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Title: A Pirate of Parts
Author: Neville, Richard
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



                         _A Pirate of Parts_

                         _By RICHARD NEVILLE_



    _"One man in his time plays many parts."_
    --SHAKESPEARE


NEW YORK
The Neale Publishing Company
1913

Copyright, 1913, by
The Neale Publishing Company
_All rights reserved_



[Illustration: (signature) Yours Sincerly Richard Neville]



                        _"All the worlds' a stage
    And all the men and women merely players"_



To my sister, Mrs. Mary Hughes, who for years has been associated with
several of the most notable presentations on the American stage and with
many of the most prominent and talented of American players, both male
and female.



_"BILL OF THE PLAY"_


       I.--Is all our company here?--_Shakespeare_

      II.--What stories I'll tell when my sojerin' is o'er.--_Lever_

     III.--Come all ye warmheart'd countrymen I pray you will draw
           near.--_Old Ballad_

      IV.--Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of
           ground.--_Shakespeare_

       V.--I would rather live in Bohemia than in any other land.--_John
           Boyle O'Reilly_

      VI.--What strange things we see and what queer things we
           do.--_Modern Song_

     VII.--He employs his fancy in his narrative and keep his
           Recollections for his wit.--_Richard Brindsley Sheridan_

    VIII.--Every one shall offer according to what he hath.--_Deut._

      IX.--One man in his time plays many parts.--_Shakespeare_

       X.--Originality is nothing more than judicious
           imitation.--_Voltaire_

      XI.--All places that the eye of heaven visits are happy
           havens.--_Shakespeare_

     XII.--There are more things in heaven and earth,
           Horatio.--_Shakespeare_

    XIII.--Life is mostly froth and bubble.--_The Hill_

     XIV.--Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time.--_Shakespeare_

      XV.--Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the
           roughest day.--_Shakespeare_

     XVI.--A new way to pay old debts.

    XVII.--The actors are at hand.--_Shakespeare_

   XVIII.--Twinkle, twinkle little star.--_Nursery Rhymes_

     XIX.--Experience is a great teacher--the events of life its
           chapters.--_Sainte Beuve_

      XX.--I am not an imposter that proclaim myself against the level of
           my aim.--_Shakespeare_

     XXI.--I'll view the town, peruse the traders, gaze upon the
           buildings.--_Shakespeare_

    XXII.--Is this world and all the life upon it a farce or
           vaudeville.--_Geo. Elliott_

   XXIII.--All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely
           players.--_Shakespeare_

    XXIV.--There's nothing to be got nowadays, unless thou can'st fish
           for it.--_Shakespeare_

     XXV.--Joy danced with Mirth, a gay fantastic crowd.--_Collins_

    XXVI.--Say not "Good Night," but in some brighter clime bid me "Good
           Morning."--_Barbauld_



_A Pirate of Parts_



CHAPTER I

     "Is all our company here?"
     --MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


Yes, he was a strolling player pure and simple. He was an actor by
profession, and jack of all trades through necessity. He could play any
part from _Macbeth_ to the hind leg of an elephant, equally well or bad,
as the case might be. What he did not know about a theatre was not worth
knowing; what he could not do about a playhouse was not worth
doing--provided you took his word for it. From this it might be inferred
he was a useful man, but he was not. He had a queer way of doing things
he ought not to do, and of leaving undone things he should have done.
Good nature, however, was his chief quality. He bubbled over with it.
Under the most trying circumstances he never lost his temper. He laughed
his way through life, apparently without care. Yet he was a man of
family, and those who were dependent upon him were not neglected, for
his little ones were uppermost in his heart. Acting was his legitimate
calling, but he would attempt anything to turn an honest penny. In turn
he had been sailor, engineer, pilot, painter, manager, lecturer,
bartender, soldier, author, clown, pantaloon, and a brass band. To
preach a sermon would disconcert him as little as to undertake to
navigate a balloon. He could get away with a pint of Jersey lightning,
and under its stimulating influence address a blue ribbon temperance
meeting on the pernicious effects of rum. Where he was born no one could
tell. He claimed laughingly that it was so long since he was first
produced he had lost track of the date. A friend of his maintained that
he was bred in the blue grass region, he was such an admirable judge of
whisky. On that score he might as well have been born in the County
Galway as in the state of Kentucky. He had a voluminous shock of red
hair; his name was Handy, and no one ever thought of addressing him
otherwise, even on the slightest acquaintance. When he had an engagement
he was poorer than when he was out of a job. He was a daisy of the
chronic impecunious variety.

The summer of --'7 was a hard season with actors, and as Handy was one
of the guild he suffered like the rest of his calling. He was not so
fortunate as to have country relatives with whom he might visit and
spend a brief vacation down on the old farm, so he had to bestir himself
to hit upon some scheme or other to bridge over the so-called dog days.
He pondered over the matter, and finally determined to organize a
company to work the towns along the Long Island Sound coast. Most men
would have shrunk from an undertaking of this character without the
necessary capital to embark in the venture. Handy, however, was not an
individual of that type. He was a man of great natural and economical
resources, when put to the test. Moreover, he had a friend who was the
owner of a good-sized canvas tent; was on familiar terms with another
who was the proud possessor of a fairly good-sized sailing craft; his
credit at the printer's was good for twenty or twenty-five dollars, and
in addition he had eleven dollars in hard cash in his inside pocket.
What more could an enterprising man, with energy to burn, desire?

On the Rialto Handy picked up seven good men and true, who, like
himself, had many a time and oft fretted their brief hour upon the
stage--and possibly will again,--who were willing to embark their fame
and fortune in the venture. They knew Handy was a sailor bold, and so
long as they had an angel in the shape of a vessel to perform the
transportation part of the scheme without being compelled to count
railroad ties, in case of ill luck, sailing was good enough for them.
Besides, time was no object, for they had plenty of it to spare.

They were all actors like Handy himself. The stories they could unfold
of barn-storming in country towns in years gone by would fill a volume
as bulky as a census report. Moreover, they could turn their talents to
any line of business and double, treble, quintuple parts as easily as
talk. They were players of the old stock school.

One of the company played a cornet badly enough to compel the
inhabitants of any civilized town to take to the woods until he had made
his departure; another was a flutist of uncertain qualifications, while
a third could rasp a little on the violin; and as for Handy himself, he
could tackle any other instrument that might be necessary to make up a
band; but playing the drum,--the bass drum,--or the cymbals, was his
specialty.

A company was accordingly organized, the day of departure fixed, the
printing got out--and the printer "hung up." The vessel was anchored off
Staten Island, and was provisioned with one keg of beer, a good-sized
box of hardtack, a jar of Vesey Street pickles, a Washington Street ham,
five large loaves and all the fishes in the bay. The company, after some
preliminary preparations, boarded the _Gem of the Ocean_, for such was
the pretentious name of the unpretentious craft that was to carry Cæsar
and his fortunes. Perhaps Handy's own description of the first night's
adventure might prove more interesting than if given by another.



CHAPTER II

     "What stories I'll tell when my sojerin is o'er."
     --LEVER.


"Well, sir, you see," said Handy some weeks after in relating the
adventure to a friend, "we had previously determined to start from
Staten Island, when one of the company got it into his head that we
might show on the island for 'one night only,' and make a little
something into the bargain. Besides, he reasoned, all first-class
companies nowadays adopt that plan of breaking in their people. Some
cynical individuals describe this first night operation as 'trying it on
the dog,' but as that is a vulgar way of putting it we'll let it pass.
We turned the matter over in our minds, and almost unanimously agreed
that it was too near the city to make the attempt, but the strong
arguments of Smith prevailed--he was the one who first advocated it--and
we therefore resolved to set up our tent and present 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'
with an unparalleled cast from the California Theatre.

"You must remember we desired to have the company hail from a point as
far distant as possible from New York, and we could hardly have gone
further or we would have slid right plumb off the continent. But we told
no lie about the company being unparalleled. No, sir. You couldn't match
it for money. It was what might be legitimately considered a 'star cast
company.'

"One of the company was a dwarf. That was lucky, or we would have been
stuck for a _Little Eva_. So the dwarf was cast for _Eva_; and he
doubled up and served as an ice floe, with a painted soap box on his
back to represent a floating cake of ice in the flight scene. He played
the ice floe much better than he did _Eva_. But that's neither here nor
there now, as he got through with both. What's more, he's alive to-day
to tell the tale. Between ourselves, he was the oddest looking
_Eva_--and the toughest one, too, for that matter--you ever clapped eyes
upon.

"In the dying scene, where _Eva_ is supposed to start for heaven, we
struck up the tune of 'Dem Golden Slippers' in what we considered
appropriate time. Well! whatever it was--whether it was the music, the
singing, or little _Eva's_ departure for the heavenly regions--it nearly
broke up the show. The audience simply wouldn't stand for it. Just at
that impressive moment when the Golden Gates were supposed to be ajar,
and dear little _Eva's_ spirit was about to pass the gate-keeper, a
couple of rural hoodlums in the starboard side of the tent began to
whistle the suggestive psalm, 'There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town
To-night.' When I heard it I felt convinced it wouldn't be safe to give
that programme for more than one night in any town.

"We hurried through the performance for two special reasons: first,
because the audience evidently did not appear to appreciate or take
kindly to the company from the California Theatre, and secondly on
account of the rising wind which was beginning to blow up pretty fresh,
and the tent was not sufficiently able-bodied to stand too much of a
pressure from outside as well as from within. Consequently we rang down
the curtain rather prematurely on the last act. It is nothing more than
candid to allow that the audience was not as quiet at the close as in
the earlier scenes of the drama. We had no kick coming, however, as the
gross receipts footed up seventeen dollars and fifty cents.

"We struck tent without much delay and managed to get our traps
together. We were about to carry them down to the _Gem of the Ocean_
when Smith, the property man, approached me with the information that
there was a man looking for me who intimated that he was going to levy
on our props. 'What's up?' I asked.

"'Don't know,' answered Smith, 'but I think you had better see him
yourself.'

"I did, and it proved to be the sheriff, or some fellow of that
persuasion. He came to make it warm for us because, forsooth, we showed
without a license. And this, mind you, in what we regard as a free
country. Ye gods! Well, be that as it may, you can readily see we were
in a bad box, and how to get out of it was the perplexing problem that
confronted me.

"I claimed ignorance of the law, but it was no go. I then attempted a
bluff game, but it wouldn't work for a cent. I tried him on all the
points of the compass of strategem, but he was a Staten Islander, and I
failed satisfactorily to inoculate him with my histrionic eloquence. The
members of the company, however, were not wasting time and were getting
the things down to the dock, only a short distance off.

"Finally, as if inspired, I suggested to the official that we drop over
the way, to Clausen's, and talk the matter over. I was thirsty, and I
had an instinctive idea that my political friend also was. He hesitated
a moment, and then started across with me. We walked slowly and talked
freely. At length we got down to hard pan. I was ready to settle up and
pay the license fee, but he wasn't ready to receive it. The fee, I
think, was five dollars, but he wanted something in addition for his
trouble. He didn't say as much, but I knew that was what he was hinting
at. These politicians are so modest. I know them from past experience.

"When we reached Clausen's we retired to a quiet corner in the back room
and continued our conversation. I set up the beer, called for the
cigars, and then motioned for another round. The sheriff was quite
agreeable. Suddenly it flashed through my mind that I did not have one
cent in my clothes. Sy Jones, whom we had appointed treasurer, had taken
possession of the gross receipts. I was nonplussed for the time being.
What to do I couldn't tell for the moment, but I didn't communicate that
fact to my official friend. We had some more refreshments, and then I
excused myself for a minute and went out into the yard back of the
house. As fate would have it, the fence was not high. Without much
hesitation I took chances, sprang over it, and started for the
water-side as quickly as my legs would travel.

"I knew exactly where the _Gem of the Ocean_ lay. The boys had worked
like beavers in the interim. They had everything stowed away snugly. It
did not take me long to get aboard with the rest of the boys.

"'Get to work and cast off as quickly as you can,' I whispered, rather
than yelled. It was an anxious moment, I tell you, for just at that
moment the front door of Clausen's power house was flung wide open and
loud and angry voices were borne on the night wind to where we lay.
'Push her bow off, for the Lord's sake!' I yelled, while I was busily
engaged in running up the jib.

"It wasn't then a question of sheriff alone. Clausen, the German
saloon-keeper, and his gang were coming down on us like a pack of wolves
on a sheepfold. Clausen, naturally enough, was considerably put out,
simply because I was forced through the contradictory nature of
conflicting circumstances to arbitrarily stand him up for the
refreshments and smokes, and he appeared desirous of getting square.
Fortunately for us, the high wind that had threatened to blow over our
tent was off-shore, and by the time the Staten Islanders reached the end
of the dock we had a good breeze full on the sails and were laying our
course for the hospitable shore of Long Island."



CHAPTER III

     "Come all ye warm-hearted countrymen, I pray you will draw
     near."
     --Old Song.


"About daybreak we passed through Hell Gate, with a kiting breeze, and
were pointing for Whitestone, where we proposed to show the following
night. We reached there some time in the forenoon. Fancy our dismay when
we learned that North's Circus was billed there the same evening. North
had chartered a steamer and was bent on precisely the same lay as we
were, with this difference, that he was more thoroughly equipped for the
undertaking. As soon as we made this unpleasant discovery our spirits
fell to zero and our hearts slipped into our boots. Some of the people
were so discouraged that they were in favor of giving up the 'snap'
there and then, but the more optimistic ones determined to stick it out,
and stick we did.

"Along in the afternoon we saw the North steamer come along with flags
flying and a band playing. If we hadn't been on professional business
ourselves we possibly might have enjoyed the exhibition. We should have
left Whitestone right away, but the wind had died out and there wasn't a
capful of air stirring. Some of the members of the company expressed a
desire to go ashore, but I objected. I had made up my mind to start with
the first breath of wind that sprang up. To profitably employ our time
we set to work to fish for our supper. Our larder was not over and above
flush, and a few fish would prove quite acceptable. Just about sundown a
breeze sprang up, and we took advantage of it. We hoisted anchor and
stood up the Sound with every stitch of canvas set and drawing.

"I forget just the name of the next stopping place we reached, but I
should judge it was a point opposite, or nearly opposite, to Greenwich
or Stamford. We remained on board until about eight o'clock next
morning, and then a little party went ashore to reconnoiter. The town
proper was only a short distance from the little harbor. Imagine our
feelings when we ascertained that North had billed this town also, and
was to show there that very night. This was too much for poor, trusting
human nature. The opposition show itself we wouldn't have minded, but
the colored printing, streamers, and snipes that adorned the fences,
barns and hen houses almost paralyzed us.

"In sheer desperation we brought the tent ashore and prepared to tackle
fate and the opposition, and trust to luck. We put out no bills, and got
ready to make much big noise of the proper kind when the opportune
moment arrived. We hired a wagon from an enterprising farmer for our
band; then sent complimentary tickets to the dominie to come to see
'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' for the familiar old drama, notwithstanding the
wear and tear of many years of barn-storming, is still regarded as
somewhat of a religious entertainment. We toiled like beavers to work up
business for the night. The attraction pitted against us was strong, but
what of that? Desperation gave us strength, and we hoped for the best.

"Along in the afternoon as I was about to board the _Gem_ I was
astonished to find no appearance of the North circus steamer. It was
nigh on to high water, a dead calm prevailed, and the atmosphere was hot
and misty. I thought little of it at the time, until I reached the deck.
I knew that, allowing a fair margin for delay, a power craft could run
up in short order, and an hour or so would be ample time to put up the
tent and get everything in readiness for the night's performance.

"While I sat at the head of the companionway meditating over the
situation and drawing consolation from a bit of briarwood, the property
man hailed me from the shore. I immediately manned the dingy and rowed
for the shore to ascertain what was the matter. When I got there he
informed me that some of the inhabitants from the interior had got in
town to see the show and were anxious to buy reserved seats. I inquired
if he had accommodated them. He told me he had not done so, as he had an
idea that it was the other show they were looking for. However, he was
not certain on that score. For the time being, however, he put them off
with the explanation that the ticket register was out of order and the
tickets were not yet ready. The family wagons and carryalls were
beginning to come in, and by four o'clock or thereabouts the little
place presented quite an animated appearance. The prospects for a crowd
were good. Every minute I expected to hear the sound of the steamboat's
whistle at the point announcing her arrival. It was getting along well
in the afternoon when the thought entered my mind, 'Now, if by any
chance the steamer should be delayed, what course would I pursue?'

"The more I turned the subject over in my mind the stronger I became
impressed with the idea that desperate cases necessitate strenuous
remedies. The heat of the afternoon became oppressive, and the haze had
become a thick fog over the water. Occasionally it would lift slightly
and then settle down more dense than before. Five o'clock came, and
still no steamer. About ten minutes later we heard a sound that nearly
knocked me out. It was the steamer with the other fellow's show. We
heard the blow, but could not get a glimpse of the blowpipe. We could
hear, but could not see. We remained on board some time, and then all
hands went ashore. The fog still hung over the water and the whistle
continued to blow. We resolved to play a desperate game. So long as the
fog continued we were all safe, as I felt satisfied the captain of the
steamer would not dare venture to run in closer to the shore at that
stage of the tide, especially in such a fog.

"We hurried up to the tent and began to sell tickets. Buyers naturally
made inquiries, but the ticket-seller economized considerably on the
truth in his answers. We paid the farmer for his wagon that had been
used by the band one half in cash and the balance in passes. Sharp at
eight o'clock we rung the curtain up to a jammed house of the most
astonished countrymen, women and children you ever set eyes upon. They
did not know what to make of it, but they swallowed it all in the most
good-natured manner possible. We introduced bits of 'The Old Homestead,'
'The Two Orphans,' 'Rip Van Winkle,' slices of Shakespeare, Augustus
Thomas, George Ade, and other great writers, so you see we were giving
them bits of the best living and dead dramatists. Our native
Shakespeares do the same thing nowadays in all of their original works,
and that's no idle fairy tale. We sandwiched comedy, drama, tragedy, and
farce, and interlarded the mixture with Victor Herbert and Oscar
Hammerstein's opera comique and May Irwin coon songs. Such a
presentation of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' was never before presented, and I am
free to confess the chances are never will be again. We actually played
the town on the other fellow's paper. It wasn't exactly according to
Hoyle, but then any reasonable thinking man will concede that necessity
knows no law, and as the country people came to see a show it would have
been a grievous sin to have disappointed them.

"It did not take us long to strike tent and hurry on board when the
curtain fell on the last act. By this time the fog had lifted. As there
was a breeze we made sail and stood out for the open sea. It was near
the top of high water as we passed the point, and there we saw the
steamer going in. She had run on a sandbar in the fog and was compelled
to stay there for high water to get off. That's how the other fellow got
left and how we turned his mishap to our advantage."



CHAPTER IV

     "Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren
     ground.... The wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry
     death."
     --TEMPEST.


By midnight the _Gem of the Ocean_ was well out in the Sound. A stiff
breeze was now blowing, and the little craft was footing it at a rapid
rate. Handy was now in his native element. He and his company felt that
they had turned a clever trick. It was an achievement worthy of the most
accomplished barnstormer. The idea of playing the town on the other
fellow's paper, ye gods! it was an accomplishment to feel proud of;
something to be stored away in the memory; something to be set aside for
future use when nights were long and congenial companions were gathered
about a cheerful fireside to listen to stories of days gone by.

Supper disposed of, the company were grouped together near the
companionway smoking the pipes of peace and anxious to discuss the next
managerial move. Handy, of course, was the prime mover in all
things--the one man to whom they all looked to pilot them safely through
the difficulties they expected to encounter. So far they considered he
had made good. He appeared to be in the best of spirits. Seated on an
up-turned bucket, drawing meditatively on his well-seasoned briarwood,
he looked a perfect picture of content. Not so, however, the "little
'un," as the boys playfully addressed the dwarf. The motion of the
vessel did not harmonize with peculiarities of his interior
arrangements, and unless the _Gem_ stopped rolling and pitching there
was evidently trouble ahead. Matters were approaching a crisis with him.
He had little or nothing to say. In fact, he was doing his best, as he
afterwards admitted, to keep his spirits up while he manfully struggled
to keep material matter down.

"Is it always as rough as this, Handy?" he asked in a plaintive voice.

"Rough as this, eh, my bold buccaneer," responded Handy, cheerily;
"rough as this? Why, there's scarcely a whitecap on the water. You ain't
going to be seasick, are you? Well, at any rate, if you are, possibly it
may be all for the best. 'Twill make a new man of you."

"Maybe he don't want to be made a new man of," suggested the low comedy
man.

"Oh, cork up and give us a rest," appealed the Little 'Un, somewhat
testily. "I'm all right, only I don't relish the confounded motion of
the craft. First she rocks one way, then another, and then again she
seems to have the fidgets, and pitches in fits and starts. I don't see
any sense in it. Steamboats don't cut up such capers, at least, none of
those that I've had any experience with."

"Brace up, my hearty," said Handy, removing the briarwood from his lips.
"Brace up. You'll feel all right anon."

"Anon isn't half bad," again jocularly interposed the comedy gentleman.

The wind was gradually freshening. There was by this time quite a sea
on, and the Little 'Un was beginning to succumb to the influence of
prevailing conditions. A sudden gust struck the _Gem_, and, yielding to
it, the group that was sitting so contentedly a few seconds before about
the companionway went rolling in a heap down to leeward in the cockpit.
This was altogether too much for the Little 'Un. He picked himself
together as well as he could, and doubled over the rail, Handy holding
on to his extremities. It was a trying scene for a time, and Handy had
the worst of it.

"Steady there, now, old fellow, you'll feel all serene when you give up.
There's no danger."

A minute or so later the poor little chap was taken from the rail as
limp as a wet rag, and was stretched out on the deck with a coil of rope
for a pillow.

"When you get me on a snap of this kind again," he began in a feeble
voice, after he had somewhat recovered, "you just let me know. No more
water adventures for me. I know when I have had enough. Dry land for
mine hereafter."

Handy endeavored to console and cheer him up, but in vain. The poor
sufferer was completely used up. He had yielded his gross receipts to
Neptune, and would, at that particular moment, have mortgaged his
prospects in the future to have been able to set foot on terra firma.
With some little difficulty Handy and one of the crew succeeded in
getting him below and stowed him away in a bunk.

The wind increased during the night, and by two in the morning it was
blowing a half-gale. The _Gem_ was trimmed down to close reefs, and all
but the crew and Handy had turned in--but not to sleep. Handy, who was
an experienced sailor, remained on deck all night. He was never away
from his post. He was as good a sailor as he was bad as a financier.
This speaks volumes for his abilities as a mariner.

The night passed over without mishap, and shortly before sunrise the
wind gave evidence of going down. There was, however, a high sea
running, and though the little craft behaved nobly and was skillfully
handled, yet to men unaccustomed to go down to the sea in ships calmer
weather would have been acceptable. Daylight dawned at last. Later the
sun made his appearance, red and fiery, looking as if annoyed at the
capers old Boreas had been cutting up during the night. The wind went
down as the sun rose higher, and long before noon all was calm and
peaceful. The spirits of the company were restored. As the morning
passed jokes and merriment helped to dispel the unpleasant experiences
of the storm of the previous night. Handy's good humor was particularly
conspicuous, as he had a cheerful word for all. His spirits were as
buoyant as the craft that bore his troupers.

At breakfast--or after breakfast, rather--the momentous question rose as
to where the next stand should be made. The company had already tested
its ability as well as the forbearance of two audiences, and
financially, if not artistically, came out fairly well. It is only fair
to admit, however, not one individual member of the troupe made what is
designated as a personal success. There was now money in the treasury,
and plenty of confidence to go with it. The consensus of opinion,
however, appeared to be that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was a little too risky
to repeat. It was admitted that _Eva_ was not what might be described as
a howling success. Moreover, the boxes that did duty for ice floes were
fortunately, or unfortunately, left behind on the golden sands of Long
Island. In addition to that, the artist who performed the dog act and
who as a barker in Coney Island might be considered clever in a way was
now as hoarse as a second-hand trombone from a third-rate pawnshop let
out for hire to a broken-down German band. An hundred and one
difficulties were interposed against the further presentation of the
well-worn old drama. It was finally decided that _Uncle Tom_ should be
relieved from duty, for the present at least, and the play and the
public given a rest.



CHAPTER V

     "I would rather live in Bohemia than in any other land."
     --JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY


The main point to be decided was the selection of the town in which the
next exhibition should be made. Various places were named, their
resources summed up, and the peculiarities of the inhabitants canvassed.
None of them seemed to the assembled wisdom of the company to fill the
bill. Handy apparently appeared to take slight interest in the
deliberations, but his active brain, notwithstanding, was at work. He
was considering the situation, and quietly letting his companions
ventilate their views before offering his. At length the exchange of
opinions reached the stage when the sage deemed it was proper to speak.

"Eureka!" he exclaimed, "I have it."

"Suffer us not to remain in ignorance," urged the comedian. "Do not
dissemble--enlighten us."

"Newport!"

"Newport!" they all repeated in surprise.

"Newport!" Handy replied calmly, and the company looked at each other
and then turned their gaze on Handy.

"He's off his base," said the dwarf. "Why, we wouldn't take in money
enough to pay for the lights. Newport! Great Cæsar's ghost!"

"We'll never get out of the place alive," volunteered the dog-man.

Handy merely smiled as he listened to his companions' objections, but he
was firm in his resolve to have his way.

"Newport, my friends," began Handy, complacently, "is our mutton; and
when I explain my reason for the selection I think you will concede the
wisdom of my choice. Society, or the blue blood of the country, as it is
regarded by some, make annual visits about this time to Newport, to
enjoy themselves and to be amused and entertained. We can give them an
entertainment such as they have never seen before, and possibly may
never see again. However, you never can tell. Anything and everything in
the way of novelty goes with them. It matters not what it may be so long
as it is odd, new, or novel. Remember, we live in a changeable,
hustling, ragtime age. Coon songs are almost as popular with the best of
them as grand opera, and more readily appreciated. If we don't surprise
and amuse them I shall be very much disappointed. A tent show in staid,
fashionable old Newport is an unheard-of undertaking, and we will have
the honor, and, I may add, the profit of inaugurating the fashion.
There's the rub. The very novelty and the boldness of the undertaking
cannot, in my humble judgment, fail to appeal to these pleasure-seekers.
Of course, we can hardly expect them to invite us to remain for the rest
of the season. But let that pass. That's another consideration. It is a
one night only racket, and trust me we'll do business. When they will
have the--the a--well, call it pleasure of listening to that strenuous
band of ours on parade, it will be the talk of the town. Mark what I
say," and Handy smiled.

"Good heavens, Handy, old man!" exclaimed the Little 'Un tremulously,
"you are not going to let that band loose on the unsuspecting
inhabitants, are you?"

"Such is my fell purpose," he replied.

"Is there a police force there?" queried the comedian; "for if there be
you can hand me my divvy right now. Tie the _Gem_ up to the first rock
we come to and put me ashore. No Newport for mine, thank you."

"Say, what is the matter with all of you? Does the name of Newport faze
you? Don't you know that human nature is the same the world over in all
time and in all places, and that the venturesome fellow appeals to all
classes--rich as well as poor? Let me tell you, boys, if you will stand
by me in this deal I'll pull you through all right. Besides, the success
of our Newport date--and in the height of the season, too--will be
something to boast of when we get back to the Great White Way. It sounds
big--some style about it, and, take it from me, boys, style is
everything in our profesh just now. You may have no talent, and not be
able to act even a little bit, but if you have style and cheek and put
up a good front you can count on an engagement every time. That's the
kind of stuff stars are made of now."

Handy's matter-of-fact argument was sufficient. He carried his point.
The company agreed to do Newport and take chances. It had previously
been decided to shelve "Uncle Tom's Cabin." So that perplexing matter
was settled. The important consideration, however, arose, what should
they substitute. A variety of pieces were named, but no decision was
reached. Handy's wonderful fertility of resource at length came to the
rescue and brought forth, much to the amazement of all, "Humpty Dumpty."
They had, it is true, no columbine, but a little thing like that did not
trouble the irrepressible Handy.

"Do not the annals of the American stage lay bare the fact," quoth he,
"that on one occasion in Wallack's old theatre, when it was located
downtown on Broadway, near Broome Street, in New York, during the run of
John Brougham's brilliant burlesque, 'Pocahontas,' with the famous
author himself in the cast as _Powhattan_, and Charles Walcot as
_Captain John Smith_, the extravaganza was given for one night only
without a _Pocahontas_. And the records say it was the most remarkable
and amusing performance of its entire run."

Plays with and without plots are frequently presented nowadays in many
of our so-called first-class theatres, with players of no experience and
little natural ability. The public accepts them because they are offered
nothing better. But that's neither here nor there at present. In "Humpty
Dumpty" they had a good standard name. Just old enough to be new.

"It is true," Handy argued, "we have not the necessary stage equipment
for a metropolitan production. The only thing we have, for that matter,
is the name. That is enough for us, and we are going to do the best we
can with it. Ordinary actors, together with all the necessary equipment
of props and scenery, might be able to attempt a presentation of the
famous pantomime, but it takes your strolling players, bred and brought
up in the old stock school, to turn the trick without them."

It was a lazy day on board the little vessel. There was no wind. The sun
poured down his rays so fiercely that it was almost unbearable. It was a
dead calm. All the sailing vessels within sight were motionless. Not a
sound disturbed the monotony of the scene, save the distant beat of the
paddles or propellers of an approaching or receding steamboat. Newport,
the gay world of the summer metropolis of fashion, loomed up in the
distance, looking as beautiful as an alliance of art with nature could
make a favored location. This was the Mecca toward which those on board
directed their eyes and thoughts.

Evening came, and with it a refreshing breeze. Once more the _Gem_ was
under headway, and shortly after sundown the little vessel was safely in
port, her anchor dropped, and the sails snugly furled. As soon as
everything was made shipshape on board, Handy and a member of the
company rowed ashore to see how the land lay from a stroller's point of
view as well as to select a site for the tent.



CHAPTER VI

     "What strange things we see and what queer things we do."
     --'TIS ENGLISH, YOU KNOW.


It was the height of the season. The colony was alive with the wealthy
and fashionable ones of the republic. Thousands of bright lights shone
through the clearness of the purple night, and music filled the summer
air with melodious sound. Life, apparently devoid of care, and pleasures
with youth, beauty and excitement, were blended in harmonious ensemble.
Handy took in the entire situation. He read, and read correctly, too,
the constituency to which he was about to appeal. An ordinary theatrical
company going there and hiring a hall, he concluded, would be nothing
out of the usual run, and the chances are the performance would fall
flat, stale and unprofitable. The possibility for the success of the
tent, on account of its novelty, appealed strongly to his optimistic
imagination. He was determined to carry the place by storm. A vacant lot
close to one of the fashionable drives was secured for the scene of the
thespian operations.

"Here pitch we our tent," said Handy, "and don't you make any bloomin'
error about it. 'Tis the boss place. Elegant surroundings; magnificent
locality, easy to reach, and lots of room for carriages to come and go!"

It may, perhaps, be as well to mention that the date selected for the
entertainment was Saturday, just two nights ahead. For that same night a
grand operatic concert was announced, under the patronage of an aspiring
clique, in another part of the town. Good artists, though somewhat
ancient, were billed to take part in it. The craze for the antique then,
as now, had no such potency as may be positively relied upon.
Well-seasoned age has its disadvantages. Fashion is ever capricious in
the selection of objects for its recognition. So far as Handy was
concerned, the operatic enterprise did not in the least disturb his
mind.

It was rather late when he got aboard. All hands, however, were on the
look-out for him, anxiously awaiting his return. He briefly summed up
the result of his work on shore; explained what he purposed to do, and
concluded by impressing upon the members of his company the necessity of
making all preparations with a view to rapid movements both before and
after the performance.

After all the others had turned in for the night Handy remained on deck
cogitating over his plans and perplexing his brain over approaching
futurities. At length he too stretched himself out for sleep. He was up
with the sun. Like a celebrated statesman of bygone days, he was going
to make the greatest effort of his life.

By noon next day he received from the local printer the proof sheet of a
bill of the play. It was a curiosity in its way, and a copy of it may
interest the reader. It read as follows:

                 THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE!

          The Greatest Show of its Kind on Earth!

                     FUN UNDER A TENT.

                _On this Saturday Evening_

    Will be presented for the first and only occasion,
    Under the Distinguished Patronage of Everybody,
    the Great Spectacular and Classic Pantomime
    HUMPTY DUMPTY,

       _By a company of well trained star artists._

        The Only Show of its Quality in Existence.

    Those who see the performance will never forget it.

                 Secure Your Seats Early.

    _By special request of a number of distinguished visitors the
    performance will not begin until 8:30._

            Carriages may be ordered for any hour.

    Box sheet ready at noon Saturday, corner of Vanderbilt and
    Astor Avenues.

When Handy read the programme to his company they were so astonished
they scarcely knew what to say. At first they appeared to regard it as a
joke. Handy's manner betokened earnestness. His companions thought it
best to withhold their curiosity and await further developments. Their
manager they knew to be a man of action--a species of Oscar Hammerstein
in embryo, with a blending of Wilkins Micawber and Mulberry Sellers
mixed in.

The company employed the afternoon in folding circulars and programmes.
Handy himself was deep in the study of the élite directory, and under
his direction a large number of envelopes were carefully addressed. The
work went on systematically. Night at last arrived, and all hands
enjoyed a respite from clerical labor. At nine o'clock the company went
ashore, carrying with them their tent, costumes and properties--such as
they were. It was a busy night on land, and their strenuous exertions,
under the cover of darkness, accomplished wonders under Handy's
guidance. It was next door to daylight when they got back to the ship to
take a rest before the arduous work of the eventful day began.

Before noon the canvas showhouse on the corner was the principal subject
of conversation throughout the town. During the night the strollers had
set up their tent, and there was scarcely a house in town in which they
had not placed handbills and circulars announcing the coming
performance. No matter where an inhabitant wandered one of the "Humpty
Dumpty" programmes was sure to be found. The people at first glance
regarded the announcement with some degree of doubt, but the appearance
of the tent, with the flags flying, dispelled that fear. The tent seemed
to have got there by magic. Like the palace of Aladdin, it had sprung
into existence during the night. Its appearance excited curiosity and
provoked gossip, and the announcement of "Humpty Dumpty" was a puzzle.
With the most unparalleled nerve messenger boys were dispatched to the
fashionable cottages with circulars soliciting patronage and inviting
attendance, and a considerable number of the cottagers, attracted by the
novelty of the undertaking, concluded it would be a good joke to go to
see the extraordinary show.

"We'll paralyze 'em," said Handy to his fellow-players, as they were
grouped together on the stage preparing red lights, which he proposed to
use as a species of illumination. "Wait until I let the band loose in
the streets, and if it don't fetch 'em, well, I'll quit the business."

"Handy, methinks we made a bloomin' blunder," remarked the Little 'Un.
"We ought to have billed the town for a week."

"A week?" queried the property man in some surprise. "Why so, may I ask,
my noble critic?"

"Well, to be frank with you, because if we did, methinks after once or
twice having made acquaintance with our band, 'tis dollars to doughnuts
they would have substantially staked us to leave town."

Handy looked at the speaker with a glance of mingled cynicism and humor,
and turning to the treasurer inquired, "How is the advance sale?"

"Ninety-seven and a half dollars," replied the secretary of the
treasury.

"Good enough! We're away ahead of expenses now."

At eight o'clock there was some excitement noticeable down near the
water convenient to one of the avenues. A few minutes later and the
band, led by Handy, came forth. As the musicians marched the crowd
increased. Up the principal street the strollers paraded, preceded and
accompanied by a crowd of urchins and curiosity seekers. People came to
the doors to look and hear, and many windows had their occupants. The
streets were crowded, and by the time the band reached the tent it was
fairly well filled. It might be as well to say that the majority of
those who went to witness "Humpty Dumpty" did so for the pure fun of the
thing, and determined to have the lark out. There was no orchestra, for
the orchestra was the band, and the band had to do the acting.

The curtain went up somewhere about the hour announced. Had poor dead
and gone G. L. Fox, the original _Humpty_, and the greatest pantomimist
of the American stage, been living and among the audience, he could not
have failed to enjoy the performance. It is impossible to describe it in
detail.

After a brief period the most friendly relations were established
between the people before and beyond the footlights. Remarks full of fun
and humor were freely exchanged. Handy played _Humpty_, and introduced
by way of variety a breakdown that, in the manipulation of his legs,
would have made Francis Wilson grow green with envy. Smith was the
_Pantaloon_, and obligingly entertained the audience, by special
request, with the song of "Mr. Dooley," in the chorus of which the
audience joined with vigor. The song is not new, but Smith's particular
version, as well as his vocal rendition, was. The dwarf, who posed
somewhat as a magician and sleight-of-hand man, undertook for some
reason or other to attempt the great Indian box trick. Two gentlemen
from the audience were invited to come on the stage to tie the performer
with a rope. This was a most unfortunate move. Two well-known yachtsmen,
and good sailors to boot, saw the chance for additional fun, and
accepted the invitation with alacrity. They set to work and knotted the
little man so tightly that he yelled to them, for heaven's sake, to let
up. The audience could restrain itself no longer with laughter. It was
plainly to be recognized that the show was fast drawing to a close.

"Stand him on his head," spoke some one at the rear of the tent.

"Pass him along this way, my hearties, and we'll take a reef in his dry
goods," cried out someone else.

"We won't do a thing to him," chipped in a third humorist in the center
of the tent.

The tent was convulsed with laughter and merriment had full swing. It
was indeed a most remarkable performance, and the best of good nature
prevailed. At the moment when the hilarity was at its height a commotion
was heard outside of the tent. The band, or a portion of it, burst forth
once more in the street with the most discordant sounds mortal ears ever
heard. This brought the performance on the stage to a close.

"I would never have been able to get them out of the tent," explained
Handy afterwards, "only for my letting the band--that is, the worst
portion of it--loose on the outside."

To make a long story short, as the saying goes, the poor players cleared
over three hundred dollars by the night's show, while the distinguished
artists who gave grand opera in homeopathic doses in another end of the
town sang to almost empty benches. Handy told no untruth when he
announced on the bills that "those who witnessed the performance will
never forget it."

Years have rolled by since this company of poor strolling players
attempted "Humpty Dumpty" in Newport, but the memory of that night still
remains green in the minds of many.



CHAPTER VII

     "He employs his fancy in his narrative and keeps his recollections
     for his wit."
     --RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.


A more delightful morning than that which followed the night of the
strollers' eventful performance it would be difficult to imagine. It was
the Sabbath, and the spirit of peace seemed to exercise its influence
all around. The sun shone brightly; a gentle breeze diffused its cooling
power, and the surface of the water was calm and placid. The graceful
yachts riding at anchor were decked as daintily in their gay bunting as
village maidens celebrating a fête. There was little of active life
afloat or ashore. Those on board the pleasure craft presented an
appearance different from that which characterized their movements the
days previous. It was, indeed, a day of rest.

Among the fleet of pleasure craft lay the _Gem of the Ocean_. She was
not a comely craft; her sides were weather-beaten, and her general
appearance homely and unprepossessing; but the same waters that bore the
others bore her. In her homeliness she presented a strange contrast to
her surroundings. In the composition of those who were her occupants
there was still greater difference. The men who trod the decks of the
yachts were seekers after the pleasures of life, while those on board
the _Gem_ were engaged in the hard struggle to win bread for the loved
ones who were miles and miles removed--living in want, perhaps, yet
hoping for the best and for what expectancy would realize. The one set
comprised the lucky ones of fortune--the butterflies of fashion; the
other the strugglers for life--the vagabonds of fate. Yet these
vagabonds had homes and mothers, wives and children, to whom the rough,
sun-browned, coarsely clad men of the _Gem of the Ocean_ were their all,
their world, and on the exertion of whose hands and brain they depended
for food, raiment, and shelter. These poor strolling players had
homes,--humble, it is true,--but still they were homes, which they loved
for the sake of the dear ones harbored there.

The forenoon was spent in letter writing. How eagerly these letters were
longed for only those who hungered for tidings from absent loved ones
can explain. There is a magic influence in these silent messengers.
Freighted with consolation, joy, or sorrow, they are anxiously awaited.
How much happiness do they not bring into a home when laden with words
of tenderness and affection! Home! ah, he is indeed no vagabond who has
a home, however modest, and dear ones awaiting to welcome him when he
returns, tired and weary with his struggle in the race for advancement.

Before midday the occupation of the morning was completed, and after a
hearty meal the company gathered aft to pass away the time and talk over
the past as well as to ventilate the prospects for the future. They were
enjoying one day's rest, at least. Seated in the companionway was Handy,
the high priest of the little organization.

"Do you think, gentlemen, on mature reconsideration," began Handy, "we
might take another shy at 'Uncle Tom,' and do business?"

The subject was thrown out for general discussion. The Little 'Un was
the first to respond. He had been an _Uncle Tommer_ for years, and his
views consequently on the matter were regarded with consideration.

"Gentlemen," he commenced, "the 'Uncle Tom' times are dead and gone. The
play has had its day. To be sure, if it was resurrected and put on with
what might be called an elaborate presentation, with a phenomenal cast,
it might catch on for a brief spell. Of course, the cast would be an
easy enough matter to get, as casts go. Stars nowadays, such as they
are--Heaven save the mark!--are more plentiful than stock. But let them
rest at that. I have known the time when there were as many as fifty
_Uncle Tommers_ on the road--all doing well, if not better. There were
no theatrical syndicates in those times to limit the enterprise and
energy of the aspiring though poor and ambitious manager. 'Uncle Tom'
audiences were different from those who attended other theatrical snaps.
There was so much of the religious faking mixed in with the old piece
that it caught the Sunday-go-to-meeting crowd and drew them as a
molasses barrel will draw flies. That class of people reasoned that
'Uncle Tom' wasn't a real theatre show--it was a moral show. What fools
we mortals be? Didn't some poor play actor say that, or did I think it
out myself? Well, no matter now. But don't the newspapers tell us that
there was a big bunch of people in New York City at one time who used to
flock to Barnum's Museum, which stood opposite St. Paul's Church, on
Broadway, and how they'd scoop in the show there simply because old
Barnum called his theatre a lecture-room. It was the lecture-room racket
that caught them. The old showman was a cute one--slick as they made
'em. When the museum burned down, didn't he go to work and sell the hole
in the ground the fire made to James Gordon Bennett, the elder, founder
of _The Herald_, and got the best of the famous editor in the sale into
the bargain. Ah, those were the good old times!"

"The palmy days of the drama, I suppose," interjected Handy.

"Palmy fiddlesticks!" laughingly chimed in one of the group.

"Oh, joke as you may, boys, but I am giving you the straight goods,"
continued the Little 'Un, handing out a little bit of reminiscent news
of days gone by that will never be duplicated.

"He's dead right. Speakin' of those days," added Smith, "I remember well
the times gone by in the old Bowery Theatre on certain gay and festive
occasions to have seen as many as seventeen glasses of good old
Monongahela whisky set up in the green-room and not a man took water
when called upon to do his duty. They have no green-rooms any more. But
let me tell you that's where the managers of the present day take their
cues from, for those after-performance first-night stage suppers that
are frequently given for the entertainment of the principal players, a
few select friends, and a big bunch of newspaper scribes. On the stage,
mind you, not in the green-room, for the green-room is now a thing of
the past."

"Were you in the old Bowery shop then?" inquired Handy.

"Was I? What! Well, I should smile! You know me. Say, you may talk of
the realistic drama of these degenerate days--why, they aren't one, two,
nine with the shows of days gone by. Oh, you may laugh about stage
realism and chin about real race-horses in racing scenes, and real
society women to play real ladies, real burglars to crack unreal
property safes, and real prize-fighters to do their prize-fighting
fakes, in addition to attempting to act, but let me tell you fellows
that the managers who are gone never missed a trick when they had to do
a realistic stunt."

"Well, you ought to know, Smith," said Handy.

"Why, hang it, man alive! they did everything in the show business as
good then as they do now; and what's more, they didn't have to import
actors from abroad nor send over to the other side for stage managers to
teach the company how to act. Was I in the old Bowery in them days? Was
I? Sure, Mike! I went in there as a call-boy. Let me see--when? Oh, yes,
I remember. It was the season that 'The Cataract of the Ganges' was
brought out. Yes, sir, and they gave the 'Cataract' with real water,
too, and make no bloomin' error about it either!"

"Oh, come, come there, old man! Draw it mild. Don't pile it on too
thick," interposed the doubting Thomas of the party and the most
juvenile member of the troupe. "We can't stand all that. We are willing
to swallow the whisky in the green-room, but water on the stage--oh, no!
that's a little too much of a good thing. Why, my gentle romancer, the
Croton water pipes weren't laid in the city in them days. Then how the
mischief could they give the waterfall scene? With buckets, tubs, or
with a pump--which? or with all three combined?"

For a moment the speaker was nonplussed for an answer. He felt
embarrassed, and looked so. He was about to make reply when another of
the company who, by the way, was an old-timer like himself, boldly came
to the rescue.

"He's right," boldly asserted the new contributor to the conversation,
"dead right. I remember the stunt myself."

It may be as well to state that Smith's veracity about theatrical things
in general was not what it should be. His stories never could keep
companionship with truth. He had so ingenious a manner of prevarication
that he actually believed his own tales. If what Smith at odd times,
when he happened to be in the vein, related of himself was true, then he
might be credited with having acted in nearly every city this side of
the Rockies and have supported all the great stars. He was closely
approaching his fiftieth year, yet he maintained he had participated in
the principal theatrical productions of a generation previous, with the
most reckless disregard of probabilities. He seemed to have no
appreciable estimate of time or place when relating his marvelous
experiences.

"Yes, sirree," said Smith, "I can call the turn on that trick. Why, the
thing is as fresh in my mind as if it only happened last night. Maybe
you don't believe me. Well, every man is entitled to his own belief, but
let me explain how I remember it so well."

"Fire away! We're all attention."

"Well, it happened in this way. I was engaged in the old National
Theatre in Chatham Street at the time when the 'Cataract' was brought
out, and it made old man Purdy, the manager, so hoppin' mad to think
that his Bowery rival should get the bulge on him with a scene like the
waterfall that he determined to see Hamblin and go him one better. Now
what do you think he did?"

"Put on the piece with two cataracts," innocently suggested Handy.

"No, he didn't put on no two cataracts either," replied Smith, somewhat
indignantly.

"Well, then, be good enough to let us know how he got square."

"He went to work and announced the production of 'Ali Baba and the Forty
Thieves,' with forty real thieves in the cast. How was that for
enterprise, eh?"

"Great! Were you in the cast?" inquired the low comedy gentleman.

"Nit! I wasn't of age then. You can't be legally a criminal under age.
Don't you know there's a society for the protection of crime?"

"Excuse me. No reflection, I assure you. I did not intend to be
personal. I was merely trying to find out how the old man filled out his
cast."

"Well, my boy," replied Smith patronizingly, "think it over a minute,
and you will realize that the morals of the old days were in no respect
different from those in which we now live. Thieves, then as now, were a
drug in the market, and the City Hall stood precisely where it stands
to-day. Thieves in those times frequently masqueraded as grafters."

"Smith," said Handy, "you take the cake," removing the briarwood from
his mouth to knock the ashes from the bowl preparatory to loading up for
a fresh pull at the weed.

It was in this harmless manner the afternoon was allowed to slip by in
the exchange of yarns. Many strange and comical experiences were related
by the happy-go-lucky little group.

The shades of evening began to fall before there was any perceptible
lull in the gossip. The past was being rehearsed and made food for the
present. How often do we not recognize that men live over again their
past in recalling their experiences in the dead years that have passed
away for ever! How fondly do they revive old memories, though many of
them perhaps were associated with pain and sorrow! The poor players
lived their lives over again in the stories they exchanged on the deck
of the _Gem of the Ocean_ as she lay at anchor off Newport that peaceful
Sunday evening.



CHAPTER VIII

     "Every one shall offer according to what he hath."
     --DEUT.


All hands, at Handy's request, turned in early, as he was determined to
make an early start down the Sound. He had not yet decided where his
next stand should be. The selection lay between Stonington and New
London. If fortune continued to favor him he felt confident of
accomplishing something worth seeking for in either place. There were
certain reasons, however, why one of them should be steered clear of;
but Handy's memory as to names was somewhat vague, so he resolved to
sleep on the thought before he determined on his course.

Handy was the first man up and stirring next morning. The others,
however, were not far behind. The wind was favorable and the indications
were all that a sailor could wish for. After a hearty breakfast the
anchor was weighed and the _Gem_ was once more under way, with all sails
set. The Little 'Un was somewhat timorous and apprehensive of a
repetition of the trouble that overcame him the night before they played
the Long Island town on the circus man's paper, but he appeared to be
satisfied by Handy's assurance that it never stormed on the Sound in the
daylight. His looks indicated that he had doubts as to the truth of the
assurance.

The run down the Sound was uneventful. There was no one sick on board,
and all were in a cheerful mood when they came to anchor in the Thames
River, off New London, the town in which Handy finally determined next
to try his fortune. The company had been out at this time nearly two
weeks. Though all its members were strong and hearty, their sunburnt
looks and somewhat dilapidated apparel did not contribute to the
elegance of their personal appearance. Most of them looked like
well-seasoned tramps. Handy recognized this. He also knew that though
the Nutmeg State was at that time regarded as a paradise of tramps, the
inhabitants did not, as a rule, take kindly to the knights of the road.
This may be uncharitable and unchristianlike, but people have got to
accept the situation as they find it.

No one went ashore until after nightfall. Then Handy and Smith made a
landing in the small boat, and surveyed the situation. An available
vacant lot was picked out. Ascertaining there was to be an agricultural
fair there the following Thursday, that night was selected for the
Strollers' next effort. On the prospectors' return to the vessel a
council of war was held, at which the plan of operations and course of
action were freely discussed.

"It won't do," said Handy, "to try them on 'Uncle Tom,' and I hardly
think they'd stand for 'Humpty Dumpty' as we give it. I've been here in
the good old summer days before many a time and oft, and I am conversant
with the kind of audience we've got to stack up against. On mature
reflection, I have come to the conclusion that a variety or vaudeville
entertainment this trip will be most likely to appeal to their
sensibilities. Song and dance, imitations of celebrated histrionic
celebrities, coon acts, legerdemain exhibitions, the famous Indian box
trick, and----"

"Easy there," interrupted the dwarf. "Who's goin' to do the box trick?"

"Why, you, of course," replied Handy.

"Not on your life. Count me out on that stunt, Mister Manager. New
London is a seaport town. There are vessels in port and sailors on
shore. My Newport experience has taught me a lesson. The sailor men
there tied me up so darned tight that you'll never get me to undertake
any such job as that again within a hundred miles of seawater."

"But----"

"No buts about it. I know when I've had enough. Skip me."

"Then I'll do the act myself," retorted Handy, with a slight exhibition
of feeling.

"K'rect, old man. You're welcome to the stunt. I pass every time when
there's any rope-tying business in a seawater town."

"Smith, you can give them a banjo solo, do a clog dance, and afterwards
wrestle with your celebrated imitations you know so well, and do so
badly, of John Drew, Dave Warfield, Nat Goodwin, Sarah Bernhardt, and
Sir Henry Irving."

"But I never saw Irving or Bernhardt," interposed Smith.

"Neither did the audience. What's the matter with you? And for a wind-up
you can give them a stump speech, and I'll bill you as Lew Dockstader,
second. We have got to make up our programme, please remember. If you
don't want to take a shy at Dockstader, name someone else equally
prominent. It's all the same to me. When I do that Indian box trick I
propose to bill myself as Hermann XI. Darn it, man, we have to have
names! This company, bear in mind, is made up of an all-star cast."

"All right then, say no more," said Smith.

"Say," continued Handy, addressing the ambitious young man of the
troupe, "don't you think you could manage to take off Billy Crane? And
give them some exhibitions of his genius in scenes from his many-sided
repertory, and we'll star you on the bills."

"Excuse me," replied the comparatively juvenile and promising artist,
"but might I inquire who is going to look after my wife and the kid if
that New London congregation should tumble to the joke? No, sir. Mr.
Crane, permit me to inform you, is a fearless and experienced yachtsman;
every hair in his head, nautically speaking, is a rope yarn. He is, as
well, a good actor, and New London is a yachting port. Not on your life!
Billy Crane is too well known here, so in justice to my physical welfare
I must decline the honor of being so presented."

"Well, gentlemen," returned Handy somewhat dejectedly, "these
unseasonable, frivolous, and unbusinesslike objections are really
disheartening and unworthy of a conscientious member of the histrionic
calling. Let me tell you that you are the first actor I ever heard of
ever having declined the distinction of being elevated to the position
of a star. In the words of the immortal bard, 'Can such things be and
overcome us like a summer's dream without our special wonder?' Go to.
Were it not that my hair is red and I have no suitable wig--and what
would Sweet William be without a wig?--I'd do Crane myself."

After further discussion on minor details the programme was arranged for
Thursday night. The next day posters were in evidence all through the
town. The fair grounds were literally strewn with handbills. Handy was a
great believer in printer's ink, and he used his paper with a lavish
hand. The show was announced for two nights--Thursday and Saturday. The
variety entertainment was billed for Thursday night, and "Pinafore,"
with an all-star cast, was promised for Saturday evening. The company
had no knowledge about the "Pinafore" scheme. When Handy was questioned
about it, he satisfied his questioners with the assurance that it was
all right, and he would explain matters later on. His assurance was
sufficient. The company knew their man.

Wednesday night the tent was put up. That day Handy succeeded, for a
consideration, in inducing the country band that played during the day
at the fair to perform a like office for his show at night, and do the
duty of an orchestra for the performance.

The afternoon of the day of the show an unexpected storm loomed up,
which threatened the enterprise with destruction. It seems that Handy
had visited New London before with a somewhat similar venture, and had
been compelled by financial circumstances which he was unable to control
to depart the town in a hurry, leaving behind him an unpaid printer's
bill. Now a slight omission of that character very easily escaped
Handy's memory. The printer, on the contrary, being a thoughtful man, on
finding that Handy was the manager of the new all-star theatrical
outfit, made his appearance with the sheriff and a writ of attachment.
For a time the aspect of affairs was anything but cheering. The printer
was as mad as the traditional hatter. Fortunately the sheriff, who was
an old Bowery man in days past, and a pretty decent and sympathetic kind
of a fellow, discovered in Handy an old acquaintance, and magnanimously
came to the rescue and volunteered to help him out of his difficulties.
The kind-hearted official guaranteed the payment of the printer's bill,
to be taken out of the first receipts that came in at the box office.
This arrangement being mutually agreed upon, the preliminary work
progressed actively.

The night brought a crowd, composed mainly of the country people who had
attended the fair. It was the biggest, best natured, and most easily
entertained audience a theatrical company ever played to. There were
more bucolic auditors gathered together in the tent than the troupe had
seen previously. Handy had the country band well in hand. He made them
play down the main street and parade up to the tent. Then he got them
inside and astonished his auditors with such a liberal manifestation of
music that those present could not well decide whether they had come to
listen to a concert or have an opportunity to see the real "theayter"
actors. Handy evidently was determined to furnish them with music
sufficient to last them until the next Fair day. The band played so long
that the town element among the audience became somewhat unwelcomely
demonstrative.

The curtain at last arose, and the variety portion of the entertainment
began. The tent was well filled,--the front rows of seats being
unpleasantly near the stage. The minstrel act in the first part was
something unique and original. The country people took it seriously, but
the town contingent, recognizing the fake element, started in to indulge
in guying the performers. This incensed the countrymen. They had paid
their good money to see the show without being subjected to annoyance
from the town fellows. One particularly strenuous young New London dude
had his derby smashed by an excited rustic who determined that his
Phoebe Ann should enjoy the entertainment even if he himself had to make
peace by teaching the city chap the way to behave himself and keep
quiet. He evidently meant business and apparently had many friends who
were not only ready, but willing, to assist him.

All the acts were short--very short--and between each of the acts there
was more music by the band. At length the performance was brought to a
close. Before the curtain fell Handy came forward, and, after thanking
the audience heartily for the magnificent attendance and generous
support, announced that on Saturday evening he would have great pleasure
in presenting, providing negotiations in contemplation were perfected,
for their consideration, the melodious and tuneful grand comic opera,
"Pinafore," in the presentation of which the company would be reinforced
by several valuable additions, who were expected to arrive early on
Saturday from the Metropolitan Grand Opera House.

"Great Scott--'Pinafore!' You don't mean to say," asked a friend a short
time after hearing of Handy's moving adventures by land and water, "you
had the nerve to attempt 'Pinafore' with your small band of strolling
players, eh?"

"Play 'Pinafore'!" replied the irrepressible Handy, with a smile. "Of
course, not. Never intended to. You see this was the situation; and the
man who isn't equal to the position in which he places himself is bound
to come out at the wrong side of the account book, when he is compelled
to settle up. The 'Pinafore' announcement was for the edification of the
New Londoners. I recognized the fact that the country people in their
innocence and goodness of heart would take kindly to the entertainment
we had prepared for them, but for the town chaps it was an altogether
different proposition. When I announced 'Pinafore' I felt satisfied they
would defer their energies and lay low for the 'Merry, Merry Maiden and
the Tar,' determining to have a little fun of their own kind with us on
Saturday; but after the performance we struck tent and by early morning
we were once more out on the Sound for fresh fields and pastures new."



CHAPTER IX

     "One man in his time plays many parts."
     --AS YOU LIKE IT.


If the "boys" of New London looked forward to having a good old summer
time with Handy and his all-star company the following Saturday evening,
they were wofully out in their reckoning. Though "Pinafore" was
announced with due managerial formality, perhaps somewhat ambiguous, for
that particular occasion, when the time for presentation arrived there
was not a vestige of either tent or performers. After the entertainment
on the night of the fair the company went aboard the _Gem of the Ocean_.
Handy alone remained ashore. As he had been manager, advance and press
agent, and principal performer, he concluded to add another to his many
responsibilities and become night watchman. The tent, stage properties,
etc., had to be guarded, and he undertook the duties of guardian.

"Let no one turn in until I get aboard," said he to Smith, "and you row
ashore in an hour's time. Mind, don't be later than that, and you
needn't get here sooner. Tell the boys I have some work for them to do
before they lay down to rest. Take a bite and a sup and join me here in
an hour."

The two men parted; one with his companions for the boat at the end of
the pier and the other to play the part of watchman over his outfit. A
few of the town chaps lingered in the neighborhood of the tent.

In the country, as in the city, it is remarkable what a fascinating
influence players exercise over young fellows who are ambitious to be
regarded as the knowing ones regarding everything appertaining to the
playhouse. How glibly the beardlings of the twenties or thereabouts will
use the names of actors with whom perhaps they have never exchanged a
word, in the silly belief they are raising themselves in the estimation
of their auditors. It is an odd conceit, yet it prevails with the
would-be fast young men of the present day. To hear some of these
mollycoddles prate one who was not acquainted with their weaknesses
would imagine these chaps were on intimate terms with players--who, as a
rule, are slow to cultivate new acquaintances, attend strictly to their
own business, and do not particularly relish that particular class of
hanger-on. No man knew this type better than Handy. However, he never
antagonized them. That he considered would not be wise policy. He
good-naturedly humored them with much superficial gossip that really
meant nothing. His good nature never forsook him, and he always had his
temper well under control. He knew to a nicety the side his bread was
buttered on. That happy-go-lucky disposition of his stood him in good
stead many a time, and his free-and-easy manner of drawing people out
frequently served as an aid to determine his future course of action.
The limited exchange of conversation he had with the loungers satisfied
him that he was right in his estimate that there would be a hot time in
the old town on Saturday night if he remained. Finally the last dallier
had his say, and, after an exchange of cordial good nights, departed.

Smith was at this time about due, and as he was noted for his
promptitude, he was on hand to keep his date when the hour expired.

"What's the lay now, Handy, old man?" inquired Smith, as he joined his
manager.

"Only this, and nothing more," replied the veteran melodramatically.
"There's blood upon the face of the moon, an' blow my buttons, if your
Uncle Rube is going to supply the gore. See!"

The answer was not altogether satisfactory, and Smith apparently was
unable to grapple with the problem. It puzzled him; but then Handy
himself was at all times more or less of a conundrum to him.

"Now then, bear a hand, send the boat back and get the company ashore as
speedily as possible. We have a few good hours' work on hand before we
turn in."

Smith made quick time, and it was not long before the members of the
all-star combination began to materialize out of the obscurity of the
night as noiselessly as shadows.

"Say, boys," began Handy, in a low tone of voice confidentially, "we
move to-night, and I want you to strike tent, pack and get everything
aboard without delay. I'll explain all later on."

"Move to-night!" repeated Smith. "Don't we play here Saturday night?"

"Nary a play," responded the manager.

"But you announced 'Pinafore' from the stage!"

"Of that fact I am well aware," replied Handy, "but don't you know that
'Pinafore' is an opera, and let me further inform you that
disappointments in opera are quite the regular thing. In fact, an
impresario cannot get along legitimately, my boy, in grand opera or in
fact any old kind of opera, without disappointments every now and then.
The public expect operatic disappointments. They come naturally, and
sometimes come as a godsend. You never can tell when a particular opera
is announced what you are going to get."

"Then why don't you substitute something in place of 'Pinafore?'" meekly
suggested the Little 'Un.

"Pardon me, my unthinking friend, but you lose sight of the fact that
substitutions are always unsatisfactory, if not positively dangerous.
Besides, they are strong evidences of weakness. We are nothing if not
strong and resourceful. Suppose I substituted 'Faust,' for instance, and
announced it with Melba as _Marguerite_, and suppose again that the
famous Astralasian prima donna caught an attack of the American grip
that same afternoon, it would hardly do to substitute Marie Cahill or
May Irwin to take her place, that is, provided we could have induced
either of those distinguished artists to become the great diva's
substitute. Oh, no! 'Tis out of the question. But, come, get a move on
you. Let us be just to a public that has treated us well."

The members of Handy's company were under good discipline. They were
satisfied that he had valid reasons for this sudden change of base, and
therefore, went cheerfully to work. Handy himself started for the
water-side, and after a brief absence was once more among them, doing
the work of two men and encouraging his companions by energetic action
and example. Their task was accomplished without the aid of light save
that which was afforded them by the bright stars overhead. It was an
hour before dawn when everything was placed on board and the tired
strollers had gone below to court the rest and repose they both longed
for and needed.

"Let her swing out in the stream away from the dock, captain," ordered
Handy, when they were ready to start. "The tide is nearly flood and we
can drop down the river with the first of the ebb. We can get outside
early and then determine where next we'll make for."

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the skipper.



CHAPTER X

     "Originality is nothing more than judicious imitation."
     --VOLTAIRE.


Next morning when the company appeared they were not a little surprised
to find themselves far out to sea. The day was bright and all hands were
in a cheerful mood. The first question asked of the energetic manager
was "Where next?" He turned toward the inquirer and replied he never
discussed business on an empty stomach when he had the opportunity of
doing so on a full one.

"Lay her course south by east, cap," was his brief order to the sailing
master. "Rather fancy we'll run in somewhere near Oyster Bay--where,
I'll tell you later on."

When breakfast was served ample justice was done to the repast. Here, be
it said, the company lived well. The best the market afforded was not
too good for them. Handy was as capable a judge of a beefsteak as any
man on the boards, and he bought the best. His companions knew it, and
were willing at all times to go with a commission to the shop.

"Were you ever in the market, governor?" inquired the Little 'Un at the
close of the meal.

"Yes, sir. I have frequently been in the market," was the prompt reply,
"but like many other willing and anxious individuals somehow or other,
no one ever reached my price."

"Oh, I didn't mean that, old man. I simply meant were you ever employed
in a meat market, for that was as nice a piece of steak as I ever
tackled, it was so tender and juicy. Unless a fellow was a judge he
never could have picked out such a choice cut."

"Oh, I did not quite comprehend you! I now catch on. Well, you all, of
course, know that I served in the army and----"

"I told you," whispered Smith, in a humorous aside, "he was a butcher."

"And, as I was about to remark, I had much experience in the
commissariat depart----"

"Say," interposed the Little 'Un, who had frequently been an unwilling
and tired listener to very many of Handy's well-worn war stories, "are
you agoing to ring in a war story on us, old pard?"

"Well, I was merely about to explain that in keeping with my army
experience that----"

"Nuff sed," remarked the dwarf, rising from his seat. "Good morning!"

"Some other morning" echoed Smith, and he too rose from his seat.

"Me, too. Ta ta! Tra la la!" lilted the light comedy man, as he pushed
his empty plate to one side, and one by one the remainder of the
Pleiades rose in solemn silence before Handy had time to realize that
his war stories were away below par among the members of his company.

Handy remained alone for some time below, probably turning over in his
mind the problem of the next venture, and then went on deck. He found
his companions taking things easy in free and easy positions aft. It was
a forenoon to satisfy every desire of those who love the open air. The
wind was light--a nice sailing breeze--and the sun was not too warm. Few
words were spoken, save inconsequent remarks now and then on some
passing sail. The monotony of the situation was finally broken by the
manager, as he proceeded to unburden himself of his intentions for the
next entertainment.

"Our next move will be to play Saturday night, that is, to-morrow, in
one of these little towns near by on the Long Island shore, and with
that performance bring our tour to a close, return to the city, get a
few more good people and lay out a new route. We have done fairly well,
all things considered, on this trip, and we can afford to strengthen our
organization and give the public something better, if not stronger. The
pieces we have been presenting are rather ancient,--almost too
classic,--though I must admit we offered them in a somewhat original
manner. We must, however, keep pace with the times--be up to date. The
simple life is all very fine in books, but, my friends, 'tis the
strenuous life that produces the stuff. Excuse slang, but it is much
employed nowadays, and vigorous emphasis is used even by the most
refined. If we don't get new attractions I am afraid we may have to
resort to giving away souvenirs. Souvenirs have, in their day, had all
the potency of a bargain counter in a popular department store well
advertised. Personally, I do not take kindly to the souvenir business.
It isn't professional."

"That's all right," conceded Smith, "but an old piece frequently becomes
new when you subject it to unique treatment. Now, for example, I don't
think anyone has any kick coming at the original manner in which we gave
'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and 'Humpty Dumpty.' No one ever saw them so
presented before. Of course, if we had one of these modern Shakespeares,
that the commercial managers keep on tap, we could have a piece written
for us while we were under way to the next night stand. But that's out
of the question. I would like, in common with the rest of the push, to
know what is going to be our next offering."

"Let me see. Just a moment's pause," replied Handy thoughtfully. "We
might do a bit of a tragedy if we had the props, but we haven't got
them. Besides, the trouble with most tragedies, as a rule, is the long
cast, and in addition they do not give a compact all-star organization
such as ours a chance to show what we really can do. We gave them our
version of _Uncle Tom_ nearly two weeks ago; and outside of Brooklyn, I
conscientiously believe that once a year is often enough for the
remainder of Long Island. On mature consideration, therefore, I have
come to the conclusion that our best offering would be a minstrel grand
opera concert entertainment. We have made an impression in that
direction, and I am in favor of that which will sustain the reputation
we have so admirably earned."

"Who's going to sing the solos, old man?" asked the Little 'Un. "You
know, boss, the boys ain't much on the sing. They can work along all
right with a good strong chorus when they once get started and warmed
up, but when it comes down to the fine single throat work I am afraid
we'll get in the soup."

"He's dead right," put in Smith, "the single singing--solos, I believe
they call them--in the first part will be a hard nut to crack. We can't
give a minstrel show without a first part. They'd never believe we were
operatic minstrels without it, even if we didn't black up."

"Hold! Enough!" cried Handy, in his favorite Macbeth voice. "You make me
a bit tired with this kind of baby talk. Haven't you fellows got common
sense enough to know that it is not absolutely necessary to have a voice
to be a singer? Suppose a singer once had a voice and lost it, would
that be a good and sufficient reason for him or her to get out of the
business? How many of them do it, eh? It is just the same with the
singing trade as it is in our overcrowded profession. How many of the
so-called actors that inundate the stage quit the boards when they
know--if they know anything--they have no talent for it. You fellows
give me a pain. Voices and singing! Pshaw! I'll fix all that! I'll give
a couple of you good high-sounding Eyetalian names, and I'll announce
you as hailing from the Royal Imperial Conservatory of Stockholm, and
I'd like to see the Long Island jay that will say you couldn't sing,
even if you had as little music in your voice as the acrobatic star of a
comic opera company."

"And now will you be good?" playfully chirruped in Smith.

"Now, Nibsy, you will have to tackle a solo; and as you are to be
announced as a foreigner, you must treat your audience to something
different from anything they have heard before. As you will sing it, of
course, none of those present, with, possibly, the exceptions of a few,
will undertake to understand what you are driving at. A few will pretend
they do--there are know-alls in every audience; the majority will take
their cue from them, and that will settle the matter."

"I tumble. But might I ask if you have any choice in the operatic
selection."

"No; none in particular, only that you must avoid any of the very
familiar airs from 'Faust,' 'Trovatore,' or 'Lohengrin.' These great
works have been so hackneyed by frequent repetitions at the Metropolitan
Opera House and Hammerstein's, and Sunday sacred concerts, that they
have been worn threadbare and become as commonplace as 'Mr. Dooley' or
'Harrigan.' Now let me think. Ah, yes! Have you heard that comparatively
new opera by Punch and Ella called 'Golcondo?'"

"Search me. No."

"Well, then, I don't think the audience have either," replied Handy, "so
your first solo will be from that delightful composition!"

"And for the encore, what?"

"The last part over again, if you can remember it, and we'll help you
out in the chorus."

"Say, can't you let me know the name I am going to honor? And, by the
way, there's one thing more I wish to be enlightened on. Will it be
necessary for me to speak with a foreign accent before the show, in case
I come across any of the inhabitants of the town before I go on?"

"Oh, no! That is not absolutely necessary. Don't you know that many of
the Eyetalian opera singers in these days are Irish, some are English, a
big bunch are Dutch, Poles or Scandinavians, and quite a sprinkling of
them Americans. No, it isn't essential to use the accent in private. You
will be announced as Signor Nibsinsky!"

"Is that an Eyetalian name?"

"Oh, Nibs, don't be so specific. Nibsinsky is as valid a name as any
artist might select to adopt. I give it the Russian smack because of my
Russian proclivities."

"Say no more, old man. Let it go at that."

"So far as the chorus is concerned, we know where we stand and what we
can do--and the audience will before the show is over. As for jokes and
funny business--they are easy. But, say, we ought to ring in a couple of
instrumental solos. The banjo, of course, will do for one. It is new,
because it is very old. So that's all right. For the other--now, let me
think. By Jove, I've struck it! Little 'Un, you can do a violin solo in
great shape."

"What! Me do a violin solo," answered the dwarf. "Why, you know very
well I can only play a little bit, and only in an amateur way. Oh, no!
Oh, no! Not this trip."

"Easy there, my festive fiddler. Easy there, and loan me your ear. I'll
arrange that all right. You will be announced as a pupil of the great
Ysaye, and of course, being a pupil of that wonderful magician of the
violin, you must start in with a classical selection from one of those
old masters. Which of them there's no use wasting time over. They won't
be recognized. Then when it comes for you to get in your classic work,
all you've got to do is to play as crazy as you can, bend your body, hug
your fiddle, make your bow saw wood over the strings, look at times as
if you were going into a trance or a fit, do any blame thing that may
appear eccentric--for that, you know, is one of the characteristics of
genius and originality--and you'll catch the crowd every time."

"But, say, Handy, what about the wig?"

"Oh, that's all serene. We've got it. You don't for a moment imagine I
would have you go on as a star fiddler without a bushy head of hair! Not
much. As the poet sings--'There's music in the hair.'"

"That settles it. My mind is easier now."

"But that's not all. When you get through with your classical gymnastics
on the instrument, I will come down to the front and announce that you
will kindly give an imitation of an amateur player wrestling with 'Home,
Sweet Home.' There will be your great opportunity. The worse you play it
the more successful you will be, for, don't you see, you will be closer
to nature. I think that will be a great stunt. Don't you, boys?"

They all thought it would be immense; at least, so they said. The Little
'Un himself fairly chuckled with glee at the prospects of being an
amateur virtuoso of the fiddle, even for one night only. The remainder
of the programme was quickly made up. One or two brief sketches and a
rather rough and tumble arrangement for the close, which the
enterprising managers designated as "The Strollers' Melange," completed
the night's entertainment.



CHAPTER XI

    "All places that the eye of Heaven visits
    Are to the wise man ports and happy havens."
    --RICHARD II.


By midday the _Gem of the Ocean_, aided by a favoring wind, made good
time and Handy determined to run in to a convenient little cove near
Oyster Bay. He knew the locality and felt satisfied that if he had his
usual share of luck he could make good and therefore add something to
the company's treasury. By one o'clock the anchor was dropped and he and
Smith made a landing and both started to do the usual prospecting. They
were successful beyond their expectations. The little town which they
proposed to honor with a visit was not far from the water. A small grove
and a hill shut it out from a view of the Sound. The main road ran down
to a narrow inlet which served as a kind of harbor for fishing boats,
oyster sloops and clammers. Handy's well-trained eye lighted on an
eligible site for the tent. It was a nice level plot with a fence about
it. A good-natured Irishman named McGuiness owned the property, and
Handy lost no time in opening negotiations and getting on his right
side.

"An' yez want the use of the lot for a concert minstrel entertainment?"
inquired the proprietor.

"Yes," replied Handy, "and for to-morrow night."

"An' yez are going to give the show under the cover of a tint?"

"That's about the size of it."

"Have yez got the tint?"

"We have, and the show that goes with it, and what's more, after you
have witnessed the performance you'll say it is the best that ever
struck the town. Moreover, I want you to bring your whole family with
you and have seats in the first row for all of them."

"Well," said McGuiness, "I don't mind lettin' yez have the use of the
lot, an' I'll do all I kin, in a quiet way, to help yez along, but
there's one thing I want to be afther tellin' yez, an' it is this, that
I'm thinkin' there will be the divil to pay whin Mr. Dandelion finds out
there's going to be a minstrel entertainment here."

"How's that?" inquired Handy, "and who is Mr. Dandelion?"

"He's a very dacint kind of man, as min run at present," replied
McGuiness, "even if he is a Methodist preacher, but he hates showmin
like snakes. He don't seem to want the young people to have any fun or
amusement at all, at all, shure. That's why I'm afraid he will raise
ould Harry when he finds yez here. An' then again, don't yez see,
there's a fair goin' on in his church, an' to-morrow is to be the big
day, and iv yez are goin' to have your show to-morrow night, don't yez
see he may think you would draw off some of his customers? Well, I don't
go to his church, God help me, so yez kin have the use of the ground.
But looka heer. Whisper, if it's all the same to you, don't put up the
tint till after nightfall. I'll see yez again. I'm goin' home now," and
Mr. McGuiness walked slowly up the road.

"Smith, me boy," spoke Handy, as soon as Mr. McGuiness was out of
hearing, "we have struck a bonanza. Are we in it? Well, this is the best
ever! Say, old fellow, when that sky-pilot casts his eyes on that tent
of ours to-morrow morning there will be something doing about these
diggins, and don't you forget it. Why, the amount of advertising he will
give the show will do us more service than if we planted twenty acres of
posters all over the fences that adorn the smiling landscape of this
peaceful and prosperous community. Let us go aboard at once. The main
biz is done. It's a dead sure cinch, Horatio."

No move was made on board until ten o'clock. The place was then as still
as a country church-yard, and scarcely a light was to be seen in any of
the houses when Handy and his company took possession of the lot and
began the preliminaries for the following day's operations.

A few hours of energetic work and the tent was set up, and later on the
stage properties, costumes and musical instruments were all safely
lodged under the cover of the canvas. Two of the organization remained
on guard and the others returned to the _Gem_.

The unexpected appearance of the tent next morning took the inhabitants
completely by surprise. No one could tell how it got there. Like a
mushroom it came up overnight. The farm-hands on their way to work
halted to look it over; the oystermen and clammers on the way to their
boats loitered near the spot to inspect it, and by nine o'clock most of
the boys and girls within a mile of the place spread the news broadcast
that there was an actors' show in town. About ten o'clock the news had
reached the dominie, and half an hour later he was in consultation with
the leading lights of his congregation. The consensus of views induced
them to call upon Mr. McGuiness. The tent was on his property, and he,
they concluded, when appealed to would no doubt order the trespassers
off. They considered it an abomination, from their standpoint, for him
to permit show-actors to offer an entertainment, and more especially on
the last day of the church fair, when a numerous gathering was expected.
A committee was accordingly appointed to wait on Mr. McGuiness, but
unfortunately that gentleman was nowhere to be found.

At two o'clock in the afternoon Handy gave a free concert in front of
the tent. The audience, it is needless to say, was not a critical one
and was easily pleased. When it was over and the energetic manager
announced a display of fireworks in the evening, both before and after
the performance, there wasn't a youngster within the sound of his voice
who did not spread the cheering information far and wide. Those who came
to attend the fair in the little church performed that duty early in the
afternoon and afterward arranged to visit the tent show of the actors
later on in the evening. The display of fireworks was not what one might
expect to witness at Manhattan Beach in the height of the season, when
that popular resort was swept by ocean breezes and when the renowned
Pain was there, but there was sufficient red fire burned to light up the
surrounding country. There was a crowd outside and when the doors were
opened there was a rush for seats.

The house or tent was filled in a short time, and the audience was
treated to a polyglot entertainment of the most remarkable character.
Nibsinsky's Eyetalian selections were listened to with some degree of
attention and a considerable measure of perplexity. He could not be
considered a success and no inducements could compel him to repeat the
performance. But these things will occasionally happen even with some of
the latest edition of stars! Ysaye's musical prodigy made some
extraordinary exhibitions with his classical contortions, but his
imitations of an amateur violinist with "Home, Sweet Home" won the
approval of all present and brought down the house. It was voted the
best thing of the whole show. The familiar choruses too pleased the
young folks, so much so that they all joined in and had a jolly time.
The grown people laughed heartily over all the threadbare jokes that
were given, and which have been passing current in every minstrel show
and country circus from the days of Dan Rice down to Lew Dockstader.

"It was, I have an idea, the worst show we ever gave," declared Handy a
few days after while speaking of it, "but the people seemed to like it.
Just as it is in New York, it is a difficult matter to strike public
taste. That's what makes the manager's life like unto that of a
policeman's--not a happy one. The people who paid to see the show made
no complaint, and I don't think that I should."

"Do you think the dominie's opposition hurt your entertainment much?"

"Hurt it! Not in the slightest. On the contrary, I believe it benefited
it. His opposition advertised the entertainment, and, by the way,
advertising is another of these vexed problems most difficult of
solution. I felt I owed his reverence something for what he
unintentionally accomplished in our behalf, so how do you think I got
square with him?"

"That's too much for me, old chap," answered his friend. "How?"

"Well, the next day was Sunday, and before we got away I called on Mr.
McGuiness, to return him thanks for the way he treated us. 'Mr.
McGuiness,' said I, 'you have been kind and generous to my little
company of players, who are doing their best to make an honest living in
their own peculiar way. I now come again to you to ask that you do me
one more favor.' 'What is it?' said he. 'It is this,' said I. 'Will you
accompany me to call on the dominie? He helped me with his opposition
last night, and I want to get square with him if I can.' McGuiness
hesitated. 'Oh, don't fear,' I assured him. 'I mean no harm. The fair at
the little church, I learned, was to swell the fund that's being raised
to help the widow and orphan. I want you to go with me to ask the
dominie to accept the offering of a few poor strolling players to
increase the fund.' McGuiness thrust his hand toward me, but said
nothing. I could see he was affected, for there was a watery look in his
eyes. We walked together in silence down the road until we reached the
little church."

"And the dominie?"

"He met us like a man. And when I explained my errand, and handed him
our little dole, and turned as if to leave, big, good-hearted McGuiness,
his voice somewhat affected by his feelings, said, 'Howld on a minnit; I
don't know, dominie, what he's givin' you, and what's more I don't care,
but you can count on me, dominie, for double the amount.'

"I don't know when I felt so happy, as I walked down to the shore,
between the dominie and McGuiness, for I felt we had done an act that
men might well feel an honest pride in, while we made two men friends in
that little village who might otherwise have remained estranged."



CHAPTER XII

     "There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio, than are
     dreamt of in your philosophy."
     --HAMLET.


The sun was making a golden set behind the skyscrapers of Manhattan as
the _Gem of the Ocean_ tied up to a wharf in the East River. The cruise
was at an end. Taken as a whole, the venture had been successful. Those
who embarked in it were once more back in sight of the great city, with
lighter hearts and heavier pockets than when they left not quite a month
before. All had had an agreeable time, and, what was of more importance,
a profitable experience. Anxious ones were awaiting them. The strolling
players, contrary to the practice of many of their guild who start out
on similar ventures, did not return empty-handed. They had practical
results to vouch for and explain their absence. Their endeavors had not
resulted in all work and no pay. If they had anxious moments and at
times hard work, they had their recompense and earned their reward, and
there were homes in which assistance was needed. They were solicitous,
too, to hasten to the cherished ones who were waiting to welcome them,
for strange as it may appear to the unthinking, the poor players who
fret and strut their brief hours upon the stage have homes--homes that
they prize beyond aught else and which to many of them are perhaps more
dearly prized than is the marble palace by the millionaire. No one knew
this better than Handy. He therefore lost no time in bringing his craft
into port.

"We can't complain, boys," he exclaimed, "after all is said and done, of
our undertaking. Here we are again under the lee of the big city, with
money in our pockets and our homes close at hand. You are not sorry you
took the chances," he continued, as the company gathered together before
separating. "May good fortune always smile upon enterprise."

"Amen!" responded Smith, who regarded that ejaculation as the proper
climax to his manager's peroration.

In half an hour the company were all ashore, each member homeward bound,
and possibly turning over in his mind the many eventful episodes of the
trip preparatory to relating them to those who might question them about
the exploit. Stories of this character lose nothing by repetition.

Handy and his fellow-craftsmen had not been home a week when their
adventures became the talk of the town, especially among the theatrical
fraternity. As usual in somewhat similar cases, every impecunious player
became desirous of immediately starting out upon the uncertain sea of
theatricals. They reasoned that if a man like Handy could succeed, why
could not they also turn the trick? Could they not even improve on his
tactics? Of course they could! Were they not, they argued, better actors
and had they not more experience as managers? Of course they were, and
had! Where Handy had made twenties and fifties, might not they pick up
hundreds? Of course there could be no doubt on that score. All this kind
of speculation in words, however, ended only in talk. Those who indulged
in it were mere theorists--not men of action and active brain like the
commander of the _Gem of the Ocean_ expedition, who put into execution
his plans after he had well considered them.

When the veteran made his reappearance on the Rialto he looked as if he
might be at peace with all mankind. He had nothing worse than a smile,
even for his enemies. But then his enemies were few. His proverbial good
humor and honesty of purpose disarmed the envious. The influence of
kindly smiles and generous impulses go further in this matter-of-fact
world than many people are willing to acknowledge. A cheerful and
encouraging word frequently helps in the accomplishment of a task which
without its influence might fall flat. Handy's dominant quality was his
uniform good nature. He rarely looked on the dark side of life. He, no
doubt, knew what it meant, but he never paraded his hardships before the
world or bored friends or acquaintances with the hard luck of his lot.
At times he was blue--what man at odd times is not so?--but at such
periods he veiled his heart, face, and feelings and drew the sunshine of
a smile between his disappointments and the outside world. With such a
disposition success, as a rule, is but a question of time.

When he made his first appearance among his confrères his manner was a
study. His face, from constant exposure in the sun, was bronzed and
ruddy and his general get up was what his old friend Smith pronounced
"regardless." In fact, Handy looked so well he scarcely recognized
himself. He generally felt well, but to look the part and feel it is
altogether a different proposition. His adventures with his all-star
company had been so freely discussed in every haunt where actors most do
congregate that inside of a week after the Pleiades returned the
frequenters of the Rialto had the story by heart.

The grand comic opera episode at Oyster Bay especially appealed to a
number of Handy's admirers. There were several who intimated that he go
right in for grand polyglot opera and try and get hold of the
Metropolitan Opera House. He smiled knowingly at the suggestion, and
furthermore gave his volunteer advisers to understand that, in his
estimation, that institution was under the control of much more
accomplished fakers than his ambition aimed to reach. Besides, he
reasoned, he was not the kind of man to attempt to take the bread and
butter away from some other fellow. "My policy," said he, "is to live
and let live; and if you cannot get enough people with the long green,
as they call it, to at least guarantee the rent for the sake of art,
fashion, and display--or as the English song puts it, 'for England,
home, and booty'--the next best thing to do is to buy, borrow, or beg a
tent and start out and go it alone in the open."

One evening as Handy was on his way homewards he accidentally ran across
a friend who, as the saying goes, had seen better days, and who had at
various times a widespread acquaintance with the ups and downs of
theatrical life. This man's name was Fogg--Philander Fogg. In his way he
was as much a character as Handy himself. The ways of each, though, were
dissimilar. Fogg was what the Hon. Bardwell Slote would designate as a Q
K (curious cuss). He on one occasion distinguished himself as an amateur
actor, and barely escaped with his life in New Jersey for attempting to
play _Othello_ as a professional. In person he was tall, very slim, very
bald, slightly deaf, and as fresh as a daisy. He had a general and
miscellaneous acquaintance. His friends liked him because of his
inability to see a joke. The consequence was they had many amusing
experiences at Fogg's expense. The gossip of the stage he cherished and
cultivated. This made him a favorite with a large circle of female
acquaintances who go in for all that kind of thing. People living, as it
were, on the fringe of society, who lay the flattering unction to their
souls that they are living in Bohemia, and they are never so happy as
when they are settled in the company of some pseudo-player discussing
the drama and ventilating the small talk of the stage.

When Handy encountered Fogg the latter appeared in a hurry. There was
nothing new in that, however. No one who had any acquaintance with him
knew him to be otherwise. There are such people to be met every day and
everywhere. He was a type.

"The very man I was looking for," was his greeting, on meeting Handy. "I
want you to help me out. Great scheme! I'll take you in. I'm in a great
hurry now to keep an appointment. Important, very important! Where can I
meet you to-morrow forenoon? How have you been? Are you up in
Beausant--no, Col Damas, I mean? Don't you do anything until you see me!
Can you get Smith to----"

"Hold! Enough!" interposed Handy. "Fogg, what do you take me for? A mind
reader or a lightning calculator? Now, then, one thing at a time! What's
up?"

"I am going to have a testimonial benefit, and I want you to manage the
stage and play a part. Do you catch on?"

"Business," answered Handy. "Anything in it, or is it a thank-you job?"

"Why, my boy, there's a cold five hundred plunks in it. Society ladies
on the committee. They will dispose of the tickets. One of them wants to
act. I've promised to let her try and give her the opening. 'The Lady of
Lyons' will be the play, and I will be the _Claude_."

"Well, Fogg, may the Lord have mercy on the audience--as well as on
_Melnotte_."

"Oh, hold up, old chap. Don't be rough on a fellow. You know very well I
have played much more difficult roles. Haven't I played _Hamlet_?"

"You have, indeed," answered Handy, "and played the devil with him,
too."

"This is positively rude," replied Fogg, "and only that I am aware you
mean no real unkindness I would feel very much put out. I know you don't
really mean it."

"Of course I don't. It was spoken in the way of fun. Now, let me know in
what way I can help you and you can count me in. Business is business,
old pal, and I know you will do the square thing."

"There's my hand on it. Now I must be off. Meet me at my apartment
to-morrow forenoon at eleven and we'll go over the details."

"Count on me. I will be there. So long."



CHAPTER XIII

    "Life is mostly froth and bubble;
      Two things stand like stone--
    Kindness in another's trouble
      Courage in your own."

    --THE HILL.


Next forenoon, promptly at eleven o'clock, Handy was at Fogg's house. A
ring at the door-bell was responded to by that gentleman in person. Half
a minute later both were settled down in Fogg's Bohemian quarters, which
consisted of a small reception-room and still smaller bed-chamber. The
reception-room was not luxuriously furnished, but it was by no means
shabbily equipped. A piano stood in one corner, a writing-desk placed
close to the window, and a well-used Morris chair were the most
conspicuous articles of furniture. Photographs in abundance were
scattered all around on the walls, and on a table there were enough old
playbooks to make a respectable showing in a second-hand book store. The
two men had not been seated more than five minutes when the bell at the
hall door was rung, and in an instant Fogg was out of his chair and on
his feet.

"What's the matter?" inquired Handy.

"I guess," replied Fogg, "that's the committee. They promised to be here
at this hour. Excuse me for a moment," and before Handy could say
another word Fogg was half-way down the first flight of stairs. The
noise of the opening and closing of the street door was heard, and then
succeeded a buzz of female voices accompanied by a patter of feet on the
stairs. Before Handy had time to prepare to receive visitors, the door
opened and Fogg, his face lighted up with the broadest kind of a smile,
made his appearance, and ushered in the committee, which consisted of
five blooming matrons who were instrumental in talking up and arranging
for the proposed complimentary benefit. The ladies were not young; in
fact, it was a long time since they had been. But their hearts were
juvenile and they themselves were sympathetic and generously inclined.
Handy was duly introduced, and then the female philanthropists and
lovers of art commenced the business which brought them there, somewhat
after this fashion:

"What a unique little snuggery you have here, Mr. Fogg," began one.

"It is so artistic, don't you know, that it is too awfully sweet for
anything," replied another.

"Ah! there's one of the best photos I have ever seen of the divine
Sarah. Where did you get it, Mr. Fogg?" added a third. "That one of
Maude Adams is fair, and that of Mrs. Fiske there in the character of--I
forget the name--does not do her justice."

This medley of inconsequential conversation and chatter continued for
fully half an hour without one word being spoken on the all-important
subject they had presumably been brought together to arrange. They
touched on everything theatrical, according to their lights, but that in
which their friend was most interested. At length Fogg, in sheer
desperation, broke the ice, and in a somewhat hesitating manner
explained the way in which he had induced his friend, Mr. Handy, to be
present at the conference and give them the benefit of his vast
managerial experience and acknowledged histrionic ability in arranging
the programme of the proposed complimentary testimonial. Moreover, Mr.
Handy had postponed an important engagement in order that he might have
the honor of managing the stage at the rehearsals as well as on the
evening of the performance.

The ladies were in ecstasies.

"Oh, how charmingly delightful!" ejaculated the most rubicund of the
committee. "And so you have finally determined, Mr. Fogg, on 'The Lady
of Lyons' for the attraction."

"Yes, ladies, I have. A determination with which I feel satisfied you
all will concede. Revivals of well-known successful plays are rapidly
coming into fashion, and it is well to keep up with the progress of the
times. I might mention a number of old plays managers have in
contemplation but as Shakespeare says--I think it was the sweet Bard of
Avon that so expressed himself--'Sufficient for the day is the evil
thereof.' That is why I have selected Bulwer's great romantic and poetic
masterpiece--'The Lady of Lyons.' Besides, ladies, bear in mind it will
afford Miss Daisy Daffodil a magnificent opportunity to appear as
_Pauline_, a character, ladies, which has claimed the histrionic talents
of many of the bright luminaries of the stage from the days of the
glorious Peg Woffington to those of Leslie Carter."

"How well, how touchingly, Mr. Fogg speaks, and what a fund of valuable
and truthful information he has entertained us with," said Mrs.
Doolittle, the chairman of the committee. "A better selection than 'The
Lady of Lyons' could not have been made, and what a splendid opportunity
it will be for dear Daisy to show off that light blue watered silk of
hers. It is so suitable to her complexion."

"Yes, dear," responded the lady sitting near her, "but will it light up
well? I am given to understand that the electric light is most trying on
blue. Now, don't you think that----"

"No, I do not, my dear. Pardon me, but I know what you were about to
say. You were about to remark that----"

"Ladies," said Mr. Fogg, rising to the occasion and in a polite manner,
"will you kindly excuse me when I venture to suggest that the matter of
toilet is a thing you can arrange between yourselves and the fair young
star, let us proudly hope, that is to be. But as my friend here, Mr.
Handy, is a very busy man and his time valuable, might I suggest that we
get down to business?"

"Quite right, Mr. Fogg," one of the ladies answered. "Let us amuse
ourselves with business."

"How many will the house hold, Mr. Fogg?" inquired Mrs. Doolittle, in a
rather authoritative manner, thoroughly in keeping with her exalted
position as chairman.

"About eleven hundred," said Fogg.

"Only eleven hundred!" exclaimed the stout lady.

"Altogether too small."

"Certainly it is," continued the weighty one. "The Metropolitan Opera
House should have been secured."

"Ladies," interposed Handy, "excuse me for buttin' in, but business is
business, and that's the humor of it. Let me tell you, in all frankness,
that if you can fill the house, take my word for it, as a man of some
experience, you will have reason to congratulate yourselves on a great
accomplishment. Bear in mind, ladies, that benefits are benefits, and
that the theatre-going public take little or no stock in them. Unless
you can rely on your friends coming up to the scratch--pardon me, I mean
box office--and before the night of the show, mind you--you stand a good
chance of getting it, as the poet touchingly tells us--I don't know what
poet--where the chicken got the axe. Them's my sentiments!"

Handy's review of the situation and his matter-of-fact way of placing it
before the committee caused some agitation. At length Mrs. Doolittle
arose.

"Let me assure you, Mr. Handy, we have hosts of friends, and when they
see our names on the programme they will be sure to come. Don't you
agree with me, ladies?"

"It would be real mean if they didn't," volunteered the heavyweight lady
of the committee. "But I know they will."

"Of course, ladies, you know best," replied Handy, "but my advice is
sell all the pasteboards you can before the show, and don't depend any
on the public the night of the show, when you intend to pull 'The Lady'
off."

Handy's practical admonitions and advice evidently were not appreciated
in the spirit in which they were tendered. The ladies' stay after the
episode was not prolonged. Mrs. Chairman Doolittle remembered she had an
engagement in the shape of a pink tea, and must speed homeward to make a
change of dress. The remainder of the committee considered that as their
cue for departure, not, however, without reassuring both Messrs. Fogg
and Handy that everything would be all right.

Handy and Fogg were once more alone.

"Well," said Fogg, "what do you think of it? A great scheme, eh?"

"What's a great scheme? I pause for a reply!"

"Why, the testimonial benefit, of course!"

"Say, Fogg. Are you right in your head? Is your nut screwed on properly?
Is this a joke? The ladies are all serene and mean well--but darn it,
man! you don't mean to tell me that you believe there's five hundred in
this snap?"

"Why, certainly I do, and more."

"Cents."

"No. Please be serious. Dollars."

"Well, let us get down to cases and figure it out. What'll be your
expenses?"

"Oh, 'way down. There's $75 for the house, dirt cheap--the ladies have a
pull with the landlord; $65 for the orchestra; stage hands, $15;
advertising and printing, $60; flowers, $20; costumes, $11.75; sundries,
$10. How much is all that?"

"Let me figure it up. Have you a pencil? Never mind, I have one. Well,
that, my friend, foots up $256.75."

"Why, that ain't much."

"No. 'Tain't much for a Vanderbilt, but then, the Vans' ancestors put in
some lively hustling in days of yore, and the Vans of the present day
are now taking solid comfort and shooting folly as it flies out of the
result of the old Commodore's hustling on land and water. An' now let me
ask you, have you got the dough to go on with this great scheme of
yours?"

"Well, no, I haven't got the dough, as you call it, but I have the
tickets, and the committee propose to sell them to their numerous
friends. I tell you 'tis a dead-sure thing."

"I notice in your expenses you allow nothing for your company."

"The company have all volunteered. Most of them are amateurs."

"And where does your humble servant come in?"

"Why, I propose to make it all right with you out of my share."

"Ye gods on high Olympus, look down on us in compassion and smile!"
spoke Handy in the most tragic voice of which he was capable of
employing. "Has it come to pass that a verdant experimentalist like you,
Fogg, could intimate to a veteran of my standing that I should take my
chances of remuneration from the proceeds of such a quixotic scheme? Go
to, Fogg! I love thee, but never more be officer of mine." Then laying
aside his serio-comic manner and assuming one that more easily
appertained to him, he continued: "Fogg, old pal, I told you that you
could count on me to help you out, and you can. I will manage the stage,
but skip me on the acting. If the stuff comes in, I know you'll do the
square thing. If the receipts are shy, well and good. You'll get left as
well as I. Get the old girls to sell all the tickets they
can--beforehand. Mind now, beforehand. Depend on nothing from the public
for a benefit, and as for the night sale, it won't amount to a paper of
pins. I've been there before, old man, and I know of what I speak. Let
me tell you--some friends of mine once upon a time got up a benefit for
a widow. They gave a good show, had lots of fun, but----"

"But what?" inquired Fogg anxiously.

"Oh, nothing! Only they landed the poor woman fifty dollars or so in
debt. That's all."

"Holy Moses!" was all the response that Fogg could make; but he
evidently was doing a great deal of thinking. In this state of mind
Handy left him.



CHAPTER XIV

     "Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time."
     --MERCHANT OF VENICE.


Within two weeks the preliminaries for the testimonial were arranged,
the night appointed, and the tickets in circulation. The company, as
intimated, was made up principally of amateurs. As they were to receive
no remuneration for their valuable services they received about five
tickets each free to sell or dispose of as they would among their
friends. Through some unaccountable oversight, they neglected to
specially mark or punch these complimentaries. This oversight led to
serious embarrassment subsequently. The demand for tickets increased as
the date for the performance approached, but none of the applicants
appeared anxious to part with money in return for them.

Strange as it may appear, there is a class of people--and a very large
and numerous class, too, and one not confined to any particular locality
or special grade of society--that will willingly spend double the price
of admission for seats in one way or other for the sake of having the
reputation of being on the free list of a theatre. This statement is not
an exaggerated one. Had Mr. Fogg decided to manage the business details
of his entertainment and suspended the free list, as he should have
done, he might have fared better; but who can tell what the future has
in store for any of us?

It was with considerable difficulty the rent was raised, and that
difficulty being overcome, everything looked bright to the sanguine
Fogg, who was really a most optimistic individual, and rarely lost
heart.

At length the night of the great event arrived. All day Fogg had been as
busy as a bee. He had been to see the costumer, perruquier, leader of
orchestra, etc., and enjoined each of them to be on hand early. Handy,
always prompt and businesslike, was on the stage at seven o'clock. A few
minutes later Fogg himself appeared, almost exhausted with the onerous
duties of outside management, but for all that as cheerful and as
confident as any man of his peculiar temperament could be. One by one
the different members of the company appeared, and by half-past seven
there was the usual commotion and excitement behind the scenes always
attendant on an amateur entertainment. All the members of the committee
were on hand to encourage Mr. Fogg and congratulate him in advance on
the prospects of a grand success. Handy, perceiving that the time for
the rising of the curtain was approaching, crossed over to where Fogg
was engaged in earnest conversation with Mrs. Chairman Doolittle, and
suggested to that gentleman that it was getting near the time to ring in
the orchestra, and that he had better go to his dressing-room and
complete his make-up.

"All right," said Fogg. "Please excuse me, Mrs. Doolittle. Mr. Handy, I
will now leave charge of the stage to you. Ring in the orchestra at
eight o'clock sharp. I'll be ready."

"Correct," replied the stage manager. He then proceeded to take a survey
of the front of the house through the peep-hole in the drop curtain. The
house was filling up nicely, but, as Handy subsequently remarked, the
audience had a peculiar look that did not recommend itself to the
veteran's practiced eye.

"How it is?" inquired someone at Handy's elbow. On his turning about he
found it was his old friend Smith, of the _Gem of the Ocean_.

"Hello, old pal! Well, I don't know how to size it up. There's a fair
crowd, and if it is all money it's a good house. But it doesn't look to
me like a money house. The people in the audience appear to be too well
acquainted. They act as if they came to a picnic."

"Can you blame them?" replied Smith, who had a very low estimate of
amateur actors.

"I guess I'll ring in the spielers. Time's up." Suiting the action to
the word, he pressed the button. A few seconds later and a German
professor with blond hair of a musical cut approached the prompt stand.

"Ees dot Meister Vogue somewheres about here, I don't know?" he
inquired.

"In his dressing-room," curtly answered Handy.

"Ees dot so? Veil, then, I am Professor Funkenstein, und mein men der
money want before dot overture."

"You're in a large-sized hurry, ain't you?" replied the stage manager.
"Can't you hold on until the show is over? What's the matter with you?
Don't you see the house we have?"

"Mein freund, dot's all right. But mein men der money wants. Don't dink
I'm a fool because I'm a German man. I my money wants, too."

"Mr. Handy, why don't you ring in the orchestra?" spoke Fogg, who had
just come from his dressing-room made-up for _Claude Melnotte_. Catching
sight of the leader, he exclaimed: "What's the matter, Professor?"

"The matter is, Meister Vogue, mein men der money wants before they goes
out. Dot's vot's der matter!"

For a moment Fogg gazed at the orchestra leader in surprise, and then
indignantly declared: "This is simply outrageous! What do you take me
for, sir?" Then turning to his stage manager: "Mr. Handy, have you got a
slip of paper, in order that I may give this man an order on the box
office? How much is your bill? Ah, yes, I remember--seventy-five
dollars. Here, take this and go and get your money at the box office,"
as he handed the order to the professor, who instantly made a hasty
retreat through the nearest exit leading into the front of the house,
Fogg disappearing at the same time in the direction of his
dressing-room, to add the finishing touches to his make-up.

By this time it was nearly twenty minutes past eight o'clock, and the
audience had already begun to manifest indications of impatience.

"Handy," whispered Smith, "I'm glad I came. If I am not greatly mistaken
there will be a lively time here to-night. Mark what I'm telling you."

Just then another individual approached the stage manager and inquired
for Mr. Fogg. He introduced himself as Mr. Draper, the costumer, and he
was anxious to see the star of the evening, to "put up," as he expressed
himself, for the costumes before the curtain went up. At this stage of
the proceedings Fogg, now fully dressed for the gardener's son,
appeared. He was immediately buttonholed by the costumer for the amount
of his bill.

"After the performance, when we count up, my dear Mr. Draper," pleaded
Fogg, in his most insinuating way.

"After nothing. Now, now!" emphatically declared Draper. "What do you
take me for? I'm no sardine. You pay now, or by chowder! you can play
'The Lady of Lyons' in your shirt tails! You promised me the stuff in
the afternoon."

The audience by this time had become restless and somewhat
demonstrative. To add to the complications, Professor Funkenstein
reappeared in a most excited frame of mind. He had been to the box
office, but the bill-poster had anticipated him, and had threatened to
clean out the ranch if he didn't get his money. The treasurer, who was
an amateur, settled immediately with the knight of the pastepot to save
the house from destruction. After the box office man had settled with
the bill-poster there was only $5.25 in the drawer. That was at once
secured by the florist in part payment on account of flowers that were
to be presented to _Pauline_. The florist had been given the tip by the
bill-sticker, and he got the balance of the cash on hand by also
threatening to inaugurate the cleaning-out process.

The uproar in the front of the house increased. The stamping of feet,
the beating of canes on the floor, and the catcalls in the gallery made
terrific disturbance.

"You're a sweendler, Meister Vogue!" exclaimed the excited orchestra
leader.

"I'll make it all right with you in the morning, sir," replied Fogg
indignantly, "and I wouldn't have your contemptible Dutch band to play
for me now under any circumstances. Please call the people for the first
act, Mr. Handy. I'll show you. We'll play the piece without your music."

"And you'll play it without costumes, too," interposed Mr. Draper,
"unless I get my money."

"An' begor, yez'll play it wid only sky borders and wings, iv I'm goin'
to get left," yelled the stage carpenter. "Murphy, run off thim flats."

By this time poor Fogg was nearly out of his mind. Surrounded by a
number of excited creditors behind the curtain, and frightened by an
uproarious, turbulent, and noisy audience in front, the unfortunate
fellow recognized in his bewildered condition that he would have to go
before the curtain and dismiss the public. But what explanation could he
offer? His friends were there to witness his humiliation. He wrung his
hands in despair, wished he had never been born, and mentally resolved
never again to accept the tender of a benefit. Handy watched him
intently, and in his heart felt genuine sorrow for the sad predicament
in which the poor fellow had placed himself. Touching Smith on the
shoulder, he walked back on the stage, his friend following him.

"Smith, this is a hard case. It makes me feel sad, and we must manage
somehow or other to get the unfortunate devil out of the hole. This is
the worst ever. Do as I tell you, but be careful and let no one get on
to you. You noticed that small bottle of red ink on the prompt stand.
Get it quietly, and let no one see what you are at. Be very careful. We
must devise some way of pulling him through. It's a big risk, but I'll
take it. That's all. Go now and take your cue from me."

Things were growing from bad to worse on the stage, and the commotion
and disorder in front of the curtain were increasing. Handy moved down
among the excited crowd that surrounded Fogg, and got close to him.
Smith, after exchanging a knowing glance with Handy, also edged his way
into the group.

"Great Heavens! Fogg, my dear fellow!" suddenly exclaimed Handy, seizing
him in an alarmed manner, "are you ill? What's the matter?" Then in a
hasty whisper he said: "Act now, d----n you! if you never acted before.
Go off in a fit, drop and leave the rest to me."

"Oh, nothing, nothing!" replied Fogg, with a strange stare. Then looking
wildly about him, he uttered a weird scream and fell in a heap on the
stage. In an instant Handy was on his knees beside him. So was Smith,
and before any one could realize the situation, the bottle of red ink in
his hand had dexterously performed its office over the mouth of the
prostrate actor.

Bending over him, Handy whispered: "Keep still! and act out your fit and
I'll pull you through." Then addressing those about him, he said: "Will
some one of you gentlemen kindly fetch a glass of ice water and a little
brandy? This is a bad case, I'm afraid. A serious affair. Send for a
carriage. He must be removed to his house at once and a doctor called
in. Poor fellow, the strain was too much for him. Ah, and by the way,
will one of the gentlemen be good enough to go out in front of the
curtain and explain to the audience the sad mishap which has befallen
our esteemed friend? Please break it mildly in the announcement. The
chances are it won't prove fatal, but I'm no doctor, so my say don't go
for much. Poor old chap!"

It was not without difficulty that the man who volunteered to quell the
storm in front could get a hearing from the audience. At last he
succeeded, and after he explained the suddenness and severity of the
attack, the storm subsided and the people went quietly out.

On the stage poor Fogg lay stretched out, Handy supporting his head. He
was a sight. His mouth was liberally marked with Smith's home-made
blood, for the carmine had been generously though dexterously employed.
Everyone expressed sympathy for him. Handy, with the assistance of
Smith, succeeded in getting him to his feet and managed to get him to
the stage door in his _Melnotte_ garb. Mrs. Doolittle's carriage was
outside waiting, and he was assisted into it. As Handy was about to
follow, Fogg leaned over and whispered in his ear: "For the Lord sake,
Handy, bring my street clothes from the dressing-room, or I'll never be
able to leave the house." Handy pressed his hand, Smith went after the
clothes, and the three then drove to Fogg's home, and the carriage
returned to the theatre for the lady chairman.

"Well," said Handy, when within the safety of the star's quarters, "I've
played many parts in my varied career, but this one is the limit. It
beats the deck. Fogg, you will have to keep the house for a week, at
least; then go and rusticate for another week, but above all things, for
heaven's sake don't recover too hastily!"

"Oh, bless my soul!" remarked Fogg, as he surveyed himself in the
mirror, "you have ruined Draper's _Melnotte_ blouse. What the blazes did
you inundate me with that confounded red stuff for?"

Handy looked at him seriously for a minute, and then replied: "There's
gratitude for you. Ah! well, it's the way of the world all over. Help a
man to get out of a scrape, and do you think he will appreciate your
meritorious act? Not even a little bit, and the chances are he will
begin to find fault with your manner of saving him. Darn it, man! that
fiddler, costumer, and stage carpenter would never have swallowed an
ordinary, common garden, every-day fit, but when they saw the gore, the
blood-red gore, they caved-in. It was a demonstration in red, and it did
the work. And now, then, when you are going to have your next
testimonial you can get someone else to manage your fits. Come, Smith.
Good-night, Fogg!"



CHAPTER XV

    "Come what, come may,
    Time and the hour runs through the roughest day."

    --MACBETH.


Never be it said that fate itself could awe the soul of Fogg. Next day,
when Handy called on him, he found his irrepressible friend preparing to
saunter forth. That he failed to appreciate the humiliation of the
previous evening there was not the slightest reason to believe. His
restless spirit, however, was too strong to compel him willingly to
remain indoors. He was nothing, if not active. In fact, he was miserable
unless when employed in some optimistic scheme. No matter how
impracticable it might appear to others, he invariably perceived a means
to circumvent its difficulties. He believed in taking the biggest kind
of chance on the smallest possibility of success. He was a remarkably
unique proposition.

"Hello, hello!" exclaimed Handy. "What's all this about? Up and dressed.
Say, don't you know you're a sick man?" Fogg gazed at his friend more in
surprise than anger, and turned his head aside. "Did you hear what I
said? You don't mean to tell me that you are going out in the streets
to-day?"

"Why not?" replied Fogg.

"After what took place last night?"

"I must, you know!"

"With a busted blood-vessel in your innards and a--a--a----"

"Oh, come now, Handy, this thing has gone far enough. I appreciate all
you did for me in an emergency, but there's no necessity for keeping up
the deception any longer. I tell you I have an important engagement----"

"Hold! Avast heaving and take a hitch," interrupted the veteran. "Give
me no more of that important engagement business in mine. I have some
say in this matter, I have."

"You have--and how, pray?"

"Well, I'll give it you, and straight, too."

"Go on, then."

"Well, you were to have taken a benefit last night, weren't you?"

"I'm listening."

"An' you didn't, did you?"

"Well, no--not exactly a--benefit," replied Fogg slowly, with a sickly
smile.

"And why didn't you?"

"Well, you are aware of the reason as well as I," Fogg answered,
slightly irritated; "because I didn't have the necessary funds to carry
out my plans, therefore----"

"Rubbish and stuff!" retorted Handy contemptuously. "You always get
things mixed."

"What do you mean?" inquired the mystified Fogg, looking more perplexed
than ever. "I do not quite understand you!"

"No, I didn't expect you would. Not be able to give a show without
funds! Fiddlesticks! You make me tired. Darn it! Any one could do the
turn with funds, and if you had the funds you wouldn't need a
benefit--unless, indeed, you needed them to take a pleasure trip to
Europe or to buy an automobile. But the man who can pull off a venture
of that kind I regard as a financier; a man to be respected; a man of
mettle--I mean the kind of mettle that's next door to genius, so to
speak. By the way, old man, how do you spell that mettle--mettle or
metal?"

"I would spell it B-R-A-S-S."

For a moment, Handy was completely put out, then extending his hand, he
said: "Fogg, you may not know it, but you're a humorist. That wasn't
half bad, as we say in England. I was never there, but it goes, all the
same."

Fogg smiled, but Handy looked serious. He was in a troubled state of
mind on account of Fogg's expressed determination to leave the house. He
remembered all too vividly that he had been chief engineer of Fogg's
escapade of the preceding night. He had to economize on truth; originate
a fit, burst a blood-vessel, and carry out several minor details to make
the undertaking thoroughly convincing. These, of course, he was willing
to father, and, for that matter, felt a certain pride in their
performance, when he remembered they resulted in relieving the troubles
of a friend. But he was hurt when he came to reflect that the friend for
whom he had undertaken so much had so little regard for the fitness of
things and embarrassments of the situation as to venture forth the
following day. It was too much for his sensibilities.

"The idea, Fogg, of showing yourself in public to-day, or to-morrow, or
even the next day, is simply preposterous. It is out of the question. I
may almost pronounce it like flying in the face of Providence. Remember,
you are still a sick man, and I am sponsor for your illness. Bear in
mind, you were taken out of the theatre as good as a dead one, in the
garb of _Claude Melnotte_."

"Yes; and thanks to that infernal Smith," interrupted Fogg, "the suit is
as good as ruined, with the stuff he spilt over it."

"There you go again. Why, you unthinking ingrate, only for that marked
feature of the episode, you might at this moment be laid up in the
hospital, if the stage hands, fiddlers, costumer, and bill-posters got
in their work. Instead of that, here you are where sympathizing friends
can visit you and hearken to your tale of woe. Don't you see," continued
Handy, "if you are met on the street people will be likely to draw their
own conclusions and regard last night's emergency illness as a fraud?
You know how uncharitable even the best of friends are at odd times.
While if you keep within doors and recover slowly, no such uncharitable
fancy can be conjured into existence. Besides, the time spent in
convalescence may be employed by that fertile brain of yours in devising
some scheme for the future. I never willingly was party to a fraud, but
when a friend gets into a bad box it becomes a human duty on the part of
another friend to help him out. The end in view justifies the means.
Friends don't go to that trouble, as a rule, but they ought to. Then you
must have some consideration for dramatic consistency. Even actors can
not burst blood-vessels with impunity over night and then go
gallivanting about town next day. And again, is all this fine
advertising you are going to get out of last night's realism to be
thrown away and go for nothing? Oh, no! I guess not! My dear Fogg, you
have got to be repaired before you are again seen in public."

Handy's eloquent and forcible argument convinced Fogg that a week
indoors was the proper course for him to pursue, and also be guided
solely by the veteran during his convalescence.

"Now, then, get to bed at once. You cannot tell who may get it into his
head to call upon you. It is more than likely that Draper will be here
after the _Melnotte_ outfit."

"Goodness gracious, I forgot all about that!" exclaimed Fogg.

"I thought so. Never overlook details. If you had traveled over this
broad land of the free and the home of the brave as extensively as I
have, you would recognize their importance. They are, my dear boy, most
important factors of success in the show line, as in every other
business. You can start a show without money if you are careful in the
arrangement of your details beforehand. I might be able to give you some
useful advice on that subject, which would prove serviceable if you ever
contemplate going on the road."

"I did have an idea of that kind," replied Fogg. "I think there's money
in it. Don't you?"

"Well, that depends."

"On what?"

"That I can't precisely explain. I have seen some of the worst so-called
actors that ever trod the boards catch on with the fickle public, while
counting railroad ties was the reward for some of the most talented in
the business. It isn't talent, ability, or merit that always tells in
this world. Don't you know that? To be sure, if you have money to back
any one or all of them up, together with grit enough to hold on until
the tide turns, you may stand a chance. But sometimes, even then one
gets left."

"Pshaw! I've known fellows without any one of these qualifications you
have enumerated succeed--fellows who had neither friends nor capital to
aid them," responded Fogg, as he removed his coat. "How do you account
for that, old man?"

"Easily enough," answered Handy, seemingly not a bit put out. "They must
have had those magnificent endowments which may be tersely summed up in
the simple words 'cheek' and 'push,' qualities sufficiently potent to
transform a mouse-trap into a fortune or a tobacco patent of some kind
into a grand opera house. These are, my boy, the magician's wand. Hurry
up and peel off your vest. Cheek is the capital with which the
impecunious push ahead while modest merit remains in the background
waiting for a chance. There, now, don't stand and stare. Pull off your
shoes. You're too slow. As I was saying, cheek in business generally is
the _avant courier_ of success. Catch on to my French? Say, what's the
matter now--burst a button off your pants? Never mind. You'll have
plenty of time to make repairs during the week. Remember what I tell
you. Cheek backed up by energy will win every time, and don't make any
mistake about it. There, now, lie down and give me a chance to mend you
and help to get your business affairs in some kind of shape that will be
intelligible. By the way, have you such things as a pipe and tobacco on
the premises?"

"Yes, you will find them on the shelf yonder. But see here, Handy. I
don't half like this quarantine business--lying down and playing sick
when I am as well as you are!"

"Then why in the name of Christopher Columbus' cat didn't you think of
that before you went off in that fit last night! What did you do that
for, eh? A joke? The punishment fits the crime, my friend, and you might
as well make up your alleged mind to that fact, and that you'll have to
take such medicine as I prescribe for at least a week to come."

Just then was heard the ring of the hall bell, and shortly after a
servant-like knock at the door of the apartment followed. Handy motioned
his patient to lie down and keep still, and then called, "Come in!" The
door opened and a servant popped in her head and informed the two
friends that down-stairs was a man named Draper, who wanted to see Mr.
Fogg.

"Draper! Draper!" repeated Handy, as if endeavoring to recall the name
to his recollection. "Fogg, dear boy, do you know any one named Draper?"
Then turning to the servant: "Are you certain you got the gentleman's
name correct?"

"He towld me his name was Draper, and sure that's all I know about him."

"Will you be kind enough, like a good girl, to skip down-stairs and ask
the gentleman to send up his card?" said Handy in his most persuasive
manner.

The lady who officiated as menial evidently did not relish another
journey up and down-stairs, but Handy's winning way and manner of
appealing to her had the desired effect. She condescended to oblige, but
with a look, however, that might readily be mistaken for one other than
pleasure over the job, with an accompanying murmur of words that sounded
very much like "people puttin' on airs."

"Why, Handy, you know very well who that is down at the door," said
Fogg, raising himself in bed.

"Know! Well, I should smile! Why, of course I know. But, my boy, I need
a little time to get things straightened out before we receive visitors.
Lie down and keep quiet. I'm running this show. These _Melnotte_ duds
will have to go to the wash. Ten to one that's what Draper has called
for. That fellow has an eye as sharp as a hawk."

"What has that to do with the case?"

"This, if you are anxious to know. Draper would get on to that red ink
stain quicker than a wink. You couldn't fool that gentleman on ink for
blood. Just cast your eagle eye over it." He held the blouse up for
inspection. "Why, it looks more like cranberry sauce on a jamboree than
human gore. I will stow this away in the closet, and now bear in mind it
has gone to the wash."

"Oh, all right!"

"Come in." This in answer to a knock at the door, and Bedelia, for such
was the lady attendant's name, reappeared.

"The man down at the door below sez as how he has no card wid him, but
that yez knows him very well already. He sez he's a customer."

"A what?" yelled Handy.

"A customer," shouted back Bedelia.

"A customer," echoed Handy, and then in his most agreeable manner
continued: "Now, my gentle friend, for I know you are gentle, and
therefore must be a friend, did not the man in the gap below tell you he
was a costumer, and not a customer? Think, for the difference between
the two is of some degree of importance."

"Well, sur, I may not be as well up in the new-fangled ways of spakin'
as some other people are. Begor! with yer cawn'ts an' shawn'ts, an'
chawnces, an' the divil only knows what in the way of pronunciayshon, a
dacint, hard-workin' gerl can't make out half what's said nowadays. You
call the man down-stairs wan thing an' I call him another, but both of
them are the same man. Arrah! what's the matther wid yez, at all, at
all?"

With this withering invective, Bedelia looked as if she could annihilate
Handy.

The veteran in an amusingly polite manner arose and bowed. "All right,
Bedelia, and if it's all the same to you, you may as well waltz the
customer up."

"Well, sur," she answered, with what she possibly considered satiric
dignity, "I'll sind him up, but I would like yez to understhand that
I've plinty to do widout climbing up and down two pair of stairs waitin'
on show-actors," and she then hurried out and bang! went the door.

"Fogg, my boy," said Handy, with a smile, "that handmaiden is a passion
flower. 'Twould be an injustice to the more modest posy to designate her
a daisy."

He was about to indulge in a laugh, when a masculine knock at the door
interrupted. Moving quietly across the room, he opened the door. A nod
of recognition and the costumer entered.

"Will you kindly take a seat, Mr. Draper?" he said in a subdued voice,
as he motioned the visitor to a chair beside the bed.

"It's awfully kind of you, Draper, to call," said Fogg in a feeble tone
of voice, at the same time extending his hand. "This is a bad blow. Who
would have thought this time yesterday that I would now be----"

"Hush!" interrupted Handy gently. "You must keep still and not grow
excited. You know what the doctor said." Then turning to the costumer,
Handy explained Fogg's condition, the possible effect excitement would
be likely to produce, and the evil consequences that might ensue. "He is
not yet quite out of danger, but I guess he'll pull through, provided he
will keep still and obey orders. The doctor says----Oh! by the way, Mr.
Draper, you didn't meet the doctor on your way up, did you?" inquired
Handy meekly, as he placed the invalid's hand back under the coverlet.

"No!" replied Mr. Draper, "I did not. What physician is attending him?"

"Oh! Doctor--ah--Doctor----Some German name. Hold on! That last
prescription will tell us." But somehow or other Handy could not lay his
hand on it.

"Never mind. Don't put yourself to any trouble. It doesn't matter."

"Oh, by the way, Mr. Draper," and Handy bent down toward him and in a
low tone of voice said, "That _Melnotte_ dress our poor friend had on at
the time of the occurrence was so soiled that we had to send it to the
laundry before returning it. It will be all right, though."

"Darn the thing!" replied Draper, somewhat indignantly. "You don't mean
to think that is what I called around for. No, sir." Then rising from
the chair, he turned toward Fogg. "Now, then, old chap, get all right
again. Your friend here will look after you. I merely dropped in to pay
a little friendly visit." He turned to leave the room, at the same time
beckoning to Handy to step outside the door.

The two went out together, and though the time Handy remained away was
brief, Fogg's anxiety magnified it and it made him restless. At length
Handy returned, and with much more subdued demeanor than before he went
out. He appeared grave and thoughtful.

"What's up now?" inquired Fogg, half raising from the bed. "What did
Draper have to say? Is it that which disturbs you?"

Handy remained silent for a time. "Yes. It is not only what he said, but
what he did that knocks me."

"I am really sorry to hear you say so," sympathetically replied Fogg.

"You know when we went outside"--and Handy breathed a heavy sigh and
paused--"Draper placed his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Mr. Handy, you
are a friend of Fogg?' I nodded an assent. 'I don't suppose,' he says,
'he has any too much ready money for an emergency of this kind, so that
when affliction pays an unwelcome visit and sudden sickness crosses the
threshold a few dollars at such a time come not amiss.'"

"Good-hearted fellow, after all."

"'Now,' he continued, 'don't let anything worry the poor devil. Let him
consider the bill for costumes chalked off. Here, put this ten dollars
to the best advantage you can use it for any little necessaries that may
be wanting in the sick-room.'"

"You don't mean it!" cried Fogg excitedly.

"Oh, hang it, that was too much for me!" And Handy began to pace the
floor nervously.

"And what did you do when he offered the money?"

"Do!" replied Handy indignantly. "Do! Why, I declined to take it, of
course. I can do a good many things; but no--not that, not that."

"Right!"

"I told him you were not in need of anything. You had all you wanted.
That was a lie, of course, but then there are times and circumstances
when a lie may counterfeit truth. I insisted I could not accept it. What
do you think he said?"

"Can't imagine."

"'Well!' he replied, 'if he doesn't want for anything, what was the
benefit got up for? Here, take the stuff, and have no more silly
nonsense about it.' He then thrust the money into my vest pocket and
hurried down the stairs."

"Handy, you amaze me!"

"There it is," and he threw the bills on the bed to Fogg, and walked the
room with pain distinctly written over his usually happy face. "The
world is not so cold-hearted after all. Those we least suspect have
hearts to feel for sufferings of others, and what is more, they have a
practical way of expressing their sympathy." Then turning to Fogg, he
added with much feeling: "This incident saddens me!"

"You are right. This money must be returned. I cannot take it," and Fogg
too became thoughtful.

For the first time the evil of the fraud which had been perpetrated
became forcibly evident to both men. One genuine act of kindness had
stripped deceit of its covering more effectively than the logic of a
hundred sermons.

"Perhaps the next experience," said Handy, still in a reflective mood,
"will be the appearance of that tough stage carpenter who threatened to
compel you to describe the beauties of your palace by Lake Como with sky
borders and wings, with a supply of delicacies from his humble home, or
maybe a contribution in cash exceeding the sum you agreed to pay him for
his labor, in order that he might show his kindly disposition to assist
when misfortune overtook you."

Both were visibly affected. The deception they practiced, though it
brought a certain temporary relief from an embarrassing situation, also
carried with it its own punishment. For a time they remained silent.

"Handy," began Fogg, "if the thing had been real and resulted fatally, I
verily believe that old man Funkenstein would have volunteered to
furnish the music for my funeral, and not have charged my friends a red
cent."

"Sure! And what's more," replied Handy, the humorous side appealing to
his fancy, "let me tell you, as a dead one you would have drawn a darn'd
sight bigger house than you ever can as a live actor."

Notwithstanding his troubles, Fogg appreciated the humorous sally of his
associate. He threw himself back on his bed and enjoyed a hearty laugh.
Handy permitted him to enjoy his merriment and then reminded him that
although to the outer world he was on the blink, so far as prosperity
was concerned, the enforced inaction of the sick-room would never bridge
over the difficulties that encompassed him. He reminded Fogg that he was
financially dead broke. It is true he was in the great city, the mecca
toward which all strolling players turn their eyes as well as their toes
when they are in financial straits, but the fact of being in the
metropolis was not sufficient. It was necessary to set about doing
something.

"Let me tell you, Fogg, that thinking without action to back it up cuts
no ice. Never did--never will. You may think until doomsday and
accomplish nothing. I will point a moral without ornamenting a tale, by
relating an experience I once had when I was out West some time ago with
a company and got stranded, and if you will loan me your ear I will a
tale unfold. What say you?"

"Proceed."

"First let me dispose of a quiet pipeful of tobacco to collect my
scattered thoughts and I will unbosom myself."



CHAPTER XVI

     A New Way to Pay Old Debts.


After Handy had complacently smoked a pipeful of Fogg's tobacco he laid
the comforter aside and started in one of those characteristic chapters
of incidents to be found scattered here and there on the pathway of
nearly every player who amounts to anything either at home or abroad.

"You may remember that a few years ago I got together a company with a
view to endeavor to enlighten as well as to instruct the public of the
so-called wild and woolly West."

"Yes."

"Part of the company I picked up here, the remainder I managed to scrape
together in Chicago. Times were not good; actors were easily had, and
were willing to take long chances on the prospects of even getting bread
and butter. Please don't take me too literally. They were well aware of
the fact that if the money came in they would surely get their share.
All who know me are pretty well satisfied on that score. Deal squarely
with the people about you, is my maxim, and they will stand by you when
the pinch comes. I have gone on that principle all through my varied
career and I know the benefit of what I speak."

"Yes; all things considered," replied Fogg, "you have been on the
Square."

"Good! You're improving! Well, as I was saying, I got my company
together and set out. We opened in Denver. Did fairly well; pushed on
still further. Struck bad business, and at the end of a couple of weeks
landed high and dry on Saturday night in a far Western town--No need of
mentioning names."

"As soon as that--two weeks?"

"Just two weeks. Oh, don't affect surprise. I've known companies to go
where the woodbine twineth on the third night out. There is nothing new
in that. Well, the night I have reference to was so bad, that is the
receipts were so slender, that we didn't take in money enough to pay for
the gas, and remember we were under contract to play the following
Monday in a city not more than fifty miles or so away."

"Well, you had all Sunday and most of Monday to get there, and keep your
date. There's nothing in that," remarked Fogg, with a smile.

"Very true; but, my optimistic friend, permit me to inform you that my
company was not solely made up of pedestrians, and, moreover, walking in
midwinter as a rule is not good. So you may readily recognize I was in a
perplexing predicament. After I glanced over the box office statement I
hardly knew where I was at. As I thought the situation over before me
arose the stern reality of a large-sized board bill, for bear in mind I
had guaranteed to pay the traveling and hotel bills of the company.
Hotelkeepers are such matter-of-fact and precise individuals in their
peculiar ways of dealings that it is difficult for those of empty
pockets to get along pleasantly with them."

"Absurdly so," admitted Fogg.

"Pleased to hear you say so, but then, my boy, you never ran a hotel."

"No, but I kept the books of a traveling politician one season!"

"You did?"

"Fact."

"You weren't traveling with a show?"

"Nit, I was attending political conventions."

"Oh, that settles it. That was a dead easy job. The party put up the
dough and the public in the end pays the score. That's another
proposition altogether. But the poor player who--well, no matter. No use
in becoming sentimental or spoony about it. Now, own up, my position was
unpleasantly embarrassing, wasn't it?"

"It was not exhilarating."

"No. There was nothing cheering about it. However, I put on no long
face, though between ourselves I wished some other fellow stood in my
shoes."

"How considerate for the other fellow!"

"Well," continued Handy, "that's neither here nor there, but I made up
my mind to get out of that town bag and baggage and keep my date Monday
night, all the samee."

"I admire your pluck."

"Pluck? Nothing of the kind. Pluck had nothing to do with the case. It
was tact and resource that came to my assistance. Season your admiration
for a moment and I'll give you a wrinkle worth remembering. After a bite
and a snack I went to bed, not to worry, but to sleep. Let me say, by
way of comment, that a few hours' rest is a powerful rejuvenator. You
can do much better work in the morning after a good night's sleep than
if you had passed weary hours tossing and tumbling about in bemoaning
your hard luck and picturing to yourself what might have been if you had
done so and so. All rot. Let the other fellow do the worrying. Remember,
my boy, the past is irreclaimable, the present the life we are
struggling in, and the future what we make it, or rather try to make
it."

"Handy, I had no idea you were such a philosopher!"

"Indeed! Well, experience teaches me to be practical," replied the
veteran, "and I trust I may be able to prove to you the truth of what I
say. As I told you, I retired to my bed to sleep, and sleep I did, as
soundly as if I owned one-half the town and had a mortgage on the other
half. Next morning I got up refreshed and with a good appetite for
breakfast. After the morning's meal I settled myself down to the
enjoyment of a cigar. At that stage of the game I could not afford to be
seen smoking a pipe. Never give your poverty away to the world unless
you can make final disposition of it. Then came the real task--the
crisis."

"The tug of war, eh?"

"Just so. The tug of war, so to speak. I braced the landlord! I invited
him to take a chair beside me and began the siege."

"Commenced operations. Fire away."

"I had already made a study of the man, and had well considered my plan
of attack. I opened by telling him frankly I was in trouble. The week's
business had been bad, receipts next door to nothing, my share slim. To
make a long story short, I confessed I could not settle my bill."

"That must have been an interesting communication for mine host of the
inn. How did he take it?"

"Well, his reception of the information somewhat surprised me. I
anticipated a storm; but no. He was perfectly calm. I waited for a
reply, but he simply remarked, 'Well?' I then enlarged on my ill-luck,
bad business, terrible weather, and wound up with a pathetic story of
our situation. 'Well,' he again exclaimed, 'I will hold the baggage and
stuff until you can settle up.'"

"The old, old story," plaintively exclaimed Fogg.

"I felt that was coming, but I also judged from the manner of that
decision, cold as it was in all the integrity of its meaning, that I had
a practical man to deal with. Take my word for it, Fogg, it is always
better to have business dealings with a man of that type than with one
who, while he loads you up with sympathy to beat the band, doesn't mean
a word of it. To settle there and then for board and get our things out
of quarantine was out of the question; to attempt to play our next stand
without our 'props' and things was equally difficult."

"Of course, but then," said Fogg, "hotelkeepers never take these things
into consideration."

"No, never. 'Mr. Breadland'--that was his name--'I have a proposition to
make,' said I, 'and as you seem to be a practical man, you will, I have
an idea, recognize its practicability. The situation is this: I owe you
money. The amount I am unable to pay just now. You say you propose to
hold on to the baggage belonging to the company as security for the
debt.'

"'You state the case precisely,' said he.

"'Now, then,' I continued, 'the stuff you propose to seize you don't
want, and you only mean to hold the things as security for the payment
of the board bill--an honest debt.' He nodded his head while he
scrutinized me closely. 'Now, what would you say if I could point out a
way to you by which you could still have security for the indebtedness,
I could have the baggage and things, and you get the money owing to
you?'

"'My friend,' said he, 'I don't want to hold your stuff. It's no earthly
use to me. I only want the coin that's due me. If you can show or point
out to me any feasible plan by which that end may be reached, I rather
think you and I may come to terms.'

"'I guess I can. To be sure it may cause you personally some little
inconvenience for a few days, but the scheme will work out all right.'

"'Let me hear it,' says he, looking me squarely in the face.

"It is this: We are billed to play Monday night in Bungtown. The chances
are we will have a big house for the opening. We stay there three
nights. Now, then, my proposition is that you send your clerk along with
the company; I will place him in the box office, where he will have
control of the receipts, and each night after the show is over he can
take for you a percentage of the share coming to me, and continue to do
so at each performance until your bill is all paid. How does it strike
you?' Well, sir, it set that countryman a-thinking and pulling his
whiskers so vigorously that I feared his goatee would give way. I knew
almost to a dead certainty that I had won. The man, Fogg, who hesitates
gives way in the end, always.

"Breadland reflected a minute, then spoke out: 'I'll do it,' he said.
''Tis about the easiest and safest way of getting hunk.'

"'One thing more, Mr. Breadland,' I added, when I felt satisfied that
luck was running my way.

"'What is it?' he inquired.

"'The hotel bill, as you are aware, is made out to cover all charges up
to and including lunch to-day. After the train which leaves here at
three this afternoon there is none other until to-morrow forenoon, and
as the company has done a deal of traveling and the people are pretty
well tuckered out, a day's rest and a good night's sleep would not be
amiss, and it would enable us to give a rattling good performance
to-morrow night.'

"'I agree with you,' he replied.

"I thought so, but perhaps I didn't make myself as clear as I might.
Your good nature, however, emboldens me to respectfully suggest'--and
this I said in the most tender and convincing manner I could
employ--'that for the sake of art and good fellowship, for this little
extra hospitality you make no addition to the hotel bill. Let it stand
as it is.'"

"What!" exclaimed Fogg, in open-mouthed wonder. "Did he show you the
door?"

"Not a bit of it. I told you he was a plain, practical kind of cuss,
with a tender spot in his heart. He looked at me with a calm, queer, but
not mischievous twinkle in his eye. I stood the gaze with the most
innocent assumption of impudence, waiting for the verdict. It came in a
moment, accompanied with a hearty laugh as he said: 'By jingo, you
deserve to get ahead! You won't fail for want of nerve. It's your long
suit. I'll have to go you,' or words to that effect. 'Come,' he said,
rising from his chair, 'I'll blow you off,' and he led the way to the
bar."

"You don't mean to say he stood treat into the bargain?" asked Fogg, in
surprise.

"Sure; like a prince, he did; and what's more, he made the remainder
of the day as pleasant as if every member of the company was a
first-floorer, paying bridal-party rates.

"That little episode made me very solid with my company. They knew the
actual condition of the exchequer, for obvious reasons, and wondered how
I was able to make things all right without the necessary wherewithal.
That's management, my boy. They never considered for the life of them,
that three-fourths or more of the business of the world is managed and
conducted on credit and promises to pay. I was merely working out the
principle in my own little bit of a way. So the day passed agreeably.
The people knew that everything in the hotel was all right and that I
had the railroad fares snugly stowed away in my inside pocket."



CHAPTER XVII

     "The actors are at hand; and by their show you shall all know that
     you are like to know."
     --MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


"We got into Bungtown early next day. I went at once to the theatre.
There I was happy to learn that the advance sale was good and the
prospects for the evening's performance A1. We opened to a full house,
and the audience appeared to enjoy the entertainment. The following
evening did not pan out quite so well, in consequence of a torchlight
procession through the streets and a big Grand Army parade. The night
after--our farewell performance. Great Scott! A rainstorm thinned the
attendance to the proportions of a fashionable church in the metropolis
during summer, when the popular preacher is absent on vacation abroad,
seeking after the health he never lost. How I felt can be better
imagined than described. I was up against it for fair. As I told you, I
was unable to settle the hotel bill at the last town, and in addition we
had now the handicap of an extra hotel and railroad fare for Breadland's
clerk, who according to agreement was to travel with the show until the
whole account with Breadland was squared up."

"The prospects were not encouraging."

"No; but we managed, somehow or other, to get out of town; though when
everything was fixed, including a few dollars to Breadland on account,
it was a close shave. Fortunately, the railroad fares to our next stand
were light and we had three days there. It was in that sylvan retreat by
the flowing river we nearly met our Waterloo. Speak of bad business. It
was something weird."

"Misfortune and you must have been running a race."

"Yes, with the filly away in the lead. But we managed to play right on.
Sunday morning found me once more _hors de combat_, with another hotel
bill unpaid and an almost empty treasury to meet it. I nearly gave up in
despair. Remembering, however, that despair never yet pulled a man out
of a hole, in sheer desperation I resolved once more to fall back on the
expedient that carried us over the sea of troubles that beset us before
we reached Bungtown."

"Great Heavens! you don't mean to say you proposed to carry another
hotel clerk on your staff?" queried Fogg.

"I had to do something. Necessity is the prompter of ingenuity, and the
suggestion came from that source. There is no use in going further into
detail. I convinced the landlord and secured another secretary of the
treasury to look after the income, and we got out of town next morning
as happy as clams at high water. Well, without mincing matters, I must
say we had as rough a road to travel any band of poor strolling
Thespians ever struck."

"Misfortune still in the lead?"

"I should say so. Listen. We ran into the Gulf Stream of a red-hot
political campaign, and I needn't tell you these torchlight processions,
firework displays, and fife and drum corps knock the life out of the
show business. Where we made a few dollars in one place we dropped them
in another. Had it not been for a small reserve fund I had carefully
treasured up for extra hazardous emergencies and my peculiar talent and
diplomacy in dealing with hotel men, I verily believe it would have
taken us all the winter to have reached a hospitable haven of relief,
for the walking was wretched and Western railroad ties too far apart for
decent pedestrianism."

"By Jove!" smiled Fogg, "you must have had an anxious time from the word
go."

"Oh, that goes without saying. I managed to pull through and reached
good warm-hearted Chicago with nine hotel clerks on my staff, all acting
as treasurers, assistant treasurers, auditors, ticket-sellers,
bookkeepers and financial agents, each one wondering why the box office
department was receiving accessions to its ranks in the face of such bad
business."

"An' did they never tumble to the little joker?"

"Well, I candidly admit it required the exercise of considerable tact to
keep them in complete ignorance of the true situation."

"Of that I have not the slightest doubt."

Handy was silent a moment.

"Fogg, did you ever worry over a promoter's prospectus of a proposed
financial scheme prepared for the edification of the public with the
laudable intention of separating people from their money?"

"Some," answered Fogg, slightly mystified at the change Handy had given
to the conversation.

"That being the case, you can call to mind how eloquently the promoter
labors to convince prospective investors how they can get in on the
ground floor and lay the foundation of a fortune to be made out of a
hole in the ground?"

"I've heard of such things."

"Do you know how it was done?"

"Search me."

"Well, I, too, can do a little in that line myself. I did some of the
most expert word painting to my assistant financial agents or their
representatives and held them together and in good fellowship until I
reached my harbor."

"If the question is not an indelicate one," said Fogg hesitatingly,
"might I inquire if you ever paid up?"

"Every dollar," quickly responded Handy. "When we reached Chicago we
struck smooth water and entered upon a prosperous sea for four weeks.
Money fairly poured into our coffers. One by one I sent each hotel clerk
back to his employer, with a check for the money I owed him in his
pocket and a receipted bill in mine. I squared up with every one I was
indebted to. You know when we make money we make it fast."

"And part with it as readily," added his friend.

"That has nothing to do with the case, my boy. Now, let me ask you if
you think I told you this moving tale of ups and downs for the mere fun
of its recital, do you?"

"Well, partly fun, kill time, and partly to a--a--a----"

"Yes, go on. Partly to a--a--a----what? Why don't you finish the
sentence?"

"To illustrate the principle of a novel way to pay old debts, eh?"

"Right you are," replied Handy emphatically. "And let me add, so far as
you are personally concerned----" For the first time during the
narration he looked thoroughly in earnest.

"I'm listening."

"When you ever get in a bad box or are up against it, don't lay down and
brood over the hardship, but set to work with a will to get square with
your troubles as becomes a man."



CHAPTER XVIII

    "Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
    How I wonder what you are."

    --NURSERY RHYMES.


Three weeks after "The Lady of Lyons" episode Handy was once more in
harness and equipped for the stage. He had captured what is technically
known as "an angel" and was fairly well provided for another brief
campaign. His friend Smith was engaged to accompany him and to officiate
as general utility man in the broadest sense of the term. Fogg, who had
been instrumental in lassoing the "angel," was engaged to be leading man
of the new organization. An "angel" is one of those peculiar individuals
who have stage aspirations, with money to burn; is ambitious to act, or
try to, then fret a brief season behind the footlights, in nine cases
out of ten fails and is never heard of more. The "angel" is generally a
woman with a "friend." Her stock in trade to embark in an arduous
profession requiring talent, industry, patience, intelligence,
perseverance, and self-reliance consists chiefly in a good wardrobe,
cheek, self-assurance, vanity, and ready cash.

It is a well-known fact that the capital stock of an "angel" melts,
thaws, and resolves itself into disappointment after she has had a short
practical experience on the boards. The exacting demands of the
theatrical calling dims the luster that lured the deluded one recklessly
to enter the seemingly attractive circle, to appear as the make-believe
heroines of romance on the stage. A few weeks--perhaps not so long--at
one of the theatrical factories to be found in nearly all of the large
cities where _Juliets_ are prepared at short notice, _Camilles_
manufactured for immediate use, and actors in every department of the
calling are turned out by some superfluous veteran of the stage at so
much per lesson, generally in advance, fits the aspirant for a debut on
a starring tour. How many enterprises of this character have started
out, with thousands of dollars to back them, too, and returned to the
city with rudely dispelled hopes and empty purses, it is difficult to
estimate. Every season brings forth a fresh crop. The industry has grown
with the times, and the appetite for theatric fame has not in the least
diminished. The number of fallen "angels" scattered throughout the
country would cut a respectable figure in a statistical report.

It is only a few short years ago, in one of the leading theatres of the
country, a playhouse which was subsequently trampled out of existence by
the march of trade, that five _Juliets_ to one _Romeo_ made an afternoon
pitiful by the incongruity of the representation of one of the sweetest
plays of the immortal bard. Every act introduced a fresh _Juliet_, as if
to demonstrate the unfitness of each aspirant to present adequately even
the slightest phase of a character which requires the art of a
consummate artist to interpret properly.

Much has been said and written about the unworthiness of traveling
companies in the country towns. While much of this may be true, even in
the large cities as absurd exhibitions of acting may be witnessed as
anywhere else. No one knew this better than Handy. To give him his due,
he was usually careful in the selection of his companies. He never went
half-way to work about it. When he desired to organize a troupe he
endeavored to gather about him the best from his point of view.

"Indifferent and bumptious actors," said Handy to a friend, "are always
looking for what they call big money. Their seasons, therefore, are
short. They learn nothing from experience. They know it all. Yet they
will hang on the ragged edge of starvation for weeks rather than come
down in what they are pleased to name as their figures. A really good
actor has little difficulty in securing an engagement at a reasonable
salary. I know them, and they can't fool your uncle."

It must be admitted that Handy's experience in this line was somewhat
extensive. To go into the detail of advance work and rehearsals is
unnecessary. They may be left to the reader's imagination. They are,
therefore, passed over in order to get more quickly to the opening night
and the birth and death of a star.

"Camille" was the drama in which the "angel" decided to make her debut.
The aspiring amateur, if a woman, generally makes choice of "La Dame aux
Camellias." Why she does so, if not to bring to her aid a display of
rich and elaborate costumes, it is difficult to say. In making such
selection she unconsciously contrasts the possession of rich silk and
satin frocks, together with valuable jewels, with the poverty of her
histrionic resources.

The little town of Weston was the place selected as the scene of
operations. The advance man, or press agent, had played his part well.
"Camille" met the eye on every fence and blank wall in the place.
Dodgers literally floated in the air and the town was so adorned with
snipes that the uninitiated might reasonably conclude that paper costs
nothing and printers worked for fun. To Handy's indefatigable exertions
this was in a great measure due. Three nights he devoted to the work,
and actually painted Weston red with "Camille."

"If you want to have a thing done well," he exclaimed, "you must do it
yourself or see personally that it is done. There is no use in having
printing unless you get it up where the public can see it. Billposters
are peculiar people. They are in certain respects economical, and they
have their own peculiar ideas of saving. That perhaps is the reason why
you see so few posters stuck up for public edification and so many of
them stowed away somewhere on out-of-the-way shelves in bill-posters'
studios. They are queer fellows, these bill-posters. I've never been
able to understand them. I've been, in various capacities, with many
theatrical companies that were amply supplied with all kinds of printing
to start out with, but when I went about town where we played looking
for it I had to search pretty closely to find where it was pasted up. I
therefore, in this case, determined to pay personal attention to that
part of the business myself." This information or explanation was
imparted to _Camille_ through Fogg, by the way of a preliminary
endorsement of Handy's remarkable energy.

Fogg was enthusiastic in praise of the manager's clever publicity
display.

"I never saw a town so well billed in my life," said he, "and as you
know, Mr. Handy, I have had some experience in such matters. Don't you
agree with me, Miss De la Rue?" The last inquiry was addressed to the
"angel" star, who was standing by his side, apparently as nervous and
fidgety as if she was about to undergo an examination in a law court.

"Yes, indeed; I think the place is awfully well done," she replied,
rather timidly, "but I didn't notice as many of my lithos around as I
expected."

"What!" replied the manager in surprise. "Why, there ain't a saloon or
cigar shop that ain't got them up. I know, for I've been in all of 'em."

Handy spoke the truth. It is a fact that cigar shops and liquor stores
are the principal galleries in which the pictorial printing of
theatrical celebrities and theatrical combinations are placed on
exhibition. There is more money thrown away uselessly in such places, in
the way of expensive printing and lithographs, than managers seem to
realize. Even some of the shrewdest men in the business are not
altogether free from the weakness of adorning these establishments with
high-priced pictorial work. The practice at one time had at least the
merit of novelty, but since it has become a regular thing it has lost
much of its efficacy and ceased to be remunerative. But what is the use
of objecting? Stars would be nothing more than mere rushlights if the
highly colored lithos did not proclaim their prominence in the
theatrical firmament to those who are ever ready to pledge women in song
or story in the flowing bowl. Of course, in the interest of art.

"Do you think, Mr. Handy, that we shall have a good house?" inquired the
"angel," as she stood on the stage before the performance, in a highly
nervous, hesitating manner. "I should dislike to appear before a small
audience; it is so discouraging, you know, to an artist."

"A good house?" echoed the optimistic manager. "We'll turn 'em away, and
you can bank on it," he replied, with an air of confidence that
reassured the bird of paradise and brought a smile to her face.

"I'm so glad to hear you say so! But I'm ashamed to admit it. But to
you, of course, as my manager, I may confide and confess I feel awfully
nervous."

"Happy to hear you tell me so, miss. Remember one thing, that all them
as amounts to anything are taken that way on a first night. For
instance, take Sarah Bernhardt. Well, she's a holy terror on a first
night. There's Francis Wilson--well, it isn't safe to be near him when
he comes off the stage of a first night. Then there's Joe Murphy, the
great Irish comedian; when he plays a part, it is said, he becomes so
nervous that he goes about giving every member of his company a
ten-dollar bill. Sir Henry Irving was another of those so affected that
he wanted to make a speech to the audience after every act, and only for
the restraining influence of Bram Stoker, he would. Charley Wyndham, now
Sir Charles, makes himself believe he is an incarnation of David
Garrick. Nat Goodwin is that nervous of a first night that he wants to
play 'Macbeth' with Maude Adams as _Lady Macbeth_ the next time he
produces a new piece. All the result of nervousness, I assure you. I am
affected that way myself on every first performance I appear in. It is,
strange to say, the greatest evidence we have of the possession of that
gift of what is regarded as genius. That's what's the matter!"

"You really think so? Oh, it is so consoling to hear you say so! I feel
easier in my mind after you telling me and placing me on the same
footing with the great ones of our profession. I'll go and dress now."

The "angel" star hurried off to her dressing-room. Smith, from among the
manifold duties he was called upon to perform, had just returned from
the front of the house, where he had been looking after things, as he
himself put it. He approached Handy and in an enthusiastic manner
informed him he thought the capacity of the house would be tested.

"Oh, that won't surprise me," replied Handy. "Give me 'Camille' every
time for a country audience, providing the billing is all right.
'Camille' is old enough to be young."

"Do you think we're going to give a good show?"

"As to that, I'll speak to you later on. That's another proposition.
Now, then, get a move on you. Hurry up and dress, and above all things,
see that your props are all right."

Smith was property man as well as prompter--two important offices which
in any well-regulated theatrical company would require the services of
two men. In addition to these, he undertook to double a couple of the
minor parts. He was an old hand at the work, and doubling and trebling
did not in the slightest disturb him. He was not always as careful as he
should be in the matter of detail, and in several instances his attempts
at faking did not pan out as he originally planned them.



CHAPTER XIX

     "Experience is a great book, the events of life its chapters."
      --SAINTE-BEUVE.


By eight o'clock the house was well filled. The signboard bearing the
legend, "Standing Room Only" was put out in front to catch a few more.
It was such an audience as would make any manager's heart rejoice. The
curtain rose promptly on the first act. To say the act went off tamely
would be simply admitting the truth. Camille was not only uncertain in
her lines, but she was suffering from a bad attack of stage fright. Were
it not for extraordinary exertions on the part of the principal members
of the company--a confidence acquired of long experience--the star of
the evening would have twinkled out of existence and "Camille" would
have been presented in one act instead of five. The unfortunate "angel"
realized for the first time in her life, possibly, that the calling she
had selected to adopt was not all her fancy had painted it. The
so-called coaching and training she had paid for proved of little or no
practical value. She was _Camille_ only in costume--if in that; the
_Camille_ of the dressmaker--nothing more. The audience, moreover, were
not slow in recognizing this fact also. That day has gone by,
apparently, when tyros may sally forth from the city and win country
audiences with fine dresses, pretty faces, cheek, and inexperience. The
theatre-going public knows the trick. The days of such barn-storming are
passing away.

Mr. Fogg, who was the _Armand_, did not make a profound impression. The
part suited him like an ill-fitted garment, and he felt it. The
realization of that fact took all the vim out of him. If the real truth
was known, he, no doubt, wished himself back in his little second-story
back in the big city, gossiping of what he might, but could not, do if
he had the chance. Handy was cast for the part of the _Count de
Varville_. He was not great in the character, but he could wrestle with
it. Was there a role in the whole range of the English drama he would
decline to take a fall out of if circumstances demanded?

"Say, you'll have to throw more ginger into the part, old fellow," said
Handy, as the hero of the carmine blouse of benefit memory walked across
the stage, looking very disconsolate after the first act. Neither he nor
the star received the slightest applause during their scenes.

"Wait until the fourth act, the great act of the piece," replied Fogg,
"and I'll fetch 'em. You just watch me."

"All ready for the second act," cried out the call-boy. A few seconds
later the curtain went up and the play proceeded. Nothing of particular
moment transpired during the act. The audience sat through it as tamely
as if listening to a funeral sermon. _Camille_ was painfully tame;
_Armand_ as harmless a lover as any respectable parent could desire. The
remainder of the cast, influenced, no doubt, by the shortcomings of the
principals, became listless and merely walked through their parts as
they spoke their lines.

At the close of the act a number of people left the house. They
evidently had had enough and did not care for more. The "angel" also had
had enough of "Camille," and wished the whole thing was over. Fogg also
had had enough of _Armand_, and mentally avowed that never again would
he undertake a stage lover to an "angel" without experience. In passing,
it may be added that an experienced "angel" would not accept Fogg for a
_Claude_ at any price. Handy had enough of both of them, with something
to spare. In desperation he even expressed regret he did not have a hack
at _Armand_ himself and infuse some life into it. If he had there would
have been fun, for Handy's lovers were fearfully and wonderfully made.

The third act passed pretty much as the two preceding acts, only more
so, with fewer people in the house to see it. A number of noticeable
yawns evidenced the frame of mind of those who remained.

The curtain went up on the fourth act--that in which Fogg was going to
do something. He had in the meantime been bracing up. When he made his
entry and spoke, his manner of speech was somewhat thick, but his acting
was more energetic. Fogg never could take anything stimulating without
its going to his head, and as his brain exercised a peculiar influence
over other members of his body, they all contributed their aid to
illustrating his actual condition. He at length appeared to wake up to
the actualities of the situation. So had _Camille_, so had the _Count de
Varville_, and so had the audience--particularly the audience. Fogg
strenuously warmed up. The first genuine manifestation on the part of
the audience occurred when _Armand_, rising from the card-table and
making a stage crossing, caught his foot in a hole in the carpet,
caromed against the card-table, upset it, and measured his length on the
boards. The audience burst into laughter. Audiences really enjoy such
contretemps, cruel as such accidents or mishaps may be to the luckless
player. Fogg arose and, wisely affecting not to notice the storm in
front of the footlights, continued the scene. At length the moment was
reached for him to shower gold on _Camille_, and by such insult endeavor
to provoke a quarrel with _de Varville_. Hastily and clumsily drawing
forth the property purse or bag of coin which Smith had prepared, he
burst the fastening and showered the contents on the unfortunate
_Camille_. Lo and behold! the property coin proved to be medium-sized
brass buttons with long shanks. A far-sighted humorist among the
audience caught sight of them and, with utter disregard of the dramatic
situation and ignoring the consequences of his interference, unloosed
his tongue and in a peculiar treble voice called out:

"Button, button; who has the button?"

The audience caught the ill-timed humor of the situation, _Camille_
nearly collapsed, and the people on the stage with considerable
difficulty restrained themselves from taking part in the prevailing
hilarity. It was some time before the slightest semblance of order could
be restored in front. Eventually, when something like quiet was
restored, the act was played to a finish, in a somewhat fitful and
highly nervous manner.

Behind the curtain there was a very lively condition of things. _Armand_
was furious; _Camille_ was engaged in giving a practical demonstration
of hysterical stunts. She declared she would not go on any more. She was
going to quit right there and then. It required all of Handy's
persuasive eloquence to prevail on her to finish the performance.
_Camille_ seemed to be firm in her resolve.

"'Tis only the dying scene," urged Handy. "It's dead easy, and the merit
of it is that it is the best act of all for you. Only for those
unfortunate buttons everything would have gone off all serene. We were
getting into the spirit of the thing when the mishap broke everything
all up. I'll kill that blithering property man when I lay hands on him."

Fogg had already started on the warpath after Smith, but Smith, having
an intuitive knowledge that a meeting between himself and his leading
man would result in strained relations, and not doubting for an instant
that discretion is the better part of valor, beat a hasty retreat from
the theatre, costumed and made up as he was, not even remaining long
enough to wash the make-up from his face.

It was debatable for several minutes whether the "angel" would finish
_Camille_ or some obliging member of the company would undertake the
job. None of the ladies appeared ambitious to shuffle off the mortal
coil of the _Lady of the Camellias_. Finally, after a successful siege
of coaxing, pleading, imploring, and entreating on the part of Handy,
the "angel" consented. The curtain went up. _Camille_, under the
circumstances, did the best she could in speaking the lines. An
occasional titter from the audience conveyed only too plainly the
information that the button incident was not yet forgotten.
Notwithstanding, poor _Camille_ struggled bravely on. It was uphill
work, but she persevered. At length the fateful moment arrived for
_Armand_ to make his entrance. No sooner did he set his foot on the
stage in view of the audience then again the voice of the serio-comic
humorist in front, in the same weird tone, was, it must have been
drowned in the laughter of the assemblage.

"Ring down the curtain," piteously pleaded _Camille_ in an undertone
from her deathbed.

Handy stood in the wings, ready for any emergency likely to turn up, and
in a very audible prompt whisper replied: "Go on, go on with the scene.
Die as fast as you can. Don't give them any fancy dying frills, but
croak at once and have done with it."

Whether the people in front overheard the manager's imperative prompting
or that the echo of "button" was still ringing in their ears, the death
scene of _Camille_ was presented as it had never been before--with peals
of laughter. _Camille_ made a final effort, and then fell back on the
bed. There was something in the realistic manner of the act that caught
the quick perception of the audience. The people on the stage also were
attracted by it, and they gathered about the fallen star. The curtain
was rung down on the double-quick. The poor girl remained motionless in
the position she had fallen. The effort had proven too much, the strain
too great--she had been completely overcome, had broken down and
collapsed.

Handy and Fogg later in the night were seated together in a little back
room of the hotel. Fogg was crestfallen--Handy thoughtful. Only a slight
exchange of conversation passed between them. At length the silence was
broken.

"Fogg," asked Handy, "do you believe in a hereafter?"

"What a singular question."

"Never mind about its singularity. Do you?"

"Certainly I do."

"In heaven, and all that kind of thing?"

"Yes."

"Then take a friend's advice. Never again undertake the support of an
'angel' until you reach heaven. They have no buttons there."

The humor was wasted on Fogg. He was too humiliated to relish any kind
of a joke. After lingering a short time, he retired. The veteran
remained thoughtful, taking some consolation from his briarwood and a
steaming hot Scotch. For some minutes he continued in what for some
reason or other is known as a brown study. How long he might have
continued in that condition it is not necessary to speculate on. A tap
at the window aroused him from his revery. He glanced in the direction
from whence the sound came. There he beheld the well-known face of his
first lieutenant, Smith. He motioned Handy to come to him. Handy was too
comfortable where he was. He bade Smith come right in. Smith shook his
head and pantomimed Handy to survey his get-up. The latter recognized
the situation, swallowed the contents of his glass, and stepped outside.
The meeting was not at first particularly cordial, but when Handy
comprehended the predicament in which his friend had placed himself he
laughed.

"You're a beaut, you are. It's a mighty lucky thing Fogg didn't catch
you, let me tell you. If he had, it's dollars to doughnuts there would
be a funeral in the Smith family in the near future; and what's more,
you wouldn't have a word as to choice of vehicle in which you went to
the cemetery. But say, why on earth are you masquerading about the
streets in that get-up?"

"Oh, cut all that!" replied Smith, "and tell me how I'm going to get my
street togs. They are in the dressing-room at the theatre, and I can't
go gallivanting through the streets in this rig. Do you want to have me
pinched and locked up, eh?"

"Didn't you come from there in 'em?"

"Sure I came in 'em. I had to. I would have come out without anything, I
was so scared of that lunatic Fogg. But, say, you got through with the
show all right."

"Oh, yes. Oh, yes! We got through with the show all--wrong, but----"

"But what?"

"The season is closed."

"Closed!" repeated Smith anxiously. "You don't mean it?"

"Yes, but I do mean it. The game is up. No more 'Camille.' The 'angel'
has fallen. She has had all the starring she wants, and starts
heavenwards to-morrow on the Pennsylvania limited for the Lord knows
where."

"An' Fogg--whither goest he?"

"He accompanies her as a kind of guardian angel."

"An'--an'--a--the--salaries, what about them?"

"They remain."

"With whom?" asked Smith.

"They are all right. The 'angel' does the decent thing, and puts up for
the entire week."

"An' then----"

"Oh, you want to know too much! Maybe I will try and fill in the dates
myself. I don't exactly know yet, but for mercy sake, come in with me
and run up to my room, wash the grease paint and make-up off your mug,
and I will let you have my ulster to cover you while you go back to the
theatre and get your clothes."

On his return, Smith rejoined his manager and they spent the night
together. Next morning Handy was up early, and after a conference with
Miss De la Rue and Mr. Fogg he called on the landlord and settled the
hotel bill. He then accompanied the "angel" and Fogg to the station and
saw them both safely on the train. The lady resolved to abandon all
histrionic ambition, and never after sought the fickle fame of the
footlights, and Fogg ever since shows an affected contempt for anyone
who sees anything to laugh at over the button episode of his
extraordinary one-night season with the "angel" _Camille_.



CHAPTER XX

    I am not an imposter that proclaim
    Myself against the level of my aim.

    --ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.


After Handy returned to the hotel, having parted with his "angel" and
his star at the station, the first man he met was his landlord, a
somewhat smart and shrewd, speculative individual, who was not adverse
at odd times to trying to turn an honest penny by occasional incursions
into the alluring and fascinating domain of speculation. He had a
weakness for the theatre, the race-track, the stock market, the trotting
circuit, etc. He was willing, when the opportunity presented itself, to
put a trifle into any of these hazards by way of a flyer, as he termed
it, provided he thought he saw a chance to make a little something on
the side. He had already made a small stake on stocks, secured a fair
return from an investment in oil, and came out about even on the
race-track. Up to this time, however, he had never indulged in the
luxury of a theatrical venture, notwithstanding the hankering he had at
times to dabble in that direction. As soon as he saw Handy he called him
aside and began a little preliminary skirmishing, and in a roundabout
way started in to lay bare the strenuous thoughts that were agitating
his mind. He opened up the subject by inquiring when the company
proposed to go back.

"On the 2.30 train," answered Handy, not knowing or caring whether there
was a train at that particular hour or not. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, I was just thinking"--and the landlord spoke with measured
care--"I was just thinking, as I said, that perhaps you and I might be
able to arrange some kind of a deal to give a show at Gotown, make a
stake, and whack up on the profits. What do you say?"

"Gotown! Gotown!" replied Handy. "Never heard of it. No, I guess not.
You see, times are pretty brisk now; good people are in demand, and if
we remain away from the city for any length of time some of the company
might lose the opportunity of a steady engagement for the season. No, I
can't take the risk."

Handy was anxious, nevertheless, to make the venture, and he felt
satisfied the company would stick by him.

"There's money in it for the two of us," urged mine host of the inn.
"The outlay will not be much, and the profits will be all ours to split
up. It will be the first show that was ever given in the place!"

"What!" exclaimed the veteran, in surprise.

"It will be the first show ever given in the town."

"You take my breath away. Say, you don't mean to tell me there is one
town in the United States that has escaped the showman?"

"Yes. Gotown has, an' I'll gamble on it," said the landlord.

"Stay! There must be some kind of a rink there?"

"No."

"No rink."

"No."

"A museum, then--moving-pictures snap?"

"No."

"Has there been a circus there recently?"

"Never had a circus within miles of it."

Handy seemed puzzled. He looked at the landlord, and his face bore a
quizzical expression as he said: "Say, mister, what in thunder kind of a
place is this Gotown, anyway--a cemetery?"

The landlord laughed, Handy wondered, and neither spoke for some time.
It perplexed the veteran to reconcile with his mind the fact that there
happened to be hid away, a town in the United States that had not yet
been tapped by the industrious and ubiquitous showman. Reflection,
however, might have convinced him that it was not such an extraordinary
circumstance, after all. In this glorious and growing country cities and
towns spring up in an unprecedentedly brief period through the magic
influence of intelligence and industry. The discovery of some product
that for ages has laid sealed up in the secret laboratories of nature in
a little time has transformed the seeming sterility of a wilderness into
the productiveness of a cultivated garden. The labor of brains and
hands, preceding the employment of energy and capital, breaks the
silence of time and makes way for the music of practical development.
Active brain and toiling hands had won from mother earth rich stores and
transformed the apparent barrenness of the ground convenient to where
Gotown sprang up into the nucleus of a flourishing city. Someone had
struck oil.

"Is it a cemetery? you ask," said the landlord, after he had enjoyed
Handy's amusing inquiry. "A cemetery, eh? Well, all I can say is that
you'll find in Gotown the liveliest lot of ghosts you ever tackled in
your life, if you visit the place. Gotown, a cemetery! Well, I'll be
darned if that ain't the best I've heard in a blue moon!" and again he
started in laughing. "Why, bless your soul, man, no one has had time to
die there yet. Not on your life! Gotown will be Petroleum City before it
gets out of its knickerbockers, or I'm a Dutchman."

Handy opened his eyes in surprise. The actual situation flashed suddenly
on him.

"Struck oil there, eh?"

"Rich."

"Many wells?"

"Let me see! There's the Anna Held, the Billy Brady, the Bob Hilliard,
the Peerless One, the Teddy on the Spot, the----"

"Oh, never mind the names. Skip them. Oil wells by any old names smell
just the same. How many of them?"

"Ten, fifteen--maybe double that. Can't exactly tell. They are boring
all the time and striking it rich."

"'Nuff sed. And you tell me they never had a show there?"

"Why, darn it, man! the town was only christened about a year ago."

"Then we'll confirm it and open its gates to the histrionic industry of
the country. I'll have a talk with the company. But we will have to
arrange about some printing."

The gleam that illumined the landlord's face at the mention of printing
was a study. Handy was somewhat mystified, and he was still more
surprised when the landlord, with a knowing look--a look all landlords
seems to hold a patent on--bent over and said: "Leave that to me, and
you'll be satisfied. We'll get the winter's supplies out of this snap.
Come, let's have something." With this hospitable suggestion, both men
made a flank movement in the direction of the café.

"Now, then," began Handy, "did I understand you to say you could fix the
printing?"

"You did."

"How?"

"Well, I will put you wise in that direction. Will you smoke? All right.
Now, then, light up an' we'll take a comfortable seat by the stove."

"Lead on, Macbeth, and--well, you know the rest of it."

Drawing up a couple of well-seasoned chairs, they both settled down for
a practical business talk.

"I have," said the landlord, "in the storeroom a stack of printing. I
came by it in this way. There was a show out here about a year ago. The
company got stranded; could go no further, and, to make a long story
short, when the troupe started to walk home the printing remained
behind. Exhibit No. 1."

"I'm on. Proceed."

"Let me further elucidate. I had a partner who at one time was in the
bill-posting profession--it is a profession now, isn't it?" Handy
smiled. "Well, he had a bit of money--not a great deal, and he invested
in the line of publicity. Well, he was called away suddenly. He didn't
exactly die--but that's of no consequence, and his assets dropped into
my hands for safe-keeping. Among the valuables was a lot of
miscellaneous printing of all kinds, plain and colored--and of all sorts
and sizes--a dandy assortment. Exhibit No. 2."

"Fire away!"

"Furthermore, old Phineas Pressman, the town printer here, owes me a
bill. It isn't much, but little as it is I can't squeeze a red cent of
ready money out of him, and I see no earthly way of getting square with
him only by giving him an order for whatever new printing stuff we may
require, and in that way change the balance of trade in my direction.
Exhibit No. 3. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly."

"But you don't seem to enthuse over the prospects."

"No," answered Handy calmly. "No, I'm no enthuser. I was just turning
over in my mind your proposition. As I have not seen your paper, how it
would suit, I can't imagine what it looks like."

"What in thunder has that got to do with the case? Paper is paper,
printing is printing, and pictures are pictures, ain't they?"

"Quite correct, my friend. But you must bear in mind that they might not
fit any show that the company could do itself credit in."

"Stuff and nonsense! You make me slightly weary," replied the landlord.
"Suppose it don't--what then? If the printing don't suit the play or the
entertainment, what's the matter with the entertainment being made to
fit in and suit the printing? Don't they all do it? What do you think
printers and lithographers butt in and become theatrical managers for?
For the sake and love of art, eh? Rot! You know as well as I do that
this pictorial work you see stuck up all around hardly ever represents
the thing they give on the stage and to see which the theatre-going
public puts up its good coin to enjoy. Why, bless my soul, Mr. Handy,
there's hardly a show on the road to-day that don't lay its managers
liable to arraignment for obtaining money under false pretenses by the
brilliancy of the printing and the stupidity and poverty of the
performance."

"You talk like a reformer!"

"Reformers be hanged! I was about to tell you that some time ago there
was a movement on foot in one or two of the Western States to secure the
passage of a legal measure compelling showmen to actually present on the
stage what their pictorial work on the dead walls and billboards
promised. If the shows now going the rounds were half as good as their
printing, they'd be works of art."

"Say, boss!" remarked Handy admiringly, "you have the real Simon pure
theatrical managerial instinct in you, you have. You haven't always been
in the hotel business?"

"Nix, I had at one time the candy privilege with a circus, and I had to
keep my eyes open, I tell you."

"Shake, old man," as Handy extended his hand. "When you began talking
printing I knew you were on to the racket and understood something about
the theatrical biz. Why, you're one of us. You belong to the profesh."

"Oh, give us a rest with your nonsense! What are you chinning about? I
am just a plain, common, every-day innkeeper."

"Suppose you are. Let it go at that, and let me tell you times are
advancing. We live in a great age--a progressive and changeable age.
There was a time when theatres and theatrical companies were managed or
directed by men who were actors, or had been actors, or by men who had a
love for the business, and had some particular talent or fitness for the
trade; but nowadays all that is changed, and all sorts of chaps have
butted in for the sake of what's in it for them. It is not, let me tell
you, an unusual thing to find the druggist of yesterday, or the
commercial drummer, or newspaper man of the week previous, become the
impresario of an opera troupe or the manager of a playhouse the
following week. This is a most changeable as well as progressive and
strenuous age."

"You speak like a philosopher, Mr. Handy."

"Do they tell the truth?"

"They are credited with doing so."

"Then you can safely bet on my talk."

"Now, then--what about Gotown?"

"I'm with you. We'll tackle Gotown on miscellaneous paper. There's my
hand on it."

That afternoon Handy and the landlord started for the scene of
operations, to look the place over. Before going, Handy had an interview
with the members of the company, unfolded his plans to them, and drew a
flattering picture of the prospects of success. A few of them hesitated
and decided to go home, but enough remained to enable the veteran to
carry out his scheme. To Smith was entrusted the duty of ascertaining
the strong points of the individual members of the troupe and finding in
what particular line their talents would show to the best advantage.

"Try them in song and dance," were Handy's instructions to his
lieutenant, "and all that kind of thing. We will have to fake this show
in red-hot style. We are not going to play to any Metropolitan Opera
House, Dan Frohman, or Dave Belasco audience. Don't forget, old man, we
are going into a mining district where we will have the first go at it.
Quantity not quality must be our motto. Remember, above all things,
Smith, that the corned beef and cabbage of the menu will be more
acceptable for a starter than the roast beef and plum pudding of
dramatic art. Take your cue from the great far West. The young towns out
there have all gone through a similar experience, until now they have
become so fastidious that nothing less than grand opera, with a bunch of
foreign stars, or a presentation of imported plays and play actors can
satisfy their cultivated tastes. Let your show dish be well hashed and
don't, above all things, neglect the histrionic pepper and mustard. The
more highly seasoned it is the more kindly our patrons will take to the
theatrical feast we will be compelled to give them."

"Leave that to me."



CHAPTER XXI

    "I'll view the manners of the town,
    Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings."

    --COMEDY OF ERRORS.


Handy and the landlord spent the late afternoon and a good portion of
the night in Gotown. It was a strange, straggling-looking arrangement of
recently put together frame houses, cranes, derricks, and piles of
lumber. So newly built were the habitations that many of them were
devoid of paint. It was to all intents and purposes an active, stirring,
busy little place--a hive of industry. Handy and his friend made a
casual survey of the locality, paid visits to a number of saloons,--the
town in that respect being well equipped,--and made several
acquaintances. From what they had seen and heard they came to the
conclusion they could "pull off" a fairly good-sized stake as the result
of their venture.

Without going into detail to any great extent, the two men made the
following agreement: Handy engaged to put up his experience and the
services of the company against the landlord's capital. That is, mine
host of the inn was to defray all the expenses of the undertaking,
including cost of transportation, board, and lodging for the company
that was to supply the entertainment. Of whatever came in the landlord
was to take half and Handy the other half. From his share of the
proceeds Handy was to make good to the company.

"It seems to me," remarked Handy, "we stand a purty fair chance to do
something here. But, say, we haven't yet seen the hall or theatre or
ranch we're goin' to show in."

"That's so," replied his companion. "Let's just cut across lots here and
go and see Ed McGowan. This way," and they made a bee-line through a
field.

"Ed McGowan," repeated Handy. "Who is he?"

"Big Ed? Why, he bosses the job of the crack gin-mill of the outfit, and
runs things."

"A good man," says Handy, "to be on the right side of, if he's all
right."

"Is it Ed? You bet! Why, Ed is the Pierpont Morgan of the whole lay-out.
He's nobody now, apparently, but wait 'till he gets his fine work in an'
he'll own the whole shooting-match. Mark what I'm a-tellin' you."

"Is the hall convenient to his laboratory?" quizzically inquired Handy.

"Darned if I know. When I was up here a couple of weeks or so ago Ed
told me he was goin' to put up a hall or something where the boys, as he
called them, could have a dance or a slugging match, or a show,--any old
thing, in fact, that came along in the way of diversion and amusement."

"Say, boss," said Handy, somewhat puzzled, "are you serious or are you
stringin' me?"

"I don't understand."

"We start even, then, for blow me if I understand you."

"Please explain yourself."

"I'll do my plainest!"

"Skip the prelims and get down to facts. I ask you to point out the hall
we're to give the show in, and you treat me to a ghost story about some
fellow named Ed McGowan who thinks about putting up one where the boys
can have a dance, see a show, take part in a slugging match or indulge
in any other eccentricities too superfluous to enumerate. I confess I
have been on many wild-goose chases in my somewhat long and varied
career, but this takes the gingerbread. Now let me ask you frankly, is
there a hall at all, at all, in the place?"

"I don't know."

"Great Cæsar's ghost! What? Don't know? Say, is there an Ed McGowan,
then? Boss, I'm growin' desperate," and the veteran looked as if he was.

"Sure there is," replied the landlord, with a laugh.

"Then for the Lord's sake lead me out of this wilderness of doubt into
his presence."

Not another word was spoken until they crossed the threshold of Ed
McGowan's barroom. It differed little from other places of its class,
save that it had a bigger stove, a greater number of chairs, a more
extensive counter for business purposes, and a more extensive display of
glassware reflected in the mammoth mirror.

"Hello, hello, Weston, old fellow! Glad to see you!" was the salutation
that rang out in a cheery voice after the newcomers had made their
entry. "What in thunder brings you up to these diggin's?"

McGowan had a playful little way of addressing his friends by the name
of the places from which they hailed. He was a good specimen of man, and
could tip the scales at two hundred. Above middle height, he was a big,
broad-shouldered, deep-chested, bow-windowed, good-natured kind of
chap--one who would travel a long distance to do a good turn for a
friend and travel equally far to get square with a foe. At the time of
the entrance of the theatrical projectors, big Ed was vigorously
employed in getting something like a shine or polish on the top of his
bar.

"Just a minute an' I'll be with you," said the big fellow, after the
first greetings were exchanged. "Let me get things a bit shipshape an'
I'll join you," and with that he gave another strenuous sweep of his
muscular arm along the woodwork. "I want to have things looking trim
before the night services begin. What's your weakness now, Wes?" he
added. "A little hot stuff, eh? I thought so. I knew how that
proposition would strike you. I've got something on hand that'll warm
the cockles of your heart. Got it in a week ago. It's the real thing--it
is. And your friend--the same? Good. Patsy, make three nice hot Irishes.
No, not that bottle--you know the one I mean. J.J. Yes! That's it."

By this time McGowan had completed his arduous labor and joined his
comrades in front of the bar.

"Well, old man," he said, slapping Weston in a friendly manner on the
shoulder, "how is the world treating you, anyhow? Ain't you lost a bit
up here in these diggin's?"

"Oh, I have no kick coming," was the reply. "Mr. McGowan, I want you to
shake hands with my friend, Mr. Handy, of New York."

"Glad to know Mr. Handy. You hail from the big city, eh? I'm a New
Yorker myself--left there some time ago. A good many years have rolled
on since then. I suppose I'd hardly know the place now. Set them over
yonder, Patsy, near the stove. Come, boys, sit down. Just as cheap to
sit as stand, and more comfortable. Well, here's my pious regards, and,
as my old friend, Major Cullinan used to say, 'May the Lord take a
liking to us, but not too soon.' New York, eh?" and McGowan's memory
seemed, at the sound of the name, to wander back to old familiar scenes
of days gone by.

"Yes," said Handy; "hail from there, but I travel about a good deal."

"A traveling man--a drummer, eh?"

"Well, I do play a bit on the drum at times," said Handy, with a smile,
"but I'm only a poor devil of an actor, if I'm anything."

"An actor, and a New Yorker. Shake again. Put it there," as he extended
his hand. Then looking at Handy closely for a moment, he turned to
Weston and said: "Say, Wes, I know this man, though he don't seem to
know me."

"Indeed, Mr. McGowan, you have the best of me."

"Sure," responded McGowan. "Well, here's to our noble selves," and the
trio drained their cups. "An' now, Mr. Handy, to prove my words that I
know you. You used to spout in the old Bowery Theatre? Ah, I thought so.
Knew Bill Whalley? Of course you did. Poor Bill--he's dead. A good
actor, but a better fellow. He was his own worst friend. And there was
Eddy. Eddy. Eddy. He was a corker. Yes, he cashed in many years ago.
Then there was Mrs. W. G. Jones. God bless her! Dead. God rest her soul.
She was the salt of the earth. And what has become of J. B. Studley?
Wasn't he a dandy, though, in Indian war plays? You bet! Jim McCloskey,
I think, used to fix them up for him. And will you ever forget G.
L.--Fox, I mean. There never was his equal in funny characters, and as a
pantomimist no one ever took his place. They tell me the old spout shop
is now turned into a Yiddish theatre. Well! well! well! How times are
changed! I suppose the fellows I knew in days gone by are changed
too--those of them that remain, I mean. The ones that are dead I know
are."

"Yes," replied Handy, "you'd find New York a much changed city since
then. It was, I believe, Dutch originally; then for a time the Irish had
a hack at it; but all the nations of the earth having sent in their
contributions of all sorts and sizes and tongues, it's purty hard now to
make out what it is."

"Wonders will never stop ceasing, will they? Well, Wes"--and Big Ed
turned and directed his attention to the landlord--"what did you come up
here for? You came up after something. What's the little game? Want to
buy land?"

"No. I'll tell you. Our friend here, Mr. Handy, at my suggestion, made
this visit with me to see you on a little speculation of our own. Mr.
Handy a week--not quite a week ago--came out to my town with a
theatrical troupe to show for a week. The company played one night, when
the staress grew tired and quit after the first heat and went home to
mother. This brought the season to a premature close."

"Nothing particularly new in that," answered McGowan; "but continue."

"Well, under the circumstances we--Mr. Handy and myself--got our heads
together and came to the conclusion to run up here and have a talk with
you and see if we couldn't make some arrangements to bring the company
up and give a show."

"I see. That's the racket, eh? Where did you propose to give it?"

"In that new hall of yours, of course."

"My new hall, eh?" replied McGowan, in surprise, and laughing. "Why,
Wes, the gol-darned thing ain't built yet, but the men are at work on
it. If it was ready I'd like nothin' better than inauguratin' the place
with a show, for between ourselves I'm a bit stuck on theatre-acting
myself. I'm sorry. The carpenters started in over a week ago and this is
Tuesday."

"And is there no other place?"

"Let me see. No, I don't think so. Kaufman's barn was burned down last
week, so you couldn't storm that now. Siegel's wouldn't be just the
place, and, besides, they have other cattle there now, so that's out of
the question. You might get a loan of the church--no, the church is not
a church. We only call it so for respectability's sake. It is used for
almost any old thing on week days, and on Sunday a dominie from an
adjoining parish tackles sermons once in a while. But then, I hardly
think it would suit. But hold on a minute--when did you expect to come
here?"

"Well, we thought of getting here Saturday night."

"Saturday night!" exclaimed McGowan, in surprise. "Why didn't you say so
at first?"

"What's the matter now?"

"Saturday night! Why, I thought you meant to descend on us to-morrow
night. 'Nuff sed. Say no more. The academy will be ready for you."

"The what?"

"The Gotown Metropolitan Academy of Music will be ready for inauguration
by a company of distinguished actors--all stars, more or less--from the
principal theatres of the metropolis--next Saturday night," replied Big
Ed in a grandiloquent outburst.

"You don't mean it, Ed?" said the Weston landlord, somewhat amazed at
the suggestion.

"Can't be did," said Handy.

"Can't, eh?" remarked McGowan, with a smile of contempt on his cheery
face. "You don't know Gotown, my friend. Come here," he continued, as he
rose from his chair and moved toward the door and motioned his friends
to follow. "It is purty dark outside, but no matter about that. Look out
yonder and tell me what you see?"

"Not much of anything now, but the faint outlines of a bunch of houses,
cranes, derricks, and things, and a lot of lights," replied Handy.

"Right you are in what you say. Now listen to me and hear what I have to
say. Had you stood on this same spot you are now standing on, a year
since, and in broad daylight, the only thing you'd have seen, barrin'
the ground, would be the cattle in the field--and darned few of them, at
that--and a few houses here and there, miles apart. A year ago, my
friend, lacking a few days, Gotown didn't exist. Isn't what I'm tellin'
him true, Myles?" said the speaker, appealing for corroboration of his
statement to one who was evidently a steady patron of the McGowan
establishment, and who was about to enter.

"That's about the size of the truth of it. A year ago, come next
Saturday night, we christened her, all right, all right."

"What's that you said?" asked Handy, suddenly brightening up. "A year
ago, did you say? Christopher Columbus! if we only had a place to show
in we could celebrate the centennial anniversary of Gotown."

His hearers burst into laughter, and Big Ed concluded that the way Handy
took in the situation was worthy of a treat on the house, to which the
newcomer, Myles O'Hara, was specially invited.

"Say, Myles," inquired the boss, as they stood in front of the bar, "how
long will it take to finish the Academy?"

"Inside and outside?"

"Yes. Both. Complete."

"Well, that depinds. As Rafferty has the contract, I should say three
days."

"Three days!" exclaimed Handy and his friend from Weston.

"I'm spakin'!" replied Myles, in a consequential manner. "An' be the
same token, I know what I'm talkin' about. Three days sure, an' mind
yez, Ed, I don't say that bekase I work for Rafferty. I'm not that kind
of a man."

"An' make a good job of it?" asked McGowan.

"Well, he may not give you much gingerbread work in the shape of
decorations, but you'll have a dacint-lookin' house enuff for an academy
of music."

"Ed," interposed the man from Weston, "if you could only get the place
ready, what a Jim Dandy house-warming we'd have, in addition to the
celebration commemorating the birthday of the town! Do you think the job
can be put through on schedule time?"

This made Myles a trifle irritated. "Arrah, what are yez spakin' about?
Look-a here, me frind, I'm givin' ye no ghost story. Didn't Rafferty put
up ould Judge Flaherty's house inside of a week, and moved in the day it
was finished, an' thin have a wake there the next evening," argued
Myles, by the way of a clincher to his argument.

"All right, Myles, I know you know what men can do if it comes to a
pinch," responded Big Ed, somewhat nervously. "But let me ask you, could
a stage be put in the hall for the opening?"

"A stage--do yez main an omnibus?"

"No, I don't mean no omnibus," replied the big fellow, with a humorous
twinkle in his eye.

"A scaffoldin', thin, I persume ye main," continued Myles.

"Oh, darn it, no! I mean a stage--a stage for acting on."

"Oh, I see now. I comprehind. A stage for show actors," replied O'Hara,
as if a sudden light had dawned upon his not particularly brilliant
imagination. "Let me ask yez, what's the matter with a few impty
beer-kegs standing up ag'in' the wall, an' in the middle, with beams
stretched acrost them and fastened on with tin-pinny nails, and afther
that some nice clain boords nailed on the top ov thim? Wouldn't thim be
good enuff for show actin'?"

"Don't say another word, Myles," said McGowan. Then turning to Handy and
his friend: "We'll guarantee to have everything all right on time, so
far as the academy is concerned, and if you fellows do the rest and
provide and arrange the entertainment, we'll make Gotown hum on Saturday
night."

"You mean it, eh?" asked Weston.

"I'm chirpin', I am," replied McGowan.

"Next Saturday night?" inquired Myles.

"Sure."

"It's payday, too."

"So it is," said McGowan cheerily.

"An' yez know what payday means in a new town wid a show on the spot."

"I should say I did."

"Well, as I was about to say," continued Myles, "wid an entertainment on
hand, indepindint of its bein' the anniversary to commimorate the
foundashon of the place, I think Gotown will make a record for herself
on that occasion."

"Myles, you've a great head," laughingly suggested Big Ed, at the same
time slapping the speaker playfully on the shoulder. "Wouldn't you like
to take a hand in the entertainment yourself, with Mr. Handy's consent,
and make an opening address?"

"Ed McGowan, ye're very kind, but spakin' is not my stronghowld; but let
me be afther tellin' yez I kin howld me own wid the best of 'em, no
matter where they're from, in the line of a bit of dancin'," and O'Hara
stepped out on the floor and illustrated his story with a few fancy
steps of an Irish jig which made an instantaneous hit with the crowd.

McGowan laughed outright and applauded; Weston joined him in
appreciative merriment, while Handy merely contented himself with a
smile, as he was mentally absorbed in a study of Myles O'Hara. Handy was
a man of emergencies. He thought quickly and acted promptly. He rarely
missed a point he could turn to advantage. He fancied he saw in Myles
O'Hara an auxiliary that might prove valuable. Handy's company was weak
in terpsichorean talent, and he determined to strengthen it by securing
local talent through the services of the representative from Gotown.

"Mr. O'Hara," said Handy, addressing Myles, "did I understand you to say
that you were something of a dancer?"

"That you did, sir; an' so was my father afore me, God rest his sowl!
Let me tell yez that at sixty-eight years the owld man was as light on
his feet as a two-year-owld."

"Then, Mr. O'Hara, might I take the liberty to suggest that in honor of
the day we are going to celebrate you will give your friends an
exhibition of your skill at our entertainment next Saturday night?"

"Arrah, what the divil do you take me for? Is it a show actor you want
to make out of me, I dunno?"

"Oh, no, indeed, Mr. O'Hara!" replied Handy, in his most complaisant
manner of speech. "I would not undertake that job. But I thought on that
eventful occasion----"

"And," broke in McGowan, "if you do, it will make you solid with the
boys. You know they like you purty well as it is, but when they hear you
are going to take part in the anniversary entertainment you can have
anything you want from them."

"Are yez sayrious, I dunno, at all, at all?" inquired Myles, somewhat
dubiously.

"Am I?" responded McGowan. "Now, Myles, you know I have always had a
great regard for you, and do you think I'd speak as I have done unless I
was in earnest?"

O'Hara reflected a moment, then turning to McGowan, said: "Ed, look-a
here."

"Yes, Myles, what is it?"

"Bethune ourselves, an' on the level, what d'ye think the owld woman
would say?"

"Be tickled to death over it."

"An' the childer--what about thim?"

"They'd be no standin' 'em. Why, man alive, they'd be as proud as
peacocks."

"D'ye think so?"

"Think so, no; I know so, sure!"

"That settles it. Say, Mr. Handy,"--addressing the manager,--"have yez a
good fiddler that can play Irish chunes?"

At this juncture Weston took a hand in the discussion, and, with an
anxious desire to solve the musical problem, suggested: "We'll fix that
all right, all right, as we intend to have the Weston Philharmonic
Handel and Hayden Society--I think that's the name of the union--to
operate as an orchestra, and Herr Heintzleman, the leader, who is a
corking good fiddler, will play the dance music for you."

"Heintzleman!" repeated Myles, in apparent disgust. "No, sur! No
Heintzleman for mine. Not much! What! Have a Pennsylvania Dutchman play
an Irish jig for me? Arrah, what the divil are yez all dreamin' about?"

"Hold on, Myles, hold on! Don't get mad. Keep yer shirt on," interposed
McGowan, as a peacemaker. "Myles, you and Dinny Dempsey, the blind
piper, used to be good friends. Now, suppose we get Dinny. How will he
suit you?"

"Now yez are spakin' something like rayson, Ed McGowan. If Dinny Dimpsey
does the piping work, I'll do the dancin'."

"Is that a go, Myles?"

"There's me hand on it."

"Then Dempsey will be hired specially for you, even if I have to put up
for him myself."

"But he must come on the flure wid me."

"Sure, Myles."

"An' another thing, he must come on sober. I won't shake a leg or do a
step if Dinny has any drink in him beforehand. Yez had betther
understhand that."

"That's a go. I promise you shall have Dempsey, and, what's more, I
guarantee he will not have a sup of anything until after the show; but
after the show is over he can have all he can conveniently put under his
skin."

This brought the preliminary proceedings to an end. By the way of
closing the bargain, all hands, on the invitation of the proprietor,
stepped up to the bar and made another attack on McGowan's best. The
evening was drawing to a close; night had set in, and Handy and Weston,
having finished their business, were anxious to get away. Gotown was a
short distance from the railroad station. After they had lighted their
cigars they were ready to start homeward bound.

"Hold on a minute and I'll walk over with you to the train."

Patsy came from behind the bar and helped the boss on with his coat, and
the three started away.

On their way across lots they talked of many things appertaining to the
forthcoming entertainment.

"By the way, Mr. McGowan," said Handy, "is there any danger about the
hall not being ready for us on Saturday night?"

"Make your mind easy on that score," replied McGowan, with confidence.
"When I get back to the store and give it out that I must have the hall
finished by noon on Saturday, in order to celebrate properly and in
A-No. 1 style the anniversary with a show at night, why, man alive! I'll
have more men to go to work to-morrow morning than would be wanted to
finish two Gotown Metropolitan Academies of Music in the time specified.
Yes, sir; when I tell you a thing like that you can bank on it. You
don't know me yet, Mr. Handy. But see here, I won't promise to furnish
the scenery and other fixin's. Another thing, we don't go much on paint
up here. Ain't got no time to waste over ornamentation yet, but I
suppose we'll have that weakness in due time. So you'll have to fix all
trimmin's yourselves. Yez needn't be too particular. We'll have to make
allowance for that. Give the boys plenty of fun and life and they'll
excuse the pictures and gingerbread. If the acting is good and strong
you need have no fear. It is only when the acting is weak and of an
inferior quality that fine clothes and grand painted scenery is
necessary to cover it up. At least them's my sentiments. You must have
some stuff down in your town, Wes, in the theatre that'll help us out?"

"That'll be all right. I'll attend to that part of the job," replied
Wes.

"Is there any particular style of entertainment you would suggest?"
inquired Handy.

"No," answered Big Ed. "No, so long as it is good, plain, old-fashioned
acting, it will be all right. Only don't attempt to give us any of the
new style, the bread and butter and milk and water kind of thing they
are dealing out in the theatres in the big cities these days. Let me put
you wise. We don't go much on style--we believe in the simple life. But
whatever you act, give it to them good and strong. Well, here we are and
here's your train. Got your tickets? Yes! All right. Skip aboard.
Saturday morning I'll be on the look-out for you. So long! Good-night!
Safe home!"



CHAPTER XXII

     "Is this world and all the life upon it a farce or vaudeville where
     you find no great meanings?"
     --GEORGE ELIOT.


When Handy and his pro tem landlord arrived in Weston they discovered
the ever-faithful Smith at the station awaiting them. He had been on the
look-out for over an hour. As he had nothing in particular to occupy his
mind, the railroad station was as interesting a place as any he could
find in which to loiter. The evening was not particularly agreeable;
Smith, however, did not mind a little thing like that. He could stand
it; besides, he was most anxious to meet his manager immediately and
ascertain what the future promised from actual and personal observation.
He was pleased when the train rolled in and the two advance men
alighted. Few words were exchanged between Smith and his principal, but
few as they were, he was convinced that the visit to Gotown was
satisfactory. The trio reached the hotel in time for a substantial
supper. That disposed of, and when the dishes were cleared away, Handy
began to unburden himself:

"I wish to see the members of the company to-night, Smith, and have a
talk with them. We have secured the opening night in a brand-new house
next Saturday night--the Gotown Metropolitan Academy of Music. Don't
look surprised. It is a fact. The place isn't quite completed yet, and
may not be altogether finished when we open it. However, that cuts no
ice, for I never in my experience found a newly built theatre to be
altogether ready at the time it was announced to open--but the place
opened, just the same."

"Is it really a new house, Handy?" inquired Smith, somewhat in doubt.

"It will be when it is finished."

"Have you seen the builder's designs? What kind of a place is it,
anyhow?"

"Designs be hanged! No. They build without plans in Gotown. The place is
growing so almighty fast they have no time to waste preparing plans or
designs. The builder thinks them out as he works along."

"But there's a hall?" inquired Smith, doubtingly as before.

"I told you," replied Handy, a little vexed, "it isn't there yet, but we
will find it there when we arrive. Don't you want to risk it, Smith?"

"Of course I want to go, but there are some who hesitate."

"Who are they?"

"I'd sooner you would find it out from themselves."

"That's it, eh? Mutineers on board. Well, all I can say is they can fly
the coop at once, and take the next train back." At this point a knock
was heard at the door and three members of the company entered. "Ah,
good-evening, gentlemen!" said Handy blandly. "Be seated."

Then in his own peculiar manner he described his visit to Gotown, the
kind of a place it was, and the prospects of the proposed venture. They
listened attentively to his story. When he informed them that to the
company was given the distinguished privilege of opening the new
establishment, they signified their willingness to take chances. There
was one, however, who showed the white feather. From his manner it was
evident he was the one disturbing element in the otherwise harmonious
organization. He exhibited his ill-concealed contempt of the scheme by
smirks, smiles, and shrugs. He could hardly be considered an actor. His
best attempts at acting were bad--at times they reached the limit. Off
the stage he was a snob by affiliation and a gossiper by inclination. He
drifted into the profession on the tide of his own vanity and continued
in the lower ranks through the merit of his complete unfitness to
advance a rung higher. There are many of his kind in every calling.

"I wish to say one thing right here and now," said Handy, and with
firmness. "I want no unwilling volunteers, and I am not offering
bounties. This Gotown venture promises well. I told you what I could and
would do if things panned out all right, and what I would do, anyhow, no
matter how things went. I think from my standpoint the proposition is a
fair one. You are the best judges from your point. Anyone who don't wish
to go, needn't. That's all."

"Well," replied Smith promptly and cheerfully, "I guess if you can stand
it, we can; at least I speak for myself."

Those present, except the individual indicated, coincided with Smith.

"May I inquire," asked the member of the company indicated, "what manner
of entertainment you propose to present at this a--a--Gotown place, Mr.
Handy?"

"Certainly you may," answered Handy calmly. "It will be one in which
there is no part for you, sir."

"What do you mean?"

"Only this: Gotown or no Gotown, you are not in it. I have been studying
your actions for some time. As an actor, we can dispense with your
services. There is no position in this company for disturbers or
gossipers."

"I think this is the----"

Handy continued, not paying the slightest attention to the speaker's
interruption: "The next train leaves at 10:13 for the city--about an
hour from now. Your ticket will be given you at the station, and you can
leave here. You are no longer a member of this company."

This episode, instead of weakening Handy in the estimation of his
people, tended rather to strengthen him. It proved that he could wield
power when he considered it necessary to do so. Notwithstanding that the
departing one was unpopular with his associates, he had managed through
insinuating manners and slippery speech to create petty dissensions.
After he departed he was voted very much of a bore by those who
remained. Handy, on the contrary, did not even once refer to the
subject. The act he considered from a purely business standpoint. He had
matters on hand of greater moment to engross his attention.

All told, his company numbered seven acting members. He had no advance
man or press agent. He did not need either. Weston he made business
manager--he himself was director in general and actor in particular. So
far everything was all right. What puzzled him most was the class of
entertainment he had to supply. His company was not such as he
considered an adaptable one; it was not such as he had when he made the
descent on Newport. The dwarf was not there; neither was Nibsy--both
valuable people from a strolling player's standpoint. It is true he had
his loyal friend Smith, and Smith could be relied upon for any
emergency. With the ability of the remaining members of his troupe he
was comparatively unacquainted. In no way disheartened, he determined to
do the best he could. A scene from one play and an act from another,
with a liberal sprinkling of songs and dances and monologues sandwiched
in between the so-called dramatic portions, he concluded, would be as
good a bill of fare as he could supply. This, with the assistance of the
Handel and Hayden Philharmonic Orchestra, ought to in all reason satisfy
Gotown and its audience.

"We are not so all-fired badly fixed, after all, Smith, old boy," said
Handy, in his customary optimistic manner, as they sat together
reviewing the situation. "With seven people we can attempt almost any
practical play. We played, you remember, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' with that
number. We also got away with 'Monte Cristo' with seven. Of course it
wasn't as well done as James O'Neill does it, but that's another
question. Let me see! How many did we have when we presented 'Around the
World in Eighty Days'?"

"Fourteen," quickly responded Smith, "but that included a grand ballet."

"Ah, that's so! So it did," said Handy, "but we lost money on that
venture. There's nothing in these big companies. Small, compact, but
strong utility companies win every time. Charley Frohman will tell you
the same thing."

"Seven is none too many for our work, Handy."

"No. It's about the proper figure. With judicious and intelligent
doubling, a good manager might tackle almost anything. Say, Smith, did
you ever have a shy at _Richmond_, in 'Richard III'?"

"Well, I should smile," responded Smith, with a delighted expression on
his face. "_Richmond!_ one of my best roles. Say! How is this," and
immediately he struck a theatrical attitude and began: "Thus far into
the bowels of the land have we marched on without impediment; Gloster,
the----'"

"Hold! Let up right where you are," interrupted Handy. "I know the rest.
Say, Smith, my boy,"--and the manager looked earnestly at the would-be
_Richmond_--"I am going to give you the opportunity of your life."

"How's that?"

"We will present for the first time only the great fifth act of 'Richard
III' out of compliment to the people of Gotown, and you will be the
_Richmond_."

"Oh, come off!" answered Smith. "Why, darn it, man! 'Richard' will be
all Greek to them--the Gotown public don't know anything about
Shakespeare. Maybe never heard tell of him."

"But they will know all about him after we introduce him. But that has
nothing to do with the case. Now let me enlighten you. I am afraid you
don't catch on to the situation. I will explain: Don't you see
_Richmond's_ first speech, 'Thus far into the bowels of the land,' is
typical of the miner. He makes his living by driving into the bowels of
the land, don't he?"

"You bet he does, and good money, too," answered Smith enthusiastically.

"Into the bowels of the land, or earth, as the case may be, have we
marched on without impediment." Handy paused here for a moment to catch
his wandering thoughts in order to explain his text. "You see, Smith,
_Richmond_ marched on without impediment. So does the miner at first,
when he has only to wrestle with the soil, sub-soil, and all that kind
of thing. Then comes Gloster, the bloody and devouring boar, typified
again by the hard and flinty rock the miner frequently encounters. For a
time there's a fierce struggle between _Richard_, as represented by the
rock, and _Richmond_, as personified by the miner. It's about an even
bet as to who wins out. The play all over; don't you see? There's a
purty lively scrimmage between the two. 'Tis nip and tuck for a time. At
length _Richard_ caves in, and _Richmond_ wins out. So with the miner,
the rock resists, then finally yields, and after that the milk and honey
of enterprise in the shape of liquid oil flows forth. Am I clear or
crude, dear boy?"

"Both!" exclaimed Smith, holding up both hands. "Handy, why in the name
of heaven were you not born rich instead of great?"

"Smith," continued Handy, "you will be the miner, I the rock--_Richmond_
and _Richard_."

"Handy, you ought to print a diagram to explain the act. The audience
may not be able to understand it if you don't."

"Map of the seat of war, eh?"

"Sure."

"Smith, did you ever look over a war map in any of the newspapers that
had special correspondents on the spot?"

"Certainly I did."

"And read his description of the scene of action?"

"Yes, of course."

"And scan the scare headlines, telegraphic accounts of the battle, split
up and continued into different parts of the paper?"

"Took in the whole shootin' match!"

"And after reading all this fine descriptive work did you chance to cast
your eagle eye over the editorial columns?"

"Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. Generally I give the editorial
comments a rest."

"Now, then, let me ask you, after studying the war maps, and the
diagrams, and the big heads, and telegraphic dispatches, and our own
specials, etc., etc., and so forth, what conclusion did you come to on
the subject?"

"That there was a big battle fought somewhere in which there were many
killed and wounded, perhaps."

"Now in a few words you tell the whole story, and you tell it well and
without illustrations or diagrams, and without any unnecessary frills by
the way of editorials. So will we give the fight to a finish on Bosworth
Field without any pictorial work. We'll just give it."

"'Tis your idea, then, to give the act simply with the combat without
explanation?"

"Not exactly in the way you put it."

"Say, Handy, an idea strikes me. What do you say to the suggestion of
doing the combat scene with two-ounce gloves. A great scheme, eh? Don't
you think so? 'Twould be modernizing the piece and bring it down to
date."

"Shades of Shakespeare, angels and ministers of graces defend us! Smith,
Smith, my boy, don't talk tommy-rot! Gloves instead of swords! Go to.
Don't you know, my friend, that a glove fight might leave _Richmond_
open to a challenge from some ambitious and undeveloped Gotown pugilist,
and then where would we be--I mean you? Oh, no! But I tell you what
wouldn't be altogether out of place."

"Well, let us hear it."

"We might be able to impress some young limb of the law, in the shape of
a lawyer, into the service, who no doubt might, after a brief study of
Professor John Phinn's vocabulary of Shakespeare, be willing to go on
and tell who _Richard_ and _Richmond_ were in their day, and how
_Richard_ got the stuffin' knocked out of him because he was crooked and
a tyrant and a monopolist. And, moreover, as all lawyers like to show
off in the spouting line, when they get the chance, he might say a good
word or two for the immortal Bard of Avon. Not that Shakespeare wants
it, but merely as an evidence of good faith."

"Bully! The more I see of you, Handy, the more convinced I am of your
remarkable genius."

"Oh, that's all right, Smith. Now, then, let me ask you. Can Daisey De
Vere"--the only woman remaining of the company--"sing and dance?"

"She has ability and she is willing to stand by us."

"Has she the experience?"

"Plenty of it, such as it is. And she's anxious for more if she gets the
show. Besides, Daisey is a good, straight girl, and these are the kind,
I am sorry to say, that have the toughest time in getting ahead, but
when one of them gets there it's all smooth sailing afterwards. Yes,
Daisey can do anything and everything a decent girl can try to do. You
can't faize her. You may put her down for anything to help out. She's
been there before."

"What kind of a voice has she--a singing voice, I mean?"

"That depends."

"Depends on what?"

"Well, you see, if she is going to sing in girls' duds, she's a
contralto; but then, if she has to do her stunt in boys' clothes, she is
a female barytone."

"Oh, she knows a trick or two," said Handy, smiling. "She must have
traveled some."

"You bet. She's a traveler for fair. She will go anywhere, and she's at
home wherever she lands. She has one trunk in Chicago, another in
Cincinnati, a valise in Buffalo, a grip in St. Louis, and other ventures
she has in safe-keeping for her elsewhere. Her parents live in
Chillicothe. She has a brother in Frisco, an aunt in New Orleans, an
Uncle in Boston, an----"

"Hold, for pity sake!" interrupted Handy. "Let up! I don't want to have
a geographical inventory of the girl's parents, relatives, and personal
effects to ascertain what she can do histrionically."

"Well," replied Smith, somewhat nettled, "you can make up your mind she
has wide experience."

"I should say so. With trunks and relatives waiting for her like open
dates all over the country in most of the big cities, I guess Gotown
won't scare her. There is one point, however, I can put you wise on--she
will leave no trunk behind her in Gotown."

"You never can tell in advance, Handy; you were always optimistic. Why
can't she, if she has a fad in that direction?"

"Simply, my friend, because there ain't a hotel in the place, that's
why."

"What!" cried Smith, in amazement, "no liquor stores in Gotown?"

"I didn't say that. I said there were no hotels."

"What's the difference? Don't you know there are no saloons in New York
now? They are all hotels. The law is strict on that score, and if Gotown
is regulated on the same plan and there are no hotels, I'm beginning to
have my doubts. Say, old man, this is no prohibition colony you're
steering us up against, eh?"

Handy looked at Smith in mild surprise and without moving a muscle of
his face; but there was a quiet meaning in his eye that spoke more
forcibly than mere words. At length he broke the silence.

"Smith, I'm afraid you are not well. Get thee to bed. Rest your
altogether too active brain. The Pennsylvania air is a little too much
for you. I can get along without further assistance. Good-night! See me
in the morning."



CHAPTER XXIII

     "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."
     --AS YOU LIKE IT.


Handy and Smith parted for the night, and then the veteran set to work
to concoct one of these very remarkable programmes for which his name
had become more or less famous in different parts of the country. It is
true he was considerably perplexed over the difficulties that confronted
him. Perplexities, difficulties, and Handy were old acquaintances,
however. They had met many a time and oft in the past, and he had
weathered the storm and as a rule came out a winner. It was hardly
possible that his customary good fortune would desert him on this trying
occasion. With the sole exception of Smith, he was absolutely
unacquainted with the theatric abilities of his company or how far he
could rely on them to carry into effect his stage directions. Daisey de
Vere, judging from the elaborate characteristic account Smith had given
of her, rather appealed to him. He felt satisfied she would fill her
place in the bill of the play, come what might. She had to. From the
diagnosis furnished by his lieutenant he thought she would pan out all
right. He knew he wasn't going to offer an entertainment to a houseful
of metropolitan first-nighters, with attendant critics from the
newspapers to display their erudition next morning in cold type and hot
words. He already considered Daisey as a chip of the old block.

It was well into the night when the indefatigable manager got through
with his pen, which at best was a work of labor to him--and hard labor
at that. It is only fair to admit that he had meager theatric resources
to draw upon and be able in any way to whip it into shape to fit the
exigencies of the approaching occasion. He derived considerable
comforting consolation from the reflection that Gotown was virgin soil
upon which he was called upon to operate theatrically. As the result of
pondering with his brain and manipulating with his pen, he succeeded in
evolving a draft of a programme as mixed and varied as might be expected
from the all-star company gathered together at short notice for a
benefit or testimonial for some popular unfortunate player--with several
loopholes for such changes, alterations, additions, subtractions,
multiplications, and divisions as might suggest themselves or be forced
upon him later on. From the coinage of his active brain he succeeded in
bringing forth and committing to paper something like the following as
his programme for the inauguration and opening night of the Gotown
Metropolitan Academy of Music:

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Come One--Come All--Be On Hand

GOTOWN METROPOLITAN ACADEMY OF MUSIC

Proprietor and Owner............ Mr. Ed. McGowan

Mr. McGowan takes pleasure in announcing that he has engaged
the celebrated Actor-Manager, Mr. Sellers Micawber Handy, and his
talented company of performers to appear

Next Saturday Evening

To celebrate the anniversary of the founding of

GOTOWN

By the official inauguration of the
METROPOLITAN ACADEMY OF MUSIC

To make the event worthy of this occasion
this highly talented and distinguished bunch
will be presented under the direction of Mr. Handy

In a Variegated Program

Made up of selections from undeniably good sources, ancient
and modern. In consequence of the length and richness
of the Bill, details will not be given out until the night
of the Show. It may be mentioned, however, that

_Singing and Dancing_

as well as Acting in all the various departments of Tragedy,
Comedy, Burlesque, Grand Opera, etc., etc., will be
introduced in the most approved and up-to-date
style that circumstances will permit

Local Celebrities

Have generously volunteered their valuable services to lend
a hand and do something

    List of Prices
    First half of the house, with seats................... $1.00
    Second half, back to the wall.........................   .50
    Seats in the windows, with steps to get at them.......   .50
    Seats in the balcony, first two rows..................   .75
    General admission, with a chance for a seat...........   .25
    Tickets in advance may be purchased beforehand at

Ed. McGowan's Spiritual Emporium

    Tickets bought of speculators on the outside will be refused
    at the door

    The entertainment will start at 8 o'clock and wind up when
    the audience have all they want

    P. S.--Don't miss this chance, for it will be the only anniversary
    of its kind with which Gotown will be honored in a long time to come.

    _The Weston Handel and Hayden Philharmonic Society will handle the
    Music_

After Handy had finished his herculean labor in concocting this
extraordinary playbill, he leaned back in his chair and read and reread
it over and over again, to assure himself it was all right. Then with
the consciousness that he had done his duty, he lay down to rest for a
few hours to recuperate before he again took up the thread of that busy
life which, though at times it brought him sore trials and tribulations,
never appeared to have robbed him of that measure of contentment and
cheerfulness with his lot which was his chief characteristic in
sustaining him through the temporary storms of adversity which he
encountered.



CHAPTER XXIV

     "There's nothing to be got nowadays unless thou can'st fish for it."
     --PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE.


The following day was a busy one in thought and action. Notwithstanding
the disposition and energy of the Gotown proprietor in getting the
Academy of Music ready, there were many things to be considered apart
from the mere putting up of the structure itself. And these were as
necessary as the house proper. In the first place, there was not a
stitch of canvas prepared for the scenery; the lighting of the house had
to be considered, and the arrangements for the seating had not been
mentioned. These were some of the perplexities that confronted Handy.

The first thing he did to prepare himself for the work before him was to
take a bath. He was a great believer in hygiene, and cold water for
bathing purposes he considered the best of medicines. The bath taken, he
sat down to a good plain and substantial meal, with an appetite to enjoy
it. Then, after carefully loading his briarwood, he summoned his man
Friday for consultation.

"Now, then, Smith, we have some work ahead this trip, I can tell you,
and no mistake; and I hardly know where to begin. Anyhow, call a
rehearsal for one o'clock."

"A what! A rehearsal?" replied Smith, amazed. "A rehearsal--rehearsal of
what, and may I inquire where?"

"That's so," said Handy thoughtfully. "That's so. Never mind putting up
the call, or better still, go and see the members of the company and
tell them to be ready for the call. I'll decide later what I want them
to do."

The next move of the veteran was to call on the manager of the Weston
Theatre to see if he could have the use of the stage for the afternoon.
He found he could not, as the company then playing there wanted it for
the rehearsal of a new play they had in rehearsal. If the next day would
suit, the stage was at his disposal. This was an agreeable surprise to
Handy. It suited him much better, as it gave him a little more time to
think over the bill he should present at Gotown. He hastened to the
hotel and instructed Smith to call the people for rehearsal at the
Weston Theatre at eleven o'clock next forenoon.

This piece of business off his mind, he sought his partner in the Gotown
venture, to ascertain about the Handel and Hayden Philharmonic. Weston
had just returned from a visit to Herr Anton Wagner, the leader and
president of the society.

"I have just parted with the boss of the spielers," said Weston, "and I
am a bit disappointed. I don't think we can get them to do the street
parade stunt, but for the night job they will be all O. K."

"What do you mean by the street parade stunt?" inquired Handy, in some
surprise. "That's a new one on me."

"Well, I thought it would be a great scheme if we could get the Phillies
to get out their wind instruments and play a few tunes through the main
street from the station up to the new Academy the afternoon of the show.
You know I have a couple of dozen army overcoats in the storeroom. The
spielers could wear them. Then when they got to the Academy they could
shed their street armor, hide their wind instruments, and start in on
the string instruments in their glad rags."

Handy smiled, and asked: "How did you succeed?"

"Couldn't work the street racket."

"Why?"

"Because the men had to work at their regular jobs. Wagner is a
shoemaker. He works the trombone in the streets and the bull fiddle
under cover. The man that works the cornet in the outside operates the
fiddle on the inside, and he's a dandy at it. He's a tailor, and a good
one. He made the coat that's on my back; the man that----"

"Hold on. That's enough!" broke in Handy. "I'm just as well pleased you
didn't get them to do that street stunt. But you are sure there will be
no disappointment for the night's performance?"

"Sure. They are all anxious to go. But Herr Wagner wants his name to be
mentioned on the bills as leader and president of the Handel and Hayden
Philharmonic Society."

"All right. He will have a line on the bills."

"He gave me a pointer, too, and asked me to speak to you about it."

"What is it?"

"The man that works the fiddle,--Wagner calls him his first violin,--is
an Irishman. His name is Nick Cullen in the shop, but when he tackles
the fiddle in public he is known as Signor Nicola Collenso. If you give
him a place on the programme you can put him down for a violin solo on
the stage."

"Tell him to meet me to-morrow on the stage of the theatre at twelve."

"Good! Nick will be tickled to death."

"Now, then, old man, we're all right so far as the entertainment is
concerned. That don't bother me a little bit. But the Gotown Academy
sits heavily on my mind, and all on account of minor considerations and
the shortness of time in the way of lighting, tickets, seats for the
audience and scenery. We can't act in the dark, the people who pay for
reserved seats won't care for standing two or three hours, no matter how
good our bill of fare is, and there ought to be something in the way of
scenery, else those who pay their good coin may kick. Do I make myself
quite plain?"

"Very. And have we to supply all these?"

"You bet! Who else is going to do it? This Gotown proposition was yours.
I am willing to do all I can. This is Wednesday. There's no time to
waste."

"So am I willing. But you are bossing the job. Tell me what you want me
to do and I'll do it."

"Then take the next train for Gotown; see McGowan, go with him to the
printers at once and get out the tickets, so many at one dollar, so many
at seventy-five cents, the rest at fifty and on all of these have
reserved seats in big type. You can then have as many as you think we
need for general admission. Have no reserved seats printed on them. I
will give you the copy for the printer before you go. When does the
train start?"

"About half hour from now."

"Find out from McGowan all about the lighting of the place, and what
arrangements he has made about seating the crowd; and be sure you
ascertain if there is any danger of the house not being ready for us.
You know we have no written or regular contract, as all well regulated
companies like ours should have. If any other little thing occurs to me
I'll wire you, and if anything really important takes place up there
that won't hold over until you get back, wire me. Here's the copy for
the tickets. Have them printed at once. Get the different priced tickets
on different colored cards. Red, white, and blue--and green. Now, then,
go, and good speed and good luck."

On the second visit to the theatre Handy was pleased to notice that
everything was arranged for him to have the use of the stage next day.
Though the manager was perfectly agreeable about it, he was noticeably
worried about something, and Handy recognized it at once. Like Gilbert's
policeman, the manager's life at times is not a happy one.

"You seem to be put out about something, Governor?" All managers of
theatres as a rule are governors, through courtesy, and they like to be
so addressed.

"I am. Say, let me ask you a question. Did you ever have a date broken
on you at short notice?"

"Did I?" exclaimed Handy, with a smile. "Disappointments and I are old
acquaintances."

"You can then realize my feelings. The last three days of next week in
the theatre are open, and this is the second troupe that broke with me,
and next Thursday is a holiday. Like a fool, I made no effort to fill
the first part of the week, relying on the holiday night, Friday and
Saturday's two performances to make up the difference. Isn't that
tough?"

"That is tough," answered Handy sympathetically. "That is pretty hard.
Why don't you wire----"

"Oh, don't talk to me about wiring or telegraphing or mailing. I have
been doing that for nearly a week, until I am nearly gone daft. Of
course I could get the regular fake, or barn-stormers or turkey
companies--you know 'em--but none of 'em for me. I want companies I know
something about."

"Quite right. People you can rely on," continued Handy. "You are in a
pretty bad fix, and if I can help you out in any way I'll be only too
happy to do so. To be frank with you, this Gotown venture has been
worrying me more than I care to admit. You know we open the new Academy
of Music there Saturday night, and the reason the proprietor is in such
haste to do so on that date is because Saturday is the anniversary of
the founding of the town."

"I don't see there's anything in that to worry you. You're dead sure to
get the crowd."

"Oh, that's all right! But then I am awfully afraid the scenery won't be
ready. It was ordered only a short time ago. The owner of the theatre
knows nothing about our business and left it until, I am afraid, it's
too late. So now you can see the fix I am in."

"That's too bad, too bad! Where do you play after leaving Gotown?"

"Oh, after Gotown, eh?" and Handy became thoughtful and silent for a
moment, and then slowly and deliberately explained: "Oh, after Gotown we
are going to lay off for a week and add three or four new members to our
company. They are not exactly new, for they were with us before, and are
all good, reliable people and are up in the stage business of 'Down on
the Old Farm,' a rattling good piece."

It might as well be explained now, as later, that up to the time that
the Weston manager made known his troubles and his open dates Handy had
not the slightest thought of "Down on the Old Farm," and did not have a
date after Gotown.

"Say, Mr. Handy, how large is the stage of the new Gotown house?"

"Well," said Handy, after casting his eyes meaningly around the stage,
"I should say that it is about the size of this one. Perhaps a little
deeper." He had, of course, never been inside of the Gotown
establishment--it being yet unbuilt.

"Now, then, I tell you what I'll do. I can help you and you in turn can
assist me. I have no attraction here for Saturday night. You can
therefore make use of what scenery you require, under the circumstances,
without the drop curtain; but I have a first-rate green baize in the
storeroom and I will loan all of it to you. My property room is well
stocked, and you can have the use of the props. Moreover, I'll send my
stage manager up to Gotown to help you--on one condition."

"Name it, Governor."

"That you will fill my dates of three nights of next week with 'Down on
the Old Farm' in this theatre."

Handy was dumbfounded at the proposition. It seemed almost like a
glimpse of heaven. He was almost overpowered, and in a somewhat
hesitating manner replied: "It is very kind of you, Governor, but I
cannot give you an entirely decisive answer just now; but this, I assure
you, you may make your mind easy. I must, if only for courtesy sake,
consult my partner, who is now in Gotown. Besides, I must see the Gotown
manager. I may be magnifying the disappointment about the scenery. The
kindness of your offer and your generosity in putting your scenery at my
disposal appeals to my heart. I think I can give you an assurance that
your date will be filled for the last three nights of next week with
'Down on the Old Farm.'"

"I can rely on your word?"

"Here's my hand. The usual terms, I suppose?"

"I'll go ten per cent better."

"Get out your printing at once for 'The Old Farm,' and make all
necessary arrangements. I'll be off to Gotown at once. I'll run down and
send my man up to get the scenery ready for Gotown to-morrow afternoon."

Handy made hasty steps down to the hotel, consulted with Smith, and
instructed him to go up to the theatre and take a look over the scenery
and props.

"Our end of the work here is all right, Smith, my boy, but I am a bit
nervous about the Gotown lay-out. Not that I doubt Mr. McGowan's
intentions, but I am afraid he has bitten off more than he can chew.
However, there's no need in bidding the devil good-morrow till you're up
foreninst him, is there?" Then slapping Smith heartily on the back he
cried: "And we are all right for next week, too. We play the old
stand-by 'Down on the Old Farm' at the Weston the last three nights.
Come down with me to the station and I'll tell you more. I am off for
Gotown. Will see you to-night, if I can; but if not, I will be with you
the first thing in the morning. There's no time to lose."



CHAPTER XXV

     "Joy danced with Mirth, a gay, fantastic Crowd."
     --COLLINS.


It was a surprise when Handy's cheerful face was seen on the threshold
of McGowan's emporium.

"Well, I'm blest! Look here, Wes, see who's here! In the name of
fortune, what wind blew you in?"

"Oh!" replied Handy, in his usual good-humored way, "I was growin' lazy
workin' so hard, and ran up to see how the Academy is growing."

"Fine as silk. We are putting in overtime on it to-night in the way of
gasfitting. You know, Handy," said McGowan, confidentially, "these
gasfitters, like plumbers, are curious critters and need watching, and
I'm going to have them work night and day until they get through. I
wouldn't, between ourselves, have this anniversary celebration fall
through for any amount of money, but----"

"Ah! I was expecting that."

"That but?"

"But we haven't a stitch of scenery for the darn stage. That's what's
worrying me, and I can't see me way to mend it."

The veteran smiled, and then calmly asked, "Is that all that perplexes
you?"

"And isn't that enough?" exclaimed his friend.

"Well, under ordinary circumstances," replied the veteran, "it would be
more than enough; but let me relieve your anxieties. All the necessary
scenery, properties, including a green baize curtain, latest style, will
reach Gotown Friday night on special car."

Weston opened his eyes and mouth in wonder and exclaimed "What!"

McGowan, on the contrary, became serious and asked, "Handy, say, are you
kiddin' us?"

"I am telling you the truth."

Then he explained to McGowan how, through the kindness and patriotism of
the manager of the Weston Theatre, he was able to do the trick.

McGowan looked at Handy a moment, then caught him in an embrace and let
a yell out of him that could be heard a half mile distant.

"Patsy!" he yelled out, "get a move on you. Call in Hans to help you,
and I'll take a hand in myself. Handy, you're a bird! All present step
up to the bar and drink the health, prosperity, and good luck of Mr.
Handy and his friend, the manager of the Weston Theatre. This is on the
house."

As soon as things quieted down and Handy had a chance to have a chat
with his partner, Weston, he learned that the show promised great
results financially.

Now that the scenery problem was solved, everybody seemed happy. Big Ed
was the happiest of the lot. He shook hands with everyone who came in as
the night grew older, and his description of the special car, and the
green baize curtain, just like any first-class theatre in New York,
Boston or Philadelphia, was glowing and picturesque. He was determined
to show the people of Gotown and the remainder of the county that Gotown
was in it with both feet, and when she started out to do things that she
could do it and make no mistake about it.

Handy and Weston took the late train and reached Weston shortly after
midnight, and retired for a good night's rest.

Next morning as Handy and his host sat together at breakfast, he
explained the arrangement he had entered into with the regular Weston
impresario. "The deal wasn't quite closed. I wanted, as I told him, to
consult you, my partner in the Gotown proposition. I wished to give you
a chance to go snacks with me in this new venture, if agreeable, on
condition that you be as light as possible on the company for board and
lodging while they are not working."

Both of them then set out for the theatre, where they found Smith and
the company. Smith was in consultation with the stage manager of the
house. Between them they had already selected three drop scenes--a
parlor, a drawing-room, and a landscape or wood, two pairs of wings, two
fly borders, and a pair of tormentors, the green baize curtain, and the
stage carpet.

"Say, Wes, how does this strike you?" asked Handy, in a stage whisper.

"Great! but how did you do it?" he replied, in a manner bordering on
amazement.

"Hush! You never can find out how to get out of a hole until you first
get into one."

"Big Ed McGowan will be the most surprised man in Pennsylvania when he
sees all this landed at the doors of the Academy."

"Oh, Mr. Smith! have you had a talk with the people, and how do they
stand?"

"Prepared for anything, and are eager for the fray," answered Smith, in
a breezy off-hand manner.

"Good! Now then sit down at the prompt table there and make notes,"
directed Handy, "of our lay-out. We open with a grand overture by the
Handel and Hayden Philharmonic Society; and as a matter of course, on
account of their patriotic kindness in volunteering for the celebration
of the anniversary of the foundation of Gotown, they will have an encore
and will then play a medley of national American airs, 'Yankee Doodle,'
'Hail, Columbia,' 'Patrick's Day,' 'The Watch on the Rhine,' 'The Star
Spangled Banner,' and 'Dixie.' Then the curtain will go up on 'Box and
Cox.' You'll play _Box_, Diggins will do _Cox_, and Cromwell will play
_Mrs. Bouncer_."

"Hold on, sir," said Smith. "Cromwell can't do _Mrs. Bouncer_--he has a
moustache, you know."

Handy smiled. "Let him shave it off. Don't you remember that in Augustin
Daly's theatre, in the very heyday of its glory, Mr. Daly would not
allow any actor to wear hair on his face? Cromwell is too good an actor
to hesitate to make so slight a sacrifice in the interest of art. Tell
him I said so, Smith."

Smith smiled, and in a stage whisper said: "He heard all you said. Yes,
Mr. Cromwell will shave."

"Then will follow Miss De Vere in one of her coon songs, after the style
of Fay Templeton, May Irwin or----What's that, boy?" addressing a lad
who approached the prompt table.

"There's a man back at the stage door, sir," replied the boy, "with a
fiddle case under his arm, who says you have a date with him."

"Oh, yes! That's all right, my boy. Where is he?" and Handy walked back
with the boy. "Is this Signor Collenso, about whom I have heard so many
pleasant things?"

"Say, Mr. Handy, me name is plain Bill Cullen for every-day work, but
for professional purposes in the music line I discovered that it pays to
put on a bit of style, and that's how I came to ring in the Collenso."

"Quite right, my dear fellow! All artists of more or less great ability,
especially in the musical line, make such alterations. For instance,
Lizzie Norton is twisted into Mme. Nordica; Pat Foley changed into
Signor Foli; and when Ellen Mitchell became great, she dropped the old
name and Italianized it into Melba. Oh, that's all right."

"Yes, sir; I know all that, and there are others. But when you and I are
talking, let us give the Italian cognomen a rest. Now, what do you want
me to do?"

"What can you do?"

"Oh, something of everything--classic and otherwise."

"What can you do in the classics, for example?"

"Selections from Mendelssohn, Paganini, Schumann, Rubinstein----"

"Say, my friend," asked Handy, in some surprise, "do you play such
music?"

"Oh, yes, whenever I get a chance in public; but when alone they are my
favorites. But, then, for encores I give them 'Killarney,' 'Molly Bawn,'
'The Swanee River,' 'Mr. Dooley,' 'Harrigan'--anything that's popular
and what they call up to date."

"All right, Cullen. I'm busy just now. Will you call around to the hotel
to-night and we'll have a chat, and fix things up?"

"Sure. I'll be on hand. About eight o'clock."

Handy then returned to the prompt table.

"Where were we, Smith? Oh, yes! I remember; we were giving Miss De Vere
a dance. Well, after Daisey's dance will come Señor Collenso's violin
solo, selection from Paganini. Then will follow the talented young
Gotown lawyer in a dissertation on Shakespeare, and also inform them
about the mill between _Richard_ and _Richmond_. Smith, have you all
that down?"

"Every word of it."

"And then will come the fight between Richard and _Richmond_ with
broadswords, in which you will have the opportunity of your life. The
curtain will drop here, and then there will follow the intermission."

"Are you going to have much of an intermission?" inquired Smith.

"Oh, ten or fifteen minutes or so. You know we must give Big Ed, the
proprietor of the emporium, as well as of the Academy, a chance to do a
little bit of business. Besides, it's awfully dry work listening to good
music, fine songs, and strong acting without something to help you to
thoroughly enjoy them."

"That's true. That's a great first part, Mr. Handy. Music, song, vocal
and instrumental; dance, oratory, and tragedy. Great, great!"

"Miss De Vere will start in after the intermission with that beautiful
and thrilling song, 'Down in a Coal Mine.' Some member of the company,
whoever knows it, can recite 'Shamus O'Brien,' or some other equally
popular recitation."

"These two numbers will be sure to catch 'em," remarked Smith, with a
broad grin of appreciation.

"Then will follow a dance, 'The Fox Hunter's Jig,' by Mr. Myles O'Hara,
a prominent citizen of Gotown, who has in the most generous and
patriotic manner volunteered to add to the festivities for this
occasion. It will be his first appearance on the stage. The music for
this event will be supplied by the celebrated Irish piper, Mr. Dinny
Dempsey, who will also be seen on the stage in native Irish costume and
full regalia. Then, Smith, you can trot out one of your well-known comic
monologues that you are so famous in. After that we'll wind up with 'The
Strollers' Medley,' in which all the company will take part, and Daisey
De Vere can do a favorite stunt of dancing now and then to fill up the
gap. Now, then, go to work. Get the people busy and have them in good
working order. Call a full dress rehearsal at one o'clock on the stage
at the Gotown Academy of Music, so that we'll all know what we've got to
do at night. I think that's all just now."

There wasn't an idle hour for the remainder of the day and the greater
part of the next by the company, under Smith's guidance, preparing for
the anniversary event in Gotown. There were rehearsals, and rehearsals,
and more rehearsals.

Friday evening, between eight and nine o'clock, Handy, his partner, and
the stage manager of the Weston Theatre, arrived in Gotown with the
borrowed scenery and props. Ed McGowan and assistants were at the
station with three wagons to convey the stage accoutrements to the newly
built temple of Thespis that was to open its doors to the public the
following night. It was an all night job of preparation, but there were
many and willing hands to do what they were bid, under the direction of
Handy and his pro tem stage manager.

A student of the drama, had he been present, might have been carried
back in thought a century or over, when many of the great players of
days that are no more had to go through somewhat similar experiences.
The Booths, the Cookes, the Keans, the Kembles, the Forrests, the
Jeffersons, the Wallacks, and other great actors whose names are written
on the imperishable tablets of fame have traveled over just such roads.
Smith and the company, after a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast,
reached Gotown early in the forenoon.

At fifteen minutes past seven o'clock the doors of the Metropolitan
Academy of Music were thrown open, and at eight o'clock there was not an
unoccupied space in the house. The Handel and Hayden Philharmonic
musicians took their places in front of the stage and began the
overture. It consisted of a medley of familiar airs. The audience was so
well pleased with what they heard that the musicians had to let them
have it again. Then the curtain went up and "Box and Cox," a rather
original version of the old farce, opened the show. It created some
laughter, but the people came there to be pleased, and they were. "Old
Black Joe" was sung, with an invisible chorus, and brought down the
house. Daisey De Vere's coon song, with original business and grotesque
imitations, made another big hit. Signor Collenso's classic--and it was
well rendered--was tamely received, but when he treated his auditors to
"Molly Bawn" and the "Boys of Kilkenny" they went into ecstasies. This
was followed by the appearance of the rising young lawyer, who paid a
glowing tribute to Shakespeare, and then introduced _King Richard_ and
_Richmond_ to fight it out to a finish on Bosworth field for England,
home, and booty. It was certainly a most elaborately grotesque combat.
The people in front liked it apparently, and goaded on the combatants to
redoubled efforts, and when the tyrant king was knocked out three cheers
and a tiger were given with a vengeance, and the curtain fell on the
first part amid uproarious applause.

There was intermission of fifteen minutes. On the reappearance of Daisey
De Vere, when the curtain went up, she was accorded a greeting that
showed she had won her way to the hearts of her audience. With her
interpretation of the onetime popular song, "Down in a Coal Mine," she
completely captured those present with her vocalization. She had to
repeat the ballad that good old Tony Pastor made popular in days of
yore, when she had warmed up to her work, her "I'll tell you what I'll
do. If you'll all join me in the chorus, I'll give you two verses when I
get my second wind," set them all laughing, and clinched the hold she
had already secured. The recitation of "Shamus O'Brien" seemed tame by
comparison. But when Myles O'Hara gave them a vigorous and athletic
exhibition of the "Fox Hunter's Jig," as Myles' father danced it in the
Green Isle long before the O'Haras ever dreamt of emigrating to the land
of the West, the applause was once more renewed. Dinny Dempsey supplied
the music on the Irish pipes, which was in itself a novelty so appealing
that he had to repeat, and Myles to dance, until both were fairly used
up. It was eleven o'clock and after when Handy and his company started
in for the wind-up, with their familiar old stand-by, "The Strollers'
Medley." What it was all about no one present could tell. Only there was
plenty of fun and merriment in it. There was a song, and a chorus now
and then, a bit of a dance occasionally, and Daisey De Vere did a few
grotesque steps and Handy entertained them with a comic speech. All were
in the best of humor and heartily enjoyed what they saw and heard. Joy
danced with fun, and the crowd was indeed a merry, happy, and fantastic
gathering.

Before the curtain fell Big Ed McGowan came on the stage. His appearance
was the signal for a great outburst of cheers. When something like quiet
was restored, he thanked the audience, on behalf of the company for
their splendid manifestation of appreciation and grand attendance at the
great entertainment. He then invited all hands present to join and sing
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot?" It is needless to add that it was
sung with a vigor, strength, and heartiness which still remains a
cheerful memory in Gotown.



CHAPTER XXVI

    "Say not 'Good night,' but in some brighter clime
    Bid me 'Good morning.'"

    --BARBAULD.


In a small back room in McGowan's hospitable hostelry Handy, Weston,
McGowan himself, the members of the company, and a few others were
gathered for a little bite and a sup before the players returned to
Weston. It was a convivial party--not noisy nor boisterous. Just
cheerful, good-natured crowd. All were happy over the night's fun. They
showed it in their smiling faces and laughing eyes. Strange as it may
appear, the most thoughtful appearing one in the assemblage was the
veteran himself. McGowan noticed his demeanor more quickly than any of
the others, and by the way of cheering or bracing him up he rose from
his chair and proposed for a standing toast the health, wealth and
prosperity of their friend who afforded them the enjoyment they had that
night,--"Our friend, Handy! May he live long and prosper."

It was given with a hearty response. A speech was then called, when Handy
with much reluctance rose and said:

"Friends--I take the liberty of calling you friends after the generous
treatment you have given me and my poor humble little company
to-night--we are only a troupe of strolling players trying to do the best
we can to please you, to make you cheerful, to banish dull care from your
minds in your leisure hours, and make you laugh with happy hearts. No one
was ever hurt or harmed by an honest laugh. No time was ever wasted that
brought with it, through the agency of song, music and acting, brighter
thoughts and happier feelings. And, after all, that seems to me to be the
mission of the players. I am no speech-maker, my friends, I am speaking
to you as the words come from my heart, and my heart is full and happy
to-night. All the world, we are told, is a stage, a place where everyone
must play his part. And how true are those words both men and women know.
I feel as if I had played many and many parts. I have had my ups and
downs; my joys and sorrows, and sometimes I have supped bitter in sorrow.
But no matter, I presume we all have the same story to tell. I am not
going to bother you with a recital of any of them. Let them pass, just as
the summer storm passes away when the sun peeps out from behind the
clouds and lights up everything with its radiance and makes us all
cheerful, contented and happy. Ah, boys! I have been many years on the
road, traveling over this broad land of ours. Aye! a poor player. I have
grown old in the line of making laughter for others and lending a hand to
bring merriment to my aid. The frost of years is beginning to lay its
mark already on my once fiery locks, and the time is drawing near when I
will have to make my final exit and quit work; and when a man stops
working nature is finished with him, and when nature is through with him
it is pretty near time to go. Well, so be it. In years long gone by I
came across a little poem which I carried about with me months and
months, in the war campaign of the sixties, for, friends, I served my
time as a drummer boy with the old Army of the Potomac. Well, this is a
little gem, at least, I thought it so then. I think it so now. It was
written by a woman. It is said it was the last she ever wrote. I read it
and read it until I committed it to memory. 'Tis short, very short. If
you wish to hear it, I'll recite it for you now. Yes?

    "Life! we've been long together
    Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
    'Tis hard to part, when friends are dear,
    Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear.

    "Then steal away--give little warning,
    Choose thine own time,
    Say not 'Good night,' but in some brighter clime
    Bid me--'Good morning.'"


END





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