Grand Magazine, June 1922
SALLY NICHOLAS, at twenty-one, came into a fortune of 25,000 dollars, and decided to celebrate her inheritance by a trip to Europe. At a little French watering place she met Ginger Kemp, a red-headed young Englishman who had spent his time since leaving Cambridge in making a hash of the various jobs found him by his exasperated family.
“You do seem to be our most prominent young hasher,” said Sally when she heard of these exploits. Then she proceeded to lecture him for his own good about his slavish dependence on his relatives.
Ginger won a large sum of money at the Casino, and, learning that Sally was leaving immediately for America, begged her to marry him. “But my infant, my babe, do you realise that we are practically strangers?” protested Sally, and explained that she was already secretly engaged to Gerald Foster, a young playwright. With a parting admonition, “Death to the Family,” she was flung into her train by Ginger, almost on top of his disagreeable cousin, Bruce Carmyle.
Back in America Sally learnt that her fiancé’s play, The Primrose Way, was to be produced in Detroit, but when she reached there the opening had been postponed by an epidemic of influenza, and Gerald was feeling morose. His leading lady, Mabel Hobson, was extremely difficult and everything was going wrong.
“By the way,” said Gerald. “I have to keep jollying her along, so for goodness’ sake don’t let out we’re engaged.”
“If you find it a handicap being engaged to me,” began Sally, and then, of course, Gerald became pathetic, and she had to comfort him.
She went off to a rehearsal of The Primrose Way that afternoon, and found that her brother Fillmore, having lost all his money in her absence, had joined the company as assistant stage-manager. Incidentally he had become engaged to a solid, sensible sort of girl with a small part in the cast, named Gladys Winch.
Sally immediately liked Gladys, but the rehearsal generally reminded her of a dog-fight. The tantrums of the leading lady and the bleating protests of her friend, Mr. Reginald Cracknell, who was financing the play, wasted most of the afternoon. Finally Miss Hobson saw Sally in the auditorium, and somehow that was the last straw. She flung up her part.
the fairy godmother.
FILLMORE had the air of a man who thought it wasn’t loaded.
“Cheer up!” said Sally. Fillmore jumped like a stricken jelly. “Tell me all,” said Sally, sitting down beside him. “I leave you a gentleman of large and independent means, and I come back and find you one of the wage-slaves again. How did it all happen?”
“Sally,” said Fillmore, “I will be frank with you. Can you lend me ten dollars? I want to take Miss Winch out to lunch.”
“If that’s what you want it for, don’t look on it as a loan; take it as a gift with my blessing thrown in. However did you have the sense to fall in love with her, Fill?”
“Do you like her?” said Fillmore, brightening.
“I love her.”
“I knew you would. She’s just the right girl for me, isn’t she?”
“Yes. And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need. You’ve lost all your money?”
“I have suffered certain reverses,” said Fillmore, with dignity, “which have left me temporarily—yes, every bean,” he concluded, simply. “First I bought Consolidated Rails for the rise, and they fell. So that went wrong.”
“And then I sold Russian roubles for the fall, and they rose. So that went wrong.”
Sally gave his arm a squeeze. She was very fond of Fillmore, though for the good of his soul she generally concealed her affection. “Fill,” she said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. They all say it’s the first bit of money that counts in building a vast fortune. I’ll lend you some of mine.”
“You will? Sally, I say, will you lend me twenty thousand dollars?”
Sally patted his hand soothingly.
“Come slowly down to earth,” she said. “Two hundred was the sum I had in mind.”
“I want twenty thousand.”
“You’d better rob a bank. Any policeman will direct you to a good bank.”
“If I had twenty thousand I’d buy this production from Cracknell. He’ll be back in a few minutes to tell us that the Hobson woman has quit; and, if she really has, you take it from me that he will close the show. And, even if he manages to jolly her along this time and she comes back, it’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s a shame to let a show like this close. I believe in it, Sally. It’s a darned good play. With Elsa Doland in the big part it couldn’t fail.”
Sally started. Her money was too recent for her to have grown fully accustomed to it, and she had never realised that she was in a position to wave a wand and make things happen on any big scale. The financing of a theatrical production had always been to her something mysterious and out of the reach of ordinary persons like herself.
Sally found herself wavering. The prudent side of her nature, which hitherto had steered her safely through most of life’s rapids, seemed oddly dormant. Subconsciously she was aware that on past performances Fillmore was decidedly not the man to be allowed control of anybody’s little fortune, but somehow the thought did not seem to grip her. He had touched her imagination.
“It’s a gold mine!”
Sally’s prudent side stirred in its sleep. Fillmore had chosen an unfortunate expression. What Sally had had in view, as a matter of fact, had been one of those little fancy-shops which are called Ye Blue Bird or Ye Corner Shoppe or something like that, where you sell exotic bric-à-brac to the wealthy at extortionate prices. She knew two girls who were doing splendidly in that line. As Fillmore spoke these words, Ye Corner Shoppe suddenly looked very good to her.
At this moment, however, two things happened. Gerald and Mr. Bunbury, in the course of their perambulations, came into the glow of the footlights, and she was able to see Gerald’s face; and at the same time Mr. Reginald Cracknell hurried on to the stage, his whole demeanour that of the bearer of evil tidings.
The sight of Gerald’s face annihilated Sally’s prudence at a single stroke. The whole issue became clear and simple. Gerald was miserable, and she had it in her power to make him happy.
“All right,” she said, simply.
All the complex emotions in Fillmore’s soul found expression in one vast whoop.
He strode down to the group at the footlights.
“Cracknell,” he said, importantly, “one moment. I should like a word with you.”
IT amazed Sally that any one mortal should have been able to spread such universal happiness as she had done by the simple act of lending her brother Fillmore twenty thousand dollars. If the millennium had arrived the members of The Primrose Way company could not have been on better terms with themselves.
The sudden elevation of that creature of the abyss, the assistant stage-manager, to the dizzy height of proprietor of the show appealed to their sense of drama. Most of them had played in pieces where much the same thing had happened to the persecuted heroine round about eleven o’clock, and the situation struck them as theatrically sound. Also, now that she had gone, the extent to which Miss Hobson had acted as a blight was universally recognised.
Fillmore was himself again. It may have been an optical illusion, but he appeared to Sally to put on at least six pounds in weight on the first day of the new régime. As a serf looking after paper-knives and other properties he had been—for him—almost slim. As a manager he blossomed out into soft, billowy curves, and when he stood on the footpath in front of the theatre gloating over the new posters, which bore the legend
the populace had to make a detour to get round him.
In this era of bubbling joy it was hard that Sally, the fairy godmother responsible for it all, should not have been completely happy too; and it puzzled her why she was not. But whatever it was that cast the faint shadow, it refused obstinately to come out from the back of her mind and show itself and be challenged. It was not till she was out driving in a hired car with Gerald one afternoon on Belle Isle that enlightenment came.
Gerald, since the departure of Miss Hobson, had been at his best. His moodiness had vanished, and all his old charm had returned. And yet, it seemed to Sally, as the car slid smoothly through the pleasant woods and fields by the river, that there was something that jarred.
“If this play gets over—and it’s going to—I’ll show ’em!” His jaw was squared, and his eyes glowed as they stared into the inviting future. “One success—that’s all I need—then watch me! I haven’t had a chance yet, but——”
His voice rolled on, but Sally had ceased to listen. Quite suddenly she understood what it was that had been lurking at the back of her thoughts. She had realised the fundamental difference between man’s outlook on life and woman’s.
Success! How men worshipped it, and how little of themselves they had to spare for anything else. Fillmore—Gerald—all of them. There might be a woman in each of their lives, but she came second—an afterthought—a thing for their spare time. Gerald was everything to her. His success would never be more than a side-issue as far as she was concerned. He himself, without any of the trappings of success, was enough for her. But she was not enough for him.
Sally stared out into a bleak world. The sky was a leaden grey, and the wind from the river blew with a dismal chill.
WHEN Sally left on the following Saturday, accompanied by Fillmore, who was returning to the metropolis for a few days in order to secure offices and generally make his presence felt, her spirits had completely recovered. She felt guiltily that she had been fanciful, even morbid. Naturally, men wanted to get on in the world. It was their job. She told herself that she was bound up with Gerald’s success, and that the last thing of which she ought to complain was the energy he put into efforts of which she as well as he would reap the reward.
To this happier frame of mind the excitement of the last few days had contributed. Detroit had liked The Primrose Way. The theatre had been allowed to open, and a full house, hungry for entertainment after its enforced abstinence, had welcomed the play wholeheartedly. The papers had endorsed the verdict with agreeable unanimity, hailing Gerald as the coming author and Elsa Doland as the coming star.
There had even been a brief mention of Fillmore as the coming manager. But there is always some trifle that jars in our greatest moments, and Fillmore’s triumph had been almost spoiled by the fact that the only notice taken of Gladys Winch was by the critic who printed her name—spelt Wunch—in the list of those whom the cast “also included.”
“One of the greatest character actresses on the stage,” said Fillmore, bitterly, talking over this outrage with Sally on the morning after the production.
From this blow, however, his buoyant nature had soon enabled him to rally. Life contained so much that was bright that it would have been churlish to concentrate the attention on the one dark spot. Business had been excellent all through the week. Elsa Doland had got better at every performance. The receipt of a long and agitated telegram from Mr. Cracknell, pleading to be allowed to buy the piece back, the passage of time having apparently softened Miss Hobson, was a pleasant incident. And, best of all, the great Ike Schumann, who owned half the theatres in New York and had been in Detroit superintending one of his musical productions, had looked in one evening and stamped The Primrose Way with the seal of his approval. As Fillmore sat opposite Sally in the train he radiated contentment and importance.
“I’ve got to go and see Ike Schumann. He’s on the train,” said Fillmore. “He wants to see me about the show. He suggests putting it into Chicago before opening in New York.”
“Oh, no!” cried Sally, dismayed.
Sally recovered herself. Identifying Gerald so closely with his play, she had supposed for a moment that if the piece opened in Chicago it would mean a further prolonged separation from him. But, of course, there would be no need, she realised, for him to stay with the company after the first day or two.
“Well, run along and put Ike out of his misery,” she said. “I know he’s waiting for you with his watch out, ‘You do think he’ll come, Miss Nicholas?’ were his last words to me as he stepped on the train—and, oh, Fill, the yearning in his voice! ‘Why, of course he will, Mr. Schumann,’ I said. ‘For all his exalted position, my brother is kindliness itself. Of course he’ll come.’ ‘If I could only think so!’ he said, with a gulp. ‘If I could only think so! But you know what these managers are. A thousand calls on their time. They get brooding on their fur coats and forget everything else.’ ‘Have no fear, Mr. Schumann,’ I said, ‘Fillmore Nicholas is a man of his word.’ ”
She would have been willing, for she was a girl who never believed in sparing herself where it was a question of entertaining her nearest and dearest, to continue the dialogue, but Fillmore was already moving down the car, his rigid back a silent protest against sisterly levity. Sally watched him disappear, then picked up a magazine and began to read.
She had just finished tracking a story of gripping interest through a jungle of advertisements, only to find that it was in two parts, of which the one she was reading was the first, when a voice spoke.
“How do you do, Miss Nicholas?”
Into the seat before her, recently released from the weight of the coming manager, Bruce Carmyle, of all people in the world, insinuated himself with that well-bred air of deferential restraint which never left him.
“MR. CARMYLE!” she cried.
If Sally had been constantly in Bruce Carmyle’s thoughts since they had parted on the Paris express, Mr. Carmyle had been very little in Sally’s—so little, indeed, that she had had to search her memory for a moment before she identified him.
“We’re always meeting on trains, aren’t we?” she went on, her composure returning. “I never expected to see you in America.”
“Well,” said Mr. Carmyle, “it is a good many years since I have taken a real holiday. My doctor seemed to think I was a trifle run down. It seemed a good opportunity to visit America. Everybody,” said Mr. Carmyle, oracularly, endeavouring to persuade himself that his object in making the trip had not been merely to renew his acquaintance with Sally, “everybody ought to visit America at least once. It is part of one’s education.”
“I have been visiting Chicago,” he added, after a brief travelogue. “A wonderful city.”
“I’ve never seen it. I’ve come from Detroit.”
“Yes, I heard you were in Detroit.”
Sally’s eyes opened.
“You heard I was in Detroit? Good gracious! How?”
“I—ah—called at your New York address and made inquiries,” said Mr. Carmyle, a little awkwardly.
“But how did you know where I lived?”
“My cousin—er—Lancelot told me.”
Sally was silent for a moment. Even if this almost complete stranger had not actually come to America in direct pursuit of her, there was no disguising the fact that he evidently found her an object of considerable interest. It was a compliment, but Sally was not at all sure that she liked it. She seized on the mention of Ginger as a lever for diverting the conversation from its present too intimate course.
“How is Mr. Kemp?” she asked.
Mr. Carmyle’s dark face seemed to become a trifle darker.
“He has disappeared!”
“Good heavens! When?”
“Shortly after I saw you last.”
“But where has he gone to?”
“I don’t know.” Mr. Carmyle frowned. The subject of Ginger was plainly a sore one. “And I don’t want to know. I don’t care to know. The family have washed their hands of him. For the future he may look after himself as best he can. I believe he is off his head.”
Sally’s rebellious temper was well ablaze now, but she fought it down. She would dearly have loved to give battle to Mr. Carmyle—it was odd, she felt, how she seemed to have constituted herself Ginger’s champion and protector—but she perceived that, if she wished, as she did, to hear more of her red-headed friend, he must be humoured and conciliated.
“But what happened? What was all the trouble about?”
Mr. Carmyle’s eyebrows met.
“He—insulted his uncle. His Uncle Donald. I have heard no details. My uncle is reticent as to what actually took place. He invited Lancelot to dinner, to discuss his plans, and it appears that Lancelot—defied him. Defied him! He was rude and insulting. My uncle insists that he is mad. I agree with him. Since the night of that dinner nothing has been heard of Lancelot.”
Mr. Carmyle broke off to brood once more, and before Sally could speak the impressive bulk of Fillmore loomed up in the aisle beside them.
“Oh, hullo, Fill,” said Sally. “Fillmore, this is Mr. Carmyle. We met abroad. My brother Fillmore, Mr. Carmyle.”
Fillmore approved of Mr. Carmyle. His air of being someone in particular appealed to him.
“You two had better go into the smoking-room,” suggested Sally. “I’m going to bed.”
She wanted to be alone, to think. Mr. Carmyle’s tale of a roused and revolting Ginger had stirred her.
The two men went off to the smoking-car, and Sally found an empty seat, and sat down to wait for her berth to be made up. She was aglow with a curious exhilaration. So Ginger had taken her advice! Excellent Ginger! She felt proud of him. She also had that feeling of complacency, amounting almost to sinful pride, which comes to those who give advice and find it acted upon. She had the emotions of a creator. After all, had she not created this new Ginger? It was she who had stirred him up. It was she who had unleashed him. She had changed him from a meek dependent of the family to a ravening creature who went about the place insulting uncles.
It was a feat, there was no denying it. It was something accomplished, something done; and by all the rules laid down by the poet it should therefore have earned a night’s repose. Yet Sally, jolted by the train, which towards the small hours seemed to be trying out some new steps of its own invention, slept ill; and presently, as she lay awake, there came to her bedside the Spectre of Doubt, gaunt and questioning. Had she, after all, wrought so well? Had she been wise in tampering with this young man’s life?
“What about it?” said the Spectre of Doubt.
DAYLIGHT brought no comforting answer to the question. Sally got off the train in a state of remorseful concern.
She wondered now how she could ever have looked with approval on her rash act. She wondered that she was allowed to go about loose. She was nothing more nor less than a menace to Society. Here was an estimable young man, obviously the sort of young man who would always have to be assisted through life by his relatives, and she had deliberately egged him on to wreck his prospects.
Miserable Ginger! She pictured him, his little stock of money gone, wandering footsore about London, seeking in vain for work, forcing himself to call on Uncle Donald, being thrown down front steps by haughty footmen, sleeping on the Embankment, gazing into the dark waters of the Thames with the stare of hopelessness, climbing on to the parapet and——
“Ugh!” said Sally.
She had arrived at the door of the boarding-house, and Mrs. Meecher was regarding her with welcoming eyes, little knowing that to all practical intents and purposes she had slain in his prime a red-headed young man of amiable manners and—when not ill-advised by meddling, muddling females—of excellent behaviour.
Mrs. Meecher was friendly and garrulous. Variety, the journal which, next to the dog Toto, was the thing she loved best in the world, had informed her that Mr. Foster’s play had got over big in Detroit and that Miss Doland had made every kind of a hit. And was it true that Mr. Fillmore had bought the piece? A great man, was Mrs. Meecher’s verdict. Mr. Faucitt had always said so.
“Oh, how is Mr. Faucitt?” Sally asked, reproaching herself for having allowed the pressure of other matters to drive all thoughts of her late patient from her mind.
“He’s gone,” said Mrs. Meecher, with such relish that to Sally, in her morbid condition, the words had only one meaning.
“To England,” added Mrs. Meecher.
Sally was vastly relieved.
“Oh, I thought you meant——”
“Oh no, not that.” Mrs. Meecher sighed, for she had been a little disappointed in the old gentleman, who had started out as such a promising invalid, only to fall away into the dullness of robust health once more. “He’s well enough. I never seen anybody better. Of course,” she added, trying to find justification for a respected lodger, “he’d had good news. His brother’s dead.”
“No, I don’t mean that that was good news—far from it. Though, come to think of it, all flesh is as grass, and we all got to be prepared for somep’n of the sort breaking loose . . . but it seems this here now brother of his had left him a parcel of money, and Mr. Faucitt he had to get on the Wednesday boat quick as he could and go right over to the other side to look after things. Wind up the estate, I believe they call it. Left in a awful hurry, he did. Sent his love to you and said he’d write. Funny him having a brother, now, wasn’t it?”
Sally disengaged herself and went up to her room. Dear old Mr. Faucitt! She was sorry for his brother, of course; but it was nice to think that her old friend’s remaining years would be years of affluence.
Presently, however, she found her thoughts wandering back into their melancholy groove. She threw herself wearily on the bed. She was tired after her bad night.
But she could not sleep. Remorse kept her wakeful. She turned restlessly, and, having turned, remained for a long instant transfixed and rigid. She had seen something, and what she had seen was enough to surprise any girl in the privacy of her bedroom. From underneath the bed there peeped coyly forth an undeniably masculine shoe and six inches of a grey trouser-leg.
Sally bounded to the floor. She was a girl of courage, and she meant to probe this matter thoroughly.
“What are you doing under my bed?”
The question was a reasonable one, and evidently seemed to the intruder to deserve an answer. There was a muffled sneeze, and he began to crawl out.
The shoe came first. Then the legs. Then a sturdy body in a dusty coat. And finally there flashed on Sally’s fascinated gaze a head of so nearly the maximum redness that it could only belong to one person in the world.
Mr. Lancelot Kemp, on all-fours, blinked up at her.
“Oh, hullo!” he said.
a right-hand man
IT was not till she saw him actually standing there before her, with his hair rumpled and a large smut on the tip of his nose, that Sally really understood how profoundly troubled she had been about this young man and how vivid had been that vision of him bobbing about on the waters of the Thames, a cold and unappreciated corpse. Astonishment, therefore, at the extraordinary fact of his being there was for the moment thrust aside by relief. Never before in her life had she experienced such an overwhelming rush of exhilaration. She flung herself into a chair and burst into a screech of laughter which, even to her own ears, sounded strange.
“I say, you know!” said Ginger, as the merriment showed no signs of abating. Ginger was concerned. “Nasty shock for a girl, finding blighters under her bed.”
Sally sat up, gurgling, and wiped her eyes.
“Oh, I am glad to see you!” she gasped.
“No, really?” said Ginger, gratified. “That’s fine. I say, you know, awfully sorry. About barging in here, I mean. Never dreamed it was your room. Unoccupied, I thought.”
“Don’t mention it. I ought not to have disturbed you. You were having a nice sleep, of course. Do you always sleep on the floor?”
“It was like this——”
“Of course, if you’re wearing it for ornament, as a sort of beauty-spot,” said Sally, “all right. But, in case you don’t know, you’ve a smut on your nose.”
“Oh, my aunt! Not really? Do you mind if I have a look in the glass?”
“Certainly, if you can stand it.”
Ginger moved hurriedly to the dressing-table.
“You’re perfectly right,” he announced, applying his handkerchief. “My hair’s a bit rumpled, too—what?”
“Very much so—what!”
“You take my tip,” said Ginger, earnestly, “and never lie about under beds. There’s nothing in it.”
“That reminds me. You won’t be offended if I ask you something?”
“No, no. Go ahead.”
“Well, then, what were you doing under my bed?”
“I was hiding.”
“Playing hide-and-seek? That explains it.”
“Mrs. What’s-her-name—Beecher—Meecher was after me.”
Sally shook her head disapprovingly.
“You mustn’t encourage Mrs. Meecher in these childish pastimes. It unsettles her.”
Ginger passed an agitated hand over his forehead.
“It’s like this——”
“I hate to keep criticising your appearance,” said Sally, “and, personally, I like it; but, when you clutched your brow just then you put about a pound of dust on it. Your hands are probably grubby.”
Ginger inspected them.
“Why not make a really good job of it and have a wash?”
“Thanks awfully. I mean to say, it’s your basin, you know, and all that. What I mean is, I seem to be making myself pretty well at home.”
Splashing followed, like a sea-lion taking a dip.
“Now then,” said Sally, “why were you hiding from Mrs. Meecher?”
A careworn, almost hunted look came into Ginger’s face.
“I say, you know, that woman is rather by way of being one of the lads, what! I mean to say, she’s got a nasty way with her. Scares me! Word was brought to me that she was on the prowl, so it seemed to me a judicious move to take cover till she sort of blew over. If she’d found me she’d have made me take that dog of hers for a walk.”
“Toto. You know,” said Ginger, with a strong sense of injury, “no dog’s got a right to be a dog like that. I don’t suppose there’s anyone keener on dogs than I am, but a thing like a woolly rat”—he shuddered slightly—“well, one hates to be seen about with it in the public streets.”
“Why couldn’t you have refused in a firm but gentlemanly manner to take Toto out?”
“Ah! There you rather touch the spot. You see, the fact of the matter is, I’m a bit behind with the rent, and that makes it rather hard to take what you might call a firm stand.”
“But how can you be behind with the rent? I only left here the Saturday before last and you weren’t in the place then. You can’t have been here more than a week.”
“I’ve been here just a week. That’s the week I’m behind with.”
“But why? You were a millionaire when I left you at Roville.”
“Well, the fact of the matter is, I went back to the tables that night and lost a goodish bit of what I’d won. And, somehow or another, when I got to America, the stuff seemed to slip away.”
“What made you come to America at all?” said Sally.
One of his familiar blushes raced over Ginger’s face.
“Oh, I thought I would. Land of opportunity, you know.”
“Have you managed to find any of the opportunities yet?”
“Well, I have got a job of sorts. I’m a waiter at a rummy little place on Second Avenue. The salary isn’t big, but I’d have wangled enough out of it to pay last week’s rent, only they docked me a goodish bit for breaking plates and what not. The fact is, I’m making rather a hash of it.”
“Oh, Ginger! You oughtn’t to be a waiter!”
“That’s what the boss seems to think.”
“I mean, you ought to be doing something ever so much better than that.”
“But what? You’ve no notion how well all these blighters here seem to be able to get along without my help. I’ve tramped all over the place, offering my services, but they all say they’ll try to carry on as they are.”
“I’ll make Fillmore give you a job. I wonder I didn’t think of it before.”
“My brother. Yes, he’ll be able to use you.”
“As a—as a—oh, as his right-hand man.”
“Does he want a right-hand man?”
“Sure to. He’s a young fellow trying to get along. Sure to want a right-hand man.”
“ ’M—yes,” said Ginger, reflectively. “Of course, I’ve never been a right-hand man, you know.”
“Oh, you’d pick it up. I’ll take you round to him now. He’s staying at the Astor.”
“There’s just one thing,” said Ginger.
“I might make a hash of it.”
“Heavens, Ginger! There must be something in this world that you wouldn’t make a hash of. Don’t stand arguing any longer. Are you dry? And clean? Very well, then. Let’s be off.”
Ginger took a step towards the door, then paused, rigid, with one leg in the air, as though some spell had been cast upon him. From the passage outside there had sounded a shrill yapping. Ginger looked at Sally. Then he looked—longingly—at the bed.
“Don’t be such a coward,” said Sally, severely. “How much do you owe Mrs. Meecher?”
“Round about twelve dollars, I think.”
“I’ll pay her.”
Ginger flushed awkwardly.
“No, I’m hanged if you will! I mean,” he stammered, “it’s frightfully good of you and all that, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am, but, honestly, I couldn’t.”
Sally did not press the point. She liked him the better for a rugged independence which, in the days of his impecuniousness, brother Fillmore had never dreamed of exhibiting.
“Very well,” she said. “Have it your own way, Ginger!” she broke off, sharply. “Pull yourself together. Where is your manly spirit? I’d be ashamed to be such a coward.”
“Awfully sorry, but, honestly, that woolly dog——”
“Never mind the dog. I’ll see you through.”
They came out into the passage almost on top of Toto, who was chasing phantom rats. Mrs. Meecher was manœuvring in the background. Her face lit up grimly at the sight of Ginger.
“Mister Kemp! I been looking for you.”
Sally intervened brightly.
“Oh, Mrs. Meecher,” she said, shepherding her young charge through the danger-zone, “I was so surprised to meet Mr. Kemp here. He is a great friend of mine. We met in France. We’re going off now to have a long talk about old times, and then I’m taking him to see my brother——”
“Dear little thing! You ought to take him for a walk,” said Sally. “It’s a lovely day. Mr. Kemp was saying just now that he would have liked to take him, but we’re rather in a hurry and shall probably have to get into a taxi. You’ve no idea how busy my brother is just now. If we’re late he’ll never forgive us.”
She passed on down the stairs, leaving Mrs. Meecher dissatisfied but irresolute, and Ginger, pausing on the footpath, drew a long breath.
“You know, you’re wonderful!” he said, regarding Sally with unconcealed admiration.
Sally accepted the compliment composedly.
“Now, we’ll go and hunt up Fillmore,” she said. “But there’s no need to hurry, of course, really. We’ll go for a walk first, and then call at the Astor and make him give us lunch. I want to hear all about you. I’ve heard something already. I met your cousin, Mr. Carmyle. He was on the train coming from Detroit. Did you know he was in America?”
“No. I’ve—er—rather lost touch with the family.”
“So I gathered from Mr. Carmyle. And I feel hideously responsible. It was all through me that all this has happened.”
“Of course it was. I made you what you are to-day—I hope I’m satisfied—I dragged and dragged you down until the soul within you died, so to speak. I know perfectly well that you wouldn’t have dreamed of savaging the family, as you seem to have done, if it hadn’t been for what I said to you at Roville. Ginger, tell me, what did happen? I’m dying to know. Mr. Carmyle said you insulted your Uncle Ronald.”
“Donald. Yes, we did have a bit of a scrap, as a matter of fact. He made me go out to dinner with him, and we—er—sort of disagreed. To start with, he wanted me to apologise to old Scrymgeour, and I rather gave it a miss.”
“No, silly! You!”
“Oh, ah!” Ginger blushed. “And then there was all that about the soup, you know.”
“How do you mean, ‘all that about the soup’? What about the soup? What soup?”
“I mean, the trouble seemed to start, as it were, when the waiter had finished ladling out the mulligatawny. Thick soup, you know.”
“I know mulligatawny is a thick soup. Yes?”
“Well, my old uncle—I’m not blaming him, don’t you know—more his misfortune than his fault, I can see that now—but he’s got a heavy moustache. Like a walrus, rather. And he’s a bit apt to inhale the stuff through it. And I—well, I asked him not to. It was just a suggestion, you know. He cut up fairly rough, and by the time the fish came round we were more or less down on the mat chewing holes in one another. My fault, probably. I wasn’t feeling particularly well-disposed towards the family that night. I’d just had a talk with Bruce—my cousin, you know—in Piccadilly, and that had rather got the wind up me. Bruce always seems to get on my nerves a bit, somehow. By the way, did you get the books?”
“Bruce said he wanted to send you some books. That was why I gave him your address.”
“He never sent me any books.”
“Well, he said he was going to, and I had to tell him where to send them.”
Sally walked on, a little thoughtfully. She was not a vain girl, but it was impossible not to perceive in the light of this fresh evidence that Mr. Carmyle had made a journey of three thousand miles with the sole object of renewing his acquaintance with her. It did not matter, of course, but it was vaguely disturbing. No girl cares to be dogged by a man she rather dislikes.
“Go on telling me about your uncle,” she said.
“Well, there’s not much more to tell. I’d happened to get that wireless of yours just before I started out to dinner with him, and I was more or less feeling that I wasn’t going to stand any rot from the family. One thing seemed to lead to another, and the show sort of bust up.”
Sally listened to this saga breathlessly. More than ever did she feel responsible for her young protégé, and any faint qualms which she had entertained as to the wisdom of transferring practically the whole of her patrimony to the care of so erratic a financier as her brother vanished. It was her plain duty to see that Ginger was started well in the race of life, and Fillmore was going to come in uncommonly handy.
“We’ll go to the Astor now,” she said, “and I’ll introduce you to Fillmore. He’s a theatrical manager, and he’s sure to have something for you.”
“It’s awfully good of you to bother about me.”
“Ginger,” said Sally, “I regard you as a grandson. Hail that cab, will you?”
a bit of a worm
IT seemed to Sally in the weeks that followed her reunion with Ginger Kemp that a sort of Golden Age had set in. On all the frontiers of her little kingdom there was peace and prosperity, and she woke each morning in a world so neatly smoothed and ironed out that the most captious pessimist could hardly have found anything in it to criticise.
True, Gerald was still a thousand miles away. Going to Chicago to superintend the opening of The Primrose Way—for Fillmore had acceded to his friend Ike’s suggestion in the matter of producing it first in Chicago—he had been called in by a distracted manager to revise the work of a brother-dramatist whose comedy was in difficulties at one of the theatres in that city; and this meant that he would have to remain on the spot for some time to come.
Life in every other respect seemed almost perfect. Fillmore was going strong; Ginger was off her conscience; she had found an apartment; her new hat suited her; and The Primrose Way was a tremendous success. Chicago, it appeared from Fillmore’s accounts, was paying little attention to anything except The Primrose Way.
Of all these satisfactory happenings the most satisfactory, to Sally’s thinking, was the fact that the problem of Ginger’s future had been solved. Ginger had entered the service of the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprises, Ltd. (Managing Director, Fillmore Nicholas)—Fillmore would have made the title longer, only that was all that would go on the brass plate—and was to be found daily in the outer office, his duties consisting, it seemed, mainly in reading the evening papers. What exactly he was, even Ginger hardly knew. Sometimes he felt like the man at the wheel, sometimes like a glorified office-boy, and not so very glorified at that. For the most part he had to prevent the mob rushing in and getting at Fillmore, who sat in semi-regal state in the inner office pondering great schemes.
But though there might be an occasional passing uncertainty in Ginger’s mind as to just what he was supposed to be doing in exchange for the fifty dollars he drew every Friday, there was nothing uncertain about his gratitude to Sally for having pulled the strings and enabled him to do it. He tried to thank her every time they met, and nowadays they were meeting frequently; for Ginger was helping her to furnish her new apartment. In this task he spared no efforts. He said that it kept him in condition.
“And what I mean to say is,” said Ginger, pausing in the act of carrying a massive easy-chair to the third spot which Sally had selected in the last ten minutes, “if I didn’t sweat about a bit and help you after the way you got me that job——”
“Ginger, desist!” said Sally.
“Yes, but honestly——”
“If you don’t stop it I’ll make you move that chair into the next room.”
“Shall I?” Ginger rubbed his blistered hands and took a new grip. “Anything you say.”
Sally reflected frowningly. This business of setting up house was causing her much thought.
“No,” she decided. “By the window is better.” She looked at him remorsefully. “I am giving you a lot of trouble.”
“Trouble!” Ginger, accompanied by the chair, staggered across the room. “The way I look at it is this.” He wiped a bead of perspiration from his freckled forehead. “You got me that job, and——”
“Right-o! Still, you did, you know.”
Sally sat down in the armchair and stretched herself. Watching Ginger work had given her a vicarious fatigue. She surveyed the room proudly. It was certainly beginning to look cosy. The pictures were up, the carpet down, the furniture very nearly in order. For almost the first time in her life she had the restful sensation of being at home.
“Hullo!” she said. “Where’s that photograph of me? I’m sure I put it on the mantelpiece yesterday.”
His exertions seemed to have brought the blood to Ginger’s face. He was a rich red. He inspected the mantelpiece narrowly.
“No. No photograph here.”
“I know there isn’t. But it was there yesterday—or was it? I know I meant to put it there. Perhaps I forgot. It’s the most beautiful thing you ever saw. Not a bit like me, but what of that? I value it because it looks the way I should like to look if I could.”
“I’ve never had a beautiful photograph taken of myself,” said Ginger, solemnly, with gentle regret.
“Ginger,” said Sally, “pardon my interrupting your remarks, which I know are valuable, but this chair is—not—right! It ought to be where it was at the beginning. Could you give your imitation of a pack-mule just once more? And after that I’ll make you some tea. If there’s any tea—or milk—or cups.”
“There are cups all right, I know, because I smashed two the day before yesterday. I’ll nip round the corner for some milk, shall I?”
“Yes, please nip. All this hard work has taken it out of me terribly.”
Over the tea-table Sally became inquisitive.
“What I can’t understand about this job of yours, Ginger—which, as you are just about to observe, I was noble enough to secure for you—is the amount of leisure that seems to go with it. How is it that you are able to spend your valuable time—Fillmore’s valuable time, rather—juggling with my furniture every day?”
“Oh, I can usually get off.”
“But oughtn’t you to be at your post doing—whatever it is you do? What do you do?”
Ginger stirred his tea thoughtfully and gave his mind to the question.
“Well, I sort of mess about, you know.”
“Does Fillmore consult you much?”
“He lets me read some of the plays that are sent in. Awful tosh, most of them. Sometimes he sends me off to a vaudeville house of an evening.”
“As a treat?”
“To see some special act, you know. To report on it. In case he might want to use it for this revue of his.”
“Didn’t you know he was going to put on a revue? Oh, rather. A whacking big affair. Going to cut out the Follies and all that sort of thing.”
“But—my goodness!” Sally was alarmed. It was just like Fillmore, she felt, to go branching out into these expensive schemes when he ought to be moving warily and trying to consolidate the small success he had had.
“I shall have to talk to him,” said Sally, decidedly.
SALLY’S anxiety was not lessened by the receipt shortly afterwards of a telegram from Miss Winch in Chicago.
Have you been feeding Fillmore meat? the telegram ran; and, while Sally could not have claimed that she completely understood it, there was a sinister suggestion about the message which decided her to wait no longer before making investigations. She tore herself away from the joys of furnishing and went round to the headquarters of the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprises, Ltd. (Managing Director, Fillmore Nicholas), without delay.
Ginger, she discovered on arrival, was absent from his customary post, his place in the outer office being taken by a lad of tender years and pimply exterior, who thawed and cast off a proud reserve on hearing Sally’s name, and told her to walk right in. Sally walked right in, and found Fillmore with his feet on an untidy desk, studying what appeared to be costume designs.
“Ah, Sally!” he said, in the distrait, tired voice which speaks of vast preoccupations. Prosperity was still putting in its silent, deadly work on the Hope of the American Theatre. What had been merely a smooth fullness around the angle of the jaw was now frankly a double chin. He was wearing a new waistcoat and it was unbuttoned. “I am rather busy,” he went on. “Always glad to see you, but I am rather busy. I have a hundred things to attend to.”
“Well, attend to me. That’ll only make a hundred and one. Fill, what’s all this I hear about a revue?”
Fillmore looked as like a small boy caught in the act of stealing jam as it is possible for a great theatrical manager to look. He had been wondering in his darker moments what Sally would say about that project when she heard of it, and he had hoped that she would not hear of it until all the preparations were so complete that interference would be impossible. He was extremely fond of Sally, but there was, he knew, a lamentable vein of caution in her make-up which might lead her to criticise.
“Oh yes, the revue!”
“It’s no good saying, ‘Oh yes!’ You know perfectly well it’s a crazy idea. I don’t want to run your affairs for you, but that money of mine does make me a sort of partner, I suppose, and I think I have a right to raise a loud yell of agony when I see you risking it on a——”
“Pardon me,” said Fillmore, loftily, looking happier. “Let me explain. Women never understand business matters. Your money is tied up exclusively in The Primrose Way, which, as you know, is a tremendous success. You have nothing whatever to worry about as regards any new production I may make.”
“I’m not worrying about the money. I’m worrying about you.”
“Don’t be alarmed about me. I’m all right.”
“You aren’t all right. You’ve no business, when you’ve only just got started as a manager, to be rushing into an enormous production like this. You can’t afford it.”
“My dear child, as I said before, women cannot understand these things. A man in my position can always command money for a new venture.”
“Do you mean to say you have found somebody silly enough to put up money?”
“Certainly. I don’t know that there is any secret about it. Your friend, Mr. Carmyle, has taken an interest in some of my forthcoming productions.”
Sally had been disturbed before, but she was aghast now. This was something she had never anticipated. Bruce Carmyle seemed to be creeping into her life like an advancing tide.
Fillmore misinterpreted the note of dismay in her voice.
“It’s quite all right,” he assured her. “He’s a very rich man. Large private means besides his big income. Even if anything goes wrong——”
“It isn’t that. It——”
The hopelessness of explaining to Fillmore stopped Sally. And while she was chafing at this new complication which had come to upset the orderly course of her life, there was an outburst of voices in the other office. Ginger’s understudy seemed to be endeavouring to convince somebody that the big chief was engaged and not to be intruded upon. In this he was unsuccessful, for the door opened tempestuously and Miss Winch sailed in.
“Fillmore, you poor nut,” said Miss Winch, for, though she might wrap up her meaning somewhat obscurely in her telegraphic communications, when it came to the spoken word she was directness itself. “Stop sticking straws in your hair and listen to me. You’re dippy!”
The last time Sally had seen Fillmore’s fiancée she had been impressed by her imperturbable calm. That she had lapsed now from this serene placidity struck Sally as ominous.
“Ah! Here you are!” said Fillmore. He had started to his feet indignantly at the opening of the door, like a lion bearded in its den, but calm had returned when he saw who the intruder was.
“Yes, here I am!” Miss Winch dropped despairingly into a swivel-chair and endeavoured to restore herself with a stick of chewing-gum. “Fillmore, darling, you’re the sweetest thing on earth, and I love you, but at present you seem to be as mad as a hatter.”
“My dear girl——”
“What do you think?” demanded Miss Winch, turning to Sally.
“I’ve just been telling him,” said Sally, welcoming this ally, “I think it’s absurd at this stage of things for him to put on an enormous revue——”
“Revue?” Miss Winch stopped in the act of gnawing her gum. “What revue?” She flung up her arms. “Are you putting on a revue, too?”
Fillmore was buttoning and unbuttoning his waistcoat. He had a hounded look.
“Certainly, certainly,” he replied, in a tone of some feverishness. “I wish you girls would leave me to manage——”
“Dippy!” said Miss Winch once more. She swivelled round to Sally again. “Say, listen! This boy must be stopped. We must form a gang in his best interests and get him put away. What do you think he proposes doing? I’ll give you three guesses. Oh, what’s the use? You’d never hit it. This poor wandering lad has got it all fixed up to star me—me—in a new show!”
Fillmore removed a hand from his waistcoat buttons and waved it protestingly.
“Yes, sir!” proceeded Miss Winch, riding over the interruption. “That’s what he’s planning to spring on an unsuspicious public. I’m sitting peacefully in my room at the hotel in Chicago when the telephone rings. Gentleman below would like to see me. Oh, ask him to wait. Business of flinging on a few clothes. Down in lift. Bright sunrise effects in lobby.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
“The gentleman had a head of red hair which had to be seen to be believed,” explained Miss Winch. “Lit up the lobby. Management had switched off all the lights for sake of economy. An Englishman he was. Nice fellow. Named Kemp!”
“Oh, is Ginger in Chicago?” said Sally.
“I sent Kemp to Chicago,” said Fillmore, “to have a look at the show. It is my policy, if I am unable to pay periodical visits myself, to send a representative——”
“Mr. Kemp may have been there to look at the show,” interrupted Miss Winch, “but his chief reason for coming was to tell me to beat it back to New York to enter into my kingdom. Fillmore wanted me on the spot, he told me, so that I could sit round in this office here, interviewing my supporting company. Me! Can you or can you not,” inquired Miss Winch, frankly, “tie it?”
“You persist in under-estimating your abilities, Gladys,” said Fillmore, reproachfully. “I have had a certain amount of experience in theatrical matters—I have seen a good deal of acting—and I assure you that as a character-actress you——”
Miss Winch rose swiftly from her seat, kissed Fillmore energetically, and sat down again.
“You’re a darling old thing to talk that way,” she said, “and I hate to wake you out of your day-dreams; but, honestly, Fillmore, dear, do just step out of the padded cell for one moment and listen to reason. I know exactly what has been passing in your poor, disordered bean. You took Elsa Doland out of a minor part and made her a star overnight. As a matter of fact,” she said to Sally with enthusiasm, for hers was an honest and a generous nature, “you can’t realise, not having seen her play, what an amazing hit she has made. She really is a sensation. Everybody says she’s going to be the biggest thing on record. Very well, then. What does Fillmore do? The poor fish claps his hand to his forehead and cries, ‘Gadzooks! An idea! I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. I’m the fellow who can make a star out of anything. Easy! Easy!’ And he picks on me!”
“My dear girl——”
“Now, the flaw in the scheme is this. Elsa is a genius, and if he hadn’t made her a star somebody else would have done. But little Gladys? That’s something else again.” She turned to Sally. “You’ve seen me in action, and let me tell you you’ve seen me at my best. Give me a maid’s part, with a tray to carry on in act one and a couple of ‘Yes, madam’s’ in act two, and I’m there! Margaret Anglin hasn’t anything on me when it comes to saying, ‘Yes, madam,’ and I’m willing to back myself for gold, notes, or lima beans against Sarah Bernhardt as a tray-carrier. But there I finish. Between ourselves, the only thing I can do really well is to cook.”
“My dear Gladys!” cried Fillmore, revolted.
“I’m a heaven-born cook, and I don’t mind notifying the world to that effect. I can cook a chicken casserole so that you would leave home and mother for it. Also, my English pork-pies! One of these days I’ll take an afternoon off and assemble one for you. You’d be surprised! But acting—no. I can’t do it, and I don’t want to do it. I only went on the stage for fun, and my idea of fun isn’t to plough through a star part with all the critics waving their axes in the front row, and me knowing all the time that it’s taking money out of Fillmore’s pocket that ought to be going towards buying the little home. Well, that’s that, Fillmore, old darling. I thought I’d just mention it.”
Sally could not help being sorry for Fillmore. It was plain that this project of taking Miss Winch by the scruff of the neck and hurling her to the heights had been very near his heart.
“If that is how you feel,” he said, in a stricken voice, “there is nothing more to say.”
“Oh yes, there is. We will now talk about this revue of yours. It’s off!”
Fillmore bounded to his feet. He thumped the desk with a well-nourished fist. A man can stand just so much.
“It is not off! Great heavens! It’s too much! I will not put up with this interference with my business concerns. I will not be tied and hampered. Here am I, a man of broad vision, and—and—broad vision—I form my plans—my plans—I form them—I shape my schemes—and what happens? A horde of girls flock into my private office while I am endeavouring to concentrate—and concentrate—I won’t stand it! Where’s my hat? I tell you once and for all I won’t stand it. Advice, yes; interference, no. I—I—I—and kindly remember that!”
The door closed with a bang. A fainter detonation announced the whirlwind passage through the outer office. Footsteps died away down the corridor.
Sally looked at Miss Winch, stunned. A roused and militant Fillmore was new to her.
“Isn’t he cute?” said Gladys. “He’s beginning to hop about and sing in the sunlight. It’s going to be hard work to get that boy down to earth again.” Miss Winch heaved a gentle sigh. “I should like him to have enough left in the old stocking to pay the first year’s rent when the wedding bells ring out. Not that it matters. I’d be just as happy in two rooms and a kitchenette, so long as Fillmore was there. You’ve no notion how dippy I am about him.” Her freckled face glowed. “He grows on me like a darned drug. And the funny thing is that I keep right on admiring him though I can see all the while that he’s the most perfect chump. He is a chump, you know. That’s what I love about him. That and the way his ears wiggle when he gets excited.” She broke off and scrutinised Sally closely. “Say, what do you do with your skin?”
She spoke with a solemn earnestness which made Sally laugh.
“What do I do with my skin? I just carry it about with me.”
“Well,” said Miss Winch, enviously, “I wish I could train my darned fool of a complexion to get that way. Freckles are the devil. There’s only one way of getting rid of them, and that is to saw the head off at the neck.”
“But why do you want to get rid of them?”
“Why? Because a sensitive girl, anxious to retain her future husband’s love, doesn’t enjoy going about looking like something out of a museum.”
“How absurd! Fillmore worships freckles.”
“Did he tell you so?” asked Miss Winch, eagerly.
“Not in so many words, but you can see it in his eye.”
“Well, Fillmore certainly asked me to marry him, knowing all about them, I will say that, and I haven’t noticed him growing cold to me, so maybe it’s all right.”
IT was a subdued Sally who received Ginger when he called a few days later on his return from Chicago. It seemed to her, thinking over the recent scene, that matters were even worse than she had feared. This absurd revue, which she had looked on as a mere isolated outbreak of foolishness, was, it would appear, only a specimen of the sort of thing her misguided brother proposed to do, a sample selected at random from a wholesale lot of frantic schemes. Fillmore, there was no longer any room for doubt, was preparing to express his great soul on a vast scale. Even if she could dissuade him from this particular rash act, it would only be a matter of minutes before he thought up something else equally devastating.
And Bruce Carmyle was financing him. It was illogical, but Sally could not help feeling that when—she had not the optimism to say ‘if’—he lost his money, she would somehow be under an obligation to him, as if the disaster had been her fault. She disliked with a whole-hearted intensity the thought of being under an obligation to Mr. Carmyle.
Ginger said he had looked in to inspect the furniture, on the chance that Sally might want it shifted again; but Sally had no criticisms to make on that subject. Weightier matters occupied her mind. She sat Ginger down in the armchair and started to pour out her troubles. It soothed her to talk to him. In a world which had somehow become chaotic again after an all too brief period of peace, he was solid and consoling.
“I shouldn’t worry,” observed Ginger, with Winch-like calm, when she had finished drawing for him the picture of a Fillmore rampant against a background of expensive revues. Sally nearly shook him.
“It’s all very well to tell me not to worry,” she cried. “How can I help worrying? Fillmore’s simply a baby, and he’s just playing the fool.”
Ginger did not abandon his attempt to indicate the silver lining.
“I think you’re making too much of all this, you know. I mean to say, it’s quite likely he’s found some mug—what I mean is, it’s just possible that your brother isn’t standing the entire racket himself. Perhaps some rich Johnnie has breezed along with a pot of money.”
“That is just what has happened, and it makes it worse than ever. Fillmore tells me that your cousin, Mr. Carmyle, is providing the money.”
This did interest Ginger.
“That’s a bit off,” he observed.
“I think so, too.”
“Do you know what I think?” said Ginger, ever a man of plain speech and a reckless plunger into delicate subjects. “The blighter’s in love with you.”
Sally flushed. After examining the evidence before her, she had reached the same conclusion in the privacy of her thoughts, but it embarrassed her to hear the thing put into bald words.
“I know Bruce,” continued Ginger, “and, believe me, he isn’t the sort of cove to take any kind of a flutter without a jolly good motive. If he’s really brought himself to the point of shelling out on a risky proposition like a show it means something, take my word for it. And I don’t see what else it can mean except—well, anyway, I don’t see how it matters to you one way or the other. You’re engaged to another Johnnie, and when Bruce rolls up and says ‘What about it?’ you’ve simply to tell him that the shot isn’t on the board and will he kindly melt away.” Sally gave a troubled laugh.
“You think that’s simple, do you? I suppose you imagine that a girl enjoys that sort of interview? Oh, what’s the use of talking about it? It’s horrible, and no amount of arguing will make it anything else. Do let’s change the subject. How did you like Chicago?”
“Oh, I had rather a good time. It’s rummy how you run into people when you move about, isn’t it?”
“You talk as if you had been dashing about the streets with your eyes shut. Did you meet somebody you knew?”
“Chap I hadn’t seen for years. Was at school with him, as a matter of fact. Fellow named Foster. But I expect you know him, too, don’t you? By name, at any rate. He wrote your brother’s show.”
Sally’s heart jumped.
“Oh! Did you meet Gerald—Foster?”
“Ran into him one night at the theatre.”
“Really?” said Sally. “How nice it must have been for you, meeting again. I suppose you had all sorts of things to talk about?”
Ginger shook his head.
“Not such a frightful lot. We were never very thick. You see, this chap Foster was by way of being a bit of a worm.”
“A tick,” explained Ginger. “A rotter. He was pretty generally barred at school. Personally, I never had any use for him at all.”
Sally stiffened. She had liked Ginger up to that moment, and later on, no doubt, she would resume her liking for him; but in the immediate instant which followed these words she found herself regarding him with a stormy hostility. How dare he sit there saying things like that about Gerald?
Ginger, who was lighting a cigarette without a care in the world, proceeded to develop his theme.
“It’s a rummy thing about school. Generally, if a fellow’s good at games—in the cricket team or the footer team and so forth—he can hardly help being fairly popular. But this blighter Foster somehow—nobody seemed very keen on him. Of course, he had a few of his own pals, but most of the chaps rather gave him a miss. Personally, the reason I barred him was because he wasn’t straight.”
Sally managed to control her voice, though it shook a little.
“I ought to tell you,” she said, and her tone would have warned him had he been less occupied, “that Mr. Foster is a great friend of mine.”
But Ginger was intent on the lighting of his cigarette.
“If you take my tip,” he mumbled, “you’ll drop him. He’s a wrong ’un.”
He spoke with the absent-minded drawl of preoccupation, and Sally could keep the conflagration under no longer. She was aflame from head to foot.
“It may interest you to know,” she said, shooting the words out like bullets from between clenched teeth, “that Gerald Foster is the man I am engaged to marry.”
Ginger’s head came slowly up from his cupped hands. Amazement was in his eyes, and a sort of horror.
“You’re joking,” he said, feebly. There was a note of wistfulness in his voice. “It isn’t true?”
Sally kicked the leg of her chair irritably. She read insolent disapproval into the words.
“Of course it’s true.”
“But——” A look of hopeless misery came into Ginger’s pleasant face. He hesitated. Then, with the air of a man bracing himself to a dreadful but unavoidable ordeal, he went on.
“Foster’s married,” he said, shortly. “He was married the day before I left Chicago.”
Another long instalment of this splendid story will appear in our next issue.
Chapter 9: “I made you what you are to-day—I hope I’m satisfied” is a parody of a line from the 1913 song “The Curse of an Aching Heart” by Al Piantadosi and Henry Fink; the original is “You made me what I am today; I hope you’re satisfied.”
Printer’s errors corrected above:
In synopsis, next to last paragraph, magazine had “Fillimore” instead of Fillmore.
In opening sentence of Ch. 7, magazine had “thought it was loaded”; amended to “wasn’t” as in Collier’s and in book publication.
In Ch. 7, magazine had “With Elsa Doland in the big start it couldn’t fail”; amended to “the big part” as in other versions.
In Ch. 7, magazine had “Fillmore was decidedly no the man”; amended to “not”.
In Ch. 8, “He wants to see me about the show” started a new paragraph in the magazine, even though it continues Fillmore’s speech. This was an editing error in the process of shortening Wodehouse’s original. The paragraphs are combined above for clarity.
— Transcription and notes by Neil Midkiff; thanks to Ian Michaud for proofreading.