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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAnna The Adventuress - Chapter 12. The Poster Of "Alcide"
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Anna The Adventuress - Chapter 12. The Poster Of 'Alcide' Post by :EricMartello Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :3329

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Anna The Adventuress - Chapter 12. The Poster Of "Alcide"

Chapter XII. THE POSTER OF "ALCIDE"

On Saturday mornings there was deposited on the plate of each guest at breakfast time, a long folded paper with Mrs. White's compliments. Anna thrust hers into her pocket unopened, and for the first time left the house without a smile upon her face. She was practically destitute of jewellery. The few pence left in her purse would only provide a very scanty lunch. Another day of non-success would mean many disagreeable things.

And even she was forced to admit to herself that this last resource of hers was a slender reed on which to lean. She mounted the stairs of the theatrical agent's office with very much less than her usual buoyancy, nor did she find much encouragement in the general appearance of the room into which she was shown. There was already a score or more of people there, some standing up and talking together, others seated in chairs ranged along the wall. Beyond was another door, on which was painted in black letters:


MR. EARLES,
Strictly Private


Every one stared at Anna. Anna stared back at every one with undaunted composure. A young man with shiny frock coat and very high collar, advanced towards her languidly.

"Want to see Mr. Earles?" he inquired.

"I do," Anna answered. "Here is my card. Will you take it in to him?"

The young man smiled in a superior manner.

"Have to take your turn," he remarked laconically. "There's twenty before you, and Mr. Earles is going out at twelve sharp--important engagement. Better come another morning."

"Thank you," Anna answered. "I will take my chance."

She removed some posters from a chair, and seated herself coolly. The young man looked at her.

"Unless you have an appointment, which you haven't," he said, "you'll only waste your time here."

"I can spare it," Anna answered suavely.

The young man entered into a lively little war of words with a yellow-haired young person near the door. Anna picked up an ancient magazine, and began to turn over the pages in a leisurely way. The conversation which her entrance had interrupted began to buzz again all around her. A quarter of an hour passed. Then the inner door opened abruptly. A tall, clean-shaven man came out and walked rapidly through the room, exchanging greetings right and left, but evidently anxious to avoid being detained. Mr. Earles himself stood upon the threshold of his sanctum, the prototype of the smart natty Jew, with black hair, waxed moustache, and a wired flower in his button-hole. A florid-looking young woman rose up and accosted him eagerly.

"I'm next, Mr. Earles," she exclaimed. "Been sitting on the doorstep almost for two hours."

"In a minute, in a minute," he answered, his eyes fixed upon Anna. "Reuben, come here."

The young man obeyed the summons. His employer retreated into the further apartment, leaving the door ajar.

"What's that young lady's name--girl in dark brown, stranger here?" Mr. Earles asked sharply.

The youth produced a crumpled-up card from his waistcoat pocket. A sense of impending disaster was upon him. Mr. Earles glanced at it, and his eyes flashed with anger.

"You blithering idiot!" he exclaimed.

Mr. Earles strode into the waiting-room. His face was wreathed in smiles, his be-ringed hand was cordially outstretched.

"My dear Miss Pellissier," he said impressively, "this is an unexpected pleasure. Come in! Come in, do. I must apologize for my young puppy of a clerk. If I had known that you were here you should not have been kept waiting for a second."

It took a good deal to surprise Anna, but it was all she could do to follow Mr. Earles with composure into the inner room. There was a little murmur of consternation from the waiting crowd, and the florid young woman showed signs of temper, to which Mr. Earles was absolutely indifferent. He installed Anna in a comfortable easy chair, and placed his own between her and the door.

"Come," he said, "this is capital, capital. It was only a few months ago that I told you you must come to London, and you only laughed at me. Yet here you are, and at precisely the right moment, too. By-the-bye," he added, in a suddenly altered tone, "I hope, I trust--that you have not entered into any arrangements with any one here?"

"I--oh no!" Anna said, a little faintly. "I have made no arrangements as yet--none at all."

Mr. Earles recovered his spirits.

"Excellent!" he exclaimed. "Your arrival is really most opportune. The halls are on the lookout for something new. By-the-bye, do you recognize that?"

Anna looked and gasped. An enormous poster almost covered one side of the wall--_the poster. The figure of the girl upon it in plain black dress, standing with her hands behind her, was an undeniable and astonishing likeness of herself. It was her figure, her style of dress, her manner of arranging the hair. Mr. Earles regarded it approvingly.

"A wonderful piece of work," he declared. "A most wonderful likeness, too. I hope in a few days, Miss Pellissier, that these posters will be livening up our London hoardings."

Anna leaned back in the chair and laughed softly. Even this man had accepted her for "Alcide" without a moment's question. Then all the embarrassments of the matter flashed in upon her. She was suddenly grave.

"I suppose, Mr. Earles," she said, "that if I were to tell you that although that poster was designed from a rough study of me, and although my name is Pellissier, that nevertheless, I am not 'Alcide' would you believe me?"

"You can try it on, if you like," Mr. Earles remarked genially. "My only answer would be to ask you to look at that mirror and then at the poster. The poster is of 'Alcide.' It's a duplicate of the French one."

Anna got up and looked at the mirror and then at the poster. The likeness was ridiculous.

"Well?" she said, sitting down again. "I want an engagement."

"Capital!" Mr. Earles declared. "Any choice as to which of the Halls? You can pick and choose, you know. I recommend the 'Unusual.'"

"I have no choice," Anna declared.

"I can get you," Mr. Earles said, slowly, keeping his eyes fixed upon her, "forty at the 'Unusual,' two turns, encores voluntary, six for matinees. We should not bar any engagements at private houses, but in other respects the arrangement must be exclusive."

"Forty what?" Anna asked bewildered.

"Guineas, of course," Mr. Earles answered, glibly. "Forty guineas a week. I mentioned sixty, I believe, when I was in Paris, but there are expenses, and just now business is bad."

Anna was speechless, but she had presence of mind enough to sit still until she had recovered herself. Mr. Earles watched her anxiously. She appeared to be considering.

"Of course," he ventured, "I could try for more at the 'Alhambra.' Very likely they would give----"

"I should be satisfied with the sum you mention," Anna said quietly, "but there are difficulties."

"Don't use such a word, my dear young lady," Mr. Earles said persuasively. "Difficulties indeed. We'll make short work of them."

"I hope that you may," Anna answered enigmatically. "In the first place, I have no objection to the posters, as they have no name on them, but I do not wish to appear at all upon the stage as 'Alcide.' If you engage me it must be upon my own merits. You are taking it for granted that I am 'Alcide.' As a matter of fact, I am not."

"Excuse me," Mr. Earles said, "but this is rubbish."

"Call it what you like," Anna answered. "I can sing the songs 'Alcide' sang, and in the same style. But I will not be engaged as 'Alcide' or advertised under that name."

Mr. Earles scratched his chin for a moment thoughtfully. Then a light seemed to break in upon him. He slapped his knee.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "Of course, I remember now. It was your sister who married Sir John Ferringhall the other day, wasn't it?"

Anna nodded.

"It was," she admitted.

"You needn't say a word more," Mr. Earles declared. "I see the difficulty. The old fool's been working on you through your sister to keep off the stage. He's a prig to the finger-tips, is Sir John--doesn't know what an artist is. It's awkward, but we'll get round it somehow. Now I'll tell you what I propose. Let me run you for six months. I'll give you, say, thirty-five guineas a week clear of expenses, and half of anything you earn above the two turns a night. What do you say?"

"I agree," Anna said coldly, "if you will make it three months."

"Better say six," Mr. Earles protested, seating himself before the desk, and dipping his pen in the ink.

"Four," Anna decided firmly. "I shall not agree to six."

"It scarcely gives me a chance," Mr. Earles said, with a resigned sigh, "but I shall rely upon you to stick to me so long as I do the right thing by you. You can't do without an agent, and there's no one can run you better than I can."

"You must also put in the agreement," Anna said, "that I do not represent myself to be 'Alcide,' and that I am not advertised to the public by that name."

Mr. Earles threw down his pen with a little exclamation.

"Come this way," he said.

He opened the door of still another room, in one corner of which was a grand piano. He seated himself before it.

"Go to the far corner," he said, "and sing the last verse of _Les Petites_."

He struck a note, and Anna responded. Playing with one hand he turned on his stool to glance at her. Instinctively she had fallen into the posture of the poster, her hands behind her, her head bent slightly forward, her chin uplifted, her eyes bright with the drollery of the song. Mr. Earles closed the piano with a little bang.

"You are a funny, a very funny young lady," he said, "but we waste time here. You do not need my compliments. We will get on with the agreement and you shall have in it whatever rubbish you like."

Anna laughed, and went back to her easy chair. She knew that her voice was superior to Annabel's, and she had no further qualms. Whilst she was wondering how to frame her request for an advance, Mr. Earles drew out his cheque book.

"You will not object," he said, glancing towards her, "to accepting a deposit. It is customary even where an agreement is drawn."

"I shall have no objection at all," Anna assured him.

He handed her a cheque for thirty-one pounds, ten shillings, and read the agreement through to her. Anna took up the pen, and signed, after a moment's hesitation,

A. PELLISSIER.

"I will send you a copy," Mr. Earles said, rubbing his hands together, "by post. Now, will you do me the honour of lunching with me, Miss Pellissier?"

Anna hesitated.

"Perhaps," he queried, "you wish to avoid being seen about with any one--er--connected with the profession, under present circumstances. If so, do not hesitate to tell me. Be frank, I beg you, Miss Pellissier. I am already too much flattered that you should have given me your confidence."

"You are very good, Mr. Earles," Anna said. "I think, perhaps if you will excuse me, that we will defer the luncheon."

"Just as you wish," Mr. Earles declared good-humouredly, "but I shall not let you go without drinking a glass of wine to our success."

He plunged into one of his drawers, and brought up a small gold-foiled bottle. The cork came out with a loud pop, and Anna could not help wondering how it must sound to the patient little crowd outside. She drank her glass of wine, however, and clanked glasses good-naturedly with Mr. Earles.

"You must leave me your address if you please," he said, as she rose to go.

She wrote it down. He looked at it with uplifted eyebrows, but made no remark.

"I shall probably want you to come down to the 'Unusual' to-morrow morning," he said. "Bring any new songs you may have."

Anna nodded, and Mr. Earles attended her obsequiously to the door. She descended the stairs, and found herself at last in the street--alone. It was a brief solitude, however. A young man, who had been spending the last hour walking up and down on the opposite side of the way, came quickly over to her. She looked up, and recognized Mr. Brendon.

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