Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end. All other inconsistencies are as in the original.
MARIA THOMPSON DAVIESS
Author of "THE MELTING OF MOLLY," "THE GOLDEN BIRD," "THE TINDER BOX," etc.
THE CENTURY CO.
Copyright, 1919, by
THE CENTURY CO.
Copyright, 1918, by
INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE COMPANY (HARPER'S BAZAR)
Published, April, 1919
The need of a large sum of money in a great hurry is the root of many noble ambitions, in whose branches roost strange companies of birds, pecking away for dollars that grow—or do not—on bushes. And it was in such a quest that Miss Patricia Adair of Adairville, Kentucky, lit upon a limb of life beside Mr. Godfrey Vandeford of Broadway, New York. Their joint endeavors made a great adventure.
"There's nothing to it, Pop; either pony girls will have to grow four legs to cut new capers, somebody will have to write a play entitled 'When Courtship Was in Flower,' requiring flowered skirts ten yards wide with a punch in each furbelow, or we go out of the theatrical business," said Mr. Vandeford, as he shuffled a faint, violet-tinted letter out of a pile of advertising posters emblazoned with dancing girls and men, several personal bills, two from a theatrical storage house and one from an electrical expert, leaned back in his chair, and prepared to open the violet communication. "We dropped twenty thousand cool on 'Miss Cut-up,' and those sixteen pairs of legs cost us fifteen hundred a week. We might be in danger of starving right here on Broadway, if we hadn't picked a sure-fire hit in 'The Rosie Posie Girl.'"
"Ain't it the truth," answered Mr. Adolph Meyers, as he glanced up from his typewriter with a twinkle in his big black eyes that were like gems in a round, very sedate, even sad, Hebrew face. "Bare legs and 'cut-ups' is already old now, Mr. Vandeford. It is that we must have now a play with a punch."
"The law won't let us take anything more off the chorus, so we'll have to swing back and put a lot on. Costumes that cost a million will be the next drag, mark me, Pop," Mr. Godfrey Vandeford declaimed with a gloomy brow, as he still further delayed exploring the violet missive.
"A hundred thousand it will take for costuming 'The Rosie Posie Girl,'" agreed Pop dolefully, from above the letter he was slowly pecking out of the machine.
"For furnishing chiffon belts, you mean, not costumes, if we go by Corbett's clothes ideas," growled the pessimistic, prospective producer of the possible next season's hit in the girl-show line.
"You have it right," answered Pop, sympathetically.
"If I hadn't promised to let old Denny in on my Violet Hawtry show for the fall I'd be tempted to throw back everything, even 'The Rosie Posie Girl' and go gunning for potatoes or onions up on a Connecticut farm; but the show bug has bit Denny hard and I'll have to be the one to shear him and not leave it to any of the others. I'll be more merciful to his millions; but asking him to put up half of a cool hundred and fifty thousand is a bit raw. Wish I had a nice little glad play with an under twenty cast for him to cut his teeth on instead of the 'Rosie Posie.'"
"It's six plays on the shelf now for reading," reminded Mr. Meyers, eagerly, for to him fell the task of weeding all plays sent into the office of Godfrey Vandeford, Theatrical Producer, and his optimistic soul suffered when he discovered a gem and found himself unable to get Mr. Vandeford to read so much as the first act unless he caught him in just such a mood as the one in which he now labored. "Now, I want that you take just a peep, Mr. Vandeford, at that new Hinkle comedy for which I have written already five times to delay—"
"Can't do it now, Pop! Don't you see that I have got to read this purple letter and that is all the business I can attend to for this morning?" answered Mr. Vandeford, as he pushed a slim paper cutter along the top edge of the purple missive.
"But, Mr. Vandeford, it is that I have—"
"Express. Sign here!" was the interruption that put an end to Mr. Meyers's immediate supplication. The parcel that he deposited upon his chief's desk with forceful meekness was a play manuscript.
"Great guns, Pops; I'm seeing purple!" exclaimed Mr. Vandeford, as he let the violet letter fall upon the violet wrappings in which the express intrusion was incased. "Exact match! This looks like some sort of a hunch. Open it, Pops, and run through the layout while I tackle the violet letter and see if anything happens." And with great interest both grown men plunged into the excitement of the chase of the hunch.
Mr. Vandeford's letter contained the following, delivered in bold words and script:
My dear Van:
This is to remind you that it is now July fifth, and my contract sets September twenty-third as the last date for my opening on Broadway in a new play under your management. "The Rosie Posie Girl" will be a huge undertaking and worthy of my every effort, but I do not feel that you are up to producing it properly. I regret your losses in "Miss Cut-up," but I did my best with a vehicle that was not worthy of my ability. The success of "Dear Geraldine" was entirely due to the comedy bits I wrote in to suit myself, and I had to be costumer and producer and the whole show. In justice to myself I feel that I ought to pass under the management of a more forceful person than yourself. And anyway I don't think you would be able to get a theater to open on Broadway in September. Remember that over a hundred good shows died on the road waiting to get into Broadway last winter, and I won't play anywhere else. Now Weiner wants to buy "The Rosie Posie Girl" from you and open his New Carnival Theatre with me in it on October first. You must sell it to him. He will make you a good offer. You can't use it without me, and I want him to produce it. Please see him immediately. You know that you owe your reputation as a producer to me, and don't be selfish. I'll expect you up on the evening train to talk over the final arrangements. I'll meet you in the runabout and we can go out to the Beach Inn for dinner. Bring me some brandied marrons, a large bottle of rose oil and a stick of lip rouge from Celeste's.
P. S. Of course you are to go on loving me just as usual. I couldn't do without that. How much money have I in the Knickerbocker Trust?
After Godfrey Vandeford had read the last violent purple line on violet, he dropped the letter on his desk and looked out of his office window with serious eyes that gazed without seeing, down the long canyon of Broadway, up and down which rushed traffic composed of green cars shaped like torpedoes, honking, darting motors, skulking trucks and jostling, tangled people. Flamboyant signs, waving flags, and gilt-lettered window panes made a Persian glow in a belt space up from the seething sidewalks to the sky line, and above it all the roar and din rose to high heaven. But Godfrey Vandeford was blind to it all and deaf, as he sat and brooded above the furious landscape. His blue eyes, set deep back under their black, gray-splashed brows, failed to take in the lurid spectacle, and his narrow, lean face was flushed under the bronze it had acquired for keeps from the suns of many climes. His lean, powerful body seemed fairly crouched in thought. Once he shifted one leg across the other, and as he settled back in his chair he tossed the violet letter over to Mr. Meyers without seeming to know that he did so. Then he plunged back into his absorption without seeing his henchman read rapidly through the missive, look at him once with a gem-like keenness, and again begin to read the purple-covered manuscript.
"And we picked her out of a vaudeville gutter over beyond Weehawken just five years ago, Pop," Mr. Vandeford finally interrupted the flip of the manuscript pages to say, with a deep musing in his flexible, sympathetic voice.
"You taught her to eat with the knife and the fork," growled Mr. Meyers from behind his violet barricade as he ripped over another page. "Mick!"
"Oh, not as bad as that, Pop," laughed Mr. Vandeford, with a glance of affection at the young Hebrew delving in the corner for a jewel for him. "She's just—oh, well, they are all children—and have to be spanked. She wants to sell me out to Weiner after I've spent five nice, good years in building her into a little twinkle star, but I don't think it will be good for her to let her do it. I'll have to use the slipper on her, I'm afraid. I believe in hunches and I believe I'll just use that purple manuscript you're chewing to let her set her teeth in. She needs one good failure to tone her up. What's the name of the effusion in ribbons?"
"The Renunciation of Rosalind," murmured Mr. Meyers, as he bent once more to the pages which he had been reading with eagerness when interrupted by his chief.
"We could call it 'The Purple Slipper.' About what will the cast figure?"
"Three thousand per week if you use Gerald Height at five hundred as per contract with him. But, Mr. Vandeford, sir, I would say for a play this is—"
"That's not much money to waste on a purple hunch. A nice, judicious, little second-hand staging out of the warehouse and a few weeks' road try-out for the failure will cost about ten thousand. I'll let Denny have five thousand worth of fun mussing around with it to cut his eye teeth, and then we'll clap Violet into 'The Rosie Posie Girl,' weeping with gratitude to have her face saved after being slapped first. Get the parts out to-morrow and you and Chambers begin to cast it. I'll see actors here from three to five Friday. I'll open it September tenth. Now I've got to go and chase those confounded marrons. The last I took were put up in maraschino and were not welcomed. I'll be in the office—"
"And about the author, Mr. Vandeford, and the contracts?" questioned Mr. Meyers, with both dismay and energy in his voice.
"Oh, I forgot about the author. She won't amount to much. A woman, I judge, from the ribbons. Offer the usual five, rising to seven and a half royalties, and explain carefully that you mean five per cent. on the box office receipts under five thousand, and seven and a half on all over that. Also go into the moving picture rights and second companies with your usual honesty, but offer her only a two hundred and fifty advance to cover a two years' option. She won't know that it ought to be five hundred for six months, and what she doesn't know won't hurt her. Besides, it will all be over for her and her play before October."
"She says in the letter which was pinned to the first page of the play, that the article about you in the 'Times Magazine' made her know that you were the one producer to whom she could trust her play," said Mr. Meyers, reading from a neat little cream-white note in his hand.
"Sweet child!" murmured Mr. Vandeford, as he took up his hat and stick. "Don't encourage her in any way in your letter, Pop. We don't want her rushing to the scene of action when we butcher her child. Pay the two thousand to Hilliard for the option on 'The Rosie Posie Girl' until January first, and tell him I am going to produce it in November. 'Phone me at Highcliff to-morrow if you want me. I'll be clearing the deck for the—spanking."
"I wish you good luck," said Mr. Meyers feelingly.
"What do you judge that play is about from reading the first act, and what is the author's name? I might have to produce a little concrete information in the fracas," the eminent producer paused to inquire just as he was closing the door.
"It is written by a Miss Patricia Adair of Adairville, Kentucky, and it has in plenty of ruffles and romance that is in a past time of a Colonial Governor and his wife alone at home with him in Washington."
"That sounds about right for the weapon of castigation for Violet Hawtry, nee Murphy. I have always believed in hunches, and that accord in color was meant to mean something. Better send me a copy special in the morning. If Mr. Farraday calls me before I get him tell him the Astor at one to-day. What did I say? Marrons, lip stick, and—"
"Rose oil," prompted Mr. Meyers, with just the trace of a sneer in his voice.
"Right O! Rose oil it is. By!" And the door closed on Mr. Vandeford's graceful figure in its gray London tweeds.
Thus a great adventure was undertaken in all levity. And with his chief's complete departure a change came into the mien of Mr. Adolph Meyers. He told the stenographer in the outer office to engage two girls to copy a play that afternoon and evening, to keep him from being interrupted until six, and to muffle the telephone unless in cases of emergency. Then he seated himself in Mr. Vandeford's deep chair, put his feet on the desk, lit a fat, black cigar and plunged into "The Purple Slipper," nee "The Renunciation of Rosalind." For two hours he read with the deepest absorption, only pausing to make an occasional note on a pad at his elbow. Then after he had laid down the manuscript with its purple wrappings and ribbons, he sat for a half hour in a trance, out of which he came to seat himself at the typewriter to indite a portentous letter, which he put in an envelope, sealed and directed to:
MISS PATRICIA ADAIR,
The contents were:
My dear Madam:
I have carefully read your play entitled "The Renunciation of Rosalind," and have decided to make you the following offer for the production rights. I will give you two hundred and fifty dollars for all rights of production, including moving picture rights and supplementary road companies to extend over a period of two years from the date of signing the contract, and will agree to pay you in addition five per cent. of all box receipts up to five thousand per week and seven and a half on all exceeding that sum. If you agree to this proposition, I will send you a formal contract covering all points in legal terms. Please let me know at your earliest convenience your decision about the matter, as I now intend to produce it in September with Violet Hawtry in the title role.
Believe me, my dear Madam,
The above epistle from a strange outer world found Miss Patricia Adair, attired in a faded gingham frock, planting snap beans in her ancestral garden. It was delivered to her by her brother, Mr. Roger Adair, from the hip pocket of his khaki trousers, upon which were large smudges of the agricultural profession. His blue gingham shirt was open at the throat across a strong bronze throat, and his eyes were as blue as his shirt and laughed out across big brown freckles that matched his chestnut hair.
"Here's a letter I brought over from the post-office, Pat, along with a sack of meal and fifty cents' worth of sugar. Mr. Bates said Miss Elvira Henderson stopped in and told him to send it to you by the first person coming your way," he said as he threw the reins of the filly, whose chestnut coat matched his hair exactly, over the gate post, and proceeded to take from the pommel of the saddle the two bundles of groceries mentioned. "Mr. Bates sent you this bunch of tomato plants and head lettuce to set out along the back border of your rose beds, and I'll spade it all up for you right now if—"
"Oh, Roger, listen, listen!" exclaimed Patricia, as she sprang to her feet from her knees upon which she had rested as she read the letter he had handed her. "My play, my play, it's sold!" And as she sparkled at him over the letter of Mr. Adolph Meyers held clasped to her gingham bosom, wild roses bloomed in her cheeks and tears sparkled in her gray eyes back of their thick black lashes.
"What play?" demanded Roger, stolid with astonishment.
"The one I wrote last month and the month before, when Mr. Covington said that the mortgage must be paid—or give up Rosemeade. I knew it would kill Grandfather to move him away from the house he was born in, and I couldn't think of anything that would get money quick but coal oil wells and gold mines and plays. It costs money to dig up oil and gold, but it is easy to write a play."
"Oh, is it?" Roger questioned, with a twinkle in his eyes above the freckles. In his arms he still held the meal and the sugar, and his interest was an inspiration to Patricia to pour out the whole story in a torrent of tumbling words.
"You know those love letters I have of our great grandmother's that she wrote to her husband while he was in Washington consulting the President about the first constitutional convention, the ones about the Indian raid and the battle at Shawnee. You remember the day I read them to you up in the apple tree in the orchard years ago, don't you?"
"Yes, I remember the day," answered Roger, with another twinkle turned inward at the memory of his seventeen-year-old scorn of Patricia's eleven-year-old sentimentality.
"Well, those letters are the play," announced Patricia triumphantly. "I read a lot of Shakespeare and other old English dramas I found in Grandfather's library to see exactly how to make one. It ends when he comes back expecting to find her killed and she is dancing at a dinner she has given her lover as a bet that he would come back by that night. It's wonderful!" As she thus laid bare the skeleton of her play child, Patricia took from doubting Roger the sack of sugar.
"Shoo, that's not a play," hooted Roger, with a decided return of his seventeen-year-old scorn in his thirtieth summer.
"Read that," answered Patricia with dignity, as she handed him Mr. Godfrey Vandeford's letter, written and signed by Mr. Adolph Meyers.
"Whew—uh, Pat, two hundred and fifty dollars!" Roger exclaimed, as his manner dissolved quickly from affectionate derision into respectful awe.
"Oh, that's just a trifle for a beginning; those royalties may be worth several hundred thousand. In the 'Times Magazine' article that I read about Godfrey Vandeford and his plays, it said he had paid the author of 'Dear Geraldine' more than a hundred thousand dollars in royalties. That is what made me write the play."
"Say, let me take it sitting down," said Roger as he sank upon the grass beside a rose bed that had a row of spring onions growing odoriferously defiant under the very shower of its petals, and laid the sack of precious meal tenderly across his knees. "Now go on and tell me."
"You see, Roger, I had to do something to get the money to keep the house for Grandfather. You know we couldn't get any more mortgage money, because it had closed up or something, and—"
"Did Covington tell you he was going to foreclose after I—that is, right away?" demanded Roger fiercely, with a snap in the blue eyes above the freckles.
"No," said Patricia, as she settled herself on the grass beside Roger, with the valuable sugar balanced tenderly upon her knee. "He told me that he would let it stand just as it was for three months until October first, but after that we would have to—to tell—Grandfather and move," a quiver came into Patricia's soft voice that had in it the patrician, slurring softness that can only come from the throat of a grand dame sprung from the race which has dominated blue-grass pastures. "Doctor Healy says it won't be long but—but now he'll—he'll die in his own home that Grandmother built where he fought off the Indians. Her play has saved us."
"I had fixed it to run until I make my crops," said Roger, with a choke in his voice that was a rich masculine accompaniment to Patricia's.
"The play will have been running six weeks by that time, and I can pay most of it off. A hundred thousand a year is almost ten thousand a month and—"
"But all plays don't succeed, Pat, honey, and—"
"The 'Times Magazine' said that Godfrey Vandeford had never had a failure, and didn't you read that he wants to star Violet Hawtry in it? She was 'Dear Geraldine.' How could it fail?" Patricia was positively haughty toward Roger's timorousness.
"That's so," admitted Roger, convinced. "And we can easy get by on the two fifty until October, especially with the garden I am going to raise. I'm no Godfrey Vandeford, but I'm a first-class producer—of potatoes and onions and cabbage and turnip greens and corn. In these war times a potato producer ranks with any old producer."
"But I won't be able to leave all of the two hundred and fifty to use this summer. I'll have to take some of it with me."
"With you where?" demanded Roger.
"To New York. Do you suppose even Mr. Godfrey Vandeford would undertake to produce a play without the author there to help him?" Patricia's scorn of Roger's lack of sound reasoning about theatrical matters was hurled at him pitilessly.
"Of course not," admitted Roger hurriedly. "You can take the whole two hundred and fifty and I'll look after the Major and Jeff."
"I don't know what I'd do without you, Roger," said Patricia, as she cuddled her cheek for an instant against his strong, warm shoulder under the gingham shirt. "I'm afraid of New York. I know you'll take care of Grandfather; but who'll look after little me—I don't know what I'll do all by myself. Maybe I won't have to—"
"Certainly you'll have to go," Roger interrupted with comforting assurance. "Go to the Young Women's Christian Association, and if anything happens to you telegraph me and I'll come get you."
"I hadn't thought of the Y. W. C. A. Of course I'll be all right there. I'll get Miss Elvira to write a special letter to the secretary about me," exclaimed Patricia with the joy lights back in the great, gray eyes. "And it's so cheap there that I can leave a lot of the money at home. I'll only be gone about six weeks."
"No, I think you had better take all the two fifty with you," said Roger. "You know you have to spend money to make money and you mustn't be short. I'll look after the Major and Jeff. Don't you worry, dear."
"Will you let me buy you a big silo and a tractor plow when I get all the money? You are the greatest farmer in the world and you only need a little machinery to prove it." Again the young playwright rose to her knees and with letter and sugar in her embrace she entreated to be allowed to spend the money that was to be hers from "The Renunciation of Rosalind," which she did not know was being cast in New York as "The Purple Slipper."
"Certainly I'll let you help me, Pat. Hasn't what's yours and mine always been ours since we set our first hen together?" laughed Roger, as he rose to his feet and dragged Patricia to hers beside him. "Come on and let's break it to the Major. You may need me to stand by if it hits him on the bias," and they both laughed with a tinge of uneasiness as they went down the long walk of the garden which on both sides was sprouting and leaving and perfuming in a medley of flowers and vegetables.
As they walked slowly along Roger cast an eye of great satisfaction over the long lines of rapidly maturing peas and beans and heavy-leaved potatoes, and in his mind calculated that a year's food for the small family at Rosemeade was being produced right at their door under his skilful hoe which he wielded at off times when he could leave the negro hands to their work out on Rosemeade, their ancestral five hundred acres of blue-grass meadows and loamy fields. Roger had for the summer quit his slowly growing law practice in Adairville, enlisted as a doughty Captain in the Army of the Furrows and was as proud of his khaki and gingham uniform with their loam smudges as of his diploma from the University of Virginia which hung in the wide old hall, the top one in a succession of five given from father to son of the house of Adair. The whole county was farming under the direction of Roger, and he had been obliged often to work Patricia's garden by moonlight.
"I'm almost afraid to tell Grandfather," Patricia interrupted his food calculations to say as they came around the corner of the wide-roofed old brick house with its traceries of vines that massed at the eaves to give nesting for many doves, and beheld the Major seated in his arm chair on the porch which was guarded and supported by round, white pillars around which a rose vine festooned itself. A faded, plaid wool rug was across the Major's knees in spite of the fact that the evening was so warm, and about his shoulders was a wide, gray knitted scarf. A bent, white-haired old negro stood beside him filling his pipe for him and serving as a target for the words issuing from beneath his waxed white mustache that gave the impression of crossed white swords.
"War! What do they know about war, Jeff? We killed our first Yankee before we were seventeen, and now they fight behind guns located six miles away by squinting through double-decker opera glasses. War, I say in these days—"
"Yes, sir," assented Jeff, in soothing interruption of what he considered debilitating heat in the Major's words. "We whipped them Yankees in no time but they jest didn't find it out in time to stop killing us 'fore it all ended. Now, I'm going to help you to your room and make you comfortable for I—"
"I see Patricia and Roger approaching and I'll wait to talk to them for a few minutes, Jeff," answered the Major with a slight note of entreaty in his voice.
"Jess a little while, then, jess a little while," consented the old black comrade nurse as he shuffled into the house and back to his kitchen to complete his preparation of the simple evening meal for his little household. As he crisped his bacon, scrambled his eggs and browned his muffins he muttered to himself:
"He's gitting weaker every day—help him Lord, and me to keep care of him."
Just as he was turning the fluffy yellow scramble into a hot, old silver dish he paused and listened to the musketry of the Major's deep voice which was huge even in weakness, then he shook his head and began to hustle the food together to be able to use the announcement of the meal as an interruption to the harmful excitement, whose scattering words he was at a loss to understand.
"Impossible! Impossible that my granddaughter should barter and trade in the theatrical world, a world into which no lady should ever set foot. No! Do not argue, Patricia! Roger and I understand, and it is not needful that you should," were the words of the assault and counter-charge that so puzzled old Jeff over his skillet and baker.
"I'm not going to act in the play, Grandfather. I wrote it and I'm going to show them how I want it acted and then come right home," soothed Patricia, looking to Roger for help and reinforcement.
"She'll stay at the Young Women's Christian Association, Major, and she'll be perfectly safe. I am going to write to Dennis Farraday, who graduated with me at the University, and ask him to look after her if she needs anything."
"Ah, that puts another face on the matter," said the Major, with a degree of mollification coming into his keen, old face and weakly booming voice. "Of course, the Adairs have always been geniuses of one kind or another, and it is not surprising that my granddaughter should have produced a great American Drama. If she has the interest and protection of a gentleman who is a friend of her brother's, and a safe retreat in a woman's organization I will have to permit her to superintend the placing of her great work before an appreciative public. Of course, she will not be thrown with any of the theatrical world socially, and in a few weeks she will return to her own home, leaving that world better for having had a brief glimpse of her. You may go, Patricia. Jefferson!" Fatigue showed very decidedly in the Major's weak call to the old negro, who came immediately and rolled his chair away with an indignant cast of his eyes at the two young people.
"Wh-eugh, that was a battle, and if I hadn't thought of old Denny to bring up as a support to the Young Women's Christian Association I think it would have sure gone the other way." And Roger laughed with the twinkle above the freckles as he leaned against the rose vine around the pillar and fanned himself with his hat.
"Is there any Denny?" questioned Patricia weakly, from the top step upon which she had sunk when the Major was wheeled away.
"Certainly, and he's a jolly good fellow," answered Roger. "I had a letter from him year before last. I'll write him all about everything and he'll look after you for me. I'd trust Denny to do his best for me if I hadn't seen him for fifty years. I lived with him our Junior and Senior years and I know him. But I must go. I have to go back to the grocery again to get a plow point."
"Please don't go until after supper," pleaded Patricia. "I want to think out loud to you. It has just struck me that I will have to have some clothes. What will I do about it? I can't go to New York in a gingham dress."
"In such a crisis as that I think Miss Elvira will be a better target for your thoughts than I can be. I'll stop and tell her the news and send her over," teased Roger with his engaging twinkle.
"I can't think to anybody like I can to you," said Patricia, as she came and stood beside him.
"I really have to go, honey child, to see about the ploughing in my South meadow, but I'll come back to be in the finish of the dimity confab," answered Roger, as he patted Patricia on the shoulder and went rapidly away.
And a dimity confab was a good name for the conference that was held in the July moonlight on the front porch of Rosemeade for several silvered hours that night. Miss Elvira Henderson, modiste, who was the guide, philosopher and friend, in the matter of costuming as well as in all other matters, of the feminine population of Hillcrest, had hurried down the street to the Rosemeade gate as soon as she had consumed her spinster baked apple and toast supper, and on her way had collected pretty Mamie Lou Whitson and progressive Jenny Kinkaid, who formed a thrilled chorus to her interested and joyful conversation with Patricia.
"The eyes of the world will be on you, Patricia, and nothing short of a silk tailor suit will be suitable for you to wear to sustain yourself in such a position," declared Miss Elvira, with a positive degree of finality in her voice.
"And you'll have to have at least three evening dresses, Pat, for that same article about Mr. Godfrey Vandeford said that Broadway only woke up at night. And you know it said he was the best known man on Broadway. Of course, he'll take you to lots of Cafes and dances, and midnight frolics and—and things," bubbled Mamie Lou very unwisely.
"Patricia is to stay at The Young Women's Christian Association, and I am sure they will expect her to be in bed before any midnight foolishness," said Miss Elvira, with a severe glance at the frivolous Mamie Lou. "I shall, of course, make her an evening dress or two, one especially to wear when the multitude calls her before the curtain to express their admiration of and enthusiasm over her play, but I shall trust Patricia not to let them lead her into any undue frivolity. The theatres all close at eleven o'clock."
"The article said that was the time that Broadway woke up, and—" Jenny began, as she hid behind Mamie Lou as if expecting a volley from Miss Elvira. But Miss Elvira was too much absorbed to notice her in any way. Miss Elvira was also in the throes of conceptive genius.
"The last 'Woman's Review' had a colored plate of a suit that I can see on you, Patricia," she mused under her breath. "It was queer blue, with—"
"In that big trunk of your great grandmother's up in the garret there's a blue silk that she wore in Washington that is that curious new blue color, Pat, and a lot more of—" Mamie Lou was saying with great executive ability when Miss Elvira seized on her idea and made it her own with the avidity of real genius.
"We'll make over all of old Madam Adair's dresses for you, Patricia," she decreed.
"They've always been kept kind of sacred and—" Patricia began to remonstrate with uncertainty in her voice.
"And rightly so—but at the presentation of her play it is proper for them to emerge," Miss Elvira further decreed. "Get a lamp and let's go look at them and decide to-night," she further commanded.
And from the result of that resurrection in the garret of Rosemeade, Adairville, Kentucky, later Broadway, even Fifth Avenue, New York, got a decided and unwonted thrill.
"The clothes are all right, Roger. Miss Elvira is going to make me a lot out of great-grandmother's clothes she wore in Washington to dance with Lafayette," Patricia confided to Roger as they stood under the rose vine in the moonlight at the late hour of ten-thirty that evening after she had helped him transplant a lot of sturdy tomato vines.
"Little old New York will sit up and take notice when it sees you in party dimity, Pat," he said as he smiled down into the eager, gray eyes that were raised to his, beaming through their long black lashes.
"Oh, I hope I'll make friends, Roger," Patricia answered the warmth in his voice as she clung to the warmth and strength of his arm as if in foreboding.
"Of course New York will love you, Pat. Hasn't everybody always loved you?" he asked tenderly as he put his work-worn hand over hers on his arm.
"Yes," answered Patricia, with her head suddenly held high. "If anybody don't like me, I'll make them."
At about the same hour that this challenge to his world was flung from the lips of the beautiful and talented Miss Patricia Adair upon the moonlit and mockingbird trilled air of the Bluegrass State Mr. Godfrey Vandeford was engaged in about the twenty-fifth round of the spanking of Miss Violet Hawtry in the State of New York, and he was having a hard time accomplishing his purpose.
"It's just like your selfishness to try to put me into a piffling play by some unknown author with every risk to be run, when Weiner wants to buy your contract and put me into 'The Rosie Posie Girl,' which is a play by Hilliard that gives me scope for all of my ability. He is willing to give you a fifth interest in it and that's all you deserve. I'll show you whether or not you can sacrifice my career, you ——! ——! ——! you!" And with which tirade the beautiful Violet stormed up and down the veranda of Highcliff in front of the supine figure of her manager, which was clad in immaculate white flannel, suede and linen, with a blue silk scarf knotted at the base of his lean, bronze throat, which matched the blue of his keen eyes under their gray-sprinkled brows, as the only bit of color in his irreproachable costuming.
"You've read neither play, my dear Violet. You may like 'The Purple Slipper.' In which case you get the same salary and I get all the profits instead of the one-fifth our friend Weiner is offering me for letting you act in my other play," he answered his star's outburst in an easy, mollifying drawl.
"Everybody knows that a Hilliard play is a play, and I'm not going to try out a new playwright just to put money in your pockets. Why should I?" demanded the star virago, in a fury that made her snapping Irish blue eyes, tall, strapping, curved body, and pale tawny hair combine into a good semblance of the jungle queen on a prey quest.
"No reason except your contract entered into in all lawfulness," answered Mr. Godfrey Vandeford. "You know what the Courts are, and if you like I'll meet you there and fight it out instead of by these sounding sea waves in this delicious moonlight. Come here and kiss me and do let our lawyers settle it all for us." As he spoke he rose lazily and attempted to take the taut young cat into a pair of listlessly desirous arms.
"Not on your life you big loafer, you, just because you put one over me when I was a starved stage door drab don't think I am that same kind or that sort of thing goes with me now." She spit the words at him as she half yielded to his nonchalant embrace and half repulsed it.
"Be accurate, Violet, my dear: did I demand your heart until I had managed you and my own affairs to the point where you could buy Highcliff or any other trifles you wanted? There are other ladies to love in the world besides you, aren't there? There are other gentlemen besides me and you've had five years—and a wide hunting grounds. I've got you under only one contract—business and not—pleasure."
"God, I don't know whether I love or hate you most," were the words of the conciliating purr that he got as she turned to put herself back under his caressing.
"Hate, I wager," he laughed softly, as he drew away from her and seated himself on the railing of the veranda which hung out over the old ocean so that its hungry waves seemed to be leaping up to engulf him. The gray peaks and gable of the Hawtry cottage massed themselves back of him and in the silvering moonlight he looked like a white eagle perched on an eyrie.
"Don't make me play that play; give me over to Weiner," the star of many such an encounter as well of "Dear Geraldine" coaxed, as she followed him and put bare, white, glistening arms around his neck and attempted to draw his head down against a bosom that still tossed with the storm of anger that she had put out of voice and face. "You know how last year nobody could get a theatre for love or money, and the producers who owned theatres put on all the plays and coined money. It will be worse next year. You have no theatre and Weiner has three. He offers to let us open the New Carnival. It'll be a sure thing; while your play will have to take its chance for a New York theatre and maybe get none. Please, Godfrey!"
"Well, you see I had agreed to let Dennis Farraday in on this play, and it would sell him out to Weiner too," answered Mr. Vandeford, as he very gently but determinedly took the white arms from around his neck and refused the pillow of the storming breast.
"Dennis Farraday?" Violet asked, and Mr. Vandeford shot a quick glance of question at her as he felt the tautening of the muscles in the white arms that he had in his grasp of untangling. "You are not going to trim him, are you?"
"No, not if you make a hit in 'The Purple Slipper,' answered Mr. Vandeford, as he gave her another appraising glance while he lit a cigarette.
"Has he read the play?"
"He's putting his money on Hawtry in a play of Vandeford's selecting and producing," was the slap administered with the soft drawl. And as he slapped he watched the reaction.
"What did you do with that copy of the play that fellow Dolph sent out this morning?" was what he got with an entire change of purpose in the beautiful, stormy face that had calmed in an instant.
"It's in your room on the table by your bed," answered Mr. Vandeford, as he rose, stretched, yawned and in other ways indicated his desire for sleep in the primitive manner that a man uses in the bosom of his family.
"I'm going to read it if you don't mind," the Violet said with a smile of pleasure instead of the frown of anger which had so lately rested on her fair face. Mr. Vandeford laughed inwardly; she was about as transparent as a very young kitten in its eagerness for a saucer of cream.
"Good girl," answered Godfrey, as together they entered the dark house. Together they climbed the steps, and with a kiss executed by the Violet he left her to turn into the door of her room while he went on to his just beyond.
Out of her sight the lazy, care-free manner left his lithe body, and in an instant every muscle stiffened to action. The smoulder of anger in his eyes blazed. He looked at his watch.
"Thirty-five minutes to catch that eleven-fifteen train to town. Never again. I'm done!" he murmured and looked about him at his belongings strewn around his room. "I'll send Dolph out to pack to-morrow. A jump into tweeds and a sprint down the beach will make it."
And after vigorously suiting his actions to his words for twenty minutes he was running swiftly down the beach well ahead of the time of the eleven-fifteen train. Just as the headlight cast a red ray down the long track he stepped on the platform and in ten seconds more he was being whirled away from the moonlight and sands and white arms, having accomplished his purpose of the spanking, cut forever chains that galled, and was well content with himself and the world.
Back at Highcliff the beautiful Violet had been undergoing the rites of retirement, assisted by her very well-skilled maid, deep in an exciting dream of conquest. As she let her soft, perfumed, silken garments be taken from her one at a time until her pearly body was exposed to the brisk sea air, for which tonic Susette had thrown wide both broad windows, she was weighing in her shrewd little gutter-gamin mind the advantages of the road to the right against the turn to the left. The Hilliard "Rosie Posie Girl" in the fall produced by Weiner with all his trained staff, command of a big new theatre and three others, and following road prestige appealed strongly to her cupidity, which had been well trained in getting dimes from tight pockets in cheap cafes and ten, twenty and thirty theatres, but she had seen a grouping of Dennis Farraday's name in the paper a few days ago with the names of some young New York multimillionaires in a National Commission, and she knew that he and his "pile" were worthy of the effort of her charms. Also she had seen big, broad, breezy, gallant Dennis himself at luncheon with Mr. Vandeford in the Astor not ten days before, and her designs had been decidedly set in his direction. To her thinking, big, broad, breezy, gallant men were always easy. As Susette enveloped her rosiness from the sea air in a soft white cloud of chiffon and embroidery, removed the rose mules from her feet, helped her in between the fragrant linen sheets that were as soft as rich silk, threw over her a rose-colored puff of silk and lace and down, turned on her reading lamp, upon whose shade wanton fauns and nymphs sported, piled her pillows high and left her, the scales were about going down on the side in which was placed "The Purple Slipper," Mr. Dennis Farraday—and Miss Patricia Adair, who at that time was the unknown quantity which Fate often throws in any balance.
With a luxurious sigh and flexing of her long, supple body the Violet picked up the business-like copy of the Violet manuscript which Mr. Adolph Meyers had sent her instead of the beribboned, purple "Renunciation of Rosalind," and began to read the first page when the telephone beside her bed rang with a soft tinkle. She picked up the ivory receiver and into it murmured a softly tentative:
. . . . . .
"Oh, Mr. Farraday! How are you?"
. . . . . .
"Yes, this is Violet Hawtry."
. . . . . .
"Deliciously well, thank you."
. . . . . .
"Yes, he's here, but the gay young thing has gone to bed hours ago."
. . . . . .
"Most interesting for me, but I have to submit."
. . . . . .
"Oh, lovely. Do come. I'll adore having him routed out for you. Of course we'll go with you. I had forgot that Simone was to dance at the Beach Inn to-night."
. . . . . .
"No indeed, I have not undressed at all. I was going to study a part to-night."
. . . . . .
"I'm sure Godfrey can be dressed in half an hour, and it will take even your Surreness that time to get here. Take the beach road; it's fine. Good-by then. In half an hour."
. . . . . .
With which ending and beginning the Violet hung up the ivory receiver and rang for Susette. The summons was answered by Mrs. Aline Hawtry, nee Maggie Murphy the first, an embarrassing but in a manner cherished relict of the Hawtry past life in Weehawken.
"Sure, and the little Frinchy is a-bed, Mag! What be ye wanting? The night is after sneaking out the back door of the morning." Mrs. Hawtry, once Murphy, was a big bonny edition of the Violet grown into a cabbage rose and her voice was also of the same rich texture.
"Rout out Godfrey, Ma, and then stir up Susette with a hot stick. Mr. Dennis Farraday is coming down to take us over to see Simone dance at the Beach Inn. I want him to see me instead of Simone. Hurry!"
"The poor dear boy, after a hard day in the cruel hot city. Alack!" moaned Mrs. Maggie as she billowed across to Mr. Vandeford's door and knocked. Then she paused and knocked again. From neither knock did she receive an answer as the moment was just about the one in which he had boarded the New York bound train a half mile up the beach down which Mr. Dennis Farraday was racing.
When a search of the unresponsive room had convinced the Violet of his flight, for a moment her eyes were stormy, then her face cleared with a smile of delight, and as she padded back to her room and the waiting Susette, to herself she purred:
"Nobody can beat my luck."
There is a certain kind of man over whom all other men smile inwardly. The tone of voice in which they speak of him has an affectionate growl, which, once heard, cannot be mistaken. Such a man is apt to cherish what other men call "impossible ideals about women," and it behooves his masculine friends to watch out for him carefully lest he come a cropper. Mr. Dennis Farraday was such a man among men, and Mr. Godfrey Vandeford loved him deeply. They had met when they were both twenty-three, on board a tramp steamer, bound for adventure in South Africa, and in the seven years that had elapsed since then they had spent periods of time together, in various kinds of sports. Killing time on Broadway was about the only sport that they had not tried together. By very solid banking and brokering Mr. Vandeford enjoyed and increased for himself and an aristocratic, Knickerbocker-descended mother a few ancestral millions. Incidentally, he took care of the sole hundred thousand dollars of which Mr. Vandeford's high financiering on Broadway had left him possessed. Mr. Farraday and Mrs. Justus Farraday represented the sole family ties possessed by Mr. Vandeford, and he considered them both most valuable. In fact, the maternal regard of Mrs. Justus Farraday was looked upon by Mr. Vandeford as his chief treasure and sheet-anchor in times of the high winds of life.
"What makes you do it, Van?" questioned Mr. Farraday, as he sat with Mr. Vandeford in the early morning in the latter's rooms after the tumult of the first night of the unsuccessful "Miss Cut-up."
"Excitement," answered Mr. Vandeford, as he put his bare heels, protruding from his Chinese slippers, up on the edge of the mahogany reading-table in his living-room, and began to pull at a long, evil-smelling, briar pipe. "Nothing like it."
"Do you really care for all that noise, those explosions of chorus girls, sweating stage hands, cursing director and cursing star, paint, powder, electricity, paper walls and furniture, call-bells and hand-clapping from boozy critics in front?"
"I do," answered Mr. Godfrey Vandeford, with a glint in his eyes deep back in his head. "And so would you if you had bet about twenty thousand on that combination and could see the people begin to eat it up right before your eyes as you sat in a box and watched 'em. When you've backed your own combination of inferno on riot, it gives you a thrill to stand before the box-office and watch a line of people that stretches to the next block plunk down dollars that they have earned at their own particular combinations of life to see the combination you have made of yours. Why, tears come into my eyes when I see some little, old, dried-up seamstress pay a dollar to sit in the roost to see Gerald Height love the powder off of Violet while she is cursing him under her breath for so doing, and it tickles me under my ribs to see some fat, jolly, lonely, old party buy a front seat two days hand-running to sit and watch Mazie Villines dance over her own head and take the child out to supper afterward in all propriety. It does him good all over after selling white goods in Squeedunck, Illinois, eleven and three-quarter months of every year. It's all to the good, Denny, and I wish you could get the drag of it."
"Perhaps it would be well if I could," agreed Mr. Farraday, as he rose and shook his big, lithe body with the agility of a frolicsome puppy who knows he is going into mischief, and looked cautiously at Godfrey. "Is backing the life of the Violet sport, too?" he ventured.
"Best I know. Took nothing and made it into something in five years. If it bites my hand that's all in the game."
"Same force could beget and train about eleven small Vandefords into pretty good American citizens," Mr. Farraday snapped out, and then backed away.
"Absinthe cocktails ruin the taste for sweet milk. Don't talk about things you know nothing about; thank God for that same ignorance," Mr. Vandeford commanded. "Go to bed and sleep like the cherub you are, while I expiate here with my pipe."
From that conversation it was natural to man nature that the demand for a half-interest in the next Hawtry show would have been made by Mr. Dennis Farraday of Mr. Godfrey Vandeford, and acceded to with the brotherly reservations already related. The eye-teeth of Mr. Dennis Farraday were very precious to Mr. Godfrey Vandeford, and he had the intention of taking great care that their edges should not be dulled. It was well that he did not know that the eleven-fifteen train he had taken in his flight to New York passed the huge, eight-cylinder Surreness of his beloved Jonathan in its race up the beach for the home of the Violet.
Now, when all is said and considered, a large admiration is due and much should be forgiven Miss Violet Hawtry, who, as half-starved Maggie Murphy, had darted out of the gutter into the back stage-door at the age of fifteen, snapped her huge violet eyes with their fringes of black, trilled a vulgar, Irish street song in accompaniment to sundry provocative swayings of her lissome, maturing young body, and thus had made enough impression on her world to hang on by the tips of her fingers until she dropped into the outstretched arms of Mr. Godfrey Vandeford, who was prowling around Weehawken and the vicinity for just such ripe fruit as she when he was casting his first musical girl-show for the purpose of some violent excitement after a snowed-in winter in the Klondike.
He had taken her to an old stage-mother he knew, had her thoroughly washed, combed, manicured, dressed, schooled, and had given her the benefit of his respect for five years while she worked up into the star of "Dear Geraldine" with all the might of the Irish eyes and lissome figure and cooing, creamy voice. He had then built Highcliff in the artist's colony of the Beach for the joint domicile of mother and daughter. However, it is easier to bathe, comb, manicure, and luxuriously clothe a body than it is to renovate a soul, and within the Violet Maggie dwelt in all her gutter vigor. It is also safe to say that perhaps it was no little part of the Maggie that the beautiful and haughty Violet threw across the footlights to draw to her the primitive in the hearts of her vast audiences. It was to some extent the wisdom of Maggie that the Violet was using as she prepared for her first encounter alone with Mr. Dennis Farraday as he raced down the moonlit beach to her.
"Not the violet and jet, Susette, but that white embroidered lisle, and take time to sew three inches of tulle around the top of the bodice in front and put folds five inches deep across the back. Let it come just below the shoulder," she commanded, as she commenced the whirlwind of a toilette with which, she had assured the hurrying Dennis, she was already adorned.
"Mais, Mademoiselle—" Susette began.
"He'd shy at too much omitted clothing when we are alone. I'll have to introduce him to myself gradually," she answered the protest, laughing as she tossed her pale, yellow mane high on her head, and dabbed a little curl against her cheek with the rose oil, and made a skilful use of the lip-stick brought by Mr. Godfrey Vandeford from the famed Celeste's.
"He will behold that Mademoiselle Simone dance with very few garments alors," Susette pouted as she laid in the folds of modest tulle.
"But he won't be alone in the moonlight with her, that is, if I can help it," answered the mistress, as she further perfumed and painted the lily of her beauty. "Don't worry, Susette; I'm going to give monsieur the time of his life."
"That is without saying, Mademoiselle," answered Susette, as she slipped the silky fluff over the Violet's head, and fastened the one or two hooks that held it in place over the filmy undergarments in which the Violet stood waiting for its veiling. "Mon Dieu, what a beauty it gives you, and that placing of the tulle is ravissant."
"That is what I meant it to be," laughed the Violet. "There's his car! Bring me that orchid wrap when I ring for it." And leaving the admiration of Susette, the Violet hurried down to drink from the cup of the same vintage she was sure would be offered her by Mr. Dennis Farraday. It was offered.
"It's awfully good of you people to help a poor lonely dub to a pleasant evening," were the words with which the victim greeted the Violet, while his eyes offered the expected portion of admiration as he beheld her bathed in the radiance of the moon.
"Sure the pleasure is ours—or rather mine, poor old Van," she answered, with not a little trepidation well hidden under her rich voice.
"Couldn't you wake him up, the old scout? Let me get to him. I have a way with him I learned in the Nova Scotia woods." Mr. Farraday laughed a big laugh, which had in it the tang of the breeze in the tops of pine-trees. But the Violet was ready for him.
"He's not there for your torture. The poor darling got a telephone message just twenty minutes ago to come back to New York to-night. I've just motored him up the beach to catch the eleven-fifteen train. Some day that tiresome Dolph will follow Van about some play snarl into—into Paradise."
"He did that to-night, didn't he?" asked Mr. Farraday, with a merry laugh as he ruffled his red forelock up off his broad brow, and made himself look like a huge, tame lion.
"Away with your blarney, boy!" laughed the Violet, in return, using her Maggie Murphy form of speech with telling effect, as she often did. "He left a thousand apologies for you," she added, slipping back into her veneer of the—for Maggie—upper world. "And you've had your race down for nothing; poor Simone!"
"Oh, I say, can't we just go on over to supper at the Beach Inn? The Clyde Trevors asked me, and we can have supper with them. Wouldn't you like that? We can tell them about poor Van." He was as eager as a boy in his friendly efforts to mend what he thought must be a broken evening for her.
"I'd love it," answered the Violet, with a flash of her white teeth and violet eyes at him.
After a summons Susette appeared with the alluring orchid garment, and a white film of seed-pearls for her mistress's hair. She assisted the Violet's discreet Japanese butler to put them into the big car, which Mr. Farraday was driving himself, and then stood for a minute watching them hurl themselves away across the white sand.
"Quelle vie!" she muttered to herself as she turned back into the darkened house.
The Beach Inn was aglow and atwinkle and in full laugh as they ascended the steps of the wide veranda hung out over the ocean, where members and guests were having supper at small tables lit with shaded lamps. Men and girls, in bathing suits that were lineal descendants of the scant fig-leaf, were eating and drinking together sparsely because of their intention of taking a midnight plunge in the breakers under the hot moon, while other women in radiant evening garb were almost as scantily attired, though attended by stuffily garbed men. Most of the parties turned and called a laughing greeting to the Violet, for they were the men and women of her world disporting themselves away from Broadway, and Clyde Trevor, who had written the book for "Miss Cut-up," rose and came over to claim his guests.
"Lost Van?" he questioned, as he led them to their seats beside Mrs. Trevor, who had danced fifty thousand dollars out of New York the winter just ended. His voice held a hint of irony, which the Violet got and Mr. Dennis Farraday missed.
"Not quite yet," she said, with a coo at which Trevor smiled, and under his breath he gave her the word, "Good hunting!"
"Old Van had to hop back to New York on the eleven-fifteen, but we came on to glad with you anyway," Mr. Farraday was saying to Mrs. Trevor, with an ingenuous smile.
"Go to it, baby," commanded Trevor to his wife, as a rich negro melody began to fling its invitation against the roaring call of the ocean, and at his word Simone rose from the seat of Mrs. Trevor and slid out into the cleared space at the head of the steps.
"Just in time," commented Mr. Farraday under his breath, as he turned his chair to watch her drop her silk coat, and float out on the waves of sound just as she would later float on the waves of the ocean after she had plunged from the steps to lead the midnight bathing in the surf, for which the management of the inn paid her the sum of two hundred dollars per plunge.
All of this gaiety and amusement was just a prelude to the ride home in the moonlight, which the Violet took with good Dennis Farraday and during which she discovered that there is such a thing as honor among men about poaching on other men's preserves, and during which, also, the fate of Major Adair, Patricia, Roger, and old black Jeff hung in the balance.
"Just what are we racing?" she questioned as they flew along the beach with rubber tires that just skimmed the hard, white sand.
"A bit fast?" asked Mr. Farraday, with a protective laugh, as he slowed down the flight.
"Let's loaf and talk a while," the Violet answered, with a tentative note of invitation in her voice.
"I had thought you and Van and I would have a great powwow over the play this evening, and it's fierce that he had to get back to that furnace a night like this, but we can limp along on a few ideas without him, maybe. What do you think of 'The Purple Slipper'?" As he set the car at an easy pace he turned and looked down at the lovely face so near his shoulder with a great and extremely boyish enthusiasm, which was very delightful and very irritating to the Violet.
"What do you think about it? You tell first," she said with a smile that answered his enthusiasm adequately and which served to cover with agility the fact that she had not read the play.
"Well, at first it seemed a queer kind of vehicle for you, but as I read on I could see you queening it in all those furbelows of dress as well as adventure and sentiment. It's a little serious in situation, but it is full of comedy adventure in line, and I can just see the audience eat you up in it. I told Van so, and I bought in before I had read more than half the second act. I don't feel as though I could wait to see you in that dinner scene while you hold the enemies of your spouse confounded. I agree with Van that your emotional qualities may exceed your comedy."
"Does Van back my emotional acting against my comedy?" the Violet asked, with barely concealed surprise in her voice.
"He does. He says that 'The Purple Slipper' is going to be the sensation of Broadway for the early fall, and I agree with him. Do you feel as sure of it as he says you are?"
"Yes," answered the Violet, and by her assent in premeditated ignorance of the contents of the play manuscript she put the second cross on the production which made it a double on the fate of Mr. Dennis Farraday as a theatrical producer. However, that fact may have been balanced by the fact that it was the third cross on the fate of Miss Patricia Adair. Crosses on fates in the world of Broadway go in singles, doubles, and threes, and no man can tell their exact significance.
"Good!" answered Mr. Dennis Farraday, with another and still broader smile of gratification and admiration of the Violet as an artist—a smile which further infuriated, but equally inspired her. "And what a grand time we'll all have putting it across! I'm going to help Van see actors for the cast on Friday, and I'm going to sit in on rehearsals straight through. I'm due a month's vacation, and I'm going to have my mail from the office relayed back to New York from the yacht off Nantucket so that bunch of money grubbers can't find me. Think of having the honor of being co-producer for Violet Hawtry for my first shot!"
All of which enthusiasm and admiration went like wine to the head of the Violet, though it left her heart uncomfortably cold; and beautiful, cool moonlight heats the heart of a fair woman when it is not more than two feet away from that of a brave and fair man.
"Sure I'll make it a success for you, man dear!" Maggie Murphy in the Violet made an attempt to put a glow into the situation, using the brogue that was like rich cream poured over peaches, as she snuggled her bare shoulder, from which the orchid wrap had slipped, with a natural little shiver against good Dennis's wheel arm.
"You and Van are trumps to take me in for the fun, and I'm no end grateful to you both," was all she got for her manoeuver.
"Yes—Van is a dear," she hedged in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Yes, and I suppose after my co-first night with him the old scout will stop baiting me about blinking the white lights. I always have been obliged to beat Van at any game before I could rest in peace." And at the thought of getting in at his David big Jonathan laughed heartily just as he began to slow up the car for the turn along the sea-wall that led under the porch of Highcliff.
"Have you ever competed with him in the biggest game of all?" the Violet asked softly, as the car swept into the shadow and stopped by the broad stone steps.
"What do you mean?" demanded Mr. Farraday, with a countenance so open and a voice so hearty that the Violet, used to artifice from everybody, suspected that they could not be real, and this suspicion made her give up the game for the time being. She laughed with a mocking sweetness as she sprang out of the car and to the top of the steps before he could help her.
"Some day I'll tell you what I mean," she mocked from the dark doorway. "Good-night!" And while he stood at the bottom step looking up at her, she vanished into the darkness of the house, leaving him out in the cool moonlight, a fate very different from what she had been planning for him for several hours.
"Just as old Van said, they are nothing but children, and I blame him about trifling with her more than I thought I did; she's a dear thing and a little pathetic in her anxiety to make good for him. Scout has just got to do something about it all. She's a fine and devoted woman. And beautiful—whee-ugh!" The big thirty-year-old boy ended his soliloquy with a whistle, which showed that in a measure he had appreciated the dangers of the last hours. One of the eternal questions is how can a mere man be so wicked—or so good as he is often discovered by temptation to be?
"I'll have to be publicly and finally severed from Van before I annex him, the boob," was the soliloquy of the Violet as she prepared for her slumber of beauty. Another question is how thin a veneer of feminine beauty weathers indefinitely the wash of circumstances.
Then after that moonlit night in August Fate spun her web, which she called "The Purple Slipper," rapidly, and for a number of the people involved life became very hectic. The center of the whirl was Mr. Adolph Meyers, though he was safely functioning with power behind the throne occupied by Mr. Godfrey Vandeford's nonchalant and elegantly clad figure.
"But Mr. Vandeford, sir, it is never before that you have produced a play without a reading," he remonstrated on the morning of the day set for the picking of the cast from those probably suitable chosen by Chambers, the invaluable agent of the great army of those theatrically employed. "Actors will be here from twelve o'clock even to six. How will a choice be made?"
"I'm trusting to your hunch about the purple manuscript falling on the day of the Violet letter, Pops," answered Mr. Godfrey Vandeford. "Make out a little memorandum against each name that tells me what to pick. I like the idea of going it blind that way: it may be lucky. And, Pops, split that five-thousand-dollar check of Mr. Farraday's in three ways. Pay Lindenberg two-fifty as his advance on the scenery for 'The Rosie Posie Girl,' provided he furbishes up something that will do for the little road sally of Violet's spanking-machine, to be emblazoned as 'The Purple Slipper' on the cheapest black bills ever run off in New York. Give Hugh Willings a thousand advance for the music of 'The Rosie Posie Girl,' but make him write as many as six waltz songs even if you are sure the first is a hit; it is good to make people, specially any kind of artists, work for the money you pay 'em. The other fifteen hundred you had better put off by itself as a starter on the Violet's gowns. She likes to pay an Irish woman with a French name three hundred dollars for six dollars' worth of chiffon sewed with seventy-five cents' worth of silk."
"What is for costumes for the 'Purple Slipper'?"
"Oh, any old dolling up will do for that. The women can wear what they've got and the men borrow or rent." With a wave of the cigarette in his hand, Mr. Vandeford dismissed the scenic effects of the play for whose debut Miss Elvira Henderson was concocting a dream costume to adorn the author for receiving triumphal plaudits.
"But, Mr. Vandeford, sir, it is a costume play of a period," the humble power behind the throne pleaded.
"Oh, is it? Then rent the nearest layout to its date that Grossmidt has for all of 'em in a lump, and make him give you a bargain. Tell him they won't be worn more than two weeks. I guess Violet will be in line by that time." With which significant order Mr. Godfrey Vandeford turned from the anxious Mr. Meyers to answer the tinkling telephone at his elbow. In a second he was speaking to the most eminent stage director on Broadway.
. . . . . .
"Yes, this is Godfrey Vandeford, Bill."
. . . . . .
"Yes. Called to know if you would like to stage a little show for me right away."
. . . . . .
"Yes. I'm going to give Hawtry a little canter before 'The Rosie Posie Girl.' New line for her, and doubtful. Like to take hold for a pittance?"
. . . . . .
"Oh, yes, that three hundred a week for the 'Posie Girl' goes, of course, but this play is just a Hawtry whim that I have got to let her get out of her system. One hundred a week is my limit, and you ought to do it for seventy-five. You can sit in your chair all the time for all I care."
. . . . . .
"Now you get me—a hundred it is. Let her have her head and work off steam before we start 'The Rosie Posie.' Yes, Willings is doing the Rosie songs for us. They'll be hot stuff."
. . . . . .
"Yes, Corbett's making sketches for 'The Rosie Posie' scenery now. We'll start 'The Purple Slipper' on Monday. Yes, that's its blooming name. By!"
* * * * *
"Is it William Rooney to stage 'The Purple Slipper'?" asked Mr. Meyers, with a shrug of his narrow shoulders as he began pecking out on his machine the notes that were to guide his chief in picking the artists who were to embody the characters in the play founded on the life romance of that old grandame Madam Patricia Adair of colonial Kentucky.
"Why do you reckon Samuel Goldstein likes to build up a reputation for himself on Broadway by the name of William Rooney, Pops?" inquired Mr. Vandeford, with the idle curiosity of a free and untroubled mind.
"It is the prejudice against Hebrews for a reason," answered Mr. Meyers, with a glint in his gem-like eyes and a wave of color flushing across his high, scholarly forehead.
"Well, the top crust of the whole show business is Hebrew, and I should think the bunch of you would be proud of the fact. I'm even proud that a man named Adolph Meyers runs this whole company, and me included," said Mr. Vandeford, without taking the trouble to note the wave of gratified pride, devotion, and embarrassment that swept over the countenance of his faithful henchman. "Now I'll get a little booking for your 'Purple Slipper,' and that is all you need expect me to do, except shoulder all the loss I haven't shunted on Denny."
"It is to be a win, not a loss," murmured the loyal Adolph under his breath, with a glance of affection at the absorbed Mr. Godfrey Vandeford.
This vow of Mr. Adolph Meyers shows that it is as dangerous to arouse the affection and loyalty of one genius as it is to incur the anger of another.
The casting of "The Purple Slipper" was a joy to Mr. Dennis Farraday. He was to pay well for it in the future, but it was conducted in pure glee. He sat beside Mr. Godfrey Vandeford in the latter's long, Persian carpeted, soft-tinted, and famous-actor-photograph-bedecked, private office beside that eminent producer, and watched the strong light from over their shoulders reveal the points of the men and women who came in to exhibit themselves. From the moment they entered the door, through the walk or waddle or lope or saunter with which they approached their fate to the expressions of joy or disappointment which their emotions showed under Mr. Godfrey Vandeford's grilling, Mr. Farraday was deeply interested.
"You know, Bebe, it is not necessary to put on more than a hundred extra pounds when in training for the heavy mother," he genially admonished a very large lady of uncertain age—an age artfully covered with rouge, powder, pencil, and lip-stick—who sank into the chair facing him with a pathetic remnant of the former lissome grace which had got her as far as being a dependable leading woman to any star who could go her a few points better.
"Well, it's not from living on large salaries from you that I have put on the pounds, Mr. Godfrey Vandeford!" she answered with a jovial laugh.
"Still eating half of old Wallace Kent's salary checks?" Mr. Vandeford demanded. This seemed a lack of delicacy to Mr. Dennis Farraday, who blushed with a color equal to that which rose in the cheeks of the old beauty as her eyes snapped and she rose to her feet.
"As you know, he's feeding a squab chicken at Rector's to get her into the broiler class. Good-day, sir," and she prepared to sweep out of the office with all the fire she had used in many a queenly situation.
"Good old Bebe," Mr. Vandeford said, as he rose and put a restraining arm around her broad waist. "I was just teasing to see what was smouldering. How'll seventy-five a week, with costumes of frills and powdered hair, do you? Thirty sides and the center of the stage four times." "Sides," meaning single sheets of dialogue, puzzled Mr. Farraday, but he made a mental note to seek enlightenment.
"I haven't had a part this winter, Godfrey," she laughed, and sobbed on Mr. Vandeford's shoulder. "I'm living in a suitcase at Mrs. Pinkham's."
"Stop and get a twenty-five check from Dolph, and be on the job Monday at the Barrett Theatre. Now run!" Mr. Vandeford gave Miss Bebe Herne's two hundred pounds of avoirdupois a gentle shove toward the door, which hint she took with an alacrity that had in it a great deal of left-over grace.
"Supported a lot of big guns for years. Knows her business better than any actress on Broadway," said Mr. Godfrey Vandeford to his horrified confrere as the door closed behind the old beauty. "Picked up Wallace Kent when he was a piffling, faded juvenile, and taught him to be a good elderly support worth his hundred to any director. He's left her flat for a pony in the Big Show, old hound!"
"Pretty raw," observed Mr. Dennis Farraday, with a great deal of emotion very poorly concealed in his sympathetic voice.
"Oh, she's had her fling in life! Dopes a bit, but can be depended upon. Next!"
This time there entered a husky, young brute of a boy with shoulders broad enough to run a double-decker plough. His hair was long and sleeked close to his well-shaped head, but his fine mouth and chin sagged, and his eyes were bold and sophisticated. In costume he was the glass and mould of Broadway fashion.
"Reginald Leigh," he announced himself in a nice voice, and, as he spoke, took from a case a card and laid it on the edge of Mr. Vandeford's desk.
"Experience, Mr. Leigh?" asked Mr. Vandeford, still standing and with not an atom of encouragement in his whole body from head to toe.
"College dramatics and last summer in stock at Buffalo. I've worked in two pictures for the Universal."
"Heavy juvenile at fifty a week," offered Mr. Vandeford, with an indifferent glance up from the paper in his hand prepared for his guidance by the indefatigable Mr. Meyers. The word "handsome" was typed in the offer from which Mr. Vandeford made to Mr. Leigh.
"My price is a hundred, Mr. Vandeford," answered Mr. Leigh, very pleasantly, and he took a grip on his hat and stick that was meant to convey the idea of immediate departure.
"Sorry," answered Mr. Vandeford, with a finality that staggered Mr. Dennis Farraday; for the youngster's looks and charm were so evident that it pained him to see "The Purple Slipper" lose them. "Costumes historical, furnished," added Mr. Vandeford, with increased indifference.
"Oh, in that case—" murmured the boy, almost, but not quite, unleashing his eagerness.
"Just leave your telephone number with Mr. Meyers in the outer office, please. Good-morning, Mr. Leigh," was the answer his concession got along with the dismissal in the "good-morning," which was spoken in such a tone that it was obeyed in short order.
"That is a find," said Mr. Godfrey Vandeford to the gasping Mr. Dennis Farraday. "Handsome young chaps who have any kind of manliness are hard to find these days. Too busy to be actors."
"Why didn't you engage him?" further gasped his partner in the adventure of "The Purple Slipper."
"I'll let him cool his heels, to get some of the know-it out of his system. Dolph will make him come around and beg in less than twenty-four hours."
"See here, Van, these people are artists to whom you are trusting your money and reputation as a producer, and you treat them like—"
"The foolish children that they are," interrupted Mr. Vandeford. "Next!" and he pressed a button under his desk that buzzed for Mr. Meyers's ears alone.
The next three applicants were girls, who respectively giggled, glowered, and simpered. Mr. Godfrey Vandeford chose the two who glowered and simpered and got rid of the giggler by referring her telephone number to Mr. Adolph Meyers.
"That second that you sent away was the prettiest of the bunch," commented Mr. Dennis Farraday, with interest that had survived to that point with undiminished intensity.
"Not at home under that little cocked hat. That giggle was the whole bag of tricks," instructed Mr. Vandeford. "Got any men out there, Pops?" he asked through the telephone to Mr. Adolph Meyers.
Immediately there entered a debonair, very handsome, and sleek gentleman of uncertain age.
"Hello, Kent, want to support Bebe in a costume play for a hundred a week?" asked Mr. Vandeford, with not an instant's greeting in answer to that gentleman's cordial good-morning.
"In New York or on the road?" questioned Mr. Kent, with an assurance that he tried to make bold.
"To the devil if I send you there," was the answer he got straight off the bat.
"A hundred with costumes?"
"See Dolph; but not over ten-dollar advance to save your hide."
"He's giving fifty."
"He did that because he knew that you'd get half of what he gave her. Ten's your limit."
"All right. Good-morning!"
"Barrett on Monday morning."
With which Mr. Kent rapidly made his exit.
"Old reprobate! But he does feed the lines to his opposite, and Bebe happy is worth twice Bebe in a grouch. You see what the whole blamed thing is like and—" Mr. Vandeford was interrupted by the tinkle of the telephone at his elbow.
. . . . . .
"Godfrey Vandeford speaking."
. . . . . .
"When did you get in?"
. . . . . .
"Not busy at all."
. . . . . .
. . . . . .
. . . . . .
"Haven't seen or heard from him in two days."
. . . . . .
"Right over. By!"
. . . . . .
From overhearing, as he was forced to do, this one-sided conversation, how could Mr. Dennis Farraday imagine that Violet Hawtry had come into sultry New York seeking him to devour and that his keeper was rushing away from his presence to his defense?
"You and Pops engage the rest, Denny. You see the trick now. Nothing left important but what Dolph puts down on this paper as 'woman support for character parts with looks.' Try your hand, old man, and if you pick a flivver there are plenty more to cast in and her out. By!" And before Mr. Farraday could protest he was left alone in the inquisition-room. And as Mr. Godfrey Vandeford went down in an elevator on his way to the Claridge to deliver the next instalment of the spanking of Miss Violet Hawtry, he passed a live wire going up opposite him and met one walking down Forty-second Street, neither of which he could be expected to recognize, as he had never seen either.
The first of the two dynamos walked into the office of the Vandeford Producing Company and failed to thrill Mr. Adolph Meyers in the least, a fact for which he could never afterward account. He motioned her into the inner office, and left her to her fate and Mr. Dennis Farraday.
"Good-morning, Mr. Vandeford," she said in a queer, throaty kind of voice that had in it a "come hither" of unusual quality, which suggested that in her production a Romney woman might have loved a Greek dancer well. She stood at ease before the long desk with a grace that was unmistakably that of complete assurance.
"I'm not Mr. Vandeford, but his—his partner, Dennis Farraday. Er—er, won't you be seated?" and with the happy, considerate manner of his that he had always used to all women, he offered her his own chair and appropriated the one of authority that Mr. Vandeford always occupied.
"Thank you," answered the young woman, with an ease equal to his own. And then they both waited while regarding each other seriously. Finally the tension relaxed and Dennis Farraday gave a big, jovial laugh while he made his admission:
"I don't know a thing about the play business. I'm just sitting in with Mr. Vandeford for the fun of it."
"An angel?" asked the girl, with a laugh that somehow accorded with his.
"That's it. He's gone out and left me to—to cut my eye teeth."
"Looks that way," and again they both laughed.
"Maybe I can help you," volunteered the girl, after the laugh. "I am Mildred Lindsey, and Mr. Chambers sent me in to see if I could support Miss Hawtry."
"Er—er, what experience?" Mr. Dennis Farraday managed to ask by fishing into his impressions of the last two hours.
"Five years in stock on the Pacific coast, two years in towns between, and two weeks in a flivver here on Broadway early in the spring. Dead broke, hungry, and about ready to make good for some manager." As the answer was fired point-blank at him, Mr. Dennis Farraday seemed to see a fire of psychic hunger blaze as high as that of wolfish, physical agony in the girl's eyes.
Mr. Dennis Farraday eagerly searched on the paper of guidance in casting made out by Mr. Adolph Meyers for the benefit of Mr. Vandeford and found "woman support," and opposite the item of salary, seventy-five dollars. He doubled.
"How would a hundred and fifty a week with costumes do for salary? You can have a couple of weeks advance right now if you like," he said in an easy, nonchalant manner as much like that of Mr. Vandeford as he could muster, for those fires of hunger in the girl's eyes were searching holes in Mr. Dennis Farraday's pocket.
"It would save my life—but—but could you tell me a little about the part? I might not be able to play it." There were both hope and fear in her compelling voice.
The question found Mr. Dennis Farraday unprepared by any precedent established in the two foregoing hours, for between the artists and Mr. Vandeford there had been alone the matter of salary to be settled and not one of them had inquired whether they were being engaged to play a Billy Sunday or an Ethiopian slave. But in another way it found him better prepared than would have been Mr. Godfrey Vandeford. He had read the manuscript of "The Purple Slipper" and Mr. Vandeford had not.
"Well, to my uninitiated way of thinking, the supporting part is about as good as the leading one," said Mr. Dennis Farraday, and forthwith he launched out on an eager, enthusiastic resume of the plot and atmosphere, even quoting lines of "The Purple Slipper." And as he talked Mildred Lindsey leaned across the table toward him and fairly drank in his words.
"I see—it's wonderful how she keeps his enemies at bay during the first half of the banquet—while she waits. It's great!" Her enthusiasm expressed in her wonderful voice urged Mr. Dennis Farraday on and on to a fuller exposition of the play and its beauties.
"You see, the sister is really the one to carry the plot. It is on her that Rosalind leans, and she has to be all there in her quiet way."
"Yes, I see, and it can be made—" At this juncture the eye of Mr. Adolph Meyer was inserted to a crack of the door and then removed as he shook his head in puzzled doubt. He had intended to intrude to the rescue of his co-employer's inexperience, but he decided that the time was not ripe by one glance at Mr. Farraday's eager face, surmounted by its rampant, red leonine locks.
"I have pity for Mr. Farraday," Mr. Meyers remarked to himself as he seated himself at his machine, not knowing that in a very few minutes the second live wire would arrive in the office and this time he would get a shock himself.
For a half-hour he wrote on, while the animated voices boomed and purled and bubbled in the office beyond the crack of the door he had left open to observe the first lull that might call for relief. Then he got his shock.
The office door opened timidly, and somebody entered so quietly that she stood beside Mr. Adolph Meyers before he had lifted his head.
It was the author of "The Renunciation of Rosalind," now "The Purple Slipper," and she looked every inch of it! Miss Elvira, the genius guided by "The Feminist Review," had done her best with the blue-silk suit, and Fifth Avenue could have done no better.
"May I see Mr. Vandeford? I am Miss Patricia Adair," she announced in a rich and calm Southern voice and manner.
Mr. Adolph Meyers sprang to his feet with the impact of the shock.
"Mr. Vandeford is not in the office, Madam, at present," he managed to gasp. Then he followed her big, gray eyes as they rested on the crack of the door through which the boom of Mr. Dennis Farraday's voice mingled with the excited chime of Miss Lindsey's laughter, and noticed as though for the first time that it had emblazoned upon it in large, gilt letters, "Mr. Vandeford. Private."
"It is Mr. Dennis Farraday, the partner of Mr. Vandeford, engaging actors, Miss, in his absence. Will you walk in?" and in almost the first panic in which he had ever indulged Mr. Adolph Meyers showed the proud young author into the sanctum sanctorum from which he had barricaded many an enraged virago who had threatened his life if he kept her from an appeal to the manager.
"It is Miss Adair, the author of your play, Mr. Farraday, would speak with you," he announced across the long room, bowed in a way he had never done in his life, and shut the door behind Miss Adair.
It is interesting to wonder how it would have affected the end of the whole matter if Patricia Adair had walked in behind the giggler when Mr. Godfrey Vandeford, with all his experience with authors, was seated on the throne instead of poor inexperienced Dennis Farraday, enjoying "The Purple Slipper" with his newly engaged, supporting lady.
"By jove, Miss Adair, it is little bit of all right that you should come in and catch Miss Lindsey and me chewing joy-rags over our—your play. Let me introduce Miss Lindsey, who is to support Miss Hawtry in the part of Harriet." And bonnie Dennis, the angel, beamed with pure joy at the good time he was having as a producer. At the very sight and sound of him poor Patricia, who for half an hour had been wandering up and down Forty-second Street, looking for the tallest building on it, took both comfort and delight, and her sea-gray eyes with stars in their depths returned the beam of his eyes.
"It's so wonderful that you like my play and are going to produce it—and you to act in it, Miss Lindsey," she said as she seated herself in the chair Mr. Farraday had drawn up for her. She looked at them both with respectful awe in her eyes and in her cheeks a flush of color that came and went as she spoke, in a way that at first puzzled Miss Lindsey as to its brand and then in turn awed her as she decided it was the real thing. The blue-silk triumph of Miss Elvira and "The Review" also puzzled her for a moment, but she put it down to some little Fifth Avenue shop that only debutantes and authors of plays could afford, and took it in with delight at its exquisite detail.
"I think it is a dandy play, as Mr. Farraday has been telling it to me. Crooks and—and cut-ups are about done for," said Miss Lindsey. She gave a quick glance at Mr. Farraday, to see if he resented the allusion to Mr. Vandeford's recent failure.
"Right-o!" agreed Mr. Farraday, with a sympathetic smile at her allusion, which passed over the head of the lady from Adairville, Kentucky.
Then ensued more than a half-hour of the most enthusiastic discussion of plays in general, and Miss Adair's in particular. Both Mr. Dennis Farraday and Miss Mildred Lindsey were impressed with the fact that the author of "The Renunciation of Rosalind" had learned her business from the most erudite sources, and they talked Shakespeare and Fielding until they at last wound themselves up into a complete pause.
Miss Adair broke the strain.
"I'm awfully hungry, and I don't know where to go to get something to eat," she said, with exactly the same tone of confidence she had used in asking old Jeff for a cold muffin in between the meals of her eighth summer.
"By Jove, we are all hungry! You girls come with me," exclaimed Mr. Dennis Farraday, as he jumped to his feet and looked around for his hat.
"Thank you, but I think I had better go home to—to see about—" Miss Lindsey was faltering with the embarrassment of those who are both proud and hungry, when food is offered them socially.
"Nonsense! You are coming over to the Claridge with Miss Adair and me for a bite. Then you can come back by here and see Dolph.—Dolph, make out a check for Miss Lindsey's advance. Shall we say one or two hundred, Miss Lindsey?" Dennis Farraday was in his element when doing the breezy protective to two girls at once.
"One hundred, please," answered Miss Lindsey, with color mounting to her cheeks that underpainted that already there. She smiled with amusement at the surprise that manifested itself for an instant on the round face of Mr. Meyers that an actress should not "grab" all offered her and then plead for more. "But I really do feel that I had better not—go to luncheon, for I am—"
"Please do! I'd rather you would," the eminent author urged, and she clung to the show girl in a way that showed Dennis Farraday, accustomed to the women of her world, that vague proprieties were hovering beside the gates that were opening for Patricia from her old world into her new.
"You'll have to come, Miss Lindsey, to celebrate, or we shall think you are not all for the play," Mr. Farraday said with a finality in his voice that settled the matter.
And the three of them scudded along a few blocks of the sun-steamed streets into the coolness of the Claridge, also into the heart of a situation that had been seething for an hour between Mr. Godfrey Vandeford and Miss Violet Hawtry.
"How wonderful of you, Van dear, to find me such a play at the eleventh and three-quarters hour!" had been the volley that Violet had fired at him.