piano. “By the way, you understand, of course, that it is to be a secret between us?”
And the Major’s emphatic “Of course” was immensely satisfactory.
So another £200 worth of Nettie’s debts was, in her opinion, practically disposed of, and after this she set to work
in grim earnest to select the rest of her victims.
This part of the business required some consideration, but before she fell asleep that night she had carefully gone through the list of her men friends and sifted them down to the few likely ones. Fortunately she knew a good number of people in London just at this time, and she very wisely chose not only the wealthiest, but the ones she knew to be rather reckless when anything like a gamble was concerned.
“Just as well, too* to fix on those who don’t happen to know one another,” she murmured as she was dropping oft’ to sleep, “in case they should compare notes.”
There was no doubt that she laid her plans remarkably well. Each detail was fully thought out, and the clear, business-like manner in which she arranged everything would have astounded many people who looked upon her simply as a harebrained, extravagant, pleasure-loving woman.
On the morning following the Trehernes’ dinner party Nettie was up early and out for a ride in the Row, where she knew she would encounter a certain Captain Iredell, of whom she had great hopes. There was a subtle method in all her movements now, and she went wherever she thought there was a chance of meeting one of her chosen few.
It was marvellous the way she played her cards—with what dexterity she led up to the subject, roused their sporting instincts, and ultimately landed her fish. One man she really did run up against by accident, and that was Mr. Swain, a young society eligible, whom she chanced to meet in Regent Street one afternoon. Seizing the opportunity, she lured him to a shop window full of picture post cards of the leading actors and actresses. Among these was a photograph of Trixie Vane in the very costume in which Nettie had seen her. This rendered her task all the easier, and the young man fell eagerly into the trap.
On thinking it all over afterwards, Nettie came to the conclusion that Mr. Swain’s was the simplest case of the lot. She had absolutely no difficulty with
him, for he readily offered to bet her
£300, and insisted on her having tea with him in Bond Street to seal the contract.
In a week she had succeeded in capturing four out of the seven likely victims, and her eyes grew round with excitement as she made the following entry in her notebook :
Sir Reuben Van Laun....£500
Major French ...........£200
Captain Iredell ..........£100
Mr. Swain ..............£300
Baron Magawlys ........£200
Now, provided all went well, she would have not only sufficient to settle her debts, but quite £250 extra for herself. So it was with determination writ large on her face that she once more sought an interview with the manager of the Frivoli Theatre. She offered straight away to pay him £50 for allowing her to give one “turn” on the evening of April 3rd.
Mr. Hilson’s eyes twinkled. This seemed more like business. However, he had no intention of doing anything rash.
“I must have some idea of your vocal capabilities before making any decision,” he said.
Nettie promptly gave him “some idea,” with a result that was distinctly satisfactory to both parties. Before she bade Mr. Hilson “good morning” a little agreement had been drawn up between them—everything was “fixed up,” and even the subject of her costume discussed.
Then followed a busy time for Nettie, for she was determined to do the thing really well. No one should be able to say that she made a fool of herself! She practised her little performance daily, and twice, at the suggestion of Mr. Hilson had special private rehearsals at the theatre.
The fateful evening arrived at last, and half-past eight saw Nettie in her dressing-room, the faithful Thora, of course, in attendance.
She found she was billed as “La Belle Thora,” and that her turn was timed for ten o’clock. This left her ample time to prepare and dress.
The day before, she had sent little
notes of reminder to “the five,” and each had replied that he would be there without fail.
Sir Reuben would have been indeed surprised had he known that the/e were four other men among the audience all equally anxious for the appearance of “La Belle Thora”—so would each of the others for that matter—and it was an exciting moment for all concerned when the long-looked for number at last turned up.
There «vas a minute’s delay, and then the daintiest apparition that ever faced the footlights tripped on to the stage. There was no exaggerated bowing and smirking; simply a bewitchingly natural smile and a faint fluttering of the eyelids as she stepped forward and the orchestra struck up the opening bars of her song.
She was dressed entirely in blade, spangled with silver—otherwise the style of costume was much the same as that worn by Trixie Vane, in accordance with the bet. Her neck and arms were bare, and showed up in dazzling ..whiteness against the black velvet shoulder-straps, while the crowning touch was the large diamond star which gleamed in her golden hair. Never before, perhaps, had Nettie Carstairs looked so beautiful as on this night when she faced the audience of the Frivoli Theatre.
There were subdued murmurs of applause as she stepped on to the stage, which were instantly hushed to eager attention when she began to sing. Yet it was nothing grand—simply the quaintest little Irish ballad, sung with just sufficient brogue to betray her nationality. But hers was the kind of voice not often heard at a music hall, and when the last verse came to an end the applause and shouts from the gallery were deafening.
In her wildest dreams Nettie had never expected such an ovation, and her blue eyes shone with gladness as she came forward again and again to make her bow.
There was no doubt that she had taken all hearts by storm, and when it was found that the roars of “Encore !” instead of subsiding grew more insistent, Mr. Hilson politely asked her if she would mind going on again. She did go on
again, and scored even a greater triumph, if possible, than the first; but although “Bravos!” rang from floor to ceiling, she would not be tempted back a third time.
“No, no,” she laughed when, the manager tried to press her. “Our agreement says only one song, Mr. Flilson, and I have already given two, so you must send on the next artiste now to appease your house.”
And she hurriedly returned to her dressing-room, there to be besieged almost immediately with callers.
“Tell them all I.can’t see them,” said Nettie quickly, as Thora came back with the fifth bouquet and card. “Say your mistress thanks them very much for the flowers, but she cannot possibly see anyone now, as she is changing and has to go on somewhere else immediately.”
And in spite of the numerous pressing messages in reply, she remained firm in her refusal to see anyone, and artfully eluded her pursuers by leaving her dressing-room by a second ‘emergency” exit.
Having reached her carriage safely, she drove rapidly homewards, where she spent the rest of the evening writing notes to the five men who were now in her debt. Major French she invited to call on her at 12.30 the following morning. “I am sailing for India on the seventh,” she wrote, “and would like to see you before I go and say good-bye.”
To Sir Reuben she said much the same, but appointed 4.30 next afternoon for his visit. Captain Iredell she knew she would meet during her morning ride in the Park; Baron Magawlys she invited to lunch on the fifth, and Mr. Swain to tea the same afternoon. Thus she arranged to see them all and yet prevent any awkward meetings.
She had promised to call on Mr. Hilson at eleven o’clock next morning, to hear his report on her performance, which visit she intended to get over in good time so as to be at home when Major French arrived.
Now Nettie was quite aware that she had made a distinct hit the night before, but she was simply astounded when Mr. Hilson, greeting her with open arms, offered to take her on right away at £100 a week.
“Much as I should like to accept your offer,” she said, “I’m afraid it is out of the question, for in three days’ time I am leaving England—and, to tell you the truth, Mr. Hilson I only did it for a bet !”
The manager’s disappointment was great.
“It’s a thousand pities, Miss Desmond,” he said. “You are a born actress, as well as a charming singer. I have already had three photographers round this morning to beg you to sit for them ! Why, you would have been famous throughout London in a few weeks !”
But although Nettie agreed with him
that it was a great pity, she could omy repeat it was impossible. Then, with a cordial farewell to him, she bade goodbye to the Frivoli Theatre.
The “Five,” as Nettie called them, all paid up promptly, and every debt was faithfully settled before she left England.
“You scoffed when I said I had given up racing and cards,” she said to Sir Reuben, when he called to bid her good-bye “So you will be further surprised now to hear that I have given up betting! Flaving made my last, successfully, I intend to do like your ‘discreet’ women, and say henceforth ‘Never again!’”