FICTION

Pigs Off-Stage

BARBARA HEDWORTH July 15 1935
FICTION

Pigs Off-Stage

BARBARA HEDWORTH July 15 1935

Pigs Off-Stage

BARBARA HEDWORTH

BEVERLEY STRONG strode in long impatient steps up and down the station platform. The five-eight from Paddington was late again and he particularly wanted it to be punctual today. There was that

matter of Sally farrowing at any moment, and he did not altogether trust his pig man with his prize sow.

He decided now that he had been unwise to come to the station himself instead of sending Thomas, the gardenerchauffeur.

But then, he had always come himself to meet Lucinda. Anyway, she’d have thought him quite mad to have stayed at home in order to watch a sow through her confinement. Although Beverley and Lucinda had been married for six years, she had not yet learned to take his pig farming seriously. Looked upon it as a rather harmless hobby, fumed Beverley now. getting quite angry with her in his anxiety for Sally, whereas it made a cool thousand or so a year. Enough to keep them all, Lucinda and the two kids, Toddles and Jane, in comfort, especially as the house belonged to them and they grew all their fruit and vegetables.

But the trouble was, Lucinda didn’t want to be “kept in comfort.” Lucinda wanted to go on acting.

1UCINDA WAS, so the critics had it, the finest comedy J actress on the English stage. Yet when, six years ago, Beverley Stróng had proposed to her she had—well, almost promised to give it up.

Because she loved Beverley so terribly, because he had been so insistent: “I want the woman 1 marry to belong to me, not to the public.”

For six months, he remembered now, she had lived with him in the rambling Georgian house which had belonged to his father and grandfather before him. Then she began to get restless. She received a tempting offer and off she went to London, dragging the reluctant Beverley with her.

There had been other periods of rest at Chardley Manor. The birth of their two children had interrupted her acting to such an extent that Beverley had optimistically believed she preferred the permanent rôle of motherhood.

But she hadn’t been able to resist a chance to play one of her favorite parts on Broadway, New York.

Beverley hadn’t gone with her. He did not say very much at the time, but he still held it at the back of his mind against Lucinda that she had left a six-months-old baby and a toddler of three to the mercies of nurses and a father. Beverley had a strong sense of parentage.

And so it had been on and off for the last ten years— Lucinda coming home and seeming to be settled; dashing off as soon as someone wrote a part which appealed to her.

She was nearly forty now; looked about twenty-eight and still played ingénue. At least she had in her last play. Beverley had really believed it would be the last play. She had been home longer this time than any period except

when she was having babies.

And now, just as he had arranged a pleasant holiday for them all at his mother’s lovely house in Wales, her friend and producer,

Bruce Bartram, had written her enthusiastically he had just the play, just the part for her—could she possibly have lunch?

“But I shan’t take it unless it suits me,” she had insisted to Beverley when he saw her off four days ago.

She had telephoned him the same evening:

“Bev, it’s the grandest part that has ever been written—I simply must — so don’t get sulky ...”

He hadn’t. He was past sulking or losing h i s temper with Lucinda’s career. He merely thought it a confounded nuisance, and wrote to his mother saying that they would not be coming, after all—and out of loyalty to Lucinda, put the blame on Sally, the sow.

He spit'd the stationmaster from the other end of the platform and walked toward him.

“Any news of the fiveeight, Layton?”

The old man scratched his head. No, it hadn’t been signalled, but, as Mr. Strong well knew', it was a tricky train, that one.

Mr. Strong did. He resigned himself to a further w'ait, wrenching his mind from the

problem of Lucinda and concentrating instead on the predicament of his pedigree sow. He was still preoccupied with this absorbing subject when, ten minutes later, the train drew up with leisurely insolence. Lucinda was the only passenger to alight, and. as always when he had not seen her for a day or so, Beverley marvelled anew at her beauty. 11er figure was as slim as that of a young girl; her eyes, deep set and cloudy grey, were as young as those of her nine-year-old daughter; not a line showed in that pale oval face; not a grey hair in her plum-black tresses. It was quite foolish to think of Lucinda as thirtynine, nearly forty.

“Darling Beverley, how nice of you to meet me.”

She had greeted him thus ever since her first flight from Chardley. It was Lucinda’s rare subtle way of showing she appreciated his lack of grudge toward her. He made polite enquiries about her journey; mentioned, as he had so often in the past, that her train was late.

It wasn’t until they had driven along the five miles of lanes, thick with May blossoms and scented with that lovely fragrance of a late spring evening, and he had mixed her usual tomato-juice cocktail in her sitting room, that he asked:

“Well, what about it?”

She looked at him a trifle disappointedly. “Darling, I told you; it’s a masterpiece of a play.” “I meant,” emphasized Beverley in a wooden, resigned voice, “when does it start and all that?” “We go into rehearsal next week—Tuesday.”

There was mute appeal in her eyes. A plea that he should understand. But all Beverley said was: “Jane is going to mind a lot. I haven’t told her yet.” He never knew whether or not it was a matter of rejoicing that his daughter shared with him his dislike of the stage and her mother being one of its shining lights. Jane was a strangely possessive child with an exaggerated emotional worship of her parents. Last time Lucinda had gone away—it was a year ago now—she had been sick for three days and, like a deserted puppy, refused to touch her food.

Lucinda’s face hardened. She was devoted, in her own way, to her children, but she had a deep contempt for emotionalism and found it difficult to bear with patience Jane’s frequent outbursts and her sickness.

‘T11 go up and see her at once,” she said, finishing her drink. “She won’t be asleep yet.”

“She never goes to sleep until you get back,” Beverley reminded her, opening the door.

A few minutes later he heard his daughter’s excited exclamation :

“Mummie! Oh, mummie darling . . .” And Lucinda’s calm, almost cold response:

“Well, Jane, how is it you aren’t asleep?”

Then he lighted his pipe and went out to pay his belated visit to Sally. '

He wanted to tell Lucinda about Sally when they sat in the charmingly proportioned* drawing-room after dinner. Sally had acquitted herself with all honor, having given birth to sixteen small pigs.

But Lucinda wanted to talk about the play. She had brought the script down with her.

“Look, Bev. There’s a part for you.”

He opened it at the list of characters, which was headed: Dorothy Vane (modern young girl, age round about twenty). “You play Dorothy, of course,” he ventured.

“I usually play the lead.” A stern iciness passed over Lucinda’s features. She knew as well as he did, that it was the heroine’s age which had prompted his question.

“By the way”—she regained her good humor quickly— “who do you think is playing my understudy? That little girl you staked to fees for the dramatic art school.”

“What ! Not Mary Rose?”

Beverley’s interest and surprise were genuine. Mary Rose Lister was the daughter of an old school friend who had died in India some years ago, leaving precious little money for his wife and child. The former had told him of Mary Rose’s histrionic ambitions and he had paid for her to be trained for the stage. She wrote to him once a year at Christmas. Last time he heard she had been playing in repertory in Birmingham.

“Well,” he ejaculated heartily now, “if that isn’t a coincidence. Mary Rose understudying you.”

“It’s a great chance for her.”

Lucinda’s soft, mobile mouth hardened. She had always

resented it that even a remote connection of Beverley’s like Mary Rose should be on the stage. It had worried her a good deal when Bruce had put the girl’s name forward. But her sense of artistry had got the better of personal prejudice once she had seen Mary Rose. The girl had just the right 1 personality; she was pliable, an excellent point for an understudy.

"Of course, being a little friend of yours I’ll go out of my way to help her, Bev,” she volunteered generously, and Beverley kissing her impetuously on the little mole on her neck, thanked her:

"1 know you will, darling. That kid—she’s awfully game; she deserves a break.”

"DEIIEARSALS were in full swing when Beverley came up to spend a week-end in Dindon with Lucinda. He learned at her hotel that she was at the theatre, and went along there. She was on the stage when he crept quietly into the wings; a passionate love scene was taking place between herself and her leading man. Beverley did not pretend to know anything about acting, but it seemed to him that Lucinda was acquit ting herself well. She might lie forty next birthday, but there was nothing mature about her interpretation of her part.

“Marvellous, isn’t she?” A small, clear voice broke into his meditations and. looking round, he saw Mary Rose Lister standing at his side.

“Quite marvellous,” he agreed. “How are you, Mary

Rose?”

She told him demurely that she was “quite well, thank you.” and then her eyes wandered back to the stage. A rapt, tense expression came over her clear-cut features and her lips formed the words which were being said by Lucinda. Although Beverley made one or two further remarks to her, she did not appear to hear them.

“That youngster Mary Rose, she’s keen,” he declared later to Lucinda while they ate an early dinner at the hotel.

“She'll make a good little actress—she's already a gotxl little actress.” Lucinda gave it her understudy generously. “Did you happen to see me, Bev? 1 was pretty rotten today.”

“You were wonderful—as usual.”

“Really?”

“On my honor. I saw you doing the love scene—it brought my heart right up into my mouth.”

After that they talked “shop” until it was time for Lucinda to go back to the theatre. Except for a perfunctory enquiry about her children’s health she did not mention them, and made no comment when Beverley told her significantly that Jane seemed to be missing her this time more than usual. But when toward midnight she came back to the hotel, drooping like a flower which had been left out of water, she made the unexpected request:

“Bev, if you could jxjssibly desert the pigs and stay up with me a little—it’s only a fortnight ahead. I feel surer of myself somehow when you’re around—and it’s a whale of a part.”

Of course he said he’d stop. And loathed the idea. He loathed London and hotel food and late nights.

But if Lucinda needed him—well, one stopped.

CHE MADE him go to the theatre with her every rehearsal. ^ “So that we can talk it over afterward, Bev,” said Lucinda with the unconscious egotism of the artist.

And at each rehearsal he found Mary Rose in the wings, watching Lucinda’s every gesture; saying her words with her and having no use for anything or anybody except the play and the part she was understudying.

Once when Lucinda had to lunch with the author, Beverley had taken Mary Rose to feed at his club, and when he asked her how she enjoyed being understudy to his wife, she told him, deadly serious about the eyes, her mouth a narrow enigmatical line:

“It’s a very helpful experience, Uncle Beverley.”

“But surely,” he pressed, irritated by her prim resignation, “you must be wishing all the time for Lucinda to fall down dead or at least have measles.”

Mary Rose shrugged her shoulders.

“One hopes. Meanwhile, I’ve got so much to learn.” Pathos crept into her voice; her eyes blazed with starry eagerness, giving it away to Beverley that she wasn’t nearly so hard as she pretended to be.

But next day he had an urgent wire from his pig man, and Lucinda agreed that he ought to go back. She sent an enormous doll to Jane and soldiers for Toddles.

“Give them a big hug and a kiss from me, Beverley, and come back as soon as you can.”

He promised. But once at Chardley with a disconsolate Jane and Sally’s litter to cope with, he dawdled away the time and did not return to London until the day of the dress rehearsal.

As before, he arrived at the theatre in the middle of the play. Lucinda was on the stage, and the moment he set eyes on Lucinda he knew' that something was wrong. There was a nervousness about her movements; her face was pale and haggard even under her make-up.

He knew what was Dithering her the moment she started to speak. That treacherous throat of hers was playing her

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up. Ever since she had had laryngitis three years ago, Lucinda’s voice had a way of letting her down. For no apparent reason it would fade into thin air; a weak, stupid trickle of a voice.

It was doing just that now; how she was straining it !

Beverley put his hand to his forehead and discovered it bathed in perspiration. Her lips were moving, but not a sound was coming from them. He had never before seen Lucinda look so scared as now, when she was saying words which hadn’t any sound to them. Bruce Bartram leaped from his place in the front row of the stalls on to the stage. Lucinda smiled in a sickly, scared fashion, put her hand to her throat and shrugged her shoulders.

“Hi, Mary Rose. Where’s Mary Rose?”

Bruce was patting Lucinda on the arm, leading her gently toward the wings as Mary came forward. Beverley, too, had leaped on to the stage. He was in the wings to take Lucinda’s ice cold hands.

“Never mind, old girl. Nothing to panic about. I’ll get Sir Timothy round.”

He felt very clumsy and inadequate.

“This cursed throat of mine,” she whispered. “That’s right, Bev, get Sir Timothy. Ask him to come round here.”

Beverley waited for a member of the cast to take her to her dressing room, and then went to telephone the great throat specialist, who, fortunately, was in and promised to come round to the theatre at once.

When he returned to the wings Mary Rose was being put through the first big love scene.

"DEVERLEY watched her in almost -L' jealous astonishment. Every gesture, the very intonation of her voice, was Lucinda’s. Deliberately copied from Lucinda. And yet there was a subtle difference to her rendering of the part.

Only when she had been through the scene three times did it dawn upon Beverley that the difference lay in the youth she brought to it.

“She’s good.”

The two words were spoken in a hoarse whisper. Beverley turned and found

Lucinda standing beside him. Sire had been too restless, she whispered further, to stay in her dressing room. Besides, for Beverley’s sake, she explained, she was anxious to see how the girl was shaping.

Beverley took her hand and pressed it. And wondered why all at once he should feel so protectively tender toward Lucinda.

“She seems all right to me, but she isn’t you,” he reassured her loyally.

Lucinda looked at him in an oddly defensive manner and withdrew her hand.

A few minutes later a stage hand announced the arrival of the throat specialist. Beverley went with Lucinda to her dressing room.

The verdict was guarded. Sir Timothy was pretty sure that he could bring back that lovely lilt of a voice by tomorrow night. But he was not absolutely certain. It fell to Beverley to tell Bruce that, and Bruce said:

“Oh, rotten luck! Still, I expect she will be all right. Give her my love, old man.”

Then he turned to the company and instructed that the dress rehearsal must start right from the beginning, and Beverley went back to the dressing room to take Lucinda home.

Thanks to a potent sleeping draught, she had a good night and when she woke up her voice was almost normal.

Sir Timothy came round to see her soon after breakfast.

“If you behave like a sensible woman and rest during the day. you’ll be as right as rain tonight,” he promised, and Lucinda sent Beverley scuttling down to the theatre with the good news.

“Your precious Mary Rose isn’t going to have it all her own way—yet,” she said with a queer, not very kind quirk of a smile.

When Beverley entered the wings the big dramatic scene between the leads was being rehearsed.

“That kid’s a wow,” Bruce confided later to Beverley, then remembering he was addressing his star’s husband, “though, of course, she isn’t Lucinda. It’s great news that she is going to be all right for tonight.”

Beverley lingered longer than he need have done. I íe knew nothing about the finer technicalities of the stage, but he agreed

that Mary Rose was a “wow” and noticed that everyone else in the theatre was saying pretty much the same thing. He complimented her when she came off.

“Well done, Mary Rose.”

She looked at him in cold bitterness.

“What’s the good; she’ll never give me a chance; she’ll be on tonight ...”

Beverley understood her resentment. For years, he had been resenting Lucinda’s triumphs, though from different reasons.

“Look here, young woman,” he heard himself saying. “Look here, Mary Rose, don’t give up hope. Her voice isn’t absolutely right; it may dry up again any moment.”

It was only while he was driving back to the hotel and Lucinda, that he realized how desperately disloyal those words must have sounded.

Lucinda’s vocal chords were in perfect condition when it was time to go to the theatre that evening. But everyone was uneasy about her. Unknown to the star, Bruce had given instructions that Mary Rose was to be dressed for each act and to stand in readiness. The press agent had tipped the wink to the papers that there might be a big story to be picked up tonight. Beverley had seen a photo of Mary Rose significantly captioned “who is understudying Miss Lucinda drier in Bruce Bartram’s new production ‘Sweet Sorrow,’ ” in the lunch editions. Mercifully he had been able to conceal it from Lucinda.

HE ALWAYS had a gangway seat in the second row of the stalls at her first nights. Tonight he was in his seat before the overture. On the surface this first night was like all the others he had attended. As ! usual, he had not seen Lucinda since she left i for the theatre, pale and shivering with nerves, at six. As usual, he had send round champagne to her dressing room and a spray of gardenias.

But tonight his mind had not drifted, as it usually did on these occasions, to Chardley and his prize pigs.

This wasn’t an ordinary first night. No one in the theatre believed that Lucinda would get through. Beverley knew that. Sir Timothy was with her now, spraying her throat for the last time. He had promised to stay in the theatre until the end of the performance.

The orchestra tuned up and burst into a selection of Coward’s music, and Beverley found his thoughts deserting Lucinda and switching over to Mary Rose.

Poor kid, she’d be feeling pretty bitter. He was glad he had sent her those roses. Creamy pink rosebuds and an uncleish message about keeping cheerful. He was still thinking about her in shy compassion rather as he thought about his ten-year-old daughter, Jane, when she was in some sort of trouble, as the curtain went up.

A few minutes later there was a thunder of applause. Lucinda stood quietly in the centre of the stage, waiting to speak her opening lines. Beverley was certain no one but himself noticed that tiny frightened cough she gave before her voice rang out, clear as a peal of silver bells.

Beverley mopped his brow and gave an audible sigh of relief. He was back on Lucinda’s side again. Passionately glad that she was going to get through. Then the picture of Jane’s white, tortured face smote him deep in the heart, and he was wishing all over again that Lucinda would dry up. He thought he detected a slight quavering in her last lines of the first act, and rejoiced.

“She’s better than ever. What an actress ! What an ageless woman!”

“Yes, and did you know that there was some scare she wouldn’t be able to appear tonight?”

Beverley wandered aimlessly about the lounge and theatre bar, and listened to the critics and audience praise his wife.

She had got away with it again. He knew now that he had never doubted that she would, and he thought inconsequently, “Poor old Mary Rose; rotten show.”

He never went to his wife’s dressing room until the end of the play, but he saw no reason why he shouldn’t go and have a word

with her understudy. He found her, in usual place in the wings, dressed in a girlish organdie frock which was the replica what Lucinda would be wearing for second act.

“Cheer up, young woman—there’ll other chances.” He patted her drooping shoulders clumsily.

"K/TARY ROSE looked up. There was childish sulkiness in her eyes; lier heavily made-up lips were curved downward.

“There’s still the second and the third act to get through,” she reminded him shamelessly.

“Quite,” retorted Beverley, “but wouldn’t exactly count on anything going wrong now.”

“I’m just hoping, that’s all.”

He could have smacked lier for lier confidence. There was something rather beastly in the way this chit of a girl was counting on making her mark through another person’s misfortune.

Still, she was young, ambitious. And this time yesterday the odds had been about ninety to one that she would be playing Dorothy tonight. You couldn’t really blame her for being angry with Lucinda’s success.

But throughout the rest of the play, forgot all about her disappointment and Jane’s loneliness for her mother and his own longing to have his wife to himself, and watched Lucinda as he had never before watched her on the stage; went clammy with apprehension when he imagined he detected a quavering to her voice; clapped like infatuated undergraduate when she came forward to take her call at the end.

As soon as the orchestra had finished “The King” he made his way to the back of the house again. He ran into Bruce outside Lucinda’s dressing room, and was told that the libraries had made a record deal.

“Thanks to your miracle of a wife, old boy.” Bruce slapped Beverley heartily on the back. “We’ll be seeing you later at the Savoy, of course.”

“Oh, of course. Thanks very much.”

Beverley knocked at Lucinda’s door and was admitted by her dresser, who tactfully withdrew.

“My dear, congratulations.” He kissed Lucinda’s cheek and worried to see how deadly pale she looked without her make-up.

“It seems to have got over all right.”

Beverley took her hand. It was icy cold.

“You’re dead beat, of course,” he said gently. “What about cutting Bruce’s party and coming straight back with me, and we’ll have champagne and sandwiches sent up to us?”

She shook her head. It was a very weary, and withal defiant gesture.

“It sounds tempting, Bev, but I’ve promised. Besides, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m all in.”

He watched her, not knowing whether to admire or despise her, receive the other people who had flocked to the dressing room; helped her dresser banish them so that Lucinda could get ready.

' I 'HE THEATRE was empty when at -I length he went with her along the dimlylit passages to the stage door.

A fresh notice on the notice board hanging opposite the stage door-keeper’s box attracted Lucinda’s attention. She broke from Beverley to read it. When she joined him her face was hard as though hewn in blue-white marble.

“That’s to call an understudy’s rehearsal for tomorrow morning,” she said.

“Well?” He missed the significance.

“Bruce is still nervous; he’s afraid shan’t be able to carry on . . . ”

Her face crumbled just as Jane’s did when she was feeling anything deeply; and, for some reason Beverley could not explain, he knew1 that Lucinda was frightened out of her wits of Mary Rose—of her talent, but mostly of her youth.

Beverley went back to Chardley the next day. Lucinda wrote to him twice during the week that the play was going well. “And thank goodness I’ve had no further trouble with my wretched throat.”

That meant, except from late Saturday night until midday Monday, her family would see nothing of her for the next six months or so; and here was Jane going about the house like a cat robbed of its kittens, missing her mother more every day.

And up in London, in the theatre, there would be another disconsolate young thing. Beverley busying himself more than ever with the affairs of his small estate and his pigs, tried not to become sentimental over either his daughter or Mary Rose. In selfdefense against his emotions, he spoke with unusual sharpness to Jane when her nurse reported that she was refusing to eat her breakfast porridge. He convinced himself that Mary Rose ought to consider herself lucky to have such a safe understudyship. It paid her, so Lucinda had told him, live pounds a week.

As to his own loneliness and those rushes of fierce male anger against Lucinda’s selfishness—well, he was just resigned and faintly consoled by the thought that sooner or later she would have to give up and come home for good.

On Saturday morning he received a wire from Lucinda:

“Please come up for tonight’s performance. Important, but nothing to worry about.”

HE WAS NOT able to get away until late in the afternoon as he had an appointment with a neighboring farmer concerning the disposal of Sally’s litter, and the curtain had gone up when he took his seat in the theatre. He sent a message round to tell her he was there, and settled down in his slow, punctilious way to work out in his mind whether he had made a good deal over those pigs. Lucinda’s unexpected summons had in no way perturbed him. He supposed irritably that there was one of those boring supper parties on which she sometimes liked him to attend. Anyway, he was going to see to it that she came back to spend Sunday with Jane.

He went round to Lucinda’s dressing room in the interval, and demanded, after greeting her a trifle coldly:

“Well, my dear, I’m here; what’s it all about?”

“You’ll know at the end ol the play.”

It might have been his imagination, but he thought there was a softer look about her; a certain new warmth in her eyes, and wondered petulantly why she was making all this mystery.

On his way back to his seat he ran into Mary Rose.

“We’re still having understudy rehearsals three times a week, Uncle Beverley,” she told him, and Beverley snapped at her: “Which just proves to me how you theatre people waste your time.”

Yet he was sorry for her. It must be pretty grim for anyone as talented and ambitious as Mary Rose to have to spend her evenings waiting, hoping against hope that Lucinda’s voice would give out.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” Lucinda had come forward and was making a speech before he realized that the play was finished. “Ladiesand gentlemen,” said Lucinda in those clear, silver bell tones, “I want to tell you that tonight you have witnessed my swan song ...”

Gosh ! Beverley put his hand to his head. “Either I’m mad or she is.”

“After tonight the part of Dorothy will be played by Mary Rose Lister. I am going to look after my children and help my husband rear prize pigs. Mary Rose, come here.” Beverley, still uncertain about everyone’s sanity, watched her pull Mary Rose gently forward from the wings. The audience was shouting; people were loving Lucinda more than they had ever loved her. For giving youth a chance, and for taking upon herself the natural duties of her womanhood. And there was Mary Rose bowing and smiling, already accepting with impudent calm, homage which belonged to Lucinda.

Beverley stumbled blindly from his seat and made his way to the back of the house. Mary Rose was hovering outside Lucinda’s dressing-room door.

“You can’t go in. Uncle Beveriey. Bruce is with her. Furious, of course. But she’ll win him round.”

“And you?” Again Beverley, usually the 1 mildest of men. wanted to shake this youngster out of her complacence. “I hope you realize what she has done for you.”

Mary Rose smiled. It was a pretty smile, bringing out the dimples to her cheeks.

“I think,” she said slowly, “Miss Grier is very wise to retire before anyone wants her to; and for that, besides being the greatest actress on the stage, I admire her more than anybody in the world.”

There was passionate, worshipful sincerity in the girl's voice. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and Beverley thought: “I knew she was a nice kid. Only hard and ruthless because she’s so keen on her job.” He fancied that Lucinda might have been hard and ruthless like that when she was Mary Rose’s age.

He was about to enter the dressing room when Bruce came out. He looked relieved when he saw Beverley.

“Thank heaven you’re here, old man. See ; if you can do anything with her.” Then, turning to Mary Rose: “Rehearsal at ten tomorrow morning—but don’t be too sure you have the part yet.”

BEVERLEY felt sheepish and awkward as he confronted his wife.

“Darling.” He held out his arms to her. “Darling, Bruce has asked me to see what I can do with you.”

“What do you want to do with me?” Her lips curved. “Wasn’t there once a big strafe about wives who didn’t stay at home with their husbands and children?”

“You don’t mean”—his jaw sagged, making him look faintly ludicrous—“I mean, you were in earnest when you told ’em out there ...”

“That I’m giving up the stage? Yes, darling. Desperately.”

“Why?”

He was suddenly suspicious.

“You and Jane; chiefly you.”

He still couldn’t quite believe it. not even when she pulled him into her arms and whispered terms of love and endearment she hadn’t used for years.

“But why,” he pressed her, “did you take the part in the beginning?”

“I thought I’d enjoy it.”

Lucinda picked up her powder puff and began to do things to her face. Beverley mustn’t see the searing hurt of her eyes, the sharp despair of her mouth. She was never going to let Beverley know how, on the day her voice let her down, she had heard Peter Grayle discussing her with the stage manager, Templeton Vane. “Lucinda’s a great actress—will be until she dies—but surely it’s time she played the nurse instead of Juliet. It’s pretty hard going, making love to a woman who was playing lead while you were in short panties.”

No, and you couldn’t expect Beverley to understand how, then and there, she had vowed she would make a success of this part and then hand it over to Mary Rose.

She had finished with her powder puff, and ran a comb thoughtfully through her hair.

“By the way, Beverley,” she asked brightly, “what about your precious Sally? When is she going to have her babies?”

And Beverley informed her reproachfully: “Sally farrowed a month ago, the day you signed up for this play. I’ve sold the litter —there were sixteen of them—today.”

+ + +

Baby’s Cuff

TO PREVENT babies from sucking their thumbs or other fingers, a practice said by pediatricians to deform the teeth and the roof of the mouth as well as the fingers, a device known as the Bo-Peep Cuff has been developed. The cuffs make it impossible for the child to get his thumb or fingers into his mouth, although he can see his hands and hold a rattle or other object. They also prevent the baby from scratching an infection or rash.—Scientific American.