THE LITTLE WARRIOR
PELHAM GRENVILLE WODEHOUSE
Author of “A Damsel in Distress,” “Piccadily Jim," etc.
THE offices of Messrs. Goble & Cohn were situated, like everything else in New York that appertains to the drama, in the neighborhood of Times Square. They occupied the fifth floor of the Gotham Theatre, on West Forty-second Street. As there was no elevator in the building except the small private one used by the two members of the firm, Jill walked up the stairs, and found signs of a thriving business beginning to present themselves as early as the third floor, where half a dozen patient persons of either sex had draped themselves like roosting fowls upon the banisters. There were more on the fourth floor, and the landing of the fifth, which served the firm as a waiting room, was quite full. It is the custom of some theatrical managers—the lowest order of intelligence known to science, with the possible exception of the limax maximus or garden slug—to omit from their calculations the fact that they are likely every day to receive a large number of visitors, whom they will be obliged to keep waiting; and that these people will require somewhere to wait. Such considerations never occur to them. Messrs. Goble & Cohn had provided for those who called to see them one small bench on the landing, conveniently situated at the intersecting point of three drafts, had let it go at that.
Nobody, except perhaps the night watchman, had ever seen this bench empty. At whatever hour of the day you happened to call, you would always find three wistful individuals seated side by side with their eyes on the tiny anteroom, where sat the office boy, the telephone girl, and Mr. Goble’s stenographer. Beyond this was the door marked "Private,” through which, as it opened to admit some careless, debonair, thousand-dollar-a-week comedian who sauntered in with a jaunty “Hello, Ike!” or some furred and scented female star, the rank and file of the profession were greeted, like Moses on Pisgah, with a fleeting glimpse of the promised land, consisting of a large desk and a section of a very fat man with spectacles and a bald head, or a younger man with fair hair and a double chin.
The keynote of the mass meeting on the landing was one of determined, almost aggressive, smartness. The men wore bright overcoats with bands round the waist; the women those imitation furs which to the uninitiated eye appear so much more expensive than the real thing. Everybody looked very dashing and very young, except about the eyes. Most of the eyes that glanced at Jill were weary. The women were nearly all blondes, blondness having been decided upon in the theatre as the color that brings the best results. The men were all so much alike that they seemed to be members of one large family—an illusion which was heightened by the scraps of conversation, studded with “dear’s,” “old man’s,” and “honey’s,” which came to Jill’s ears. A stern fight for supremacy was being waged by a score or so of lively and powerful young scents.
For a moment Jill was somewhat daunted by the spectacle, but she recovered almost immediately. The exhilarating and heady influence of New York still wrought within her. The berserk spirit was upon her, and she remembered the stimulating words of Mr. Brown, of Brown and Widgeon, the best Jazz-and-hokum team on the Keith Circuit. “Walk straight in!” had been the burden of his inspiring address. She pushed her way through the crowd until she came to the small anteroom.
T N THE anteroom were the outposts, the pickets of the enemy. In one corner a girl was hammering energetically and with great speed on a typewriter; a second girl, seated at a switchboard, was having an argument with Central which was already warm and threatened to descend shortly to personalities; on a chair, tilted back so that it rested against the wall, a small boy sat eating candy and
reading the comic page of an evening newspaper. All three were inclosed, like zoological specimens, in a cage formed by a high counter, terminating in brass bars.
Beyond these watchers on the threshold was the door marked “Private.” Through it, as Jill reached the outer defenses, filtered the sound of a piano.
Those who have studied the subject have come to the conclusion that the boorishness of theatrical managers’ office boys cannot be the product of mere chance. Somewhere, in some sinister den in the criminal districts of the town, there is a school where small boys are trained for these positions, where their finer instincts are rigorously uprooted and rudeness systematically inculcated by competent professors. Of this school the candy-eating Cerberus of Messrs. Goble & Cohn had been the star scholar. Quickly seeing his natural gifts, his teachers had given him special attention. When he had graduated, it had been amid the cordial good wishes of the entire faculty. They had taught him all they knew, and they were proud of him. They felt that he would do them credit.
This boy raised a pair of pink-rimmed eyes to Jill, sniffed—for, like all theatrical managers’ office boys, he had a permanent cold in the head—bit his thumb nail, and spoke. He was a snub-nosed boy. His ears and hair were vermilion. His name was Ralph. He had seven hundred and forty-three pimples.
Ç YNOPSIS:—Jill Mariner is engaged to Sir Derek Under^ hill, whose mother is strongly opposed to the alliance and exerts all her energy to turn her son against Jill. One day Jill comes home to find that her uncle and trustee, Major Selby, has lost her entire fortune on the Stock Exchange. The same day she receives a note from Derek breaking off the engagement. She and her uncle decide to sell the house and furniture and go to America. Here she slays with an almost unknown uncle at Brookport, while Major Selby goes on to New York to retrieve their fallen fortunes. The house at Brookport proves a cheerless abode, and Jill, with only twenty dollars, leaves for New York, intent on finding her Uncle Chris. Meanwhile Sir Derek’s world thinks he has thrown up Jill on account of her financial losses and decides to make things hot for him. Meanwhile Jill, almost penniless and unable to find her Uncle Chris, con fronts Neiv York. Here she meets Nelly Bryant, an actress who advises her to seek employment with Goble and Cohn, theatrical producers.
“Woddyerwant?” inquired! Ralph, coming within an ace* of condensing the question into a word of one syllable.
“I want to see Mr. Goble.”
“Zout,” said the PimpleKing, and returned to hi» paper.
There will, no doubt, always be class distinctions. Sparta had her kings and her* helots; King Arthur’s Round Table its knights and its scullions; America her Simon Legree and her Uncle Tom. But in no nation and at no» period of history has anyoneever been so brutally superior to anyone else as is the» Broadway theatrical officeboy to the caller who wishesto see the manager. Thomas Jefferson held these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these* rights are life, liberty, andthepursuit of happiness. Theatrical office boys do not see* eye to eye with Th omas. From, their pinnacle they look down on the common herd, thecanaille, and despise them. They coldly question their right to live.
TILL turned pink. Brown, her guide
mentor, foreseeing this situation, had, she remembered, recommended "pushing theoffice boy in the face”; and1 for a moment she felt likefollowing his advice. Prudence, or the fact that he wasout of reach behind the bras»
bars, restrained her. Without further delay she made for the door of the inner room. That was her objective, and she did not intend to be diverted from it. Her finger» were on the handle before any of those present divined her intention. Then the stenographer stopped typing and sat with raised fingers, aghast. The girl at the telephone broke off in mid sentence and stared round over her shoulder. Ralph, the office boy, outraged, dropped his paper and constituted himself the spokesman of the invaded force. “Hey!”
Jill stopped and eyed the lad militantly. “Were you
speaking to me?”
“Yes, I was speaking to you!”
“Don’t do it again with your mouth full,” said Jill, turning to the door.
The belligerent fire in the office boy’s pink-rimmed eyes was suddenly dimmed by a gush of water. It was not remorse that caused him to weep, however. In the heat of the moment he had swallowed a large, jagged piece of candy, and he was suffering severely.
“You can’t go in there!” he managed to articulate, hi» iron will triumphing over the flesh sufficiently to enable him to speak.
“I am going in there!”
“That’s Mr. Goble’s private room.”
“Well, I want a private talk with Mr. Goble.”
Ralph, his eyes still moist, felt that the situation was slipping from his grip. This sort of thing had never happened to him before. “I tell ya he zout!"
Jill looked at him sternly. “You wretched child!” she said, encouraged by a sharp giggle from the neighborhood of the switchboard. “Do you know where little boys go who don’t speak the truth? I can hear him playing the piano. Now he’s singing! And it’s no good telling me he’s busy. If he was busy, he wouldn’t have time to sing. If you’re as deceitful as this at your age, what do you expect to be when you grow up? You’re an ugly little boy; you’ve got red ears and your collar doesn’t fit! I shall speak to Mr. Goble about you.”
With which words Jill opened the door and walked in. “Good afternoon,” she said brightly.
A FTER the congested and unfurnished discomfort of -YY the landing, the room in which Jill found herself had an air of coziness and almost of luxury. It was a large room, solidly upholstered. Along the farther wall, filling
nearly the whole of its space, stood a vast and gleaming desk, covered with a litter of papers which rose at one end of it to a sort of mountain of playscripts in buff covers. There was a bookshelf to the left. Photographs covered the walls. Near the window was a deep leather lounge, to the right of which stood a small piano, the music stool of which was occupied, by a young man with untidy black hair that needed cutting. On top of the piano, taking the eye immediately by reason of its bold brightness, was balanced a large cardboard poster. Much of its surface was filled by a picture of a youth in polo costume bending over a blond goddess in a bathing suit. What space was left displayed the legend:
ISAAC GOBLE AND JACOB COHN Present
The Rose of America (A Musical Fantasy)
Book and Lyrics by Otis Pilkington Music by Roland Trevis
Turning her eyes from this, Jill became aware that something was going on at the other side of the desk; and she perceived that a second young man, the longest and thinnest she had ever seen, was in the act of rising to his feet, length upon length, like an unfolding snake. At the moment of her entry he had been lying back in an office chair, so that only a merely nominal section of his upper structure was visible. Now he reared his impressive length until his head came within measurable distance of the ceiling. He had a hatchet face and a receding chin, and he gazed at Jill through what she assumed were the “tortoiseshell cheaters” referred to by her recent acquaintance, Mr. Brown.
“Er. ... ?” said this young man inquiringly in a high, flat voice.
Jill, like many other people, had a brain which was under the alternating control of two diametrically opposite forces. It was like an automobile steered in turn by two drivers, the one a dashing, reckless fellow with no regard for speed limits, the other a timid novice. All through the proceedings up to this point the dasher had been in command. He had whisked her along at a breakneck speed, ignoring obstacles and police regulations. Now, having brought her to this situation, he abruptly abandoned the wheel and turned it over to his colleague, the shrinker. Jill, greatly daring a moment ago, now felt an overwhelming shyness.
She gulped, and her heart beat quickly. The thin man towered over her. The black-haired pianist shook his locks at her like Banquo.
Then, suddenly, womanly intuition came to her aid. Something seemed to tell her that these men were just as seared as she was. And, at the discovery, the dashing driver resumed his post at the wheel, and she began to deal with the situation with composure.
“I want to see Mr. Goble.”
“Mr. Goble is out,” said the long young man, plucking nervously at the papers on the desk. Jill had affected him powerfully.
“Out!” She felt she had wronged the pimpled office boy.
, . “We are not expecting him back this afternoon. Is there anything I can do?”
BE spoke tepderly. This weakminded young man—at school his coarse companions had called him Simp —was thinking that he had never seen anything like Jill before. And it was true that she was looking very pretty, with her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkling. She touched a chord in the young man which seemed to make the world a flower-scented thing, full of soft music. Often as he had been in love at first sight before in his time, Otis Pilkington could not recall an occasion on which he had been in love at first sight more completely than now. When she smiled at him it was as if the gates of heaven had opened. He did not reflect how many times, in similar circumstances, these same gates had opened before, and thaï, on one occasion when they had done so it had cost him eight thousand dollars to settle the case out of court. One does not think of these things at such times, for they strike a jarring \ note. Otis Pilkington was in love. That was all he ; knew, or cared to know.
“Won’t you take a seat, Miss—”
“Mariner,” prompted Jill. “Thank you.”
“Miss Mariner, may I introduce Mr. Roland Trevis?”
The man at the piano bowed. His black hair heaved upon his skull like seaweed in a ground swell.
“My name is Pilkington. Otis Pilkington.”
The uncomfortable silence which always follows in-
troductions was broken by the sound of the telephone bell on the desk. Otis Pilkington, who had moved out into the room and was nowhere near the desk, stretched forth a preposterous arm and removed the receiver.
“Yes? Oh, will you say, please, that I have a conference at present.” Jill was to learn that people in the theatrical business never talked; they always held conferences. “Tell Mrs. Peagrim that I shall be calling later in the afternoon, but cannot be spared just now.” He replaced the receiver. “Aunt Olive’s secretary,” he murmured in a soft aside to Mr. Trevis. “Aunt Olive wanted me to go for a ride.” He turned to Jill. “Excuse me. Is there anything I can do for you, Miss Mariner?”
Jill’s composure was now completely restored. This interview was turning out so totally different from anything she had expected. The atmosphere was cozy and social. She felt as if she were back in Ovington Square, giving tea to Freddie Rooke and Ronny Devereux and the rest of her friends of the London period. All that was needed to complete the picture was a tea table in front of her. The business note hardly intruded on the proceedings at all. Still, as business was the object of her visit, she felt that she had better approach it.
“I came for work.”
“Work!” cried Mr. Pilkington. He, too, appeared to be regarding the interview as purely of a social nature.
“In the chorus,” explained Jill.
Mr. Pilkington seemed shocked. He winced away from the word as though it pained him.
“There is no chorus in ‘The Rose of America’,” he said.
“I thought it was a musical comedy.”
Mr. Pilkington winced again. “It is a musical fantasy,” he said. “But there will be no chorus. We shall have,” he added, a touch of rebuke in his voice, “the services of twelve refined ladies of the ensemble.”
JILL laughed. “It does sound much better, doesn’t it!” she said. “Well, am I refined enough, do you think?” “I shall be only too happy if you will join us,” said Mr. Pilkington promptly.
The long-haired composer looked doubtful. He struck a note up in the treble, then whirled round on his stool.
“If you don’t mind my mentioning it, Otie, we have twelve girls already.”
“Then we must have thirteen,” said Otis Pilkington firmly.
“Unlucky number,” argued Mr. Trevis.
“I don’t care. We must have Miss Mariner. You can see for yourself that she is exactly the type we need.” He spoke
feelingly. Ever since the business of engaging a company had begun,
he had been thinking wistfully of the evening when “The Rose of America” had had its opening performance—at his aunt’s house at Newport last summer—with an allstar cast of society favorites and an ensemble recruited entirely from debutantes and matrons of the younger set. That was the sort of company he had longed to assemble for the piece’s professional career, and until this afternoon he had met with nothing but disappointment. Jill seemed to be the only girl in theatrical New York who came up to the standard he would have liked to demand,
“Thank you very much,” said Jill.
There was another pause. The social note crept into the atmosphere again. Jill felt the hostess’s desire to keep conversation circulating.
“I hear,” she said, “that this piece is a sort of Gilbert and Sullivan opera.”
Mr. Pilkington considered the point.
“I confess,” he said, “that in writing the book, I had Gilbert before me as a model. Whether I have in any sense succeeded in—”
“The book,” said Mr. Trevis, running his fingers over the piano, “is as good as anything Gilbert ever wrote.”
“Oh, come, Rolie!” protested Mr. Pilkington modestly.
“Better,” insisted Mr. Trevis. “For one thing, it is up-to-date.”
“I do try to strike the modern note,” murmured Mr. Pilkington.
“And you have avoided Gilbert’s mistake of being too fanciful.”
“He was fanciful,” admitted Mr. Pilkington. “The music,” he added, in a generous spirit of give and take, “has all Sullivan’s melody with a newness of rhythm peculiarly its own. You will like the music.”
“It sounds,” said Jill amiably, “as though the piece is bound to be a tremendous success.”
“We hope so,” said Mr. Pilkington. “We feel that the time has come when the public is beginning to demand something better than what it has been accustomed to. People are getting tired of the brainless trash and jingly tunes which have been given them by men like Wallace Mason and George Bevan. They want a certain polish. It was just the same in Gilbert and Sullivan’s day. They started writing at a time when the musical stage had reached a terrible depth of inanity. The theatre was given over to burlesque of the most idiotic description. The publie was waiting eagerly to welcome something of a higher class. It is just the same to-day. But the managers will not see it. ‘The Rose of America’ went up and down Broadway for months, knocking at managers’ doors.”
“It should have walked in without knocking, like me,”' said Jill. She got up. “Well, it was. very kind of you to see me when I camein so unceremoniously. But I felt it was. no good waiting outside on that landing. I’m so glad everything is settled. Goodby.”
“Good-by, Miss Mariner.” Mr. Pilkington took her outstretched hand devoutly. “There is a rehearsal called for the ensemble at—when is it, Rolie?” “Eleven o’clock, day after to-morrow, at Bryant Hall.”
“I’ll be there,” said Jill. “Good-by, and thank you very much.”
The silence, which had fallen upon the room as she left it was broken by Mr. Trevis.
“Some pip!” observed Mr. Trevis.
Otis Pilkington awoke from daydreams with a start.
“What did you say?”
“That girl. ... I said she was some pippin!”
“Miss Mariner,” said Mr. Pilkington icily, “is a most charming, refined, cultured, and vivacious girl, if you mean that.”
JILL walked out into Forty-second Street, looking about her with the eye of a conqueror. Very little change had taken place in the aspect of New York since she had entered the Gotham Theatre, but it seemed a different city to her. An hour ago she had been a stranger, drifting aimlessly along its rapids. Now she belonged to New York and New York belonged to her. She. had faced it squarely, and forced from it; the means of living. She walked on with a new jauntiness in her stride.
She reached the Fifth Avenue corner. A stream of automobiles which had been dammed up as far as the eye could reach began to flow swiftly past. They moved in a double line, red limousines, blue limousines, mauve limousines, green limousines. She stood waiting for the flood to cease, and, as she did so, there purred past her the biggest and reddest limousine of all.
It was a colossal vehicle with a polar bear at the steering wheel and another at his side. And in the interior, very much at his ease, his gaze bent courteously upon a massive lady in a mink coat, sat Uncle Chris.
For a moment he was so near to her that, but for the closed window, she could have touched him. Then the polar bear at the wheel, noting a gap in the traffic, stepped on the accelerator and slipped neatly through. The car moved swiftly on and disappeared.
Jill drew a deep breath. The traffic halted again. She crossed the avenue, and set out once more to find Nellie Bryant, it occurred to her, five
minutes later, that a really practical and ____
quick-thinking girl would have noted the number of the limousine.
THE rehearsals of a musical comedy —■a term which embraces “musical fantasies” — generally begin in a desultory sort of way at that curious building, Bryant Hall, on Sixth Avenue just off Forty-second Street. There in a dusty, uncarpeted room, simply furnished with a few wooden chairs and some long wooden benches, the chorus —or, in the case of “The Rose of America,” the ensemble—sit round a piano and endeavor, with the assistance of the musical director, to get the words and melodies of the First Act numbers into their heads. This done, they are ready for the dance director to instill into them the steps, the groupings, and the business for the encores, of which that incurable optimist always seems to expect there will be at least six. Later the principals are injected into the numbers.
And finally, leaving Bryant Hall and dodging about from one unoccupied theatre to another, principals and chorus rehearse together, running through the entire piece over and over again till the opening night of the preliminary road tour.
The proceedings began on the first morning with the entrance of Mr. Saltzburg, the musical director, a brisk, busy little man with benevolent eyes behind big spectacles, who bustled over to the piano, sat down, and played a loud chord, designed to act as a sort of bugle blast, rallying the ladies of the ensemble from the corners where they sat in
groups, chatting. For the process of making one another’s acquaintance had begun some ten minutes before with mutual recognitions between those who know each other from having been together in previous productions. There followed rapid introductions of friends. Nelly Bryant had been welcomed warmly by a pretty girl with red hair, whom she introduced to Jill as Babe. Babe had a willowy blond friend, named Lois: and the four of them had seated themselves on one of the benches and opened a conversation; their numbers being added to a moment later by a dark girl with a Southern accent and another blond. Elsewhere other groups had formed, and the room was filled with a noise like the chattering of starlings. In a body by themselves, rather forlorn and neglected, half a dozen solemn and immaculately dressed young men were propping themselves up against the wall and looking on, like men in a ballroom who do not dance.
Jill listened to the conversation without taking any great part in it herself. She felt, as she had done on her first day at school, a little shy and desirous of effacing herself. The talk dealt with clothes, men, and the show business, in that order of importance.
AN this scene of harmony and good-fellowship Mr.
Saltzburg’s chord intruded jarringly. There was a general movement, and chairs and benches were dragged to the piano. Mr. Saltzburg causing a momentary delay by opening a large brown music bag and digging in it like a terrier at a rat hole, conversation broke out again.
Mr. Saltzburg emerged from the bag, with his hands full of papers, protesting.
“Childrun! Chil-druw! If you please, less noise and attend to me!” He distributed sheets of paper. “ActOne, Opening Chorus. I will play the melody three—four times. Follow attentively. Then we will sing it la-la-la, and after that we will sing the words. So!”
He struck the yellow-keyed piano a vicious blow, producing a tinny and complaining sound. Bending forward with his spectacles almost touching the music, he plodded determinedly through the tune, then encored himself, and after that encored himself again. When he had done this, he removed his spectacles and wiped them. There was a
“Izzy,” observed the wiliowy young lady chattily, leaning across Jili and addressing the Southern girl’s blond friend, “has promised me a sunburst!”
A general stir of interest and a coming close together of heads.
“He’s just landed the hat-check privilege at the St. Aurea!”
“You don’t say!”
“He told me so last night and promised me the sunburst. He was,” admitted the willowy girl regretfully, “a good bit tanked at the time, but I guess he’ll make good.” She mused a while, a rather anxious expression clouding her perfect profile. She looked like a meditative Greek goddess. “If he doesn’t,” she added with maidenly dignity, “it’s the last time I go out with the big stiff. I’d tie a can to him quicker’n look at him!”
A murmur of approval greeted this admirable sentiment. “Childrun!” protested Mr. Saltzburg. “Childrun! Less noise and chatter of conversation. We are hère to work! We must not waste time! So! Act One, Opening Chorus. Now, all together. La-la-la. . . ”
“La-la-la. . . ”
“Tum-tum-tumty-tumty. . . ”
Mr. Saltzburg pressed his hands to his ears in a spasm of pain.
“No, no, no! Sour! Sour! Sour!. . . Once again. La-la-la ...”
A ROUND-FACED girl with golden hair and the face of a wondering cherub interrupted, speaking with a
“Now what is it, Miss Trevor?”
“What sort of a show is this?”
“A musical show,” said Mr. Saltzburg severely, “and this is a rehearsal of it, not a conversazione. Once more, please. ...”
The cherub was not to be rebuffed.
“Is the music good, Mithter Thalzburg?”
“When you have rehearsed it, you shall judge for yourself. Come, now. ...”
“Is there anything in it as good as that waltz of yours you played us when we were rehearthing ‘Mind How You Go?’ You remember. The one that went. . . ”
A tall and stately girl, with sleepy brown eyes and the air of a duchess in the servants’ hall, bent forward and took a kindly interest in the conversation.
“Oh, have you composed a varlse, Mr. Saltzburg?”
she asked with pleasant condescension. “How interesting, really. Won’t you play it for us?”
The sentiment of the'meeting seemed to be unanimous in favor of shelving work and listening to Mr. Saltzburg’s waltz.
“Oh, Mr. Saltzburg, do!”
“Someone told me it was a pipterino!” “I cert’nly do love waltzes!”
“Please, Mr. Saltzburg!”
Mr. Saltzburg obviously weakened. His fingers touched the keys irresolutely.
“I am sure it would be a great pleasure to all of us,” said the duchess graciously, “if you would play it. There is nothing I enjoy more than a good varlse.”
Mr. Saltzburg capitulated. Like all musical directors, he had in his leisure . moments composed the complete score of a musical play and spent much of his time waylaying librettists on the Rialto and trying to lure them to his apartment to listen to it, with a view to business. The eternal tragedy of a musical director’s life is comparable only to that of the waiter who, himself fasting, has to assist others to eat. Mr. Saltzburg had lofty ideas on music, and his soul revolted at being compelled perpetually to rehearse and direct the inferior compositions of other men. Far less persuasion than he had received to-day was usually required to induce him to play the whole of his score.
“You wish it?” he said. “Well, then! This waltz, you will understand, is the theme of a musical romance which I have composed. It will be sung once in the first act by the heroine, then in the second act as a duet for heroine and hero. I weave it into the finale of the second act, and we have an echo of it, sung off stage, in the third act. What I play you now is the second-act duet. The verse is longer. So! The male voice begins—’ ’
A pleasant time was had by all for ten min-
“Ah, but this, is not rehearsing, childrun!” cried Mr. Saltzburg remorsefully at the end of that period. “This is not business. Come now, the opening chorus of Act One, and please this time keep on the key. Before it was sour, sour. Come! La-la-la. ...”
“There was an awfully thweet fox-trot you used to play us. I do wish. . . .”
“Some other time, some other time! Now we must work. Come, La-la-la. . . ”
“I wish you could have heard it, girls,” said the cherub regretfully. “Honetht, it was a lalapalootha!”
The pack broke into full cry:
“Oh, Mr. Saltzburg!”
“Please, Mr. Saltzburg!”
“Do play the foxtrot, Mr. Saltzburg!”
“If it is as good as the varlse,” said the duchess, stooping once more to the common level, “I am sure it must be very good indeed.” She powdered her nose. “And one so rarely hears musicianly music nowadays, does one!” “Which foxtrot?” asked Mr. Saltzburg weakly.
“Play ’em all!” decided a voice on the left.
“Yes, play ’em all,” bayed the pack.
“I am sure that that would be charming,” agreed the duchess, replacing her powder puff.
jV/î R. SALTZBURG played ’em all. This man by now seemed entirely lost to shame. The precious minutes that belonged to his employers, and should have been earmarked for “The Rose of America,” flitted by. The ladies and gentlemen of the ensemble, who should have been absorbing and learning to deliver the melodies of Roland Trevis and the lyrics of Otis Pilkington, lolled back in their seats. The yellow-keyed piano rocked beneath an unprecedented onslaught. The proceedings had begun to resemble not so much a rehearsal as a happy home evening, and grateful glances were cast at the complacent cherub. She had, it was felt, shown tact and discretion.
Pleasant conversation began again.
“. . . And I walked a couple of blocks, and there was exactly the same model in Schwartz & Gulderstein’s window at twenty-six fifty. . . ”
“. . . He got on at Forty-second Street, and he was kinda fresh from the start. I could see he was carrying a package. At Sixty-sixth he came sasshaying right down the car, and said: ‘Hellow, patootie!’ Well, I drew myself up. . . .”
“. . . ‘Even if you are my sister’s husband,’ I said to him. Oh, I suppose I got a temper. It takes a lot
Continued on Page 53
Continued from Page 14
to arouse it, y’know, but I c’n get pretty mad. . . .”
“. . .You don’t know the half of it, dearie; you don’t know the half of it! A one-piece bathing suit! Well, you could call it that, but the cop on the beach said it was more like'a baby’s sock. And when
“. . . So I said: ‘Listen, Izzy, that’ll be about all from you! My father was a gentleman, though I don’t suppose you know what that means, and I’m not accustomed. . . ”
A voice from the neighborhood of the door had cut into the babble like a knife into butter; a rough, rasping voice, loud and compelling, which caused the conversation of the members of the ensemble to cease on the instant. Only Mr. Salzburg, now in a perfect frenzy of musicianly fervor, continued to assault the decrepit piano, unwitting of an unsympathetic audience.
“What I play you now is the laughing trio from my second act. It is a building number. It is sung by tenor, principal comedian, and soubrette. On the second refrain four girls will come out and two boys. The girls will dance with the two men, the boys with the soubrette. So! On the encore four more girls and two more boys. Third encore, solo dance for specialty dancer, all on stage beating time by clapping their' hands. On repeat, all sing refrain once more, and off. Last encore, the three principals and specialty dancer dance the dance with entire chorus. It is a great building number, you understand. It is enough to make the success of any musical play, but can I get a hearing? No! If I ask managers to listen to my music, they are busy! If I beg them to give me a libretto to set, they laugh— ha! ha!” Mr. Saltzburg gave a spirited -tad lifelike representation of a manager
laughing ha-ha when begged to disgorge a
libretto. “Now I play it once more!” “Like hell you do!” said the voice. “Say, what is this, anyway? A concert?”
JWIR. SALTZBURG swung around on the music stool, a startled and apprehensive man, and nearly fell off it. The divine afflatus left him like air oozing from a punctured toy balloon, and, like such a balloon, he seemed to grow suddenly limp and flat. He stared with fallen jaw at the new arrival.
Two men had entered the room. One was the long Mr. Pilkington. The other, who looked shorter and stouter than he really was beside his giraffelike companion, was a thick-set, fleshy man in the early thirties with a blond, clean-shaven, doublechinned face.. He had smooth, yellow hair, an unwholesome complexion, and light green eyes, set close together. From the edge of the semicircle about the piano he glared menacingly over the heads of the chorus at the unfortunate Mr. Saltzburg. “Why aren’t these girls working?” Mr. Saltzburg, who had risen nervously from his stool, backed away apprehensively from his gaze, and, stumbling over the stool, sat down abruptly on the piano, producing a curious noise like Futurist music. “I—we— Why, Mr. Goble. . .” Mr. Goble turned his green gaze on the concert audience, and spread discomfort as if it were something liquid which he was spraying through a hose. The girls who were nearest looked down flutteringly at their shoes; those farthest away concealed themselves behind their neighbors. Even the duchess, who prided herself on being the possessor of a stare of unrivalled haughtiness, before which the fresh quailed and those who made breaks subsided in confusion, was unable to meet his eye; and the willowy friend of Izzy, for all her victories over that monarch of the hat checks, bowed before it like a slim tree before a blizzard.
Only Jill returned the manager’s gaze. She was seated on the outer rim of the semicircle, and she stared frankly at Mr. Goble. She had never seen anything like him before, and he fascinated her. This behavior on her part singled her out from the throng, and Mr. Goble concentrated his attention on her.
For some seconds he stood looking at her; then, raising a stubby finger, he let his eye travel over the company, and seemed to be engrossed in some sort of mathematical calculation.
“Thirteen,” he said at length. “I make it thirteen.” He rounded on Mr. Pilkington. “I told you we were going to have a chorus of twelve.”
Mr. Pilkington blushed and stumbled over his feet. “Ah, yes. . . yes,” he murmured vaguely. “Yes!”
“Well, there are thirteen here. Count ’em for yourself.” He whipped round on Jill: “What’s your name? Who engaged you?”
A croaking sound from the neighborhood of the ceiling indicated the clearing of Mr. Pilkington’s throat. “I—er—I engaged Miss Mariner, Mr. Goble.” “Oh, you engaged her?”
J—JE stared again at Jill. The inspection was long and lingering, and affected Jill with a sense of being inadequately clothed. She returned the gaze as defiantly as she could, but her heart was beating fast. She had never yet been frightened of any man, but there was something reptilian about this fat, yellow-haired individual which disquieted her, much as cockroaches had done in her childhood. A momentary thought flashed through her mind that it would be horrible to be touched by him. He looked soft and glutinous.
’All right,” said Mr. Goble át last after what seemed to Jill many minutes. He nodded to Mr. Saltzburg. “Get on with Vt!. And try working a little this time!
1 aon t hire you to give musical entertainments.”
“Yes, Mr. Goble, yes. I mean no, Mr. Goblei
“You can have the Gotham stage this afternoon,” said Mr. Goble. “Call the rehearsal for two sharp.”
Outside the door he turned to Mr Pilkington. “That was a fool trick of yours, hiring that girl. Thirteen! I’d as soon walk under a ladder on a Friday as open in New York with a chorus of thirteen. Well, it don’t matter. We can fire one of ’em after we’ve opened on the road.” He mused for a moment.
Darned pretty girl, that!” he went on meditatively. “Where did you get her?’!
“She—ah—came into the office when you were out. She struck me as being essentially the type we required for our ensemble, so I—er—engaged her. She—” Mr. Pilkington gulped. “She is a charming, refined girl!”
“She’s darned pretty,” admitted Mr. Goble, and went on his way wrapped in thought, Mr. Pilkington following timorously. It was episodes like the one that had just concluded which made Otis Pilkington wish that he possessed a little more assertion. He regretted wistfully that he was not one of those men who can put their hat on the side of their heads and shoot out their chins and say to the world “Well, what about it!” He was bearing the financial burden of this production. If it should be a failure, his would be the loss. Yet somehow this coarse, rough person in front of him never seemed to allow him a word in the executive policy of the piece. He treated him as a child. He domineered and he shouted and behaved as if he were in sole command. Mr. Pilkington sighed. He rather wished he had never gone into this undertaking.
Inside the room Mr. Saltzburg wiped his forehead, his spectacles, and his hands. He had the aspect of one who wakes from a dreadful dream.
“Childrun!” he whispered brokenly. "Childrun! If you please, once more. Act One, Opening Chorus. Come! Lala-la!”
“La-la-la!” chanted the subdued members of the ensemble.
DY the time the two halves of the com-
pany, ensemble and principals, melted into one complete whole the novelty of the new surroundings had worn off, and Jill was feeling that there had never been a time when she had not been one of a theatrical troupe, rehearsing. The pleasant social gathering round Mr. Saltzburg’s piano gave way after a few days to something far less agreeable and infinitely more strenuous, the breaking-in of the dances under the supervision of the famous Johnson Miller. Johnson Miller was a little man with snow-white hair and the india-rubber physique of a juvenile acrobat. Nobody knew actually how old he was, but he certainly looked much too advanced in years to be capable of the feats of endurance which he performed daily. He had the untiring enthusiasm of a fox terrier, and had bullied and scolded more companies along the rocky road that leads to success than any half-dozen dance directors in the country, in spite of his handicap in being almost completely deaf. He had an almost miraculous gift of picking up the melodies for which it was his business to design dances without apparently hearing them. He seemed to absorb them through the pores. He had a blunt and arbitrary manner, and invariably spoke his mind frankly and honestly—a habit which made him strangely popular in a profession where the language of equivoque is cultivated almost as sedulously as in the circles of international diplomacy. What Johnson Miller said to your face was official, not subject to revision as soon as your back was turned; and people appreciated this.
Izzy’s willowy.friend summed him up one evening when the ladies of the ensemble were changing their practice clothes after a particularly strenuous rehearsal, defending him against the Southern girl, who complained that he made her tired.
“You bet he makes you tired,” she said. “So he does me. I’m losing my girlish curves, and I’m so stiff I can’t lace my shoes. But he knows his business and he’s on the level, which is more than you can say of most of these guys in the show business.”
“That’s right,” agreed the Southern girl’s blond friend. “He does know his business. He’s put over any amount of shows which would have flopped like dogs without him to stage the numbers.”
The duchess yawned. Rehearsing always bored her, and she had not been greatly impressed by what she had seen of “The Rose of America.”
“One will be greatly surprised if he can make a success of this show! I confess I find it perfectly ridiculous.”
“Ithn’t it the limit, honetht!” said the cherub, arranging her golden hair at the mirror. “It maketh me thick! Why on earth ith Ike putting it on?”
The girl who knew everything—there Is always one in every company—hastened to explain.
“I heard all about that. Ike hasn’t any of his own money in the thing. He’s
getting twenty-five per cent, of the show for running it. The angel is the long fellow you see jumping around. Pilkington his name is.”
‘‘Well, it’ll need to be Rockefeller later on,” said the blond.
“Oh, they’ll get thomebody down to fixth it after we’ve been out on the road couple of days,” said the cherub optimistically. “They alwayth do. I’ve seen worse shows than this turned into hits. All it wants ith a new book and lyric and a different thcore.”
“And a new set of principals,” said the red-headed Babe. “Did you ever see such a bunch?”
The duchess, with another tired sigh, arched her well-shaped eyebrows and studied the effect in the mirror. “One wonders where they pick these persons up,” she assented languidly. “They remind me of a headline I saw in the paper this morning—‘Tons of Hams Unfit for Human Consumption.’ Are any of you girls coming my way? I can give two or three of you a lift in my limousine.”
“Thorry, old dear, and thanks ever tho much,” said the cherub, “but I instructed Clarence, my man, to have the
Continued on page 62
Continued from page 56
street car waiting on the corner, and he’ll be tho upset if I’m not there.”
MELLY had an engagement to go and 1 ’ help one of the other girls buy a spring suit, a solemn rite which it is impossible to conduct by oneself; and Jill and the cherub walked to the corner together. Jill had become very fond of the little thing since rehearsals began. She reminded her of a London sparrow. She was so small and perky and so absurdly able to take care of herself.
“Limousine!” snorted the cherub. The duchess’s concluding speech evidently still rankled. “She gives me a pain in the gizthard!”
“Hasn’t she got a limousine?” asked Jill.
“Of course she hasn’t. She’s engaged to be married to a demonstrator in the Speedwell Auto Company, and he thneaks off when he can get away and gives her joy rides. That’s all the limousine she’s got. It beats me why girls in the show business are alwayth tho crazy to make themselves out vamps with a dozen millionaires on a string. If Mae wouldn’t four-flush and act like the Belle of the Moulin Rouge, she’d be the nithest girl you ever met. She’s mad about the fellow she’s engaged to, and wouldn’t look at all the millionaires
in New York if you brought ’em to her on a tray. She’s going to marry him as thoon as he’s thaved enough money to buy the furniture, and then she’ll thettle down in Harlem thomewhere and cook and mind the baby and regularly be one of the lower middle classes. All that’s wrong with Mae ith that she’s read Gingery Stories and thinkth that’s the way a girl has to act when she’th in the chorus.”
“That’s funny,” said Jill. “I should never have thought it. I swallowed the limousine whole.”
The cherub looked at her curiously. Jill puzzled her. Jill had, indeed, been the subject of much private speculation among her colleagues.
“This ith your first show, ithn’t it?” she asked.
“Thay what are you doing in the chorus, anyway?”
“Getting scolded by Mr. Miller mostly, it seems to me.”
“ ‘Thcolded by Mr. Miller!’ Why didn’t you say ‘bawled out by Johnny’? That’th what any of the retht of us would have said.”
“Well, I’ve lived most of my life in England. You can’t expect me to talk the language yet.”
“I thought you were English. You’ve got an acthent like the fellowjwho plays
the dude in thith show. Thay, why did you ever get into the show business?” “Well—well, why did you? Why does anybody?”
“Why did I? Ob I belong there. I’m a regular Broadway rat. I wouldn’t be happy anywhere elthe. I was born in the show business. I’ve got two thithers in the two-a-day and a brother in thtock out in California, and dad’s one of the betht comedians on the burlethque wheel. But anyone can thee you’re different. There’s no reathon why you should be bumming around in the chorus.”
“But there is. I’ve no money, and I can’t do anything to make it.”
“That’s tough.” The cherub pondered, her round eyes searching Jill’s face. “Why don’t you get married?” Jill laughed. “Nobody’s asked me.” “Somebody thoon will. At least, if he’s on the level, and I think he ith. You can generally tell by the look of a guy, and, if you ask me, friend Pilkington’s got the license in hith pocket and the ring all ordered and everything.” “Pilkington!” cried Jill aghast.
She remembered certain occasions during rehearsals when, while the chorus idled in the body of the theatre and listened to the principals working at their scenes, the elongated Pilkington had suddenly appeared in the next seat and conversed sheepishly in a low voice. Could this be love? If so, it was a terrible nuisance. Jill had had her experience in London of enamored young men who, running true to national form, declined to know when they were beaten, and she had not enjoyed the process of cooling their ardor. She had a kind heart, and it distressed her to give pain. It also got on her nerves to be dogged by stricken males who tried to catch her eyes in order that she might observe their broken condition. She recalled one house party in Wales where it rained all the time, and she had been cooped up with a victim who kept popping out from obscure corners and beginning all his pleas with the words: “I say, you know. . . !” She trusted that Otis Pilkington was not proposing to conduct a wooing on those lines. Yet he had certainly developed a sinister habit of popping out at the theatre. On several occasions he had startled her by appearing at her side as if he had come up out of a trap.
“Oh, no!” cried Jill.
“Oh, yeth!” insisted the cherub, waving imperiously to an approaching street car. “Well, I must be getting up-town. I’ve got a date. Thee you later.”
The street car bore her away. The last that Jill saw of her was a wide and amiable grin. Then turning, she beheld the snakelike form of Otis Pilkington towering at her side.
To be Continued