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Tales From Bohemia by Robert Neilson Stephens

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letter-perfect in the morning, and nervously prepared to face the ordeal of
the evening.

At six o'clock, he wished to go to the manager and give up the part.

"I can never do it," he wailed to me. "I haven't had time to form a
conception of it and to get up byplay. You see, it's an eccentric character
part,--a man from the country whom everybody takes for a fool, but who
shows up strong at the last. I can't--"

"Oh, don't act it. You're only engaged in the emergency, you know. Simply
go on and say your lines and come off."

"That's all I can do," he said, with a dubious shake of the head. "If only
I'd had time to study it!"

American plays had taken foothold, and this premier of a new one by an
author of two previous successes drew a "typical first night audience."
Newgag, having abandoned all idea of making a hit, or of acting the part
any further than the mere delivery of the speeches went, was no longer
inordinately nervous. When he first entered he was a trifle frightened,
and his unavoidable lack of prepared stage business made him awkward and
embarrassed for a time. The awkwardness remained, but the embarrassment
eventually passed away. He spoke in his natural voice and retained his
actual manner. When the action required him to laugh, he did so, exhibiting
his characteristic perfunctory smile.

He received a special call before the curtain after the third act. He had
no thought that it was meant for him until the stage manager pushed him out
from the wings. He came back looking distressed.

"Are they guying me?" he asked the stage manager.

The papers agreed the next day that one of the hits of the performance
was made by Newgag "in an odd part which he had conceived in a strikingly
original way, and impersonated with wonderful finish and subtle drollery."

"What does it mean?" he gasped.

I enlightened him.

"My boy, you simply played yourself. Did it never occur to you that in your
own person you're unconsciously one of the drollest men I ever saw?"

"But I didn't act!"

"You didn't. And take my advice--don't!"

And he doesn't. Upon the reputation of his success in that comedy he
arranged with another manager to appear in a play especially written for
him. He is a prosperous star now. Whatever his play or part he always
presents the same personality on the stage and he has made that personality
dear to many theatre-goers. He does not appear too frequently or too long
in any one place; hence he is warmly welcomed wherever and whenever he
returns. He is classed among leading actors, and the ordinary person does
not stop sufficiently long to observe that he is no actor at all.

"This isn't exactly art," he said to me, the other night, with a tinge of
self-rebuke. "But it's success."

And the history of Newgag is the history of many.




_A Desperate Youth_

The second act of "William Tell" had ended at the Grand Opera House.
The incandescent lights of ceiling and proscenium flashed up, showering
radiance upon the vast surface of summer costumes and gay faces in the
auditorium. The audience, relieved of the stress of attention, became
audible in a great composite of chatter. A host streamed along the aisles
into the wide lobbies, and thence its larger part jostled through the front
doors to the brilliantly illuminated vestibule. Many passed on into the
wide sidewalk, where the electric light poured its rays upon countless
promenaders whose footfalls incessantly beat upon the aural sense. Scores
of bicyclists of both sexes sped over the asphalt up and down, some now
and then deviating to make way for a lumbering yellow 'bus or a hurrying

Men and women, young people composing the majority, strolled to and fro in
the roomy lobby that environs the auditorium on all sides save that of the
stage. A group of enthusiasts stood between the rear door of the box-office
and the wide entrance to the long middle aisle.

"How magnificently Guille held that last note!"

"What good taste and artistic sense Madame Kronold has!"

"Del Puente hasn't been in better voice in years."

"But you know, Mademoiselle Islar is decidedly a lyric soprano."

These were some of the scraps of the conversation of that group. A lithe,
athletic-looking man of thirty stood mechanically listening to them, as he
stroked his black moustache. He was in summer attire, evidently disdaining
conventionalities, preferring comfort.

Suddenly losing interest in the conversation in his vicinity, he started
toward the Montgomery Avenue side of the lobby, with the apparent intention
of breathing some outside air at one of the wide-barred exits, where
children stood looking in from the sidewalk, and catching what glimpses
they could of the audience through the doorways in the glass partition
bounding the auditorium.

He by chance cast his glance up the unused staircase leading to the balcony
from the northern part of the lobby. He saw upon the third step a young
woman in a dark flannel outing-dress, her face concealed by a veil. She
seemed to be watching some one among those who stood or moved near the
Montgomery Avenue exits, which had wire barriers.

"By Jove!" he said, within himself, "surely I know that figure! But I
thought she had gone to the Catskills, and I never supposed her capable of
wearing negligee clothes at the theatre. There can be no mistaking that
wrist, though, or that turn of the shoulders."

He stepped softly to her side and lightly touched one of the admired

She turned quickly and suppressed an exclamation ere it was half-uttered.

"Why, Harry--Doctor Haslam, I mean! How did you know it was I?"

"Why, Amy--that is to say, Miss Winnett! What on earth are you doing here?
Pardon the question, but I thought you were on the mountains. I'm all the
more glad to see you."

While he pressed her hand she looked searchingly into his eyes, a fact of
which he was conscious despite her veil.

"I'm not here--as far as my people may know. I'm at the Catskills with my
cousins--except to my cousins themselves. To them I've come back home for a
week's conference with my dressmaker. Our house isn't entirely closed up,
you know. Aunt Rachel likes the hot weather of Philadelphia all summer
through, and she's still here. When I arrived here this morning, I told her
the dressmaker story. She retires at eight and she thinks I'm in bed too.
But I'm here, and nobody suspects it but you and Mary, the servant at
home, who knows where I've come, and who's to stay up for me till I return
to-night. That's all of it, and now, as you're a friend of mine, you
mustn't tell any one, will you?"

"But I know nothing to tell," said the bewildered doctor. "What does all
this subterfuge, this mystery mean?"

Amy Winnett considered silently for a moment, while Doctor Haslam mentally
admired the slim, well-rounded figure, the graceful poise of the little
head with its mass of brown hair beneath a sailor hat of the style that
"came in" with this summer.

"I may as well tell you all," she answered, presently. "I may need your
assistance, too. I can rely upon you?"

"Through fire and water."

"I've come to Philadelphia to prevent a suicide."

"Good gracious!"

"Yes. You see, I've broken the engagement between me and Tom Appleton."

"What! You don't mean it?"

There was a striking note of jubilation in the doctor's interruption. Miss
Winnett made no comment thereupon, but continued:

"I finally decided that I didn't care as much for Tom as I'd thought I did,
and then I had a suspicion--but I won't mention that--"

"No, you needn't. Your fortune--pardon me, I simply took the privilege of
an old friend who had himself been rejected by you. Go on."

"Don't interrupt again. As I said, I concluded that I couldn't be Tom's
wife, and I told him so. He went to the Catskills when we went, you know,
as he thought he could keep up his law studies as well there as here. You
can't imagine how he took it. I'd never before known how much he--he really
wished to marry me. But I was unflinching, and at last he left me, vowing
that he would return to Philadelphia and commit suicide. He swore a
terrible oath that my next message from him would be found in his hands
after his death. And he set to-night as the time for the deed."

"But why couldn't he have done it there and then?"

"How hard-hearted you are! Probably because he wanted to put his affairs in
order before putting an end to his life."

She spoke in all seriousness. Doctor Haslam succeeded with difficulty in
restraining a smile.

"You don't imagine for a moment," he said, "that the young man intended
keeping his oath."

"Don't I? You should have seen the look on his face when he spoke it."


"Well, I couldn't sleep with the thought that a man was going to kill,
himself on my account. It makes me shudder. I'd see his face in my dreams
every night of my life. Then if a note were really found in his hands,
addressed to me, the whole thing would come out in the newspapers, and
wouldn't that be horrible? Of course I couldn't tell my cousins anything
about his threat, so I invented my excuse quickly, packed a small handbag,
disguised myself with Cousin Laura's hat and veil, and took the same train
that Tom took. I've kept my eye on him ever since, and he has no idea I'm
on his track. The only time I lost was in hurrying home with my handbag to
see my aunt, but I didn't even do that until I'd followed him on Chestnut
Street to the down-town box-office of this theatre and seen him buy a seat,
which I later found out from the ticket-seller was for to-night. So here I
am, and there he is."


"Standing over there by that wire thing like a fence next the street."

The doctor looked over as she motioned. He soon recognized the slender
figure, the indolent attitude of Tom Appleton, the blase young man whom he
was so accustomed to meeting at billiard-tables, in clubs, or hotels. A
tolerant, amiable expression saved the youth's smooth, handsome face from
vacuity. He was dressed with careful nicety.

"But," said Haslam, "a man about to take leave of this life doesn't
ordinarily waste time going to the opera."

"Why not? He probably came here to think. One can do that well at the

"Tom Appleton think?--I beg pardon again. But see, he's talking to a girl
now, Miss Estabrook, of North Broad Street. His smile to her is not the
kind of a smile that commonly lights up a man's face on his way to death."

"You don't suppose he would conceal his intentions from people by putting
on his usual gaiety, do you?" she replied, ironically; adding, rather
stiffly, "He has at least sufficiently good manners to do that, if not
sufficient duplicity."

"I didn't mean to offend you. My motive was to comfort you with the
probability that he has changed his mind about shuffling off his mortal

"You're not very complimentary, Doctor Haslam. Perhaps you don't think that
being jilted by me is sufficient to make a man commit suicide."

"Frankly I don't. If I had thought so three years ago, I'd be dust or
ashes at this present moment. It can't be that you would feel hurt if Tom
Appleton there should fail to keep his oath and should continue to live in
spite of your renunciation of him?"

"How dare you think me so vain and cruel, when I've taken all this trouble
and come all this distance simply to prevent him from keeping his oath?"

"But how in the world would you prevent him if he were honestly bent on
getting rid of himself?"

"By watching him until the moment he makes the attempt, and then rushing
up and telling him that I'd renew our engagement. That would stop him, and
gain time for me to manage so that he'd fall in love with some other girl
and release me of his own accord."

"But think a moment. You can watch him until the opera is out and perhaps
for some time later. But if he means to die he certainly has a sufficient
share of good manners to induce him to die quietly in his own home. So
he'll eventually go home. When his door is locked, how are you going to
keep your eye on him, and how can you rush to him at the proper moment?"

"I never thought of that."

"No, you're a woman."

She proceeded to do some thinking there upon the stairs.

"Oh," she said, finally, "I know what to do. I'll follow him until he does
go home, to make sure he doesn't attempt anything before that time, and
then I'll tell the police. They'll watch him."

"You'll probably get Mr. Tom Appleton into some very embarrassing
complications by so doing."

"What if I do," she said, heroically, "if I save his life? Now, will you
assist me to watch him? I'll need an escort in the street, of course."

"I put myself at your command from now henceforth, if only for the joy of
the time that I am thus privileged to pass with you."

She smiled pleasantly, and with pleasure, trusting to her veil to hide the
facial indication of her feelings. But Haslam's trained gray eye noted the
smile, and also what kind of smile it was, and the discovery had a potent
effect upon him. It deprived him momentarily of the power of speech, and he
looked vacantly at her while colour came and went in his face.

Then he regained control of himself and he sighed audibly, while she
dropped her eyes.

They were still standing upon the stairs, heedless of the confusion of
vocal sounds that arose from the lobby strollers, from the boys selling
librettos, from the people returning from the vestibule in a thick stream,
from the musicians afar in the orchestra, tuning their instruments, from
the many sources that provide the delightful hubbub of the entr'acte.

"Hush!" said Amy to Haslam. "Stand in front of me, so that Tom won't see me
if he looks up here as he passes. He's coming this way."

Young Appleton, chaffing with the persons whom he had met at the exit, was
sharing in the general movement from the byways of the lobby to the middle
entrance of the parquet. The electric bell in the vestibule had sounded the
signal that the third act was to begin. Mr. Hinrichs had returned to the
director's stand in the orchestra and was raising his baton.

Arrived at the middle entrance, Appleton raised his hat to those with whom
he had been talking, as if not intending to go in just then.

Mr. Hinrichs's baton tapped upon the stand, the music began, and the
curtain rose.

"Why doesn't he go in?" whispered Amy, alluding to Appleton.

But the young man yawned, looked at his watch, and departed from the
lobby--not to the auditorium, but out to the vestibule.

"He's going to leave the theatre," said Miss Winnett, excitedly. "We must

And she tripped hastily down the stairs, Haslam after her.


_A Triangular Chase_

Tom Appleton sauntered out through the great vestibule, turning his eyes
casually from the marble floor up to the balconies that look down from
aloft upon this outer lobby. He was whistling an air from "Apollo" which he
had heard a few weeks before at the New York Casino.

He hastened his steps when he saw a 'bus passing down Broad Street. A leap
down the Grand Opera House steps and a lively run enabled him to catch the
'bus before it reached Columbia Avenue. He clambered up to the top and was
soon being well shaken as he enjoyed the breeze and the changing view of
the handsome residences on North Broad Street.

Haslam's sharp eyes took note of Appleton's action.

"He's on that 'bus," said the doctor to Amy as she took his arm on the
sidewalk. "Shall we take the next one?"

"No; for then we can't see where he gets off. Can't we find a cab?"

"There's none in sight. We can have one called here, but we'll have to wait
for it at least ten minutes."

"That will never do. To think he could elude us so easily, without even
knowing that we're after him!"

Vexation was stamped upon the dainty face, with its soft brown eyes, as she
raised her veil.

"Ah! I have it," said Haslam, who would have gone to great lengths to drive
that vexation away.

"A bicycle! This section teems with bicycle shops. We can hire a tandem.
It's a good thing we're both expert bicyclists."

"And that I'm suitably dressed for this kind of a race," replied Amy, as
the two hurried down the block.

She stood outside the bicycle store and kept her gaze upon the 'bus, which
was growing less and less distinct to the eye as it rolled down the street,
while Haslam hastily engaged a two-seated machine.

The 'bus had not yet disappeared in the darkness when the pursuers, Amy
upon the front seat, glided out from the sidewalk and down over the
asphalt. The passage became rough below Columbia Avenue, where the asphalt
gives away to Belgian block paving. Haslam's athletic training and the
acquaintance of both with the bicycle served to minimize this disadvantage.

The frequent stoppages of the 'bus made it less difficult for them to keep
in close sight of it. Conversation was not easy between them. Both kept
silence, therefore, their eyes fixed upon the 'bus ahead, and carefully
watching its every stop.

"You're sure he hasn't gotten off yet?" she asked, at Girard Avenue.


"He's probably going to his rooms down-town."

"Or to his club."

So they pressed southward. Before them stretched the lone vista of electric
lights away down Broad Street to the City Hall invisible in the night.

The difficulty of talking made thinking more involuntary. Haslam's mind
turned back three years. Was it, as he had dared sometimes to fancy, a
juvenile capriciousness that had impelled this girl in front of him to
reject him when she was seventeen, after having manifested an unmistakable
tenderness for him? And now that she was twenty, and had in the meantime
rejected several others, and broken one engagement, was it too late to
attempt to revive the old spark?

His meditations were suddenly interrupted by an exclamation from the girl

"Look! He's left the 'bus. He's going into the Park Theatre."

So he was. His slim person was easily distinguishable in the wealth of
electric light that flooded the street upon which looked the broad doorways
and the allegorical facades of the Park.

The second act of "La Belle Helene" was not yet over when Appleton entered
and stood at the rear of the parquet circle. He indifferently watched the
finale, made some mental comments upon the white flowing gown of Pauline
Hall, the make-up of Fred Solomon, and the grotesqueness of the five
Hellenic kings. Then he scanned the audience.

Haslam and Amy dismounted near the theatre and entrusted the bicycle to a
small boy's care. When they had bought admission tickets and reached the
lobby, the gay finale of the second act was being given. The curtain fell,
was called up three times, and then people began to pour forth from the
entrance to drink, smoke, or enjoy the air in the entr'acte.

Appleton was involved in the movement of those who resorted to the little
garden with flowers and fountain and asphalt paving, accessible through
the northern exits. He paused for a time by the fountain, not sufficiently
curious to join the crowd that stood gaping at the apertures through which
the members of the chorus could be seen ascending the stairs to the upper
dressing-rooms, many of them carolling scraps of song from the opera as
they went.

Appleton soon reentered the lobby and again surveyed the audience closely.
Haslam caught sight of him just in time to avoid him. Amy had resumed the
concealment of her veil.

To the surprise of his watchers, Appleton left the theatre before the third
act opened. Again he jumped upon a 'bus, but this time it was upon one
moving northward.

"It looks as if he were going back to the Grand Opera House," suggested
Amy, as she and her companion started to repossess the bicycle.

"His movements are a trifle unaccountable," said Haslam, thoughtfully.

"Ah! Now you admit he is acting queerly. Perhaps you'll see I was quite

Again mounted upon the bicycle, the doctor and the young woman returned to
the chase. They were soon brought to a second stop by Appleton's departure
from the 'bus at Girard Avenue.

"Where can he be going to now?" queried Amy.

"He's going to take that east-bound Girard Avenue car."

"So he is. What can he mean to do in that part of town?"

They turned down Girard Avenue. The car was half a block in advance of

"You're energetic enough in this pursuit," Amy shouted back to the doctor
as the machine fled over the stones, "even if you don't believe in it."

"Energetic in your service, now and always."

She made no answer.

This time her reflections were abruptly checked--as his had been on Broad
Street--by the cry of the other.

"See! He's getting off at the Girard Avenue Theatre."

Again they found a custodian for their bicycle and followed Appleton into a

The young man stopped at the box-office in the long vestibule, bought
a ticket, and had a call made for a coupe. Then he passed through the
luxurious little foyer, beautiful with flowers and soft colours, and stood
behind the parquet circle railing.

Adelaide Randall's embodiment of "The Grand Duchess" held his attention for
a time. Haslam and Miss Winnett, to avoid the risk of being discovered by
him, sought the seclusion of the balcony stairs.

"We had a few bars of Offenbach at the Park, and here we have Offenbach
again," commented the doctor.

"And again, only a few bars, for there goes our man."

Appleton, having given as much attention to the few spectators as to the
players, left the theatre and got into the cab that had been ordered for

Haslam, behind the pillar at the entrance to the theatre, overheard
Appleton's direction to the driver. It was:

"To the Grand Opera House. Hurry! The opera will soon be over."

The cab rumbled away.

"It's well we heard his order," observed Haslam to Amy. "We couldn't have
hoped to keep up with a cab. He'll probably wait at the Grand Opera House
till we get there."

"But we mustn't lose any time, for, as he said, the performance will soon
be over."

"Oh, 'Tell' is a long opera and Guille will have an encore for the aria in
the last act. That will give us a few minutes more."


_A Telegraphic Revelation_

A boy walking down Girard Avenue, as Appleton got into the cab, had been
whistling the tune of "They're After Me,"--a thing that was new to the
variety stage last fall, but is dead this summer. The air, whistled by the
boy, clung to Appleton's sense, and he unconsciously hummed it to himself
as his cab went on its grinding way over the stones.

The cabman was considerate of his horse, and he coolly ignored Appleton's
occasional shouts of, "Get along there, won't you?"

It was, therefore, not impossible for the bicyclists to keep in sight of
the coupe.

"All this concern about a man you say you don't care for," said Haslam to
Amy, as the bicycle turned up Broad Street. "It's unprecedented."

"It's only humanity."

"You didn't bother about following me around like this when you threw me

"You didn't threaten to kill yourself."

"No; if I had, I'd have carried out my threat. But for months I endured a
living death--or worse."

"Really? Did you, though?"

Eager inquiry and sudden elation were expressed in this speech.

"Of course I did. Why do you ask in that way?"

"Oh--you took me by surprise. Why did you never tell me it affected you so?
I thought--I thought--"

"What did you think?"

"That if you really cared for me you would have--tried again."

"What? Then I was fatally ignorant! I thought that when you said a thing,
you meant it."

"I didn't know what I meant until it was too late."

"But is it too late--ah! see, he's getting out of the cab at the Grand
Opera House."

They quickly switched the bicycle from the street to the sidewalk, and both

They were checked at the entrance to the theatre by the appearance of
Appleton. He was coming from within the building, and with him were two
women, one elderly and unattractive, the other a plump young person with
bright blue eyes in a saucy face that had more claim to piquant effrontery
than to beauty. She was simply dressed and was all smiles to Appleton.

Amy and Haslam quickly turned their backs, thus avoiding recognition, and
while they seemed to be looking through the glass front into the vestibule,
they overheard the following conversation between the blue-eyed girl and

"I'm glad you found us at last, Tom. Three acts of grand opera are about
enough for me, thanks, and we'd have left sooner if your telegram that
you'd be in town to-night hadn't made me expect to see you."

"Well, I've been hunting for you in every open theatre in town where
there's grand opera. In your answer to my telegram from the Catskills, you
said merely you were going to the opera this evening. You didn't say what
opera, but I supposed it was this one, so I bought a ticket as soon as I
arrived in town at the down-town office. I got here after the first act,
and spent all the second act looking around for you."

"It's strange you didn't see us. We were in the middle of row K, right."

"Well, I missed you, that's all, and I kept a watch on the lobby after the
act, thinking you'd perhaps come out between the acts. Then I went to the
Park Theatre, and then to the Girard Avenue."

Amy and Haslam went into the vestibule. Amy was crimson with anger. Haslam
quietly said:

"Do you wish to continue the pursuit?"

Before she found time to answer, another matter distracted her attention.

"Look! There's Mary, the housemaid, who was to stay up for me till I got
home. She has come here for me."

The servant stood by the door leading into the lobby, in a position
enabling her to scan the faces of people coming out from the auditorium.

"Oh, Miss Amy, are you here? I was waiting for you to come out. Here's a
telegram that came about a half-hour ago. I thought it might be important."

Amy tore open the envelope.

"Why," she said to Haslam, "this was sent to-day from Philadelphia to me
at the Catskills, and my cousins have had it repeated back to me. And
look--it's signed by you."

"I surely didn't send it."

But there was the name beyond doubt, "Henry Haslam, M.D."

"This is a mystery to me, I assure you," reiterated the doctor.

"But not to me," cried Amy. "Read the message and you'll understand."

He read these words:

"Mr. Appleton is very ill. His life depends upon his will-power. He tells
me that you alone can say the word that will save him. Henry Haslam, M.D."

Haslam smiled.

"A clever invention to make you think he tried to execute his threat. Now
you know what he was doing while you were taking your handbag home. He
probably concocted the scheme on his journey. But why did he sign my name,
I wonder?"

She dropped her eyes and answered in a low tone:

"Because he knew that I would believe anything said by you."

"Would you believe that I love you still more than I did three years ago?"

"Yes; if it came from your own lips--not by telegraph."

She lifted her eyes now, and her lips, too; Mary the housemaid sensibly
looked another way.


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