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- Green Fancy - 4/51 -
even get 'em to come in on passes. Last Saturday night we had out enough paper to fill the house and, by gosh, only eleven people showed up. You can't beat that, can you? Three of 'em paid to get in. That made a dollar and a half, box office. We nearly had to give it back."
"Bad weather?" suggested Barnes feelingly. He had removed his wet coat, and stood waiting.
"Nope. Moving pictures. They'd sooner pay ten cents to see a movie than to come in and see us free. The old man was so desperate he tried to kill himself the morning we arrived at this joint."
"You mean the star? Poison, rope or pistol?"
"Whiskey. He tried to drink himself to death. Before old Jones got onto him he had put down seven dollars' worth of booze, and now we've got to help wipe out the account. But why complain? It's all in a day's--"
The cracked bell on the office desk interrupted him, somewhat peremptorially. Mr. Dillingford's face assumed an expression of profound dignity. He lowered his voice as he gave vent to the following:
"That man Jones is the meanest human being God ever let--Yes, sir, coming, sir!" He started for the open door with surprising alacrity.
"Never mind the hot water," said Barnes, sorry for the little man.
"No use," said Mr. Dillingford dejectedly. "He charges ten cents for hot water. You've got to have it whether you want it or not. Remember that you are in the very last stages of New England. The worst affliction known to the human race. So long. I'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's--" The remainder of his promise was lost in the rush of exit.
Barnes surveyed the little bed-chamber. It was just what he had expected it would be. The walls were covered with a garish paper selected by one who had an eye but not a taste for colour: bright pink flowers that looked more or less like chunks of a shattered water melon spilt promiscuously over a background of pearl grey. There was every indication that it had been hung recently. Indeed there was a distinct aroma of fresh flour paste. The bedstead, bureau and washstand were likewise offensively modern. Everything was as clean as a pin, however, and the bed looked comfortable. He stepped to the small, many-paned window and looked out into the night. The storm was at its height. In all his life he never had heard such a clatter of rain, nor a wind that shrieked so appallingly.
His thoughts went quite naturally to the woman who was out there in the thick of it. He wondered how she was faring, and lamented that she was not in his place now and he in hers. A smile lighted his eyes. She had such a nice voice and such a quaint way of putting things into words. What was she doing up in this God-forsaken country? And how could she be so certain of that grumpy old man whom she had never laid eyes on before? What was the name of the place she was bound for? Green Fancy! What an odd name for a house! And what sort of house--
His reflections were interrupted by the return of Mr. Dillingford, who carried a huge pewter pitcher from which steam arose in volume. At his heels strode a tall, cadaverous person in a checked suit.
Never had Barnes seen anything quite so overpowering in the way of a suit. Joseph's coat of many colours was no longer a vision of childhood. It was a reality. The checks were an inch square, and each cube had a narrow border of azure blue. The general tone was a dirty grey, due no doubt to age and a constitution that would not allow it to outlive its usefulness.
"Meet Mr. Bacon, Mr. Barnes," introduced Mr. Dillingford, going to the needless exertion of indicating Mr. Bacon with a generous sweep of his free hand. "Our heavy leads. Mr. Montague Bacon, also of New York."
"Ham and eggs, pork tenderloin, country sausage, rump steak and spring chicken," said Mr. Bacon, in a cavernous voice, getting it over with while the list was fresh in his memory. "Fried and boiled potatoes, beans, succotash, onions, stewed tomatoes and--er--just a moment, please. Fried and boiled potatoes, beans--"
"Learn your lines, Ague," said Mr. Dillingford, from the washstand. "We call him Ague for short, Mr. Barnes, because he's always shaky with his lines."
"Ham and eggs, potatoes and a cup or two of coffee," said Barnes, suppressing a desire to laugh.
"And apple pie," concluded the waiter, triumphantly. "I knew I'd get it if you gave me time. As you may have observed, my dear sir, I am not what you would call an experienced waiter. As a matter of fact, I--"
"I told him you were an actor," interrupted his friend. "Run along now and give the order to Mother Jones. Mr. Barnes is hungry."
"I am delighted to meet you, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Bacon, extending his hand. As he did so, his coat sleeve receded half way to the elbow, revealing the full expanse of a frayed cuff. "So delighted, in fact, that it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you have at last encountered a waiter who does not expect a tip. God forbid that I should ever sink so low as that. I have been a villain of the deepest dye in a score or more of productions--many of them depending to a large extent upon the character of the work I did in--"
"Actor stuff," inserted Mr. Dillingford, unfeelingly.
"--And I have been hissed a thousand times by gallery gods and kitchen angels from one end of this broad land to the other, but never, sir, never in all my career have I been obliged to play such a diabolical part as I am playing here, and, dammit, sir, I am denied even the tribute of a healthy hiss. This is--"
The bell downstairs rang violently. Mr. Bacon departed in great haste.
While the traveller performed his ablutions, Mr. Dillingford, for the moment disengaged, sat upon the edge of the bed and enjoyed himself. He talked.
"We were nine at the start," said he, pensively. "Gradually we were reduced to seven, not including the manager. I doubled and so did Miss Hughes,--a very charming actress, by the way, who will soon be heard of on Broadway unless I miss my guess. The last week I was playing Dick Cranford, light juvenile, and General Parsons, comedy old man. In the second act Dick has to meet the general face to face and ask him for his daughter's hand. Miss Hughes was Amy Parsons, and, as I say, doubled along toward the end. She played her own mother. The best you could say for the arrangement was that the family resemblance was remarkable. I never saw a mother and daughter look so much alike. You see, she didn't have time to change her make-up or costume, so all she could do was to put on a long shawl and a grey wig, and that made a mother of her. Well, we had a terrible time getting around that scene between Dick and the general. Amy and her mother were in on it too, and Mrs. Parsons was supposed to faint. It looked absolutely impossible for Miss Hughes. But we got around it, all right."
"How, may I ask?" enquired Barnes, over the edge of a towel.
"Just as I was about to enter to tackle the old man, who was seated in his library with Mrs. Parsons, the lights went out. I jumped up and addressed the audience, telling 'em (almost in a confidential whisper, there were so darned few of 'em) that there was nothing to be alarmed about and the act would go right on. Then Amy and Dick came on in total darkness, and the audience never got wise to the game. When the lights went up, there was Amy and Dick embracing each other in plain view, the old folks nowhere in sight. General Parsons had dragged the old lady into the next room. We made our changes right there on the stage, speaking all four parts at the same time."
"Pretty clever," said Barnes.
"My idea," announced Mr. Dillingford calmly.
"What has become of the rest of the company?"
"Well, as I said before, two of 'em escaped before the smash. The low comedian and character old woman. Joe Beckley and his wife. That left the old man,--I mean Mr. Rushcroft, the star--Lyndon Rushcroft, you know,--myself and Bacon, Tommy Gray, Miss Rushcroft, Miss Hughes and a woman named Bradley, seven of us. Miss Hughes happened to know a chap who was travelling around the country for his health, always meeting up with us,--accidentally, of course,--and he staked her to a ticket to New York. The woman named Bradley said her mother was dying in Buffalo, so the rest of us scraped together all the money we had,-- nine dollars and sixty cents,--and did the right thing by her. Actors are always doing darn-fool things like that, Mr. Barnes. And what do you suppose she did? She took that money and bought two tickets to Albany, one for herself and another for the manager of the company,-- the lowest, meanest, orneriest white man that ever,--But I am crabbing the old man's part. You ought to hear what HE has to say about Mr. Manager. He can use words I never even heard of before. So, that leaves just the four of us here, working off the two days' board bill of Bradley and the manager, Rushcroft's ungodly spree, and at the same time keeping our own slate clean. Miss Thackeray will no doubt make up your bed in the morning. She is temporarily a chambermaid. Cracking fine girl, too, if I do say--"
"Miss Thackeray? I don't recall your mentioning--"
"Mercedes Thackeray on the programme, but in real life, as they say, Emma Smith. She is Rushcroft's daughter."
"Somewhat involved, isn't it?"
"Not in the least. Rushcroft's real name is Otterbein Smith. Horrible, isn't it? He sprung from some place in Indiana, where the authors come from. Miss Thackeray was our ingenue. A trifle large for that sort of thing, perhaps, but--very sprightly, just the same. She's had her full growth upwards, but not outwards. Tommy Gray, the other member of the company, is driving a taxi in Hornville. He used to own his own car in Springfield, Mass., by the way. Comes of a very good family. At least, so he says. Are you all ready? I'll lead you to the dining-room. Or would you prefer a little appetiser beforehand? The tap-room is right on the way. You mustn't call it the bar. Everybody in that little graveyard down the road would turn over completely if you did. Hallowed tradition, you know."
"I don't mind having a cocktail. Will you join me?"
"As a matter of fact, I'm expected to," confessed Mr. Dillingford. "We've been drawing quite a bit of custom to the tap-room. The rubes like to sit around and listen to conversation about Broadway and Bunker Hill and Old Point Comfort and other places, and then go home
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