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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ELEVEN
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The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ELEVEN Post by :Dioqq Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :543

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The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ELEVEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN


1.

The rehearsals of a musical comedy--a term which embraces "musical
fantasies"--generally begin in a desultory sort of way at that
curious building, Bryant Hall, on Sixth Avenue just off Forty-second
Street. There, in a dusty, uncarpeted room, simply furnished with a
few wooden chairs and some long wooden benches, the chorus--or, in
the case of "The Rose of America," the ensemble--sit round a piano
and endeavor, with the assistance of the musical director, to get the
words and melodies of the first-act numbers into their heads. This
done, they are ready for the dance director to instil into them the
steps, the groupings, and the business for the encores, of which that
incurable optimist always seems to expect there will be at least six.
Later, the principals are injected into the numbers. And finally,
leaving Bryant Hall and dodging about from one unoccupied theatre to
another, principals and chorus rehearse together, running through the
entire piece over and over again till the opening night of the
preliminary road tour.

To Jill, in the early stages, rehearsing was just like being back at
school. She could remember her first school-mistress, whom the
musical director somewhat resembled in manner and appearance,
hammering out hymns on a piano and leading in a weak soprano an
eager, baying pack of children, each anxious from motives of pride to
out-bawl her nearest neighbor.

The proceedings began on the first morning with the entrance of Mr
Saltzburg, the musical director, a brisk, busy little man with
benevolent eyes behind big spectacles, who bustled over to the piano,
sat down, and played a loud chord, designed to act as a sort of bugle
blast, rallying the ladies Of the ensemble from the corners where
they sat in groups, chatting. For the process of making one another's
acquaintance had begun some ten minutes before with mutual
recognitions between those who knew each other from having been
together in previous productions. There followed rapid introductions
of friends. Nelly Bryant had been welcomed warmly by a pretty girl
with red hair, whom she introduced to Jill as Babe: Babe had a
willowy blonde friend, named Lois: and the four of them had seated
themselves on one of the benches and opened a conversation; their
numbers being added to a moment later by a dark girl with a Southern
accent and another blonde. Elsewhere other groups had formed, and the
room was filled with a noise like the chattering of starlings. In a
body by themselves, rather forlorn and neglected, half a dozen solemn
and immaculately dressed young men were propping themselves up
against the wall and looking on, like men in a ball-room who do not
dance.

Jill listened to the conversation without taking any great part in it
herself. She felt as she had done on her first day at school, a
little shy and desirous of effacing herself. The talk dealt with
clothes, men, and the show business, in that order of importance.
Presently one of the young men sauntered diffidently across the room
and added himself to the group with the remark that it was a fine
day. He was received a little grudgingly, Jill thought, but by
degrees succeeded in assimilating himself. A second young man drifted
up; reminded the willowy girl that they had worked together in the
western company of "You're the One"; was recognized and introduced;
and justified his admission to the circle by a creditable imitation
of a cat-fight. Five minutes later he was addressing the Southern
girl as "honey," and had informed Jill that he had only joined this
show to fill in before opening on the three-a-day with the swellest
little song-and-dance act which he and a little girl who worked in
the cabaret at Geisenheimer's had fixed up.

On this scene of harmony and good-fellowship Mr Saltzburg's chord
intruded jarringly. There was a general movement, and chairs and
benches were dragged to the piano. Mr Saltzburg causing a momentary
delay by opening a large brown music-bag and digging in it like a
terrier at a rat-hole, conversation broke out again.

Mr Saltzburg emerged from the bag, with his hands full of papers,
protesting.

"Childrun! Chil-_drun! If you please, less noise and attend to me!"
He distributed sheets of paper. "Act One, Opening Chorus. I will play
the melody three--four times. Follow attentively. Then we will sing
it la-la-la, and after that we will sing the words. So!"

He struck the yellow-keyed piano a vicious blow, producing a tinny
and complaining sound. Bending forward with his spectacles almost
touching the music, he plodded determinedly through the tune, then
encored himself, and after that encored himself again. When he had
done this, he removed his spectacles and wiped them. There was a
pause.

"Izzy," observed the willowy young lady chattily, leaning across Jill
and addressing the Southern girl's blonde friend, "has promised me a
sunburst!"

A general stir of interest and a coming close together of heads.

"What! Izzy!"

"Sure, Izzy."

"Well!"

"He's just landed the hat-check privilege at the St Aurea!"

"You don't say!"

"He told me so last night and promised me the sunburst. He was,"
admitted the willowy girl regretfully, "a good bit tanked at the
time, but I guess he'll make good." She mused awhile, a rather
anxious expression clouding her perfect profile. She looked like a
meditative Greek Goddess. "If he doesn't," she added with maidenly
dignity, "it's the las' time _I go out with the big stiff. I'd tie a
can to him quicker'n look at him!"

A murmur of approval greeted this admirable sentiment.

"Childrun!" protested Mr Saltzburg. "Chil-drun! Less noise and
chatter of conversation. We are here to work! We must not waste time!
So! Act One, Opening Chorus. Now, all together. La-la-la . . ."

"La-la-la . . ."

"Tum-tum-tumty-tumty . . ."

"Tum-tum-tumty . . ."

Mr Saltzburg pressed his hands to his ears in a spasm of pain.

"No, no, no! Sour! Sour! Sour! . . . Once again. La-la-la . . ."

A round-faced girl with golden hair and the face of a wondering
cherub interrupted, speaking with a lisp.

"Mithter Thalzburg."

"Now what is it, Miss Trevor?"

"What sort of a show is this?"

"A musical show," said Mr Saltzburg severely, "and this is a
rehearsal of it, not a conversazione. Once more, please . . ."

The cherub was not to be rebuffed.

"Is the music good, Mithter Thalzburg?"

"When you have rehearsed it, you shall judge for yourself. Come, now
. . ."

"Is there anything in it as good as that waltz of yours you played us
when we were rehearthing 'Mind How You Go?' You remember. The one
that went . . ."

A tall and stately girl, with sleepy brown eyes and the air of a
duchess in the servants' hall, bent forward and took a kindly
interest in the conversation.

"Oh, have you composed a varlse, Mr Saltzburg?" she asked with
pleasant condescension. "How interesting, really! Won't you play it
for us?"

The sentiment of the meeting seemed to be unanimous in favor of
shelving work and listening to Mr Saltzburg's waltz.

"Oh, Mr Saltzburg, do!"

"Please!"

"Some one told me it was a pipterino!"

"I cert'nly do love waltzes!"

"Please, Mr Saltzburg!"

Mr Saltzburg obviously weakened. His fingers touched the keys
irresolutely.

"But, childrun!"

"I am sure it would be a great pleasure to all of us," said the
duchess graciously, "if you would play it. There is nothing I enjoy
more than a good varlse."

Mr Saltzburg capitulated. Like all musical directors he had in his
leisure moments composed the complete score of a musical play and
spent much of his time waylaying librettists on the Rialto and trying
to lure them to his apartment to listen to it, with a view to
business. The eternal tragedy of a musical director's life is
comparable only to that of the waiter who, himself fasting, has to
assist others to eat, Mr Saltzburg had lofty ideas on music, and his
soul revolted at being compelled perpetually to rehearse and direct
the inferior compositions of other men. Far less persuasion than he
had received today was usually required to induce him to play the
whole of his score.

"You wish it?" he said. "Well, then! This waltz, you will understand,
is the theme of a musical romance which I have composed. It will be
sung once in the first act by the heroine, then in the second act as
a duet for heroine and hero. I weave it into the finale of the second
act, and we have an echo of it, sung off stage, in the third act.
What I play you now is the second-act duet. The verse is longer. So!
The male voice begins."

A pleasant time was had by all for ten minutes.

"Ah, but this is not rehearsing, childrun!" cried Mr Saltzburg
remorsefully at the end of that period. "This is not business. Come
now, the opening chorus of act one, and please this time keep on the
key. Before, it was sour, sour. Come! La-la-la . . ."

"Mr Thalzburg!"

"Miss Trevor?"

"There was an awfully thweet fox-trot you used to play us. I do wish
. . ."

"Some other time, some other time! Now we must work. Come! La-la-la
. . ."

"I wish you could have heard it, girls," said the cherub regretfully.
"Honetht, it wath a lalapalootha!"

The pack broke into full cry.

"Oh, Mr Saltzburg!"

"Please, Mr Saltzburg!"

"Do play the fox-trot, Mr Saltzburg!"

"If it is as good as the varlse," said the duchess, stooping once
more to the common level, "I am sure it must be very good indeed."
She powdered her nose. "And one so rarely hears musicianly music
nowadays, does one?"

"Which fox-trot?" asked Mr Saltzburg weakly.

"Play 'em all!" decided a voice on the left.

"Yes, play 'em all," bayed the pack.

"I am sure that that would be charming," agreed the duchess,
replacing her powder-puff.

Mr Saltzburg played 'em all. This man by now seemed entirely lost to
shame. The precious minutes that belonged to his employers and should
have been earmarked for "The Rose of America" flitted by. The ladies
and gentlemen of the ensemble, who should have been absorbing and
learning to deliver the melodies of Roland Trevis and the lyrics of
Otis Pilkington, lolled back in their seats. The yellow-keyed piano
rocked beneath an unprecedented onslaught. The proceedings had begun
to resemble not so much a rehearsal as a home evening, and grateful
glances were cast at the complacent cherub. She had, it was felt,
shown tact and discretion.

Pleasant conversation began again.

". . . And I walked a couple of blocks, and there was exactly the same
model in Schwartz and Gulderstein's window at twenty-six fifty . . ."

". . . He got on at Forty-second Street, and he was kinda fresh from
the start. I could see he was carrying a package. At Sixty-sixth he
came sasshaying right down the car and said 'Hello, patootie!' Well,
I drew myself up . . ."

". . . 'Even if you are my sister's husband,' I said to him. Oh, I
suppose I got a temper. It takes a lot to arouse it, y'know, but I
c'n get pretty mad . . ."

". . . You don't know the half of it, dearie, you don't know the half
of it! A one-piece bathing suit! Well, you could call it that, but
the cop on the beach said it was more like a baby's sock. And when . . ."

". . . So I said 'Listen, Izzy, that'll be about all from you! My
father was a gentleman, though I don't suppose you know what that
means, and I'm not accustomed . . .'"

"Hey!"

A voice from the neighborhood of the door had cut into the babble
like a knife into butter; a rough, rasping voice, loud and
compelling, which caused the conversation of the members of the
ensemble to cease on the instant. Only Mr Saltzburg, now in a perfect
frenzy of musicianly fervor, continued to assault the decrepit piano,
unwitting of an unsympathetic addition to his audience.

"What I play you now is the laughing trio from my second act. It is a
building number. It is sung by tenor, principal comedian, and
soubrette. On the second refrain four girls will come out and two
boys. The girls will dance with the two men, the boys with the
soubrette. So! On the encore, four more girls and two more boys.
Third encore, solo-dance for specialty dancer, all on stage beating
time by clapping their hands. On repeat, all sing refrain once more,
and off-encore, the three principals and specialty dancer dance the
dance with entire chorus. It is a great building number, you
understand. It is enough to make the success of any musical play, but
can I get a hearing? No! If I ask managers to listen to my music,
they are busy! If I beg them to give me a libretto to set, they
laugh--ha! ha!" Mr Saltzburg gave a spirited and lifelike
representation of a manager laughing ha-ha when begged to disgorge a
libretto. "Now I play it once more!"

"Like hell you do!" said the voice. "Say, what is this, anyway? A
concert?"

Mr Saltzburg swung round on the music-stool, a startled and
apprehensive man, and nearly fell off it. The divine afflatus left
him like air oozing from a punctured toy-balloon, and, like such a
balloon, he seemed to grow suddenly limp and flat. He stared with
fallen jaw at the new arrival.

Two men had entered the room. One was the long Mr Pilkington. The
other, who looked shorter and stouter than he really was beside his
giraffe-like companion, was a thickset, fleshy man in the early
thirties with a blond, clean-shaven, double-chinned face. He had
smooth yellow hair, an unwholesome complexion, and light green eyes,
set close together. From the edge of the semi-circle about the piano,
he glared menacingly over the heads of the chorus at the unfortunate
Mr Saltzburg,

"Why aren't these girls working?"

Mr Saltzburg, who had risen nervously from his stool, backed away
apprehensively from his gaze, and, stumbling over the stool, sat down
abruptly on the piano, producing a curious noise like Futurist music.

"I--We--Why, Mr Goble . . ."

Mr Goble turned his green gaze on the concert audience, and spread
discomfort as if it were something liquid which he was spraying
through a hose. The girls who were nearest looked down flutteringly
at their shoes: those further away concealed themselves behind their
neighbors. Even the duchess, who prided herself on being the
possessor of a stare of unrivalled haughtiness, before which the
fresh quailed and those who made breaks subsided in confusion, was
unable to meet his eyes: and the willowy friend of Izzy, for all her
victories over that monarch of the hat-checks, bowed before it like a
slim tree before a blizzard.

Only Jill returned the manager's gaze. She was seated on the outer
rim of the semi-circle, and she stared frankly at Mr Goble. She had
never seen anything like him before, and he fascinated her. This
behavior on her part singled her out from the throng, and Mr Goble
concentrated his attention on her.

For some seconds he stood looking at her; then, raising a stubby
finger, he let his eye travel over the company, and seemed to be
engrossed in some sort of mathematical calculation.

"Thirteen," he said at length. "I make it thirteen." He rounded on Mr
Pilkington. "I told you we were going to have a chorus of twelve."

Mr Pilkington blushed and stumbled over his feet.

"Ah, yes . . . yes," he murmured vaguely. "Yes!"

"Well, there are thirteen here. Count 'em for yourself." He whipped
round on Jill. "What's _your name? Who engaged you?"

A croaking sound from the neighborhood of the ceiling indicated the
clearing of Mr Pilkington's throat.

"I--er--_I engaged Miss Mariner, Mr Goble."

"Oh, _you engaged her?"

He stared again at Jill. The inspection was long and lingering, and
affected Jill with a sense of being inadequately clothed. She
returned the gaze as defiantly as she could, but her heart was
beating fast. She had never yet beer frightened of any man, but there
was something reptilian about this fat, yellow-haired individual
which disquieted her; much as cockroaches had done in her childhood.
A momentary thought flashed through her mind that it would be
horrible to be touched by him. He looked soft and glutinous.

"All right," said Mr Goble at last, after what seemed to Jill many
minutes. He nodded to Mr Saltzburg. "Get on with it! And try working
a little this time! I don't hire you to give musical entertainments."

"Yes, Mr Goble, yes. I mean no, Mr Goble!"

"You can have the Gotham stage this afternoon," said Mr Goble. "Call
the rehearsal for two sharp."

Outside the door, he turned to Mr Pilkington.

"That was a fool trick of yours, hiring that girl. Thirteen! I'd as
soon walk under a ladder on a Friday as open in New York with a
chorus of thirteen. Well, it don't matter. We can fire one of 'em
after we've opened on the road." He mused for a moment. "Darned
pretty girl, that!" he went on meditatively. "Where did you get
her?"

"She--ah--came into the office, when you were out. She struck me as
being essentially the type we required for our ensemble, so
I--er--engaged her. She--" Mr Pilkington gulped. "She is a charming,
refined girl!"

"She's darned pretty," admitted Mr Goble, and went on his way wrapped
in thought, Mr Pilkington following timorously. It was episodes like
the one that had just concluded which made Otis Pilkington wish that
he possessed a little more assertion. He regretted wistfully that he
was not one of those men who can put their hat on the side of their
heads and shoot out their chins and say to the world "Well, what
about it!" He was bearing the financial burden of this production. If
it should be a failure, his would be the loss. Yet somehow this
coarse, rough person in front of him never seemed to allow him a word
in the executive policy of the piece. He treated him as a child. He
domineered and he shouted, and behaved as if he were in sole command.
Mr Pilkington sighed. He rather wished he had never gone into this
undertaking.

Inside the room, Mr Saltzburg wiped his forehead, spectacles, and his
hands. He had the aspect of one wakes from a dreadful dream.

"Childrun!" he whispered brokenly. "Childrun! If yoll please, once
more. Act One, Opening Chorus. Come! La-la-la!"

"La-la-la!" chanted the subdued members of the ensemble.


2.

By the time the two halves of the company, ensemble and principals,
melted into one complete whole, the novelty of her new surroundings
had worn off, and Jill was feeling that there had never been a time
when she had not been one of a theatrical troupe, rehearsing. The
pleasant social gatherings round Mr Saltzburg's piano gave way after
a few days to something far less agreeable and infinitely more
strenuous, the breaking-in of the dances under the supervision of the
famous Johnson Miller. Johnson Miller was a little man with
snow-white hair and the india-rubber physique of a juvenile acrobat.
Nobody knew actually how old he was, but he certainly looked much too
advanced in years to be capable of the feats of endurance which he
performed daily. He had the untiring enthusiasm of a fox-terrier, and
had bullied and scolded more companies along the rocky road that
leads to success than any half-dozen dance-directors in the country,
in spite of his handicap in being almost completely deaf. He had an
almost miraculous gift of picking up the melodies for which it was
his business to design dances, without apparently hearing them. He
seemed to absorb them through the pores. He had a blunt and arbitrary
manner, and invariably spoke his mind frankly and honestly--a habit
which made him strangely popular in a profession where the language
of equivoque is cultivated almost as sedulously as in the circles of
international diplomacy. What Johnson Miller said to your face was
official, not subject to revision as soon as your back was turned:
and people appreciated this.

Izzy's willowy friend summed him up one evening when the ladies of
the ensemble were changing their practise-clothes after a
particularly strenuous rehearsal, defending him against the Southern
girl, who complained that he made her tired.

"You bet he makes you tired," she said. "So he does me. I'm losing my
girlish curves, and I'm so stiff I can't lace my shoes. But he knows
his business and he's on the level, which is more than you can say of
most of these guys in the show business."

"That's right," agreed the Southern girl's blonde friend. "He does
know his business. He's put over any amount of shows which would have
flopped like dogs without him to stage the numbers."

The duchess yawned. Rehearsing always bored her, and she had not been
greatly impressed by what she had seen of "The Rose of America."

"One will be greatly surprised if he can make a success of _this_
show! I confess I find it perfectly ridiculous."

"Ithn't it the limit, honetht!" said the cherub, arranging her golden
hair at the mirror. "It maketh me thick! Why on earth is Ike putting
it on?"

The girl who knew everything--there is always one in every
company--hastened to explain.

"I heard all about that. Ike hasn't any of his own money in the
thing. He's getting twenty-five per cent of the show for running it.
The angel is the long fellow you see jumping around. Pilkington his
name is."

"Well, it'll need to be Rockefeller later on," said the blonde.

"Oh, they'll get thomebody down to fixth it after we've out on the
road a couple of days," said the cherub, optimistically. "They
alwayth do. I've seen worse shows than this turned into hits. All it
wants ith a new book and lyrics and a different thcore."

"And a new set of principals," said the red-headed Babe. "Did you
ever see such a bunch?"

The duchess, with another tired sigh, arched her well-shaped eyebrows
and studied the effect in the mirror.

"One wonders where they pick these persons up," she assented
languidly. "They remind me of a headline I saw in the paper this
morning--'Tons of Hams Unfit for Human Consumption.' Are any of you
girls coming my way? I can give two or three of you a lift in my
limousine."

"Thorry, old dear, and thanks ever so much," said the cherub, "but I
instructed Clarence, my man, to have the street-car waiting on the
corner, and he'll be tho upset if I'm not there."

Nelly had an engagement to go and help one of the other girls buy a
Spring suit, a solemn rite which it is impossible to conduct by
oneself: and Jill and the cherub walked to the corner together. Jill
had become very fond of the little thing since rehearsals began. She
reminded her of a London sparrow. She was so small and perky and so
absurdly able to take care of herself.

"Limouthine!" snorted the cherub. The duchess' concluding speech
evidently still rankled. "She gives me a pain in the gizthard!"

"Hasn't she got a limousine?" asked Jill.

"Of course she hasn't. She's engaged to be married to a demonstrator
in the Speedwell Auto Company, and he thneaks off when he can get
away and gives her joy-rides. That's all the limousine she's got. It
beats me why girls in the show business are alwayth tho crazy to make
themselves out vamps with a dozen millionaires on a string. If Mae
wouldn't four-flush and act like the Belle of the Moulin Rouge, she'd
be the nithest girl you ever met. She's mad about the fellow she's
engaged to, and wouldn't look at all the millionaires in New York if
you brought 'em to her on a tray. She's going to marry him as thoon
as he's thaved enough to buy the furniture, and then she'll thettle
down in Harlem thomewhere and cook and mind the baby and regularly be
one of the lower middle classes. All that's wrong with Mae ith that
she's read Gingery Stories and thinkth that's the way a girl has to
act when she'th in the chorus."

"That's funny," said Jill. "I should never have thought it. I
swallowed the limousine whole."

The cherub looked at her curiously. Jill puzzled her. Jill had,
indeed, been the subject of much private speculation among her
colleagues.

"This is your first show, ithn't it?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Thay, what are you doing in the chorus, anyway?"

"Getting scolded by Mr Miller mostly, it seems to me."

"Thcolded by Mr Miller! Why didn't you say 'bawled out by Johnny?'
That'th what any of the retht of us would have said."

"Well, I've lived most of my life in England. You can't expect me to
talk the language yet."

"I thought you were English. You've got an acthent like the fellow
who plays the dude in thith show. Thay, why did you ever get into the
show business?"

"Well . . . well, why did you? Why does anybody?"

"Why did I? Oh, I belong there. I'm a regular Broadway rat. I
wouldn't be happy anywhere elthe. I was born in the show business.
I've got two thithters in the two-a-day and a brother in thtock out
in California and dad's one of the betht comedians on the burlethque
wheel. But any one can thee you're different. There's no reathon why
you should be bumming around in the chorus."

"But there is. I've no money, and I can't do anything to make it."

"Honetht?"

"Honest."

"That's tough." The cherub pondered, her round eyes searching Jill's
face. "Why don't you get married?"

Jill laughed.

"Nobody's asked me."

"Somebody thoon will. At least, if he's on the level, and I think he
is. You can generally tell by the look of a guy, and, if you ask me,
friend Pilkington's got the license in hith pocket and the ring all
ordered and everything."

"Pilkington!" cried Jill, aghast.

She remembered certain occasions during rehearsals, when, while the
chorus idled in the body of the theatre and listened to the
principals working at their scenes, the elongated Pilkington had
suddenly appeared in the next seat and conversed sheepishly in a low
voice. Could this be love? If so, it was a terrible nuisance. Jill
had had her experience in London of enamoured young men who, running
true to national form, declined to know when they were beaten, and
she had not enjoyed the process of cooling their ardor. She had a
kind heart, and it distressed her to give pain. It also got on her
nerves to be dogged by stricken males who tried to catch her eye in
order that she might observe their broken condition. She recalled one
house-party in Wales where it rained all the time and she had been
cooped up with a victim who kept popping out from obscure corners and
beginning all his pleas with the words "I say, you know . . . !" She
trusted that Otis Pilkington was not proposing to conduct a wooing on
those lines. Yet he had certainly developed a sinister habit of
popping out at the theatre. On several occasions he had startled her
by appearing at her side as if he had come up out of a trap.

"Oh, no!" cried Jill.

"Oh, yeth!" insisted the cherub, waving imperiously to an approaching
street-car. "Well, I must be getting uptown. I've got a date. Thee
you later."

"I'm sure you're mistaken."

"I'm not."

"But what makes you think so?"

The cherub placed a hand on the rail of the car, preparatory to
swinging herself on board.

"Well, for one thing," she said, "he'th been stalking you like an
Indian ever since we left the theatre! Look behind you. Good-bye,
honey. Thend me a piece of the cake!"

The street-car bore her away. The last that Jill saw of her was a
wide and amiable grin. Then, turning, she beheld the snake-like form
of Otis Pilkington towering at her side.

Mr Pilkington seemed nervous but determined. His face was half hidden
by the silk scarf that muffled his throat, for he was careful of his
health and had a fancied tendency to bronchial trouble. Above the
scarf a pair of mild eyes gazed down at Jill through their
tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles. It was hopeless for Jill to try to
tell herself that the tender gleam behind the glass was not the
love-light in Otis Pilkington's eyes. The truth was too obvious.

"Good evening, Miss Mariner," said Mr Pilkington, his voice sounding
muffled and far away through the scarf. "Are you going up-town?"

"No, down-town," said Jill quickly.

"So am I," said Mr Pilkington.

Jill felt annoyed, but helpless. It is difficult to bid a tactful
farewell to a man who has stated his intention of going in the same
direction as yourself. There was nothing for it but to accept the
unspoken offer of Otis Pilkington's escort. They began to walk down
Broadway together.

"I suppose you are tired after the rehearsal?" enquired Mr Pilkington
in his precise voice. He always spoke as if he were weighing each
word and clipping it off a reel.

"A little. Mr Miller is very enthusiastic."

"About the piece?" Her companion spoke eagerly.

"No; I meant hard-working."

"Has he said anything about the piece?"

"Well, no. You see, he doesn't confide in us a great deal, except to
tell us his opinion of the way we do the steps. I don't think we
impress him very much, to judge from what he says. But the girls say
he always tells every chorus he rehearses that it is the worst he
ever had anything to do with."

"And the chor--the--er--ladies of the ensemble? What do they think of
the piece?"

"Well, I don't suppose they are very good judges, are they?" said
Jill diplomatically.

"You mean they do not like it?"

"Some of them don't seem quite to understand it."

Mr Pilkington was silent for a moment.

"I am beginning to wonder myself whether it may not be a little over
the heads of the public," he said ruefully. "When it was first
performed . . ."

"Oh, has it been done before?"

"By amateurs, yes, at the house of my aunt, Mrs Waddesleigh Peagrim,
at Newport, last Summer. In aid of the Armenian orphans. It was
extraordinarily well received on that occasion. We nearly made our
expenses. It was such a success that--I feel I can confide in you. I
should not like this repeated to your--your--the other ladies--it was
such a success that, against my aunt's advice, I decided to give it a
Broadway production. Between ourselves, I am shouldering practically
all the expenses of the undertaking. Mr Goble has nothing to do with
the financial arrangements of 'The Rose of America.' Those are
entirely in my hands. Mr Goble, in return for a share in the profits,
is giving us the benefit of his experience as regards the management
and booking of the piece. I have always had the greatest faith in it.
Trevis and I wrote it when we were in college together, and all our
friends thought it exceptionally brilliant. My aunt, as I say, was
opposed to the venture. She holds the view that I am not a good man
of business. In a sense, perhaps, she is right. Temperamentally, no
doubt, I am more the artist. But I was determined to show the public
something superior to the so-called Broadway successes, which are so
terribly trashy. Unfortunately, I am beginning to wonder whether it
is possible, with the crude type of actor at one's disposal in this
country, to give a really adequate performance of such a play as 'The
Rose of America.' These people seem to miss the spirit of the piece,
its subtle topsy-turvy humor, its delicate whimsicality. This
afternoon," Mr Pilkington choked. "This afternoon I happened to
overhear two of the principals, who were not aware that I was within
earshot, discussing the play. One of them--these people express
themselves curiously--one of them said that he thought it a quince:
and the other described it as a piece of gorgonzola cheese! That is
not the spirit that wins success!"

Jill was feeling immensely relieved. After all, it seemed, this poor
young man merely wanted sympathy, not romance. She had been mistaken,
she felt, about that gleam in his eyes. It was not the love-light: it
was the light of panic. He was the author of the play. He had sunk a
large sum of money in its production, he had heard people criticizing
it harshly, and he was suffering from what her colleagues in the
chorus would have called cold feet. It was such a human emotion and
he seemed so like an overgrown child pleading to be comforted that
her heart warmed to him. Relief melted her defences. And when, on
their arrival at Thirty-fourth Street Mr Pilkington suggested that
she partake of a cup of tea at his apartment, which was only a couple
of blocks away off Madison Avenue, she accepted the invitation
without hesitating.

On the way to his apartment Mr Pilkington continued in the minor key.
He was a great deal more communicative than she herself would have
been to such a comparative stranger as she was, but she knew that men
were often like this. Over in London, she had frequently been made
the recipient of the most intimate confidences by young men whom she
had met for the first time the same evening at a dance. She had been
forced to believe that there was something about her personality that
acted on a certain type of man like the crack in the dam, setting
loose the surging flood of their eloquence. To this class Otis
Pilkington evidently belonged: for, once started, he withheld
nothing.

"It isn't that I'm dependent on Aunt Olive or anything like that," he
vouchsafed, as he stirred the tea in his Japanese-print hung studio.
"But you know how it is. Aunt Olive is in a position to make it very
unpleasant for me if I do anything foolish. At present, I have reason
to know that she intends to leave me practically all that she
possesses. Millions!" said Mr Pilkington, handing Jill a cup. "I
assure you, millions! But there is a hard commercial strain in her.
It would have the most prejudicial effect upon her if, especially
after she had expressly warned me against it, I were to lose a great
deal of money over this production. She is always complaining that I
am not a business man like my late uncle. Mr Waddesleigh Peagrim made
a fortune in smoked hams." Mr Pilkington looked at the Japanese
prints, and shuddered slightly. "Right up to the time of his death he
was urging me to go into the business. I could not have endured it.
But, when I heard those two men discussing the play, I almost wished
that I had done so."

Jill was now completely disarmed. She would almost have patted this
unfortunate young man's head, if she could have reached it.

"I shouldn't worry about the piece," she said. "I've read somewhere
or heard somewhere that it's the surest sign of a success when actors
don't like a play."

Mr Pilkington drew his chair an imperceptible inch nearer.

"How sympathetic you are!"

Jill perceived with chagrin that she had been mistaken after all. It
_was the love-light. The tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles sprayed it
all over her like a couple of searchlights. Otis Pilkington was
looking exactly like a sheep, and she knew from past experience that
that was the infallible sign. When young men looked like that, it was
time to go.

"I'm afraid I must be off," she said. "Thank you so much for giving
me tea. I shouldn't be a bit afraid about the play. I'm sure it's
going to be splendid. Good-bye."

"You aren't going already?"

"I must. I'm very late as it is. I promised . . ."

Whatever fiction Jill might have invented to the detriment of her
soul was interrupted by a ring at the bell. The steps of Mr
Pilkington's Japanese servant crossing the hall came faintly to the
sitting-room.

"Mr Pilkington in?"

Otis Pilkington motioned pleadingly to Jill.

"Don't go!" he urged. "It's only a man I know. He has probably come
to remind me that I am dining with him tonight. He won't stay a
minute. Please don't go."

Jill sat down. She had no intention of going now. The cheery voice at
the front door had been the cheery voice of her long-lost uncle,
Major Christopher Selby.

Content of CHAPTER ELEVEN (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Little Warrior)

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The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter TWELVE The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter TWELVE

The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter TWELVE
CHAPTER TWELVE1.Uncle Chris walked breezily into the room, flicking a jaunty glove.He stopped short on seeing that Mr Pilkington was not alone."Oh, I beg your pardon! I understood . . ." He peered at Jilluncertainly. Mr Pilkington affected a dim, artistic lighting-systemin his studio, and people who entered from the great outdoorsgenerally had to take time to accustom their eyes to it. "If you'reengaged . . .""Er--allow me . . . Miss Mariner . . . Major Selby.""Hullo, Uncle Chris!" said Jill."God bless my soul!" ejaculated that startled gentleman adventurer,and collapsed onto a settee as if his legs had been mown
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The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter TEN The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter TEN

The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter TEN
CHAPTER TEN1.THE offices of Messrs Goble and Cohn were situated, like everythingelse in New York that appertains to the drama, in the neighborhood ofTimes Square. They occupied the fifth floor of the Gotham Theatre onWest Forty-second Street. As there was no elevator in the buildingexcept the small private one used by the two members of the firm,Jill walked up the stairs, and found signs of a thriving businessbeginning to present themselves as early as the third floor half a dozen patient persons of either sex had draped themselves likeroosting fowls upon the banisters. There were more on the fourthfloor, and the
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