FICTION

The GOOD HEAD

A young man in love discovers the disadvantages of being a dumb egg

JOHN RHODES STURDY December 1 1932
FICTION

The GOOD HEAD

A young man in love discovers the disadvantages of being a dumb egg

JOHN RHODES STURDY December 1 1932

The GOOD HEAD

A young man in love discovers the disadvantages of being a dumb egg

JOHN RHODES STURDY

FREDDIE was a pal. Freddie was a good head. No one ever contradicted that, not even the teachers who had once tried desperately to drill Latin and algebra and geometry into his brain. Every one liked Freddie, from the mothers of debutantes who invited him to their parties, to the soda jerker in the corner drug store. He was very good-natured. He never got mad at people, never lost his temper, never took things the wrong way. He was—well, a good head. And he suffered because of that, suffered terribly.

It was hard to l>elieve, because he had practically everything a young man could have and he was very popular. No hostess ever excluded Freddie Scott's name from her list of guests. No girl ever gave a tea or a bridge without squeezing him in somewhere. That was just the trouble— he w;as taken for granted. If something w'ent wrong with a party, if there was one too many or a place vacant, they could ask Freddie tí» step in or step out with little hesitation because “He won’t mind. He’s such a good head.”

It was not a pleasant outl(x>k, so far as Freddie’s future was concerned. I le showed alarming signs of turning into one of those unfortunate men who are always eligible but never nominated. You can see them at any debutante party, slightly bitter smiles on their lips, chaps who waited just a little too long. Good heads.

However, Mrs. Glenholme p. Townes suddenly decided to produce an amateur play. She was for ever doing silly things like that. At one time in her crowded, hectic life she had lived for two years in Greenwich Village, acquired a Bohemian manner and a long cigarette holder, and gone completely arty. She wore her hair short and back of her ears, and leaned toward tailored suits and heavy brogues as her daily attire. Her husband, to the best of people’s knowledge, was no longer among those present.

As her initial effort, Mrs. Townes selected a light comedy which had weathered many years of amateur presentation. She chose her cast with one eye on the box office: that is. she Ux>k no chance of a sparsely filled house. lVbutantes were given preference in filling the various lx>sitions in the cast and company, which meant that the proud families and their friends would be certain to occupy many seats on the night of the play. And that brought Mrs. Glenholme I’. to Olga Somers, Hugh Chisholm and Freddie.

Olga, quite naturally, was the heroine. She was lovely and she could act, and half the boys in town were in love with her. The last, in itself, meant a good-sized audience. At the start. Freddie was chosen to play the dashing hero opposite her. which suited him to perfection. I le thought Olga was the swellest girl in the world. He had never told her so, but he figured that she must know because he stared at her so admiringly every time they met.

And then, like a dark cloud, Hugh Chisholm made his appearance. The Chisholm family was wealthy and influential, and Hugh’s mother had a long talk with Mrs. Glenholme P. Hugh, it appeared, was back from school in the South, and had done dramatic work with splendid success. So Mrs. Townes went to Jim Parker, who was assisting her in production, and spoke to him.

Jim looked disturbed. “It’s kinda mean, don’t you think, Mrs. Townes?”

"We must think of the play. I believe Hugh is more suited for the part. Do you think Frederick will mind?” “Oh. no, Freddie won’t mind. He’s a good head.

I guess we can give him the part of the butler.”

Freddie said nothing. The play w'ent into rehearsal with Hugh playing opposite Olga, and Freddie as the butler. He continued to smile goodnaturedly. Hugh was a fine actor, he decided, and that was all right. Anyway, a fellow was lucky to be on the same stage with a swell girl like Olga. Still, it was pretty tough knowing that he wouldn’t get a chance to embrace her in the love scene. Freddie had dreamed about that scene for a whole week, night after night. With him, it wouldn’t have been just a play. But now his hope w'as smashed. Hugh Chisholm wras to get the precious kiss.

Rehearsals went along in fits and starts. Mrs. Glenholme P. tore her hair—all that was left of it— and chewed violently on her cigarette tube. The only players who appeared to be making any progress at all were Olga and Hugh. In fact, to Freddie’s

mind they w'ere progressing a little too smoothly. It was quite all right to rehearse a love scene until you had it perfect, but there was no reason to keep on at it every day of the week. Moreover. Freddie half suspected that the

entirely to the theatre. He knew that Hugh was taking Olga out in the evenings, and that she was having him over at her house. It looked very much as though Olga had taken a serious interest in Mrs. Chisholm’s handsome boy.

Freddie went into conference with his pal. Frank Travers, the day of the opening. Freddie wras feeling pretty low in spirits.

“You know,” he said to Frank as they sat in Freddie’s bedroom. “You know, it’s a darned cruel world.”

Frank threw his legs over the arm of his chair and thrust his thumbs in the lower pockets of his vest.

“Oh. it’s not so bad.” he replied. “My aunt sent me five dollars this morning.”

Freddie looked glum. "Do you really think she likes Chisholm?” he asked.

“Who?”

“Olga.”

Frank shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t see what would stop her. He’s not such a bad egg a bit conceited, per-

scene was not being CO I i n e d

haps. But that’s all right. He knows how to keep the ferns on the hop.”

“What do you mean, on the hop?”

Frank shifted his position slightly.

“He has them guessing all the time. And when you get a girl so jumbled up she doesn’t know' wrhich way she’s going—boy, does she fall for you! That, child, is what they call technique. You haven’t any.”

Freddie flushed. “Oh, haven’t I?”

“No. Look at Olga. You’re crazy about her; everybody knows that. But what are you doing about it? Nothing.”

“I’ve taken her out at different times,” said Freddie with a grunt.

“Sure, you have,” his friend agreed. “So has Hugh. Fella, you can take a girl out for years and not get anywhere. You’re nuts about Olga. All right. But how’s she going to know that unless you tell her? That’s the trouble with you, Freddie.”

“Aw,” muttered Freddie, staring at the ceiling, “I don’t like rushing a girl. Honest, it makes me sick to see fellas go after a girl that way. When you really like some one,

you don’t need superior technique and all that stuff. It’s not real.”

Frank looked at him. “Do you know what’s the matter with you. Freddie?” he asked.

“What?”

“You don’t know what a swell lad you are.” Frank leaned forward. “You’re too good-natured. You let them give Chisholm your part in the play, and that was mighty decent of you. But they didn’t appreciate it. They take it for granted that you’ll do anything they say. You

should have got up and told the whole bunch of them off.” Freddie smiled. “Why? It’s their show. Hang it, Frank, I’m not a jealous cat.”

“You're a dumb egg, that’s what you are. Go ahead and be the good head. Let Chisholm take Olga. You’re worth five of him, but does Olga know that? How’s she supposed to, when you don’t even make a play for her?” Frank rose to his feet. “And let me tell you, you’ll never get her rushing after you. She’s not the type. If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you had an inferiority complex. But you haven’t. You just don’t want to make any one sore. Ökay, don’t. And lose a swell girl.” He made a farewell motion with his hand. “Be seein’ you. I have some work to do on the Hearse.”

“All right. So long. Frank.”

“So long. Unconscious.”

"PREDDIE sat for a long time, his chin on his chest.

There were always two ways of looking at a thing. Maybe they had overstepped a bit in giving Hugh Chisholm his part in the play, but what would have been the sense of getting angry? Certainly, it was fine and just to stick up for your own rights, but the old play didn’t mean enough to Freddie to make him lose his temper.

Then there was Olga. He supposed Frank was right about Olga. He had tried desperately many times to tell her how he felt, but somehow he had always lost his voice and his nerve, and ended by saying it was fine weather or something like that. And that was no way to woo a girl. No way at all.

Freddie suddenly decided that he needed a cooling drink to sooth his agitation, so he left the house and sauntered down to the nearest drug store. With a milkshake under his belt, he felt better, but the thought of Olga still troubled him. He sat at the fountain and played aimlessly with a couple of straws, watching the soda jerker concoct strange delights for the people iff the tables in the rear of the store. He wearied of this aitei a time, and was getting down from his stool to leave the sh«>P when something happened. This was the appearance of Olga Somers in the doorway.

It was much too sudden for Freddie. I íe was all unnerved and flushing even .before she noticed him and smiled. A prickly feeling ran down his spine, just as it always did when he met Olga, and his throat choked up like a clogged tube.

"Hello, Freddie,” she greeted him, with a dazzling smile. “Isn’t the wither divine?”

The. weather was not the only thing that was divine, thought Freddie. Some ^irls were just about the loveliest things on earth, and Olga was the pick of the few. She wasn’t really blonde, and not brunette either just in between, with soft, wavy hair, and lovely skin th.it always seemed to have a coat of tan no matter what the season was. She was dressed in white, and Freddie began tc think about angels.

“Ready for the play tonight?” she enquired, climbing on one of the stools. “I’m awf’ly afraid I’ll lx: terrible. I have stage fright already.”

Freddie sat down next to her.

“Gosh,” he said, “that’s silly. You act like a professional.” “But it’s the suspense and everything.” She glanced at him. “Don’t you feel that way about it?”

Freddie smiled a little ruefully. There wasn't any suspense connected with his part in the play; he had five or six lines.

“It’s nothing,” he replied. “I guess everybody feels nervous before a play. I read once that even on Broadway they bite their nails and walk up and down in the wings before the curtain goes up. I—” He flushed and looked at the counter. “I think you’re a swell actress.”

She smiled. “That’s nice of you, Freddie."

He flushed even more. “I guess will you have something?”

“I’d like a chocolate soda. I suppose you’ve had yours?” He nodded. “Yes—but I kinda feel thirsty again.” He motioned to the soda jerker. “Couple of choc’late sodas.” He thought of Frank’s words, and took a deep breath. This was his opportunity to tell her how he felt. If he waited any longer, Hugh Chisholm would be in too strong, thick, and that would ruin his chances for ever. Gosh, what were you supposed to say? It was so darned hard. He turned to Olga, opened his mouth and choked.

She laughed. “Isn’t Mrs. Townes a scream?” she exclaimed. “I’m sure the poor dear will have a nervous breakdown before this night is out.” She suddenly noticed her companion’s eyes. “What’s the matter, Freddie?”

He turned red. “Oh—nothing—at all!”

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Olga regarded him curiously. “You're a very funny hoy."

"Yes, I guess I am.”

“Oh, please, 1 didn’t mean it that way. I was thinking about the play. You’re such a good actor, and yet you refused to play the lead. That’s what 1 can’t understand.”

He stared at her.

"I really thought you liked the part at first,” she continued. "And then you backed out without a word. Did anything happen?”

E WAS too flablx-rgasted to answer. "Of course, I suppose you knew what you were doing. It was awf’ly lucky, wasn’t it, that Hugh was there to take the part? We didn’t have another boy good enough to fill in. I think Hugh was a frightfully decent sport to substitute. He doesn’t care very much for acting, you know.” Olga paused. "1 wasn’t there when you switched, but Hugh told me about it. He said that you didn’t w-ant to play the lead for some reason or other, and he stepped in to help you out.”

“But—” Freddie began, and then stopped. What if Olga really liked Chisholm?

"1 think,” said Olga, "that Hugh is one of the nicest boys I’ve ever known. Don’t you like him?”

Well, she did like the fellow. What was the good of hurting her? It would get him nowhere if he told her the truth, and anyway, Chisholm had done nothing verywrong. Just switched things around a bit, and lots of fellows did that. They couldn’t help it when they were crazy about girls.

“1 suppose so,” murmured Freddie.

Olga looked at him quickly. "You don’t seem very enthusiastic. I know that most people consider him conceited, but not many boys would take a i>art in a play to help some one else.”

Her tone was cutting, and Freddie winced. He wanted to stick up for his own rights, but, gosh, he didn’t want to hurt Olga.

"Yes," he agreed, "it was swell of him.”

The sodas were served, and Freddie sipjxd his slowly, looking out of the corner of his eye at Olga. Gee, she was some girl! He wanted to tell her so, and how much he liked her, but what was the use? He knew she would say, "I think you’re sweet, Freddie, but not that way. I’m sorry, because you’ve been so nice about everything.” Other girls who had said that hadn’t mattered so very much, but he couldn’t lx-ar to hear it from Olga. And he would, he knew —because she liked Hugh Chisholm.

Freddie accomjxmied Olga from the drugstore. She was meeting lier mother at the Hotel Norton, and Freddie said that he w-as going that way, too. Walking along the street with Olga by his side, he felt veryproud. Funny thing, but somehow his head always seemed to lxa little higher, his Ixick a little straighter, when he was walking with Olga. She did something to him; his mother was the only other girl who could make Freddie feel proud like that.

"It’s certainly a swell day,” he remarked. There he was. back with the weather. "I think I’ll have a coupla sets of tennis l>efore dinner."

Olga glanced sideways at him. "1 must be a dreadful tennis player,” she said.

"Why, you’re a great player.”

She smiled. "You asked me to play twice.

1 think, and then you stopped. That doesn’t say much for my game.”

He blushed, floundering. “Golly, 1 1

never thought you’d think that. 1 guess 1—I kinda reckoned you wouldn’t want to he bothered."

"Chump!” She laughed gaily.

He felt somewhat encouraged. “What do you say.” he suggested, “that you and 1 enter the mixed doubles at the club next week?”

Her reply carried a suggestion of regret.

“I’m sorry, Freddie, but I’ve already entered with Hugh. We put our names up yesterday.”

“Oh. Well -good luck.”

“Thanks a lot, Freddie.”

He left her at the entrance to the Hotel Norton and walked slowly back the way he liad come, his eyes fixed on the sidewalk. His heart was heavy with disappointment and hopelessness.

Maytx* he had been a chump again. Frank would think so, of course—allowing Hugh Chisholm to put another one over on him. But w-l\at would have been the sense in blurting out the truth in the drug store? There would have been little satisfaction in it, and Olga would have been hurt. He w-ould not hurt Olga for all the world.

Still, Hugh Chisholm w-as getting a little on Freddie’s nerves.

UR EDDIE did not play his two sets of ■*tennis. Instead, he went home, up to his room, and sat by the open window w-ith a book in his hands. But it wasn’t long before he banged the book closed, and went downstairs. He hardly touched a bite of his dinner, and the family nodded sympathetically.

“The suspense must be terrific,” said Mrs. Scott.

At seven o’clock Frank Travers drove up in his 1924 sedan, affectionately dubbed The Hearse, which served as a sort of community car. That is. it was used by any young man w-ho could afford to buy a gallon of gasoline for its thirsty engine.

“Well,” said Frank, “this is the night. How’re you feeling?”

"Not so g&l;xxl,” returned Freddie.

“See Olga?”

“Yes.”

"And?”

“She’s crazy about Chisholm.”

Frank shook his head. “Well, that’s too bad. Tough luck, old boy. What did she say when you laid your cards on the table?” "We-ell.” Freddie looked down at his shoes. “I didn’t exactly do that.”

“You mean—you didn’t say anything?” “Not exactly.”

Frank made a hopeless gesture. "Boy, do you take the cake ! I give you up right now. You’re too much for me.”

In silence they drove to the old Majestic Theatre, which Mrs. Townes had leased for her production. The ow-ners had almost w-ept on her shoulders w-ith gratitude, for the ancient house had been dark for manv long months. Talking pictures and the decline of road shows had been the death knell of the proud Majestic, and yet the old atmosphere still clung to its frayed curtains. Famous English and American actors had played the Majestic in the days of its glory. This w-as no mere community hall for amateur productions. This w-as Theatre, and ghosts were walking behind the footlights.

A SPRINKLING of spectators already -**■ occupied several rows in the orchestra, and there was wild excitement behind the scenes. Shaking hands held scripts tightly, and lips were moving with frantic speed. The make-up artist was dabbing her moist brow with a handkerchief and endeavoring to apply grease paint to faces that were twitching in dread and excitement.

Mrs. Townes was ruffling her hair, and chewing violently on her cigarette holder. She was watching several young men placing a scene in position, and giving orders to Jim Parker at the same time. Her face was the very picture of agony.

Freddie and Frank reached backstage to find Hugh Chisholm, resplendent in full evening dress, lounging against the wall, a cigarette between his lips.

“Hi. rabble!” he greeted, knocking the ash from his cigarette.

“Doesn’t he look beautiful?” Frank said to Freddie, and walked toward the dressing rooms. Freddie started to follow.

“Wait a minute, lad,” said Hugh Chisholm. “I want to talk to you.”

Freddie halted. “Well?”

"I just want to hand you a little tip. You know, from one pal to another. You’re wasting your time running after Olga.” “Am I?"

“Get w-ise. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it. that she and I are practically hitched. I know howyou feel, but that’s the way it is.” “I can’t see,” said Freddie, “that it’s any of your affair what I do.”

"No? Do you think I want you hanging around? Keep it under your hat, fella, but you’re a nuisance.”

Freddie’s eyes contracted. “Listen, gigolo, be careful. I’ll hang around as long as I care to. If Olga doesn’t want me. she’ll tell me so. But I’m not taking it from you.” Hugh Chisholm shrugged. “Olga won’t tell you. She looks on you as a harmless jellyfish—which is a pretty gtxid description.”

Freddie Uxjk a step forward. "Listen—” "That’s a swell way to act,” said Hugh Chisholm quite loudly, glancing over P'reddie’s shoulder. "Trying to pick a fight the night of' the play. What do you want to do, ruin the whole thing? I wouldn’t put it past you. But you won’t get me in a scrap, because I think too much of Mrs. Townes and Olga.”

He turned on his heel and strode away. Freddie stared after him. Trying to pick a fight! Was the fella crazy?

He turned to find Olga looking at him. She was dressed in a gown of some satiny material, with a small string of pearls around her throat.

“I heard,” she said, frowning. "And I'm sorry that I did.”

"Heard? You mean, what he said about picking a fight?”

"Yes. I think that was awfully low of you, Freddie. I—I’ve changed my opinion considerably about you.”

He started at the tone of her voice. "But, Olga—”

“You’ve always been big and decent. I'm sorry, Freddie.”

Jim Parker’s voice rose. "Lights! Get ready with that curtain! All right, Olga— here for your entrance.”

She answered the call, and Freddie stared after her. He had stepped into another trap! Hugh Chisholm, with his tricks and his superior technique.

rT'HERE was a hush backstage as the * curtain went up and Mrs. Glenholme P. Townes’ great dramatic effort commenced. Freddie, watching from the wings, sighed deeply. He had never seen Olga look so lovely, and her voice was just about the most fascinating thing on earth.

“I guess.” thought Freddie, “she’s too wonderful to like a punk like me.”

Freddie was called for his make-up. and he missed most of the first act. He had two entrances in the second, when he announced callers to Sir Desmond Dundering -Hugh Chisholm—whose butler he was. At the dose of the last act he was due to go on the stage several times, interrupting the love scene between Sir Desmond and LadySheila -Olga—which would bring the play to a close by Lady Sheila saying, “We might as well let Rogers watch. Otherwise, we’ll be here all night.”

That was the rub. He would be forced to watch Hugh Chisholm kiss Olga and, the way Freddie was feeling, that would be torture. But what else could he do?

Strangely enough, the play went along without a hitch. Mrs. Townes stopped chewing her cigarette holder and actuallysmiled. Young Jack Cleghorn, w-ho came in from the audience now and again to make his reports, announced that the spectators were whispering highly flattering things about the acting. Mrs. Townes began to vision notices in the newspapers. "Done with professional skill. Great credit is due the producer.”

The closing moments of the last act; Lady Sheila and Sir Desmond about to commence their love scene. The audience raised to a high pitch of excitement: Freddie ready to make his entrance.

“Well, here goes.” he thought, and walked from the wings, catching Lady Sheila in Sir Desmond’s arms on the point of osculation.

Freddie coughed. “Excuse me, sir, but will you have cocktails?”

The audience smiled. Sir Desmond released the beautiful heroine from his arms.

“Yes, Rogers,” he said testily, “we’ll have cocktails.”

"Very good, sir.”

Freddie turned on his heel and walked from the stage. Almost immediately he returned. Sir Desmond had recommenced warming-up.

“Pardon me, sir, but shall I serve the cocktails in here?”

The audience burst into laughter. Sir Desmond looked threatening.

“Yes, you idiot, in here!”

“Very good, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Freddie reached the wings as Sir Desmond was complaining, "It seems to me, dear, that the whole bally world is trying to stop me kissing you.”

Off-stage, Frank Travers came forward with the cocktail tray, and Freddie took it.

“What’s in this thing?”

“Grape juice. I hope it makes Chisholm sick.”

Freddie looked on stage. Sir Desmond was manoeuvring his lips into position. Well, the kiss was coming. Coughing, Freddie marched out on the stage.

The laughter was thunderous as Sir Desmond once more released Lady Sheila from his arms. The murderous expression on his face was eloquent. Freddie had to admit that Hugh Chisholm was playing his part exceptionally well.

"Cocktails, sir.”

“I see them, you ass. Put them down! Put them down! On the table.”

And, then and there, Mrs. Glenholme P. Townes’ contribution to the theatre hit the skies. In fact, it went hay-wire. Freddie had to pass close to Sir Desmond to reach the table, and on the route lay a bear rug. A rather mangy-looking rug it was, but it made local history.

Freddie’s feet, traversing the stage, struck the edge of the fur—and stopped. But not so, Freddie. He continued to accelerate forward. The cocktail tray flew from his arms like a pebble from a sling, executed a beautiful arc in the air and came down like a thunderbolt. The frail glasses crashed on the stage, while the shaker, losing its lid, chose a different course and shot directly toward Sir Desmond Dundering.

SIR DESMOND saw the danger and ducked. But he was just a little too slow. There was a sharp crack as the container struck him on the top of the head, and a horrible sounding swish from the grape juice.

The liquid did its worst. With his shirt front drenched w-ith the purple fluid and his hair dripping, the worthy knight staggered back.

The audience howled with laughter. Even the sedate old dowagers in the front boxes dropped their opera glasses and held their socially prominent sides. The gallery, filled with young men and women, went into such convulsions that seats shook and creaked.

Sir Desmond shook himself and held out his hands in front of him, He stared at them and then at Freddie.

“You clumsy fool!’’ It was Hugh Chisholm and not Sir Desmond w-ho shouted that.

Freddie’s eyes were filled with horror. He knew that Mrs. Tow-nes was gesticulating w-ildly from the wings. He knew that the curtain was still up and the play not ended, and that he had to say something. But he

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was struck dumb. His lips moved, but no words came from them.

Olga, who had gone deathly white beneath her make-up, stepped into the breach. 1 lugh Chisholm had forgotten he was acting, Freddie was paralyzed. It was Olga who i saved the situation and Mrs. Townes’ reputation. Somehow, the people backstage expected that. There are some girls you can depend on in any crisis.

She stepped forward and touched Sir Desmond’s arm. Her voice, clear and

resonant, pierced the laughter of the convulsed audience.

“If you don’t kiss me now, Desy, you’ll never kiss me. Or would you like another cocktail?”

The roar from the audience was deafening. They were laughing tex) hard to notice Sir Desmond wince. They would probably

never know that Lady Sheila pinched him fiercely on the arm. But that pinch brought I lugh Chisholm back to his senses. Brushing the matted hair from his eyes, he took the beautiful Lady Sheila in his arms and kissed her.

“Curtain!” cried Jim Parker, sweat on his brow, and Mrs. Townes’ adventure into the field of amateur dramatics came to an end. The curtain had scarcely touched the boards before Hugh Chisholm swung around ion P'reddie.

“You—you sloppy idiot !” he cried, beside himself with anger. “You ruined the play. Look at me! Look at the mess you’ve made.”

P'reddie moistened his dry lips. “Listen, Hugh, I’m sorry. It was an accident.”

The entire cast gathered around. Mrs. Townes said something about a curtain call, but Hugh Chisholm disregarded her.

“Accident, my neck!” he cried angrily. “You wanted to make me look like a fool. You’ve wanted to ever since I got your part in the play. You weren’t big enough to take that decently. Well, I guess you’re satisfied now. The whole house is laughing at me. You’ve smashed the show.”

Freddie went very white.

“Be careful, Chisholm.” he said quietly. ‘Tve told you the truth. I tripped on that rug.”

Hugh Chisholm laughed. “Sure, you tripped on the rug! Do you think we believe that was an accident? We can see clean through you. Swell boy ! Ruining the play for Mrs. Townes—and Olga.”

Freddie, his cheeks pale, turned to Olga. Her make-up was streaked by tears. As he j looked at her. she suddenly put her hand to ' lier mouth and ran from the stage.

P'reddie stared.

“See that, you punk?” Hugh Chisholm flung at him. “How do you feel now? This play meant everything to her. Nice gentleman-making a girl cry.”

Hugh Chisholm liad said one word too j many. Perhaps he realized that, because ! he stepped back. Perhaps he realized that the good head was no longer a good head.

P'reddie did not say a word. He crossed the stage toward Hugh Chisholm and looked I that young man in the eye. Then, delibjerately, he punched Mr. Chisholm on the nose.

rT~M IE late Sir Desmond’s knees gave way.

■*Uttering a groan, he collapsed on the stage.

j "Good gosh!” murmured Jim Parker.

Mrs. Townes was so thunderstruck that the cigarette holder fell from her mouth and broke on the floor.

"Get up!” Freddie ordered the fallen Mr. Chisholm. “You’ve been riding me a little too far. 1 don’t give a darn how much you praise yourself, but you’re not going ; to make me out a rotter in the eyes of any girl. Get up and tell her the truth. If she likes you after that okay.”

Hugh Chisholm raised himself on one i elbow. “Don’t think you can hit me and ’ get away with it.”

“No?” Freddie's eves were glinting.

Jim Parker hurriedly interrupted. “Get up, Chisholm. Cut out this squabbling. Can’t you hear them out there? Get ready for a curtain call.”

When the curtain had fallen again, I lugh Chisholm scowled at P'reddie. “You’ll get yours, fella.”

A figure suddenly appeared from the wings. It was young Jack Cleghorn and his eyes were sparkling.

“It was perfect!” he cried. “It was swell! That last bit with the cocktails knocked them off their feet.”

At that moment Frank Travers reappeared.

“Where’s Olga?” asked Hugh Chisholm. “I’m taking her home.”

“Not tonight,” said Frank. “Not any night.”

“What do you mean?” Both Chisholm and P'reddie started. “Where is she?”

“In good company. She went off with a lad who was waiting for her at the sidet door, and the way she greeted him looked ; just too bad for any one else. I’d say Olga j never wants to see either of you again.”

T-JUGH CHISHOLM turned red.

“Oh, is .that so?” His lip curled. “So the lady has run out? Well, you can tell Miss Olga she can keep on running.” Frank turned to Freddie, who was staring at the curtain.

“Well, boy, what do you say?” “Nothing,” murmured Freddie.

Frank nodded sympathetically.

“It’s a tough break, all right. Well, let’s breeze. You can get your clothes in the! morning. We’ll have a cup of coffee and go home. The Hearse is outside.”

Freddie followed his friend from the stage. It was all over now—all over. The play and Olga. No, not Olga. She would never be over. An empty, hopeless feeling gripped Freddie.

The two young men climbed into the front seat of the Hearse.

“Well,” said Frank, “that’s that. Don’t worry, you’ll get over it. She’s not worth mooning about.”

“Shut up, P'rank,” said Freddie quietly. “Well, is she? Any girl who would pull a trick like that—forget her.”

“Forget her!” Freddie stared at the windshield.

"Forget the loveliest girl I’ve ever known? Gosh, I couldn’t. I guess I kinda love her. I’d get down on my knees and tell her that.”

Abruptly Frank opened the door and stepped out.

“I won’t be a minute. Have to speak to Jim Parker.”

Freddie rested his chin on his palms. “Gee,” he murmured out loud, “I wonder where she is?”

“Not so far away,” said a voice.

Freddie’s heart hit his ribs with a thud, j He swung around, gaping, to find Olga ! smiling at him out of the gloom of the back seat. His throat choked up, his spine began to tingle.

“Golly, I—I—”

“I heard what you said, Freddie.”

Freddie scrambled to the back seat. “Frank told us,” he stammered, “that some boy —”

Olga shook her head.

“There wasn’t any boy. I told Frank to bring me the one who took that bit of news in the nicest way.” She smiled. “It wasn’t much of a gamble. I was sure he would bring you. Freddie.” Her fingers touched his coat sleeve. “I nearly made a terrible mistake. It took this play to make me realize what Hugh is. But I couldn't be blamed. You never said a word. Freddie.” He choked. “G-gosh, it doesn’t seem ...”

“Of course, if you want to retract what you just said .

P'reddie didn’t retract it. In fact, he confirmed his statement with emphasis.

The End