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TALES FROM BOHEMIA
By ROBERT NEILSON STEPHENS
ROBERT NEILSON STEPHENS
One crisp evening early in March, 1887, I climbed the three flights of
rickety stairs to the fourth floor of the old "Press" building to begin
work on the "news desk." Important as the telegraph department was
in making the newspaper, the desk was a crude piece of carpentry. My
companions of the blue pencil irreverently termed it "the shelf." This was
my second night in the novel dignity of editorship. Though my rank was the
humblest, I appreciated the importance of a first step from "the street."
An older man, the senior on the news desk, had preceded me. He was engaged
in a bantering conversation with a youth who lolled at such ease as a
well-worn, cane-bottomed screw-chair afforded. The older man made an
informal introduction, and I learned that the youth with pale face and
serene smile was "Mr. Stephens, private secretary to the managing editor."
That information scarcely impressed me any more than it would now after
more than twenty years' experience of managing editors and their private
The bantering continued, and I learned that the youth cherished literary
aspirations, and that he performed certain work in connection with the
dramatic department for the managing editor, who kept theatrical news and
criticisms within his personal control.
Suddenly a chance remark broke the ice for a friendship between the young
man and me which was to last unbroken until his untimely death. Stephens
wrote the Isaac Pitman phonography! Here had I been for more than three
years wondering to find the shorthand writers of wide-awake and progressive
America floundering in what I conceived to be the Serbonian bog of an
archaic system of stenography. Unexpectedly a most superior young man came
within my ken who was a disciple of Isaac Pitman. Furthermore, like myself,
he was entirely self taught. No old shorthand writer who can look back a
quarter of a century on his own youthful enthusiasm for the art can fail to
appreciate what a bond of sympathy this discovery constituted. From that
night forward we were chosen friends, confiding our ambitions to each
other, discussing the grave issues of life and death, settling the problems
of literature. Notwithstanding his more youthful appearance, my seniority
in age was but slight. Gradually "Bob," as all his friends called him with
affectionate informality, was given opportunities to advance himself, under
the kindly yet firm guidance of the managing editor, Mr. Bradford Merrill.
That gentleman appreciated the distinct gifts of his young protege,
journalistic and literary, and he fostered them wisely and well. I remember
perfectly the first criticism of an important play which "Bob" was
permitted to write unaided. It was Richard Mansfield's initial appearance
in Philadelphia as "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde," at the Chestnut Street Theatre
on Monday, October 3, 1887.
After the paper had gone to press, and while Mr. Merrill and a few of the
telegraph editors were partaking of a light lunch, the night editor, the
late R.E.A. Dorr, asked Mr. Merrill "how Stephens had made out."
"He has written a very clever and very interesting criticism," Mr. Merrill
replied. "I had to edit it somewhat, because he was inclined to be
Hugoesque and melodramatic in describing the action with very short
sentences. But I am very much pleased, indeed."
That was the beginning of Bob's career as a dramatic critic, a career in
which he gained authority and in which his literary faculties, his felicity
of expression and soundness of judgment found adequate scope.
In the following two or three years the cultivation of the field of
dramatic criticism occupied his time to the temporary exclusion of his
ambition for creative work. He and I read independently; but our tastes
had much in common, though his preference was for imaginative literature.
Meanwhile I was writing short stories with plenty of plot, some of which
found their way into various magazines; but his taste lay more in the line
of the French short story writers who made an incident the medium for
portraying a character. Historical romance had fascinations for me, but
Alphonse Daudet attracted both of us to the artistic possibilities that lay
in selecting the romance of real life for treatment in fiction as against
the crude and repellent naturalism of Zola and his school. This fact is not
a little significant in view of the turn toward historical romance
which exercised all the activities of Robert Neilson Stephens after the
production of his play, "An Enemy to the King," by E.H. Sothern.
Still our intimacy had prepared me for the change. Through many a long
night after working hours we had wandered through the moonlit streets until
daybreak exchanging views freely and sturdily on historical characters on
the philosophy of history, on the character of Henry of Navarre and his
followers, and on the worthies of Elizabethan England, in the literature of
which we had immersed ourselves. Kipling had recently burst meteor-like
on the world, and Barrie raised his head with a whimsical smile closely
chasing a tear. Thomas Hardy was in the saddle writing "Tess," and in
France Daudet was yet active though his prime was past. Guy de Maupassant
continued the production of his marvellous short stories. These were the
contemporary prose writers who engaged our attention. A little later we
hailed the appearance of Stanley J. Weyman with "A Gentleman of France,"
and the Conan Doyle of "The White Company" and "Micah Clarke" rather than
the creator of "Sherlock Holmes" commended our admiration. We were by no
means in accord on the younger authors. Diversity of opinion stimulates
critical discussion, however. I had not yet become reconciled to Kipling,
who provoked my resentment by certain coarse flings at the Irish, but "Bob"
hailed him with whole-hearted enthusiasm.
We were not the only members of the staff with literary aspirations.
Others, like the late Andrew E. Watrous, had achievements of no mean order
in prose and verse. Still others were sustaining the traditions of "The
Press" as a newspaper office which throughout its history had been a
stepping stone to magazine work and other forms of literary employment.
Richard Harding Davis was on the paper and "Bob" Stephens was one of the
two men most intimately in his confidence regarding his ambitions.
Finally Bob told me that "Dick" had taken him to his house and read to him
"A bully short story," adding, "It's a corker."
I inquired the nature of the story.
"Just about the 'Press' office," Bob replied,
Among other particulars I asked the title.
"'Gallegher,'" said Bob.
Three years elapsed after our first acquaintance before Bob Stephens began
writing stories and sketches. The "Tales from Bohemia" collected in this
volume represent his early creative work. We were in the better sense a
small band of Bohemians, the few friends and companions who will be found
figuring in the tales under one guise or another. Many a merry prank and
many a jest is recalled by these pages. Of criticism I have no word to say.
Let the reader understand how they came into being and they will explain
themselves. "Bob" Stephens took his own environment, the anecdotes he
heard, the persons whom he met and the friends whom he knew, and he treated
them as the writers of short stories in France twenty years ago treated
their own Parisian environment. He made an incident the means of
illustrating a portrayal of character. Later he was to construct elaborate
plots for dramas and historical novels.
"Bohemianism" was but a brief episode in the life of "R. N. S." It ceased
after his marriage. But his natural gaiety remained. Seldom was his joyous
disposition overcast, or his winning smile eclipsed. For six months I was
privileged to live in the house with his mother. If he had inherited his
literary predilections from his father,--a highly respected educator of
Huntington, Pa. from whose academy many eminent professional men were
graduated,--his gentleness, his cheerfulness, his winning smile and the
ingratiating qualities to which it was the key, as surely came from his
I remember a time when he was inordinately grave for several days
and pursued a tireless course of special reading through the office
encyclopaedias and some books he had borrowed. At last he drew aside the
veil of reserve which concealed his family affairs from even his closest
friends and inquired if I could direct him to any recent authority on
cancer. I divined the sad truth that his tenderly beloved mother was
suffering from the dread disease. That was the day before serums, and
nothing that he found to read in books or periodicals gave him a faint hope
that his dear one could be cured. Thenceforward, mother and son awaited
the inevitable end with uncomplaining patience which was characteristic of
both. His cheerful smile returned, and while the blow of bereavement was
impending practically all these "Tales from Bohemia" were written.
To follow the career of "R.N.S." and trace his development after he gave up
newspaper work in the fall of 1893 is not required in this place. "Tales
from Bohemia" will be found interesting in themselves, apart from the fact
that they illustrate another phase of the literary gift of a young writer
who contributed so materially to the entertainment of playgoers and novel
readers for a period of ten years after the work in this book was all done.
I. THE ONLY GIRL HE EVER LOVED
II. A BIT OF MELODY
III. ON THE BRIDGE
IV. THE TRIUMPH OF MOGLEY
V. OUT OF HIS PAST
VI. THE NEW SIDE PARTNER
VII. THE NEEDY OUTSIDER
VIII. TIME AND THE TOMBSTONE
IX. HE BELIEVED THEM
X. A VAGRANT
XI. UNDER AN AWNING
XII. SHANDY'S REVENGE
XIII. THE WHISTLE
XV. THE BAD BREAK OF TOBIT MCSTENGER
XVI. THE SCARS
XVII. "LA GITANA"
XIX. A MAN WHO WAS NO GOOD
XX. MR. THORNBERRY'S ELDORADO
XXI. AT THE STAGE DOOR
XXII. "POOR YORICK"
XXIV. NEWGAG THE COMEDIAN
XXV. AN OPERATIC EVENING
TALES FROM BOHEMIA
* * * * *
THE ONLY GIRL HE EVER LOVED
When Jack Morrow returned from the World's Fair, he found Philadelphia
thermometers registering 95. The next afternoon he boarded a Chestnut
Street car, got out at Front Street, hurried to the ferry station, and
caught a just departing boat for Camden, and on arriving at the other side
of the Delaware, made haste to find a seat in the well-filled express train
bound for Atlantic City.
While he was being whirled across the level surface of New Jersey, past the
cornfields and short stretches of green trees and restful cottage towns, he
thought of the pleasure in store for him--the meeting with the young person
whom he had gradually come to consider the loveliest girl in the world.
Having neglected to read the list of "arrivals" in the newspapers, he knew
not at what hotel she and her aunt were staying. But he would soon make
the rounds of the large beach hotels, at one of which she was likely to be
She did not expect to see him. Therefore her first expression on beholding
him would betray her feelings toward him, whatever they were. Should the
indication be favourable, he would propose to her at the first opportunity,
on beach, boardwalk, hotel piazza, pavilion, yacht or in the surf. Such
were the meditations of Jack Morrow while the train roared across New
Jersey to the sea.
The first sign of the flat green meadows, the smooth waters of the
thoroughfare, the sails afar at the inlet and the long side of the sea-city
stretching out against the sky at the very end of the earth is refreshing
and exhilarating to any one. It gave a doubly keen enjoyment to Jack
"Within an hour, perhaps," he mused, as the reviving odour of the salt
water touched his nostrils, "I shall see Edith."
When with the crowd he had made his way out of the train, and traversed
the long platform at the Atlantic City station, ignoring the stentorian
solicitations of the 'bus drivers, he started walking toward the ocean
promenade, invited by the glimpse of sea at the far end of the avenue. Thus
he crossed that wide thoroughfare--Atlantic Avenue--with its shops and
trolley-cars; passed picturesque hotels and cottages; crossed Pacific
Avenue where carriages and dog-carts were being driven rapidly between the
rows of pretty summer edifices, and traversed the famously long block that
ends at the boardwalk and the strand.
He succeeded in getting a third-floor room on the ocean side of the first
hotel where he applied. He learned from the clerk that Edith was not at
this house. Sea air having revived his appetite, he decided to dine before
setting out in search of her.
When, after his meal, he reached the boardwalk, the electric lights had
already been turned on and the regular evening crowd of promenaders was
beginning to form. He strolled along now looking at the beach and the sea,
now at the boardwalk crowd where he might perhaps at any moment behold
the face of "the loveliest girl in the world." He beheld instead, as he
approached the Tennessee pier, the face of his friend George Haddon.
"Hello, old boy!" exclaimed Morrow, grasping his friend's hand. "What are
you doing here? I thought your affairs would keep you in New York all
"So they would," replied Haddon, in a tone and with a look whose distress
he made little effort to conceal. "But something happened."
"Why, what on earth's the matter? You seem horribly downcast."
Haddon was silent for a moment; then he said suddenly:
"I'll tell you all about it. I have to tell somebody or it will split my
head. But come out on the pier, away from the noise of that merry-go-round
Neither spoke as the two young men passed through the concert pavilion and
dancing hall out to a quieter part of the long pier. They sat near the
railing and looked out over the sea, on which, as evening fell, the
rippling band of moonlight grew more and more luminous. They could see,
at the right, the long line of brilliant lights on the boardwalk, and the
increasing army of promenaders. Detached from the furthest end of the line
of boardwalk lights, shone those of distant Longport. Above these, the sky
had turned from heliotrope to hues dark and indefinable, but indescribably
beautiful. Down on the beach were only a few people, strolling near the
tide line, a carriage, a man on horseback, and three frolicking dogs.
"It's simply this," abruptly began Haddon. "Six weeks ago I was married
"Why, I never heard of it. Let me congrat--"
"No, don't, I was married to a comic opera singer, named Lulu Ray. I don't
suppose you've ever heard of her, for she was only recently promoted from
the chorus to fill small parts. We took a flat, and lived happily on the
whole, for a month, although with such small quarrels as might be expected.
Two weeks ago she went out and didn't come back. Since then I haven't been
able to find her in New York or at any of the resorts along the Jersey
coast. I suppose she was offended at something I said during a quarrel that
grew out of my insisting on our staying in New York all summer. Knowing her
liking for Atlantic City--she was a Philadelphia girl before she went on
the stage--I came here at once to hunt her up and apologize and agree to
"Well, I haven't found her. She's not at any hotel in Atlantic City. I'm
going back to New York to-morrow to get some clue as to where she is."
"I suppose you're very fond of her still?"
"Yes; that's the trouble. And then, of course, a man doesn't like to have
a woman who bears his name going around the country alone, her whereabouts
Morrow was on the point of saying: "Or perhaps with some other man," but he
checked himself. He was sufficiently mundane to refrain from attempting to
reason Haddon out of his affection for the fugitive, or to advise him as to
what to do. He knew that in merely letting Haddon unburden on him the cause
of anxiety, he had done all that Haddon would expect from any friend.
He limited himself, therefore, to reminding Haddon that all men have their
annoyances in this life; to treating the woman's offence as light and
commonplace, and to cheering him up by making him join in seeing the sights
of the boardwalk.
They looked on at the pier hop, while Professor Willard's musicians played
popular tunes; returned to the boardwalk and watched the pretty girls
leaning against the wooden beasts on the merry-go-round while the organ
screamed forth, "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow;" experienced that not
very illusive illusion known as "The Trip to Chicago;" were borne aloft on
an observation wheel; made the rapid transit of the toboggan slide, visited
the phonographs and heard a shrill reproduction of "Molly and I and the
Baby;" tried the slow and monotonous ride on the "Figure Eight," and the
swift and varied one on the switchback. They bought saltwater taffy and ate
it as they passed down the boardwalk and looked at the moonlight. Down on
the Bowery-like part of the boardwalk they devoured hot sausages, and in a
long pavilion drank passable beer and saw a fair variety show. Thence they
left the boardwalk, walked to Atlantic Avenue and mounted a car that bore
them to Shauffler's, where among light-hearted beer drinkers they heard the
band play "Sousa's Cadet March" and "After the Ball," and so they arrived
All this was beneficial to Haddon and pleasant enough in itself, but it
prevented Morrow that night from prosecuting his search for the loveliest
girl in the world. He postponed the search to the next day. And when that
time came, after Haddon had started for New York, occurred an event that
caused Morrow to postpone the search still further.
He had decided to go up the boardwalk on the chance of seeing Edith in a
pavilion or on the beach. If he should reach the vicinity of the lighthouse
without finding her, he would turn back and inquire at every hotel near the
beach until he should obtain news of her.
He had reached Pennsylvania Avenue when he was attracted by the white tents
that here dotted the wide beach. He went down the high flight of steps from
the boardwalk to rest awhile in the shade of one of the tents.
Although it was not yet 11 o'clock, several people in bathing suits were
making for the sea. A little goat wagon with children aboard was passing
the tents, and after it came the cart of the "hokey-pokey" peddler, drawn
by a donkey that wore without complaint a decorated straw bathing hat.
Morrow, looking at the feet of the donkey, saw in the sand something
that shone in the sunlight. He picked it up and found that it was a gold
bracelet studded with diamonds.
He questioned every near-by person without finding the owner. He therefore
put the bracelet in his pocket, intending to advertise it. Then he resumed
his stroll up the boardwalk. He went past the lighthouse and turned back.
He had reached the Tennessee Avenue pier without having found the loveliest
girl in the world. His eye caught a small card that had just been tacked up
at the pier entrance. Approaching it he read:
"Lost--On the beach between Virginia and South Carolina Avenues, a gold
bracelet with seven diamonds. A liberal reward will be paid for its
recovery at the ---- Hotel."
The hotel named was the one at which Morrow was staying. He hurried
"Who lost the diamond bracelet?" he asked the clerk.
"That young lady standing near the elevator. Miss Hunt, I think her name
is," said the clerk consulting the register. "Yes, that's it, she only
arrived last night."
Morrow saw standing near the elevator door, a lithe, well-rounded girl
with brown hair and great gray eyes that were fixed on him. She was in the
regulation summer-girl attire--blue Eton suit, pink shirtwaist, sailor hat,
and russet shoes. He hastened to her.
"Miss Hunt, I have the honour to return your bracelet."
She opened her lips and eyes with pleasurable surprise and reached somewhat
eagerly for the piece of jewelry.
"Thank you ever so much. I took a walk on the beach just after breakfast
and dropped it somewhere. It's too large."
"I picked it up near Pennsylvania Avenue. It's a curious coincidence that
it should be found by some one stopping at the same hotel. But, pardon me,
you're going away without mentioning the reward."
She looked at him with some surprise, until she discovered that he was
jesting. Then she smiled a smile that gave Morrow quite a pleasant thrill,
and said, with some tenderness of tone:
"Let the reward be what you please."
"And that will be to do what you shall please to have me do."
"Ah, that's nice. Then I accept your services at once. I am quite alone
here; haven't any acquaintances in the hotel. I want to go bathing and I'm
rather timid about going alone, although I'd made up my mind to do so and
was just going up after my bathing suit."
"Then I am to have the happiness of escorting you into the surf."
They went bathing together not far from where he had found the bracelet. He
discovered that she could swim as well as he; also that in her dark blue
bathing costume, with sailor collar and narrow white braid, she was a most
She laughed frequently while they were breasting the breakers; and
afterwards, as in their street attire they were returning on the boardwalk,
she chatted brightly with him, revealing a certain cleverness in off-hand
He took her into the tent behind the observation wheel to see the Egyptian
exhibition, and she was good enough to laugh at his jokes about the
mummies, although the mummies did not seem to interest her. Further down
the boardwalk they stopped at the Japanese exhibition, and on the way out
he caught himself saying that if it were possible, he would take great
pleasure in hauling her in a jinrikisha.
"I'll remember that promise and make you push me in a wheel-chair," she
When they were back at the hotel, she turned suddenly and said:
"By the way, what's your name? Mine's Clara Hunt."
He told her, and while she went up the elevator with her bathing suit, he
arranged with the head waiter to have himself seated at her table.
He learned from the clerk that she had arrived alone with a letter of
introduction from a former guest of the house, and intended to stay at
least a fortnight.
At luncheon he proposed that they should take a sail in the afternoon. She
said, with a smile:
"As it is you who invites me, I'll give up my nap and go."
They rode in a 'bus to the Inlet, and after spending half an hour drinking
beer and listening to the band on the pavilion, they hired a skipper to
take them out in his catboat. Six miles out the boat pitched considerably
and Miss Hunt increased her hold on Morrow's admiration by not becoming
seasick. At his suggestion they cast out lines for bluefish. She borrowed
mittens from the captain and pulled in four fish in quick succession.
"What an athletic woman you are," said Morrow.
"In fact, everything that's charming," he continued.
She replied softly: "Don't say that unless you mean it. It pleases me too
much, coming from you."
Morrow mused: "Here's a girl who is frank enough to say so when she likes a
fellow. It makes her all the more fascinating, too. Some women would make
me very tired throwing themselves at me this way. But it is different with
They gave the fish to the captain and returned from the Inlet by the
Atlantic Avenue trolley, just in time for dinner. She did not lament her
lack of opportunity to change her clothes for dinner, nor did she complain
about the coat of sunburn she had acquired.
In the evening, they sat together for a time on the pier, took a turn
together at one of the waltzes, although neither cared much for dancing at
this time of year, walked up the boardwalk and compared the moon with the
high beacon light of the lighthouse.
He bought her marshmallows at a confectioner's booth, a fan at a Japanese
store, and a queer oriental paper cutter at a Turkish bazaar. They took two
switchback rides, during which he was compelled to put his arm around her.
Finally, reluctant to end the evening, they stood for some minutes leaning
against the boardwalk railing, listening to the moan of the sea and
watching the shaft of moonlight stretching from beach to horizon.
It was not until he was alone in his room that Morrow bethought of his
neglect of the loveliest girl in the world. And remorseful as he was, he
did not form any distinct intention of resuming his search for her the next
day. He rather congratulated himself on not having met her while he was
with this enchanting Clara Hunt.
And he passed next day also with the enchanting Clara Hunt. They sat on the
piazza together reading different parts of the same newspaper for an hour
after breakfast; went to the boardwalk and turned in at a shuffle-board
hall, where they spent another hour making the weights slide along the
sanded board and then took another ocean bath.
After luncheon they walked up the boardwalk to the iron pier.
Seeing the lifeboat there, rising and falling in the waves, Clara asked:
"Would the lifeguard take us in his boat for a while, I wonder?"
Morrow went down to the beach and shouted to the lifeguard, who was none
other than the robust and stentorian Captain Clark. The captain brought the
boat ashore and as there were no bathers in the water at this point, he
agreed to row the young people out to the end of the pier.
"This is a great place for brides and grooms this summer," remarked the
captain in his frank and jocular way.
Clara looked at Morrow with a blush and a laugh. Morrow was pleased at
seeing that she seemed not displeased.
"We're not married," said Morrow to the captain.
"Not yet, mebbe," said the captain with one of his significant winks, and
then he gave vent to loud and long laughter.
That evening Morrow and Clara took the steamer trip from the Inlet to
Brigantine and the ride on the electric car along flat and sandy Brigantine
beach. On the return, they became very sentimental. They decided to walk
all the way from the Inlet down the boardwalk. He found himself quite
oblivious to the crowd of promenaders. The loveliest girl in the world
might have passed him a dozen times without attracting his attention. He
had eyes and ears for none but Clara Hunt.
And that night, far from reproaching himself for his conduct toward the
loveliest girl, etc., he hardly thought of her at all, more than to wonder
by what good fortune he had avoided meeting her. Some of the people at
their hotel made the same mistake regarding Morrow and Clara as Captain
Clark had made; the two were seen constantly together. Others thought they
Morrow spoke of this to her next morning as they were being whirled down to
Longport on a trolley car along miles of smooth beach and stunted distorted
pine trees. "I heard a woman on the piazza whisper that I was your fiance,"
"Well, what if you were--I mean what if she did?"
At Longport they took the steamer for Ocean City. They rode through that
quiet place of trees and cottages on the electric car, returning to the
landing just in time to miss the 11.50 boat for Longport. They had to wait
an hour and a half and they were the only people there who were not bored
by the delay. They returned by way of Somers' Point.
While the boat was gliding through the sunlit waters of Great Egg Harbour
Inlet, Clara's hand happened to fall on Morrow's, which was resting on the
gunwale. She let her hand remain there. Morrow looked at it, and then at
her face. She smiled. When the Italian violin player on the boat came that
way, Morrow gave him a dollar. Alas for the loveliest girl in the world!
They passed most of that evening in a boardwalk pavilion, ostensibly
watching the sea and the crowd. They went up the thoroughfare in a catboat
the next morning, and, strange as it seemed to them, were the only people
out who caught no fish. The captain winked at his mate, who grinned.
In the afternoon, while Morrow and Clara stood on the boardwalk looking
down at the Salvation Army tent, along came that innocent eccentric
"Professor" Walters in bathing costume and with his swimming machine. The
tall, lean whiskered, loquacious "Professor" had made Morrow's acquaintance
in a former summer and now greeted him politely.
"How d'ye do?" said the "Professor." "Glad to see you here. You turn up
"You're still given to rhyming," commented Morrow.
"Yes, I have a rhyme for every time, in pleasure or sorrow. Is this Mrs.
"You ought to be sorry she isn't," remarked the "Professor," taking his
Morrow and Clara walked on in silence. At last he said somewhat nervously:
"Everybody thinks we're married. Why shouldn't we be?"
She answered softly, with downcast eyes:
"I would be willing if I were sure of one thing."
"That you have never loved any other woman. Have you?"
"How can you ask? Believe me, you are the only girl I have ever loved."
That evening, after dinner, Morrow and Clara, the newly affianced, about
starting from the hotel to the boardwalk, were at the top of the hotel
steps when a man appeared at the bottom.
Morrow uttered a cry of recognition.
"Why, Haddon, old boy, I'm glad to see you. Let me introduce you to my wife
that is to be."
Haddon stood still and stared. Clara, too, remained motionless. After a
moment, Haddon said very quietly:
"You're mistaken. Let me introduce you to my wife that is."
Morrow looked at Clara. She turned her gray eyes fearlessly on Haddon.
"You, too, are mistaken," she said. "I had a husband before you married me.
He's my husband still. He's doing a song and dance act in a variety theatre
in Chicago. I'm sorry about all this, Mr. Morrow. I really like you.
She ran back into the hotel and arranged to make her departure on an early
train next morning.
Haddon turned toward the boardwalk, and Morrow, quite dazed, involuntarily
followed him. After a period of silence, Morrow said:
"This is astonishing. A bigamist, and a would-be trigamist. She came here
the night before you left. How did you find out she was here?"
"I read it in the Atlantic City letter of _The Philadelphia Press_ that one
of the Comic Opera singers daily seen on the boardwalk is Miss Clara Hunt,
who is known to theatre-goers by her stage name, Lulu Ray. These newspaper
correspondents know some of the obscurest people. If I had told you her
real name, you would have known who she was in time to have avoided being
taken in by her."
"Her having another husband lets you out."
"Yes. I'm glad and sorry, for damn it, I was fond of the girl. Excuse me
awhile, old fellow. I want to go on the pier and think awhile."
Haddon went out on the pier and looked down on the incoming waves and
thought awhile. He found it a disconsolate occupation, even with a cigar to
sweeten it. So he came back and mingled with the gay crowd on the boardwalk
and tried to forget her.
Morrow had no sooner left Haddon than he felt his arm touched. Looking
around, he saw the smiling face of the loveliest girl in the world.
"Well, by Jove, Edith," he said. "At last I've found you!"
"Yes. I heard you were down here. You see, I've been up in town for the
last week. Gracious, but Philadelphia is hot! Here's Aunt Laura."
Morrow spent the evening with Edith. One night a week later, he proposed to
her on the pier.
"I will say yes," she replied, "if you can give me your assurance that
you've never been in love with any one else."
"That's easily given. You know very well you're the only girl I've ever
A BIT OF MELODY [Footnote: Copyrighted by J. Brisbane Walker, and used by
the courtesy of the _Cosmopolitan Magazine_.]
It was twelve o'clock that Sunday night when, leaving the lodging-house for
a breath of winter air before going to bed, I met the two musicians coming
in, carrying under their arms their violins in cases. They belonged to the
orchestra at the ---- Theatre, and were returning from a dress rehearsal of
the new comic opera that was to be produced there on the following night.
Schaaf, who entered the hallway in advance of the professor, responded to
my greeting in his customary gruff, almost suspicious manner, and passed
on, turning down the collar of his overcoat. His heavily bearded face was
as gloomy-looking as ever in the light of the single flickering gaslight.
The professor, although by birth a compatriot of the other, was in
disposition his opposite. In his courteous, almost affectionate way, he
stopped to have a word with me about the coldness of the weather and the
danger of the icy pavements. "I'm t'ankful to be at last home," he said,
showing his teeth with a cordial smile, as he removed the muffler from his
neck, which I thought nature had sufficiently protected with an ample red
beard. "Take my advice, my frient, tempt not de wedder. Stay warm in de
house and I play for you de music of de new opera."
"Thanks for your solicitude," I said, "but I must have my walk. Play to
your sombre friend, Schaaf, and see if you can soften him into geniality.
The professor, with his usual kindliness, deprecated my thrust at the
taciturnity of his countryman and confrere, with a gesture and a look of
reproach in his soft gray eyes, and we parted. I watched him until he
disappeared at the first turn of the dingy stairs.
As I passed up the street, where I was in constant peril of losing my
footing, I saw his windows grow feebly alight. He had ignited the gas in
his room, which was that of the professor's sinister friend Schaaf.
My regard for the professor was born of his invariable goodness of heart.
Never did I know him to speak an uncharitable word of any one, while his
practical generosity was far greater than expected of a second violinist.
When I commended his magnanimity he would say, with a smile:
"My frient, you mistake altogedder. I am de most selfish man. Charity
cofers a multitude of sins. I haf so many sins to cofer."
We called him the professor because besides fulfilling his nightly and
matinee duties at the theatre, he gave piano lessons to a few pupils, and
because those of us who could remember his long German surname could not
One proof of the professor's beneficence had been his rescue of his friend
Schaaf on a bench in Madison Square one day, a recent arrival from Germany,
muttering despondently to himself. The professor learned that he had been
unable to secure employment, and that his last cent had departed the day
before. The professor took him home, clothed him and cared for him until
eventually another second violin was needed in the ---- Theatre orchestra.
Schaaf was now on his feet, for he was apt at the making of tunes, and he
picked up a few dollars now and then as a composer of songs and waltzes.
All of which has little to do, apparently, with my post-midnight walk
in that freezing weather. As I turned into Broadway, I was surprised to
collide with my friend the doctor.
"I came out for a stroll and a bit to eat," I said. "Won't you join me? I
know a snug little place that keeps open till two o'clock, where devilled
crabs are as good as the broiled oyster."
"With pleasure," he replied, cordially, still holding my hand; "not for
your food, but for your society. But do you know what you did when you ran
against me at the corner? For a long time I've been trying to recall a
certain tune that I heard once. Three minutes ago, as I was walking along,
it came back to me, and I was whistling it when you came up. You knocked it
quite out of mind. I'm sorry, for interesting circumstances connected with
my first hearing of it make it desirable that I should remember it."
"I can never express my regret," I said. "But you may be able to catch it
again. Where were you when it came back to you three minutes ago?"
"Two blocks away, passing a church. I think it was the shining of the
electric light upon the stained glass window that brought it back to me,
for on the night of the day when I first heard it in Paris a strong light
was falling upon the stained glass windows of the church opposite the house
in which I had apartments."
"Perhaps, then," I suggested, "the law of association may operate again if
you take the trouble to walk back and repass the church in the same manner
and the same state of mind, as nearly as you can resume them."
"By Jove," said the doctor, who likes experiments of this kind, "I'll try
it. Wait for me here."
I stood at the corner while the doctor briskly retraced his steps. His
firmly built, comfortable-looking form passed rapidly away. Within five
minutes he was back, a triumphant smile lighting his face.
"Success!" he said. "I have it, although whether from chance or as a result
of repeating my impression of light falling on a church window I can't say.
Certainly, after all these years, the tune is again mine. Listen."
As we proceeded up the street the doctor whistled a few measures composing
a rather peculiar melody, expressive, it seemed to me, of unrest. I never
forget a tune I have once heard, and this one was soon fixed in my memory.
"And the interesting circumstances under which you heard it?" I
interrogated. "Surely after the concern I've shown in the matter, you're
not going to deprive me of the story that goes with the tune?"
"There is no reason why I should. But I hope you will not circulate the
melody. It is the music that accompanies a tragedy."
"Indeed? You have written one, then? It must be brief, as there isn't much
of the music."
"I refer to a tragedy which actually occurred. Tragedies in real life are
not, as a rule, accompanied by music, and, to be accurate, in this case
music preceded the tragedy. Ten years ago, when I was living in Paris,
apartments adjoining mine were taken by a musician and his wife. His name,
as I learned afterward, was Heinrich Spellerberg, and he came from Breslau.
The wife, a very young and pretty creature, showed herself, by her attire
and manners, to be frivolous and vain, and without having more than the
slightest acquaintance with the pair, I soon learned that she had no
knowledge of or taste for music. He had married her, I suppose, for
her beauty, and had too late discovered the incompatibility of their
temperaments. But he loved her passionately and jealously. One day I
heard loud words between them, from which I gathered unintentionally that
something had aroused his jealousy. She replied with laughter and taunts to
his threats. The quarrel ended with her abrupt departure from the room and
from the house.
"He did not follow her, but sat down at the piano and began to play in the
manner of one who improvises. Correcting the melody that first responded to
his touch, modifying it at several repetitions, he eventually gave out the
form that I have just whistled.
"Evening came and the wife did not return. He continued to play that strain
over and over, into the night. I dropped my book, turned down my lamp
light, and stood at the window, looking at the church across the way.
Suddenly the music ceased. The wife had returned. 'Where did you dine?' I
heard him ask. I could not hear her reply, but the next speech was plainly
distinguished. 'You lie!' he said, in vehement tone of rage; 'you were with
----.' I did not catch the name he mentioned, nor did I know what she said
in answer, or actually what happened. I heard only a confused sound, which
did not impress me at the time as indicating a struggle, and which was
followed by silence. I imagined that harmony or a sullen truce had been
restored in the household, and thought no more about the affair. The next
morning the wife was found dead, strangled. The husband had disappeared,
and has never, I believe, been heard of to this day."
We reached the restaurant as the doctor finished his story. How the account
had impressed me I need not tell. Seated in the warm cafe, with appetizing
viands and a bottle before us, I asked the doctor to tell me again the
"And who had the woman been?"
"I never ascertained. She was a vain, insignificant, shallow little blonde.
The Paris newspapers could learn nothing as to her antecedents. She, too,
was German, but slight and delicate in physique."
"You didn't save any of the newspapers giving accounts of the affair?"
"No. My evidence was printed, but they spelled my name wrong."
"Do you remember the exact date of the murder?"
"Yes, because it was the birthday of a friend of mine. It was February 17,
187-. Twelve years ago! And that tune has been with me, off and on, ever
since--forgotten, most of the time; a few times recalled--as to-night."
"And the man, what did he look like?"
"Slim and of medium height. Very light complexion and eyes. His face was
entirely smooth. His hair, a bit flaxen in colour, was curly and plentiful,
especially about the back of his neck."
"In your evidence did you say anything about the strain of music, which was
manifestly of the murderer's own composition?"
"No, it did not recur to me until later."
"And nothing was said about it by anybody?"
"No one but myself knew anything about it--except the murderer; and unless
he afterward circulated it, he and you and I are the only men in the world
who have heard it."
"But if he continued, wherever he went, to exercise his profession, he
doubtless made some use of that bit of melody. The tune is so odd--quite
too good for him to have wasted."
"Still, neither of us has ever heard it, or anything like it. And if you
ever should come upon it, it would be interesting to trace the thing,
I began to whistle the air softly. Presently two handsome girls, with jimp
raiment and fearless demeanour, came in and took possession of an adjacent
"What'll it be, Nell?"
"I'll take a dozen panned. I'm hungry enough to eat all the oysters that
ever came out of the sea. A rehearsal like that gives one an appetite."
"A dozen panned, and lobster salad for me, and two bottles of beer," was
the order of the first speaker to the waiter.
I recognized the faces as pertaining to the chorus of the opera company at
the ---- Theatre. I stopped whistling while I watched them.
Suddenly, like a delayed and multiplied echo of my own whistling, came in
a soft hum from one of the girls the notes of the doctor's tragically
associated strain of music.
The doctor and I exchanged glances. The girl stopped humming.
"I think that's the prettiest thing in the piece, Maude," said she.
Undoubtedly it was the comic opera to be produced at the ---- Theatre to
which, she alluded as "the piece."
"Amazing," I said to the doctor. "Millocker composed the piece she's
talking about. Millocker never killed a wife in Paris. Nor would he steal
bodily from another. Perhaps the thing has been interpolated by the local
producer. It doesn't sound quite like Millocker, anyhow. I must see about
"Where are you going?"
"To the Actors' Club, or a dozen other places, until I find Harry
Griffiths. He's one of the comedians in the company at the ---- Theatre,
and he has a leading part in that piece to-morrow night. He'll know where
that tune came from."
"As you please," said the amiable doctor. "But I must go home. You can tell
me the result of your investigation to-morrow. It may lead to nothing, but
it will be interesting pastime."
"And again," I said, putting on my overcoat, "it may lead to something.
I'll see you to-morrow. Good night."
I found Griffiths at the Actors' Club, telling stories over a mutton-chop
and a bottle of champagne. When the opportunity came I drew him aside.
"I have bet with a man about a certain air in the new piece. He says it's
in the original score, and I say it's introduced, because I don't think
Millocker did it. This is it, and I whistled it."
"Quite right, my boy. It's not in the original. Miss Elton's part was so
small that she refused to play until the manager agreed to let her fatten
it up. So Weinmann composed that and put--"
"This Weinmann," I interrupted, abruptly, "what do you know about him? Who
"He's Gustav Weinmann, the new musical director. I don't know anything
about him. He's not been long in the country. The manager found him in some
small place in Germany last summer."
"How old is he? Where does he live?"
"Somewhat in forty, I should say. I don't know where he stays. If you want
to see him, why don't you come to the theatre when he's there?"
"Good idea, this. Good night."
I would look up this German musician who had come from an obscure German
town. I would go to him and bluntly say:
"Mr. Weinmann, I beg your pardon, but is it true, as some people say it is,
that your real name is Heinrich Spellerberg?"
Meanwhile there was nothing to do but go to bed.
All the way home the tune rang in my head. I whistled it softly as I
began to undress, until I heard the sound of the piano in the parlour
down-stairs. Few of us ever touched that superannuated instrument. The
only ones who ever did so intelligently were Schaaf and the professor. The
latter was wont to visit the piano at any hour of the night. We all were
used to his way, and we liked the subdued melodies, the dreamy caprices,
the vague, trembling harmonies that stole through the silent house.
I never see moonlight stretching its soft glory athwart a darkened room but
I hear in fancy the infinitely gentle yet often thrilling strains that used
to float through the still night from the piano as its keys took touch from
the delicate white fingers of the professor.
Suddenly the musical summonings of the player assumed a familiar
aspect,--that of the tune which I had been singing in my own brain for the
Then it occurred to me that the professor, being a second violin in
the orchestra at the ---- Theatre, would doubtless know more about the
antecedents of the new musical director than Griffiths had been able to
tell me. This was the more probable as the professor himself had come from
I descended the stairs softly, traversed the hallway, and, looking through
the open door, beheld the professor at the piano.
The curtains of a window were drawn aside, and the moonlight swept grandly
in. It passed over a part of the piano, bathed the professor's head in soft
radiance, fell upon the carpet, and touched the base of the opposite wall.
Upon a sofa, half in light, half in shadow, reclined Schaaf, who had fallen
asleep listening while the professor played.
The professor's face was uplifted and calm. Rapture and pain--so often
mutual companions--were depicted upon it. I hesitated to break the spell
which he had woven for himself. After watching for some seconds, however, I
The tune broke off with a jangling discord, and the player turned to face
me, smiling pleasantly.
"Pardon me," I went on, advancing into the room and standing in the
moonshine that he might recognize me, "but I was attracted by the air you
were playing. They tell me that it isn't Millocker's, but was composed by
your new conductor at the ----"
The professor answered with a laugh:
"Ja! He got de honour of it. Honour is sheap. He buy dat. It doesn't
"Ah, then it isn't his own. And he bought the tune? From whom?"
"Ja. And I have many oder to gif sheap, too."
"But where did you get it?"
"I make it."
"Long 'go. I forget. I have make so many. Dey go away from my mindt an'
come again back long time after."
"Professor, what would you give me to tell you where and when you composed
He looked at me with a slightly bewildered expression. It was with an
effort that I continued, as I looked straight into his eyes:
"I will hazard a guess. Could it have been in Paris--one day twelve years
"I neffer be in Paris," he interrupted, with a start which shocked and
convinced me, slight evidence though it may seem. So I spoke on:
"What, never? Not even just that night--that 17th of February? Try to
recall it, Heinrich Spellerberg. You remember she came in late, and--would
think that those soft white fingers had been strong enough?"
"Hush, my friendt! I not touch her! She kill herself--she try to hang and
she shoke her neck. No, no, to you I vill not lie! You speak all true! Mein
Gott! Vat vill you do?"
The man was on his knees. I thought of the circumstances, the persons
concerned, the high-strung, sensitive lover of music, the coarse, derisive,
perhaps faithless woman, and I replied quickly:
"What will I do? Nothing to-night. It's none of my business, anyhow. I'll
sleep over it and tell you in the morning."
I left him alone.
In the morning the professor's door stood ajar. I looked in. Man, clothes,
violin case, and valise had gone. Whither I have not tried to ascertain.
When the new opera was produced that evening the ---- Theatre orchestra was
unexpectedly minus two of its second violins, for Schaaf, half-distracted,
was wandering the cold streets in search of his friend.
ON THE BRIDGE
When I tell you, my only friend, to whom I so rarely write and whom I more
rarely see, that my lonely life has not been without love for woman, you
will perhaps laugh or doubt.
"What," you will say, "that gaunt old spectre in his attic with his books,
his tobacco, and his three flower-pots! He would not know that there is
such a word as love, did he not encounter it now and then in his reading."
True, I have divided my days between the books in a rich man's
counting-room and those in my attic. True, again, I have never been more
than merely passable to look at, even in my best days.
Yet I have loved a woman.
During the five years when my elder brother lay in a hospital across the
river, where he died, it was my custom to visit him every Sunday. I enjoyed
the afternoon walk to the suburbs, when the air has more of nature in it,
especially that portion of the walk which lay upon the bridge. More life
than was usual upon the bridge moved there on Sunday. Then the cars were
crowded with people seeking the parks. Many crossed on foot, stopping to
look idly down at the dark and sluggish water.
One afternoon, as I stood thus leaning over the parapet, the sound of
woman's gentle laugh caused me to turn and ocularly inquire its source. The
woman and a man were approaching. At the side of the woman walked soberly a
handsome dog, a collie. There was that in their appearance and manner which
plainly told me that here were husband and wife, of the middle class,
intelligent but poor, out for a stroll. That they were quite devoted to
each other was easily discoverable.
The man looked about thirty years of age, was tall, slender, and was
neither strong nor handsome, but had an amiable face. He was doubtless a
clerk fit to be something better. The woman was perhaps twenty-four. She
was not quite beautiful, yet she was more than pretty. She was of good size
and figure, and the short plush coat that she wore, and the manner in which
she kept her hands thrust in the pockets thereof, gave to her a dauntless
air which the quiet and affectionate expression of her face softened.
She was a brunette, her eyes being large and distinctly dark brown, her
face having a peculiar complexion which is most quickly affected by any
change in health.
The colour of her cheek, the dark rim under her eyes, and the other
indefinable signs, indicated some radical ailment. In the quick glance that
I had of that pair, while the woman was smiling, a feeling of pity came
over me. I have never detected the exact cause of that emotion. Perhaps
in the woman's face I read the trace of past bodily and mental suffering;
perhaps a subtle mark that death had already set there.
Neither the woman nor her husband noticed me as they passed. The dog
regarded me cautiously with the corner of his eye. I probably would never
have thought of the three again had I not seen them upon the bridge, under
exactly the same circumstances, on the next Sunday.
So these young and then happy people walked here every Sunday, I thought.
This, perhaps, was an event looked forward to throughout the week. The
husband, doubtless, was kept a prisoner and slave at his desk from Monday
morning until Saturday night, with respite only for eating and sleeping.
Such causes are common, even with people who can think and have some taste
for luxury, and who are not devoid of love for the beautiful.
The sight of happiness which exists despite the cruelty of fate and man,
and which is temporarily unconscious of its own liabilities to interruption
and extinction, invariably fills me with sadness, and the sadness which
arose at the contemplation of these two beings begat in me a strange
sympathy for an interest in them.
On Sundays thereafter I would go early to the bridge and wait until they
passed, for it proved that this was their habitual Sunday walk. Sometimes
they would pause and join those who gazed down at the black river. I would,
now and again, resume my journey toward the hospital while they thus stood,
and I would look back from a distance. The bridge would then appear to me
an abrupt ascent, rising to the dense city, and their figures would stand
out clearly against the background.
It became a matter of care to me to observe each Sunday whether the health
of either had varied during the previous week. The husband, always pale and
slight, showed little change and that infrequently. But the fluctuations of
the woman as indicated by complexion, gait, expression and otherwise, were
numerous and pronounced. Often she looked brighter and more robust than
on the preceding Sunday. Her face would be then rounded out, and the dark
crescents beneath her eyes would be less marked. Then I found myself
But on the next Sunday the cheeks had receded slightly, the healthy lustre
of the eyes had given way to an ominous glow, the warning of death had
returned. Then my heart would sink, and, sighing, I would murmur inaudibly:
"This is one of the bad Sundays."
There came a time when every Sunday was a bad one.
What made me love this woman? Simply the unmistakable completeness and
constancy of her devotion to her husband,--the absorption of the woman
in the wife. Had the strange ways of chance ever made known to her my
feelings, and had she swerved from that devotion even to render me back
love for love, then my own adoration for her would surely have departed.
Yes, I loved her,--if to fill one's life with thoughts of a woman, if in
fancy to see her face by day and night, if to have the will to die for her
or to bear pain for her, if those and many more things mean love.
My richest joy was to see her content with her husband, and the darkest woe
of my life was to anticipate the termination of their happiness.
So the Sundays passed. One afternoon I waited until almost dusk, yet the
couple did not appear.
For seven Sundays in succession I did not meet them upon their wonted walk.
On the eighth Sunday I saw the dog first, then the man. The latter was
looking over the railing. The woman was not with him. Apprehensively I
sought with my eyes his face. Much grief and loneliness were depicted
Was he or I the greater mourner? I wondered.
I suppose two years passed after that day ere I again beheld the
widower--whose name I did not and probably never shall know--upon the
bridge. The dog was not with him this time. It was a fine, sunny afternoon
in May. Grief was no longer in his face. By his side was a very pretty,
animated, rosy little woman whom I had never seen before. They walked close
to each other, and she looked with the utmost tenderness into his face.
She evidently was not yet entirely accustomed to the wedding-ring which I
observed on her finger.
I think that tears came to my eyes at this sight. Those great brown eyes,
the plush sack, the lovely face that had borne the impress of sorrow so
speedily, had felt death--those might never have existed, so soon had they
been forgotten by the one being in the world for whom that face had worn
the aspect of a perfect love.
Yet one upon whom those eyes never rested has remembered. And surely the
memory of her is mine to wed, since he, whose right was to cherish it, has
allowed himself to be divorced from it in so brief a time.
The memory of her is with me always, fills my soul, beautifies my life,
makes green and radiant this existence which all who know me think cold,
bleak, empty, repellent.
You will not laugh, then, my friend, when I tell you that love is not to me
a thing unknown.
* * * * *
So runs a part of the last letter to my father that the old bookkeeper ever
THE TRIUMPH OF MOGLEY [Footnote: Courtesy of _Lippincott's Magazine_.
Copyright, 1892, by J.B. Lippincott Company.]
Mr. Mogley was an actor of what he termed the "old school." He railed
against the prevalence of travelling theatrical troupes, and when he
attitudinized in the barroom, his left elbow upon the brass rail, his right
hand encircling a glass of foaming beer, he often clamoured for a return
of the system of permanently located dramatic companies, and sighed at the
departure of the "palmy days."
A picturesque figure, typical of an almost bygone race of such figures, was
Mogley at these moments, his form being long and attenuated, his visage
smooth and of angular contour, his facial mildness really enhanced by the
severity which he attempted to impart to his countenance when he conversed
with such of his fellow men as were not of "the profession."
Like Mogley's style of acting, his coat was old. But, although neither he
nor any of his acquaintances suspected it, his heart was young. He still
waited and hoped.
For Mogley's long professional career had not once been brightened by
a distinct success. He had never made what the men and women of his
occupation designate a hit, or even what the dramatic critics wearily
describe as a "favourable impression." This he ascribed to lack of
opportunity, as he was merely human. Mr. and Mrs. Mogley eagerly sent for
the newspapers on the morning after each opening night and sought the
notices of the performance. These records never contained a word of either
praise or censure for Mogley.
Mrs. Mogley had first met Mogley when she was a soubrette and he a "walking
gentleman." It was his Guildenstern (or it may have been his Rosencrantz)
that had won her. Shortly after their marriage there came to her that
life-ailment which made it impossible for her to continue acting. She had
swallowed her aspirations, shedding a few tears. She lived in the hope of
his triumph, and, as she had more time to think than he had, she suffered
more keenly the agony of yearning unsatisfied.
She was a little, fragile being, with large pale blue eyes, and a face from
which the roses had fled when she was twenty. But she was very much to
Mogley: she did his planning, his thinking, the greater part of his
aspiring. She always accompanied him upon tours, undergoing cheerfully the
hard life that a player at "one-night stands" must endure in the interest
This continued through the years until last season. Then when Mogley was
about to start "on the road" with the "Two Lives for One" Company,
the doctor said that Mrs. Mogley would have to stay in New York or
die,--perhaps die in any event. So Mogley went alone, playing the
melodramatic father in the first act, and later the secondary villain, who
in the end drowns the principal villain in the tank of real water, while
his heart was with the pain-racked little woman pining away in the small
room at the top of the dingy theatrical boarding-house on Eleventh Street.
The "Two Lives for One" Company "collapsed," as the newspapers say, in
Ohio, three months after its departure from New York; this notwithstanding
the tank of real water. Mogley and the leading actress overtook the manager
at the railway station, as he was about to flee, and extorted enough money
from him to take them back to New York.
Mogley had not returned too soon to the small room at the top of the house
on Eleventh Street. He turned paler than his wife when he saw her lying on
the bed. She smiled through her tears,--a really heartrending smile.
"Yes, Tom, I've changed much since you left, and not for the better. I
don't know whether I can live out the season."
"Don't say that, Alice, for God's sake!"
"I would be resigned, Tom, if only--if only you would make a success before
"If only I could get the chance, Alice!"
As the days went by, Mrs. Mogley rapidly grew worse. She seemed to fail
perceptibly. But Mogley had to seek an engagement. They could not live on
nothing. Mrs. Jones would wait with the daily increasing board-bill, but
medicine required cash. Each evening, when Mogley returned from his tour of
the theatrical agencies of Fourteenth Street and of Broadway, the ill woman
put the question, almost before he opened the door:
"Not yet. You see this is the bad part of the season. Ah, the profession is
But one Monday afternoon he rushed up the stairs, his face aglow. In the
dark, narrow hallway on the top floor he met the doctor.
"Mrs. Mogley has had a sudden turn for the worse," said the physician,
abruptly. "I'm afraid she won't live until midnight."
Doctors need not give themselves the trouble to "break news gently" in
cases where they stand small chances of remuneration.
Mogley staggered. It was cruel that this should occur just when he had
such good news. But an idea occurred to him. Perhaps the good news would
"Alice," he cried, as he threw open the door, "you must get well! My chance
has come. The tide, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune, is here."
She sat up in bed, trembling. "What is it, Tom?"
"This. Young Hopkins asked me to have a drink at the Hoffman this
afternoon, and, while I was in there, Hexter, who managed the 'Silver
King' Company the season I played Coombe, came in all rattled. 'Why this
extravagant wrath?' Hopkins asked, in his picturesque way. Then Hexter
explained that his revival of Wilkins' old burlesque on 'Faust' couldn't be
put on to-night, because Renshaw, who was to be the Mephisto, was too sick
to walk. 'No one else knows the part,' Hexter said. Then I told him I knew
the part; how I'd played Valentine to Wilkins' Mephisto when the piece was
first produced before these Gaiety people brought their 'Faust up-to-date'
from London. You remember how, as Wilkins was given to late dinners and
too much ale, he made me understudy his Mephisto, and if the piece had run
more'n two weeks, I'd probably had a chance to play it. Well, Hexter said,
as everything was ready to put on the piece, if I thought I was up in the
part, he'd let me try it. So we went to Renshaw's room and got the part and
here it is."
"But, Tom, burlesque isn't in your line."
"Isn't it? Anything's in my line. 'Versatility is the touchstone of power.'
That's where we of the old stock days come in! Besides, burlesque is the
thing now. Look at Leslie, and Wilson, and Hopper, and Powers. They're
the men who draw the salaries nowadays. If I make a hit in this part, my
fortune is sure."
"But Hexter's Theatre is on the Bowery."
"That doesn't matter. Hexter pays salaries."
Objections like this last one had often been made, and as often overcome in
the same words.
"And then besides--why, Alice, what's the matter?"
She had fallen back on the bed with a feeble moan. He leaned over her.
Slowly she opened her eyes.
"Tom, I'm afraid I'm dying."
Then Mogley remembered the doctor's words. Alice dying! Life was hard
enough even when he had her to sustain his courage. What would it be
The typewritten part had fallen on the bed. He pushed it aside.
"Hexter and his Mephisto be d----d!" said Mogley. "I shall stay at home
with you to-night."
"No, no, Tom: your one chance, remember! If you should make a hit before I
die, I could go easier. It would brighten the next world for me until you
come to join me."
Mogley's weaker will succumbed to hers. So, with his right hand around Mrs.
Mogley's wrist, turning his eyes now and then to the clock in the steeple
which was visible through the narrow window, that he might know when to
administer her medicine, he held his "part" in his left hand and refreshed
his recollection of the lines.
At seven o'clock, with a last pressure of her thin fingers, a kiss upon her
cheek where a tear lay, he left her. He had thought she was asleep, but she
"May God help you to-night, Tom! My thoughts will be at the theatre with
Mrs. Jones's daughter had promised to look in at Mrs. Mogley now and then
during the evening, and to give her the medicine at the proper intervals.
Mogley reported to the stage manager, who showed him Renshaw's
dressing-room and gave him Renshaw's costume for the part. His mind ever
turning back to the little room at the top of the house and then to the
words and "business" of his part, he got into Renshaw's red tights and
crimson cape. Then he donned the scarlet cap and plume and pasted the
exaggerated eyebrows upon his forehead, while the stage manager stood by,
giving him hints as to new "business" invented by Renshaw.
"You have the stage to yourself, you know, at that time, for a specialty."
"Yes, I'll sing the song Wilkins did there. I see it's marked in the part
and the orchestra must be 'up' in it. In the second act I'll do some
imitations of actors."
At eight he was ready to go on the stage.
"May God be with you!" reechoed in his ear,--the echo of a weak voice put
forth with an effort.
He heard the stage manager in front of the curtain announcing that, "owing
to Mr. Renshaw's sudden illness, the talented comedian, Mr. Thomas
Mogley, had kindly consented to play Mephisto, at short notice, without a
He had never heard himself called a talented comedian before, and he
involuntarily held his head a trifle higher as the startling and delicious
words reached his ears.
The opening chorus, the witless dialogue of secondary personages, then
an almost empty stage, old Faust alone remaining, and the entrance of
Some applause that came from people that had not heard the preliminary
announcement, and whose demonstration was intended for Renshaw, rather
disconcerted Mogley. Then, ere he had spoken a word, or his eyes had ranged
over the hazy lighted theatre on the other side of the footlights, there
sounded in the depths of his brain:
"My thoughts will be at the theatre with you!"
There were many vacant seats in the house. He singled out one of them on
the front row and imagined she was in it. He would play to that vacant seat
throughout the evening.
In all burlesques of "Faust" the role of Mephisto is the leading comic
figure. The actor who assumes it undertakes to make people laugh.
Mogley made people laugh that night, but it was not his intentional
humourous efforts that excited their hilarity. It was the man himself. They
began by jeering him quietly. Then the gallery grew bold.
"Ah there, Edwin Booth!" sarcastically yelled an urchin aloft.
"Oh, what a funny little man he is!" ironically quoted another from a song
in one of Mr. Hoyt's farces, alluding to Mogley's spare if elongated frame.
"He t'inks dis is a tragedy," suggested a Bowery youth.
But Mogley tried not to heed.
In the second act some one threw an apple at him. Mogley laboured
zealously. The ribald gallery had often been his foe. Wait until such and
such a scene! He would show them how a pupil of the old stock companies
could play burlesque! Song and dance men from the varieties had too long
enjoyed undisputed possession of that form of drama.
But, one by one, he passed his opportunities without capturing the house.
Nearer came the end of the piece. Slimmer grew his chance of making the
longed-for impression. The derision of the audience increased. Now the
gallery made comments upon his personal appearance.
"He could get between raindrops," yelled one, applying a recent speech of
Edwin Stevens, the comic opera comedian.
And at home Mogley's wife was dying--holding to life by sheer power of
will, that she might rejoice with him over his triumph. Tears blinded
his eyes. Even the other members of the company were laughing at his
Only a little brunette in pink tights who played Siebel, and whom he had
never met before, had a look of sympathy for him.
"It's a tough audience. Don't mind them," she whispered.
Mogley has never seen or heard of the little brunette since. But he
anticipates eventually to behold her ranking first after Alice among the
angels of heaven.
The curtain fell and Mogley, somewhat dazed in mind, mechanically removed
his apparel, washed off his "make-up," donned his worn street attire and
his haughty demeanour, and started for home.
Home! Behind him failure and derision. Before him, Alice, dying, waiting
impatiently his return, the news of his triumph.
"We won't need you to-morrow night, Mr. Mogley," said the stage manager as
he reached the stage door. "Mr. Hexter told me to pay you for to-night.
Here's your money now."
Mogley took the envelope as in a dream, answered not a word, and hastened
homeward. He thought only:
"To tell her the truth will kill her at once."
Mrs. Mogley was awake and in a fever of anticipation when Mogley entered
the little room. She was sitting up in bed, staring at him with shining
"Well, how was it?" she asked, quickly.
Mogley's face wore a look of jubilant joy.
"Success!" he cried. "Tremendous hit! The house roared! Called before the
curtain four times and had to make a speech!"
Mogley's ecstasy was admirably simulated. It was a fine bit of acting.
Never before or since did Mogley rise to such a height of dramatic
"Ah, Tom, at last, at last! And, now, I must live till morning, to read
about it in the papers!"
Mogley's heart fell. If the papers would mention the performance at all,
they would dismiss it in three or four lines, bestowing perhaps a word
of ridicule upon him. She was sure to see one paper, the one that the
landlady's daughter lent her every day.
Mogley looked at the illuminated clock on the steeple across the way. A
quarter to twelve.
"My love," he said, "I promised Hexter I would meet him to-night at the
Five A's Club, to arrange about salary and so forth. I'll be gone only an
hour. Can you do without me that long?"
"Yes, go; and don't let him have you for less than fifty dollars a week."
Shortly after midnight the dramatic editor of that newspaper Miss Jones
daily lent to Mrs. Mogley, having sent up the last page of his notice of
the new play at Palmer's, was confronted by the office-boy ushering to the
side of his desk a tall, spare, smooth-faced man with a sober countenance,
an ill-concealed manner of being somewhat over-awed by his surroundings,
and a coat frayed at the edges.
"I'm Mr. Thomas Mogley," said this apparition.
"Ah! Have a cigarette, Mr. Mogley?" replied the dramatic editor, absently,
lighting one himself.
"Thank you, sir. I was this evening, but am not now, the leading comedian
of the company that played Wilkins's 'Faust' at the ---- Theatre. I played
Mephisto." (He had begun his speech in a dignified manner, but now he spoke
quickly and in a quivering voice.) "I was a failure--a very great failure.
My wife is extremely ill. If she knew I was a failure, it would kill her,
so I told her I made a success. I have really never made a success in my
life. She is sure to read your paper to-morrow. Will you kindly not speak
of my failure in your criticism of the performance? She cannot live later
than to-morrow morning, and I should not like--you see--I have never
deigned to solicit favours from the press before, sir, and--"
"I understand, Mr. Mogley. It's very late, but I'll see what I can do."
Mogley passed out, walking down the five flights of stairs to the street,
forgetful of the elevator.
The dramatic editor looked at his watch. "Half-past twelve," he said; then,
to a man at another desk:
"Jack, I can't come just yet. I'll meet you at the club. Order devilled
crabs and a bottle of Bass for me."
He ran up-stairs to the night editor. "Mr. Dorney, have you the theatre
proofs? I'd like to make a change in one of the theatre notices."
"Too late for the first edition, my boy. Is it important?"
"Yes, an exceptional case. I'll deem it a personal favour."
"All right. I'll get it in the city edition. Here are the proofs."
"Let's see," mused the dramatic editor, looking over the wet proofs. "Who
covered the ---- Theatre to-night? Some one in the city department. I
suppose he 'roasted' Gugley, or whatever his name is. Ah, here it is."
And he read on the proof:
"The revival of an ancient burlesque on 'Faust' at the ---- Theatre last
night was without any noteworthy feature save the pitiful performance of
the part of Mephisto by a doleful gentleman named Thomas Mogley, who showed
not the faintest of humour and who was tremendously guyed by a turbulent
audience. Mr. Mogley was temporarily taking the place of William Renshaw,
a funmaker of more advanced methods, who will appear in the role to-night.
There are some pretty girls and agile dancers in the company."
Which the dramatic editor changed to read as follows:
"The revival of a familiar burlesque on 'Faust' at the ---- Theatre last
night was distinguished by a decidedly novel and original embodiment
of Mephisto by Thomas Mogley, a trained and painstaking comedian. His
performance created an abundance of merriment, and it was the manifest
thought of the audience that a new type of burlesque comedian had been
All of which was literally true. And the dramatic editor laughed over it
later over his bottle of white label at the club.
By what power Mrs. Mogley managed to keep alive until morning I do not
know. The dull gray light was stealing into the little room through the
window as Mogley, leaning over the bed, held a fresh newspaper close to her
face. Her head was propped up by means of pillows. She laughed through her
tears. Her face was all gladness.
"A new--comedian--discovered," she repeated. "Ah, Tom, at last! That is
what I lived for! I can die happy now. We've made a--great--hit--Tom--"
The voice ceased. There was a convulsion at her throat. Nothing stirred in
the room. From the street below came the sound of a passing car and a boy's
voice, "Morning papers." Mogley was weeping.
The dead woman's hand clutched the paper. Her face wore a smile.
OUT OF HIS PAST
This is no fable; it is the hardest kind of fact. I met Craddock not more
than a week ago. His inebriety prevented his recognizing me.
What a joyous, hopeful man he was upon the day of his marriage! He looked
toward the future as upon a cloudless spring dawn one looks forward to the
He had sown his wild oats and had already reaped a crop of knowledge. "I
have put the past behind me," he said. And he thought it would stay there.
He married one of the sweetest and best of women. The match was an ideal
one--exceptionally so. His wife's mother objected to it and moved away on
account of it. "That's a detail," said Craddock.
There are details and details. The importance of any one of them depends on
Craddock had all the qualities and attributes requisite to make him a
son-in-law to the liking of his mother-in-law--lack of money.
So she went to live in Boston, maintained a chilly correspondence with her
daughter, and bided her time.
Craddock had had his old loves, a fact that he did not attempt to conceal
from his wife. She insisted upon his telling her about them, although the
narration put her into manifest vexation of mind. Such is the way of young
There was one love about which Craddock said less than about any of the
others, because it had encroached more upon his life than any of them. It
had nearly approached being a serious affair. He had a delicacy concerning
the mention of it, too, for he flattered himself that the flame, although
entirely extinguished upon his own side, yet smouldered deep in the heart
of the woman. Therefore, he spoke of that episode in vague and general
Strange as it seemed to Craddock, clear as it is to any student of men and
women, it was this amour that excited the most curiosity in the mind of his
"What was her name?" asked the latter.
"I don't think she has a pretty name, at all events."
"Oh, that was only her stage name. I really don't remember what her real
This was a judicious falsehood.
"Well, I'm sorry that you ever made love to actresses. I'm afraid I can't
think as much of you after knowing--"
"After knowing that the first sight of you drove the memory of all
actresses and other women in the world out of my head," cried Craddock,
with a merry fervour that made his speech irresistible.
So they persisted in being extremely happy together for three years, to the
grinding chagrin of Craddock's mother-in-law in Boston.
One July Friday, Craddock's wife was at the seashore, while Craddock, who
ran down each Saturday to remain with her until Monday, was battling with
his work and the heat and the summer insects, in his office in the city.
Mrs. Craddock received her mail, two letters addressed to her at the
seaside, two forwarded from the city whither they had first come.
Of the latter one was a milliner's announcement of removal. The other was
in a large envelope, and the address was in a chirography unknown to her.
The large envelope contained a smaller one.
This second envelope was addressed to Miss Agnes Darrell, ---- Hotel,
Chicago, in the handwriting of Craddock.
The feelings of Craddock's wife are imaginable. She took from this already
opened second envelope the letter that it contained. It also was in
Craddock's penmanship. She succeeded in a semistupefied condition in
reading it to the end.
"My Dearest Agnes:--I have just a moment in which to tell you the old story
that one heart, thousands of miles east of you, beats for you alone. With
what joy do I anticipate the early ending of the season, when, like young
Lochinvar, you will come out of the West. I shall contrive to be with you
as often as possible this summer. With renewed vows of my unalterable
devotion, I must hastily say good night.
Any who seek a new emotion would ask for nothing more than Craddock's wife
then experienced. It was not until the first shock had given away to a
calm, stupendous indignation that she began to comment upon the epistle in
"May 13th--at that very time Jack was sighing at the thought of my being
away from him during the hot weather and telling me how he would miss me.
All deception! His heart at that very time was beating for her alone. And
he would contrive to see her as often as possible this summer--during my
It was then that Craddock's wife learned the great value of pride and anger
as a compound antidote to overwhelming grief in certain circumstances.
When Craddock, quite unarmed, rushed to meet her at the seashore upon the
next evening, she was en route for Boston.
In several ensuing years, Craddock's wife's mother took care that every
communication from him, every demand for an explanation, every piteous plea
for enlightenment, for one interview, should be ignored. The mother sent
the girl to relatives in Europe; and after Craddock had spent three years
and all the money that he had saved toward the buying of a house for his
wife and himself, in trying to cross her path that he might have a moment's
hearing, he came back home and went to the dogs.
He would have killed himself had not hope remained--the hope that some
chance turn of events would bring him face to face with her, that he might
know wherefore his punishment. He would have proudly resolved to forget
her, and he would have striven day and night to make a name that some day
would reach her ears whereever she might go, had he not felt that some
terrible mistake had taken her from him; time would eventually rectify
matters. As hope bade him live and as his inability to forget her made it
impossible for him to put his thoughts upon work, he became a drunkard.
He might not have done so had he been you or I; but he was only Craddock,
and whether or not you find his offence beyond the extent of palliation,
the fact is that he drank himself penniless and entirely beyond the power
of his own will to resume respectability.
Naturally his friends abandoned him.
"Craddock is making a beast of himself," said one who had formerly sat at
his table. "To give him money merely accelerates the process."
"When a man loses all self-respect, how can he expect to retain the
sympathy of other people?" queried a second.
"I never thought much of a man who would go to the gutter on account of a
woman. It shows a lack of stamina," observed a third.
All of which was true. But particular cases have exceptionally aggravating
circumstances. Special combinations may produce results which, although
seemingly under human control, are almost, if not quite, inevitable.
One day Craddock's wife came back to him. In Paris she had made a
discovery. She had kept the letter from Jack to the actress in a box that
always accompanied her. Opening this box suddenly, her eye fell upon the
postmark, stamped upon the envelope. She had never noticed this before. She
knew that the date written above the letter itself was incomplete, the year
not being indicated. According to the postmark, the year was 1875.
That was four years before Jack married her; two years before he first saw
She had always supposed the sending of the letter to her to be the act of
some jealous rival of Jack's for the actress's affection. Now she knew not
to what it might have been attributable.
When she arrived at the hospital where Craddock was recovering from the
effects of an unconscious attempt at suicide, she was ten years older, in
fact, than when she had left him; twenty years older in appearance. She
took him home and has been trying to make a man of him. She manifests
toward him limitless patience and tenderness, and she tolerates
uncomplainingly his bi-weekly carousals. But she can afford to, having come
into possession of a small fortune at her mother's recent death.
Craddock is amiably content with her. He cannot bring himself to regard her
as the beautiful young bride of his youth. So little remains of her former
charm, her former vivacity and girlishness, that it seems as if Craddock's
wife of other times had died.
A few days ago, I met at the Sheepshead Races a _passee_ actress who was
telling about the conquests of her early career.
"There was one young fellow awfully infatuated with me," she said, "who
used to write me the sweetest letters. I kept them long after he stopped
caring for me, until he was married; then I destroyed them. I found one
short one, though, in an old handbag some years after, and, just for a joke
I mailed it to his wife at his old address. I don't suppose it ever reached
her, though, or he would have acknowledged it, for the sake of old times. I
wonder whatever became of Jack Craddock. People used to say he had a bright
future--I say, tell that messenger-boy to come here! I'm going to put five
on Tenny for this next race. And you'll lend me the five, won't you?"
THE NEW SIDE PARTNER
A chance in life is like worldly greatness--to which, indeed, it is
commonly a requisite preliminary. Some are born with it, some achieve it,
and some have it thrust upon them.
There is a youth who has had it thrust upon him. What he will do with it
remains to be seen. Know the story, which is true in every detail save in
two proper names:
The midnight train from New York, which crawls out of the Jersey City ferry
station at 12:25, is usually doleful, especially in the ordinary cars. One
who cannot sleep easily therein has a weary two or three hours' time to
Philadelphia. Almost any equally wakeful companion is then a source of joy.
A girl of medium size, wearing a veil, and being rather carelessly attired
in dark clothes which fitted a charming figure, walked jauntily up the
aisle, saw that no seat was entirely vacant, and therefore, after a hasty
glance at me, sat down beside me.
Had not the two very young men in the seat behind us drunk too much wine
that night in New York, the girl and I might never have exchanged a word.
But the conversation of the youths was such as to cause between us the
intercommunication of smiles, and eventually of speeches.
Then casual observations about the fulness of the car, the time of the
train, and our respective destinations,--mine being Philadelphia, hers
being Baltimore, led to the revelation that she was a constant traveller,
because she was an actress. She had been a soubrette in musical farce, but
lately she had belonged to a variety and burlesque company. She had gone
upon the stage when she was thirteen, and she was now twenty.
"What kind of an act do you do?" I asked, in the language of the variety
"Oh, I can do almost anything," she said, in a tone of a self-possessed,
careless, and vivacious woman. "I sing well enough, and I can dance
anything, a skirt dance, a clog, a Mexican fandango, a Carmencita kind of
step, anything at all. I don't know when I ever learned to dance. I didn't
learn, it just came to me; but the best thing I do is whistling. I'm not
afraid of any man in the business when it's a case of whistling. There's no
fake about my whistle; it's the real thing. I can whistle any sort of music
"Your company appears in Baltimore this week?"
"Oh, no! I've left the company. You see, I've been off for six weeks on
account of illness, and now I'm going over to Baltimore to my father's
funeral. He is to be buried to-morrow. See, here's the telegram. I've been
having hard lines lately. I've not had any sleep for three days, and I
won't get to Baltimore till daylight. I want to start back to New York
to-morrow night, if I can raise the stuff. I had just enough money to get a
ticket to Baltimore, and now I'm dead broke."
Then she laughed and got me to untie her veil. When it was removed, I saw a
frank young face with an abundance of soft brown hair. About the light
blue eyes were the marks of fatigue, and the colour of the cheeks further
confirmed her account of loss of sleep.
Her feet pattered softly upon the floor of the car.
"I'm doing a single shuffle," she said, in explanation of the movement of
her feet. "If you could do one too, we might do a double."
"Do you do your act alone on the stage?" I asked, "or are you one of a
"We're a team. My side partner's a man. It pays better that way. We get
$40 a week and transportation. I used to get only $12 except when I stood
around and posed, then I got $35 and had to pay my own railroad fare. You
can bet I have a good figure, when I get $35 for that alone! I handle the
money of the team and I divide it even between us. I don't believe in the
man getting nine-tenths of the stuff, do you? Besides, I'm older than nay
partner is. I put him in the business."
"How was that?"
"Oh, I picked him up on the street in New York. I saw that he had a good
voice and was a bright kid, so I took him for my partner."
"But tell me how it came about."
She was quite willing to do so. And the rumbling of the wheels, the rush
of the train over the night-swathed plains of New Jersey, accompanied her
voice. All the other passengers were sleeping. To the following effect was
At evening a crowd of boys had gathered at the corner of Broadway and a
down-town street. One of them--ragged, unkempt, but handsome--was singing
and dancing for the diversion of the others. That way came the variety
actress, then out of an engagement. She stopped, heard the boy sing, and
saw him dance. She pushed through the crowd to him.
"How did you learn to dance?" she asked.
"Didn't ever learn," he said, with impudent sullenness.
"Who taught you to sing?"
"None o' yer business."
"But who did teach you?"
"What's your name?"
"None of your business."
"Will you come along with me into the restaurant over there?"
But presently he was induced to go, although he continued to answer her
questions in the savage, distrustful manner of his class. They went into a
cheap eating-house and saloon, through the "Ladies' Entrance," and while
they sat at a table there, she learned by means of resolute and patient
questions that the boy earned his living by blacking shoes now and then,
and that he did not know who his parents were, as he had been "put" with a
family whose ill-usage he had fled from to live in the street. He began
to melt under her manifestations of interest in him, and with pretended
reluctance he gave his promise to wash his face and hands and to call upon
her that evening at the theatrical boarding-house on Twenty-seventh Street
where she was living. Then she left him.
When he called, she took him to her room and induced him to allow her to
comb his hair. A deal of persuasion was necessary to this. Then she took
him out and bought him a cheap suit of clothes on the Bowery. A half-hour
later he was standing with her in the wings at Miner's Variety Theatre. A
man and woman were doing a song and dance upon the stage.
"Watch that man," the actress said to the boy of the streets. "I want you
to do that sort of an act with me one of these days."
When he had thus received his first lesson, she led him back to the
theatrical boarding-house, and in her room he showed her what ability he
had picked up as a singer and dancer. She secured a room for him in the
house, and she had the precaution to lock him in lest he should take
fright at his novel change of surroundings and flee in the night. When she
released him on the next morning she found him docile and cheerful.
She escorted him into the big dining-room to breakfast.
"Who's your friend, Lil?" asked a certain actor whose name is known from
Portland to Portland.
"He's my new side partner," she said, looking at the boy, who was not in
the least abashed at the bold gaze of the negligently dressed soubrettes
and the chaffing comedians who sat at the tables.
Everybody laughed. "What can he do?" was the general question.
"Get out there and show them, young one," she said, pointing to the centre
of the dining-room.
The boy obeyed without timidity. When he had sung and danced, there was