Part 2 out of 4
it's only Cruelty girls that really steal from stores.
"I've met the Bishop, Mrs. Van Wagenen." I didn't say how--
she wouldn't appreciate that story.
"And he was once very kind to me. But he would be the first to
tell me to do my duty now. I'll do it as quietly as I can for his
sake. But you must come with me or I must arrest--"
She put up a shaking hand. Dear little old guy!
"Don't--don't say it! It's all a mistake, which can be rectified
in a moment. I've been trying to match this piece of lace for
years. I got it at Malta when--when Mills and I--on our
honeymoon. When I saw it there on the counter I was so
delighted--I never thought--I intended taking it to the light to
be sure the pattern was the same, my eyesight is so wretched--and
when you spoke to me it was the first inkling I had that I had
really taken it without paying! You certainly understand," she
pleaded in agitation. "I have no need to steal--you must know
that--oh, that I wouldn't--that--I couldn't--If you will just let
me pay you--"
Here now, Mag Monahan, don't you get to sneering. She was
straight--right on the level, all right. You couldn't listen to
that cracked little voice of hers a minute without being sure of
I was just about to permit her graciously to pay me the
money,--for my friend? the dear Bishop's sake, of course,--when a
big floor-walker happened to catch sight of us.
"If you'll come with me, Mrs. Van Wagenen, to a dressing-room,
I'll arrange your collar for you," I said very loud. And then,
in a whisper: "Of course, I understand, but the thing may look
different to other people. And that big floor-walker there gets a
commission from the newspapers every time he tells them--"
She gave a squawk for all the world like a dried-up little hen
scuttling out of a yellow dog's way, and we took the elevator to
the second floor.
The minute I closed the door of the little fitting-room she held
out the lace to me.
"I have changed my mind," she said, "and shall give you the
lace back. I will not keep it. I can not--I can not bear the
sight of it. It terrifies me and shocks me. I can take no
pleasure in it. Besides--besides, it will be discipline for me to
do without it now that I have found it after all these years.
Every day I shall look at the place in my collection which it
would have occupied, and I shall say to myself: `Maria Van
Wagenen, take warning. See to what terrible straits a worldly
passion may bring one; what unconscious greed may do!' I shall
give the money to Mills for charity and I will never--never fill
that place in my collection."
"What good will that do?" I asked, puzzled, while I folded the
collar up into a very small package.
"You mean that I ought to submit to the exposure--that I deserve
the lesson and the punishment--not for stealing, but for being
absorbed in worldly things. Perhaps you are right. It certainly
shows that you have at some time been under Mills' spiritual
care, my dear. I wonder if he would insist--whether I ought--yes,
I suppose he would. Oh!"
A saleswoman's head was thrust in the door. "Excuse me," she
said, "I thought the room was empty."
"We've just finished trying on," I said sweetly.
"Don't go!" The Bishop's wife turned to her, her little
fluttering hands held out appealingly. "And do not misunderstand
me. The thing may seem wrong in your eyes, as this young woman
says, but if you will listen patiently to my explanations I am
sure you will see that it was a mere eager over-sight--the fault
of absent-mindedness, hardly the sin of covetousness, and surely
not a crime. I am making this confession--"
The tender conscience of the dear, blameless little soul! She was
actually giving herself away. Worse--she was giving me away, too.
But I couldn't stand that. I saw the saleswoman's puzzled
face--she was a tall woman with a big bust, big hips and the big
head all right, and she wore her long-train black rig for all the
world like a Cruelty girl who had stolen the matron's skirt to
"play lady" in. I got behind little Mrs. Bishop, and looking
out over her head, I tapped my forehead significantly.
The saleswoman tumbled. That was all right. But so did the
Bishop's wife; for she turned and caught me at it.
"You shall not save me from myself and what I deserve," she cried.
"I am perfectly sane and you know it, and you are doing me no favor
in trying to create the contrary impression. I demand an--"
"An interview with the manager," I interrupted. "I'm sure Mrs.
Van Wagenen can see the manager. Just go with the lady, Mrs. Van
Wagenen, and I'll follow with the goods."
She did it meek as a lamb, talking all the time, but never
beginning at the beginning--luckily for me. So that I had time to
slip from one dressing-room to the next, with the lace up my
sleeve, out to the elevator, and down into the street.
D'ye know what heaven must be, Mag? A place where you always get
away with the swag, and where it's always just the minute after
you've made a killing.
Cocky? Well, I should say I was. I was drunk enough with success
to take big chances. And just while I was wishing for something
really big to tackle, it came along in the shape of that big
He was without a hat, and his eyes looked fifty ways at once.
But you've got to look fifty-one if you want to catch Nance Olden.
I ran up the stairs of the first flat-house and rang the bell.
And as I sailed up in the elevator I saw the big floor-walker
hurry past; he'd lost the scent.
The boy let me off at the top floor, and after the elevator had
gone down I walked up to the roof. It was fine 'way up there, so
still and high, with the lights coming out down in the town. And
I took out my pretty lace collar and put it around my neck,
wishing I could keep it and wishing that I had, at least, a glass
to see myself in it just once, when my eye caught the window of
the next house.
It would do for a mirror all right, for the dark green shade was
down. But at sight of the shade blowing in the wind I forgot all
about the collar.
It's this way, Mag, when they press you too far; and that little
rat of a lawyer had got me most to the wall. I looked at the
window, measuring the little climb it would be for me to get to
it,--the house next door was just one story higher than the one
where I was, so its top story was on a level with the roof nearly
where I stood. And I made up my--mind to get what would let Tom
off easy, or break into jail myself.
And so I didn't care much what I might fall into through that
window. And perhaps because I didn't care, I slipped into a dark
hall, and not a thing stirred; not a footstep creaked. I felt
like the Princess--Princess Nancy Olden--come to wake the
Sleeping Beauty; some dude it'd be that would have curly hair
like Tom Dorgan's, and would wear clothes like my friend
Latimer's, over in Brooklyn.
Can you see me there, standing on one leg like a stork, ready to
lie or to fly at the first sound?
Well, the first sound didn't come. Neither did the second. In
fact, none of 'em came unless I made 'em myself.
Softly as Molly goes when the baby's just dropped off to sleep, I
walked toward an open door. It was a parlor, smelly with tobacco,
and with lots of papers and books around. And nary a
he-beauty--nor any other kind.
I tried the door of a room next to it. A bedroom. But no Beauty.
Silly! Don't you tumble yet? It was a bachelor's apartment, and
the Bachelor Beauty was out, and Princess Nancy had the place all
I suppose I really ought to have left my card--or he wouldn't
know who had waked him--but I hadn't intended to go calling when
I left home. So I thought I'd look for one of his as a
souvenir--and anything else of his I could make use of.
There were shirts I'd liked for Tom, dandy colored ones, and
suits with checks in 'em and without. But I wanted something easy
and small and flat, made of crackly printed yellow or green
paper, with numbers on it.
How did I know he had anything like that? Why, Mag, Mag Monahan,
one would think you belonged to the Bishop's set, you're so
I had to turn on the electric light after a bit--it got so dark.
And I don't like light in other people's houses when they're not
at home, and neither am I. But there was nothing in the bedroom
except some pearl studs. I got those and then went back to the
The desk caught my eye. Oh, Mag, it had the loveliest pictures on
it--pictures of swell actresses and dancers. It was mahogany,
with lots of little drawers and two curvy side boxes. I pulled
open all the drawers. They were full of papers all right, but
they were printed, cut from newspapers, and all about theaters.
"You can't feed things like this, Nance, to that shark of a
lawyer," I said to myself, pushing the box on the side
And then I giggled outright.
Just 'cause--I had pushed that side box till it swung aside on
hinges I didn't know about, and there, in a little secret nest,
was a pile of those same crisp, crinkly paper things I'd been
looking for. 20--40--60--110--160--210--260--310!
Three hundred and ten dollars, Mag Monahan. Three hundred and
ten, and Nance Olden!
"Glory be!" I whispered.
"Glory be damned!" I heard behind me.
I turned. The bills just leaked out of my hand on to the floor.
The Bachelor Beauty had come home, Mag, and nabbed the poor
Princess, instead of her catching him napping.
He wasn't a beauty either--a big, stout fellow with a black
mustache. His hand on my shoulder held me tight, but the look in
his eyes behind his glasses held me tighter. I threw out my arms
over the desk and hid my face.
Caught! Nancy Olden, with her hands dripping, and not a lie in
her smart mouth!
He picked up the bills I had dropped, counted them and put them
in his pocket. Then he unhooked a telephone and lifted the stand
from his desk.
"Hello! Spring 3100--please. Hello! Chief's office? This is
Obermuller, Standard Theater. I want an officer to take charge of
a thief I've caught in my apartments here at the Bronsonia. Yes,
right on the corner. Hold him till you come? Well--rather!"
He put down the 'phone. I pulled the pearl studs out of my
"You might as well take these, too," I said.
"So thoughtful of you, seeing that you'd be searched! But I'll
take 'em, anyway. You intended them for--Him? You didn't get
I shook my head as I lay there.
"Hum!" It was half a laugh, and half a sneer. I hated him for
it, as he sat leaning back on the back legs of his chair, his
thumbs in his arm-holes. I felt his eyes--those smart, keen eyes,
burning into my miserable head. I thought of the lawyer and the
deal he'd give poor Tom, and all at once--
You'd have sniffled yourself, Mag Monahan. There I was--caught.
The cop'd be after me in five minutes. With Tom jugged, and me in
stripes--it wasn't very jolly, and I lost my nerve.
"Ashamed--huh?" he said lightly.
I nodded. I was ashamed.
"Pity you didn't get ashamed before you broke in here."
"What the devil was there to be ashamed of?"
The sting in his voice had cured me. I never was a weeper. I sat
up, my face blazing, and stared at him. He'd got me to hand over
to the cop, but he hadn't got me to sneer at.
I saw by the look he gave me, that he hadn't really seen me till
"Well," he answered, "what the devil is there to be ashamed of
"Of being caught--that's what."
He tilted back again on his chair and laughed softly.
"Then you're not ashamed of your profession?"
"Are you of yours?"
"Well--there's a slight difference."
"Not much, whatever it may be. It's your graft--it's
everybody's--to take all he can get, and keep out of jail. That's
"But you see I keep out of jail."
"I see you're not there--yet."
"Oh, I think you needn't worry about that. I'll keep out, thank
you; imprisonment for debt don't go nowadays."
"I'm a theatrical manager, my girl, and I'm not on the inside:
which is another way of saying that a man who can't swim has
"And when you do go down--"
"A little less exultation, my dear, or I might suppose you'd be
glad when I do."
"Well, when you know yourself going down for the last time, do
you mean to tell me you won't grasp at a straw like--like this?"
I nodded toward the open window, and the desk with all its papers
"Not much." He shook his head, and bit the end of a cigar with
sharp, white teeth. "It's a fool graft. I'm self-respecting. And
I don't admire fools." He lit his cigar and puffed a minute,
taking out his watch to look at it, as cold-bloodedly as though
we were waiting, he and I, to go to supper together. Oh, how I
"Honesty isn't the best policy," he went on; "it's the only
one. The vain fool that gets it into his head--or shall I say her
head? No? Well, no offense, I assure you--his head then, that
he's smarter than a world full of experience, ought to be put in
jail--for his own protection; he's too big a jay to be left out
of doors. For five thousand years, more or less, the world has
been putting people like him behind bars, where they can't make
asses of themselves. Yet each year, and every day and every hour,
a new ninny is born who fancies he's cleverer than all his
predecessors put together. Talk about suckers! Why, they're
giants of intellect compared to the mentally lop-sided that five
thousand years of experience can't teach. When the
criminal-clown's turn comes, he hops, skips and jumps into the
ring with the old, old gag. He thinks it's new, because he
himself is so fresh and green. `Here I am again,' he yells, `the
fellow that'll do you up. Others have tried it. They're dead in
jail or under jail-yards. But me--just watch me!' We do, and
after a little we put him with his mates and a keeper in a barred
kindergarten where fools that can't learn, little moral cripples
of both sexes, my dear, belong. Bah!" He puffed out the smoke,
throwing his head back, in a cloud toward the ceiling.
I sprang from my seat and faced him. I was tingling all through.
I didn't care a rap what became of me for just that minute.
I forgot about Tom. I prayed that the cop wouldn't come for a
minute yet--but only that I might answer him.
"You're mighty smart, ain't you? You can sit back here and sneer
at me, can't you? And feel so big and smart and triumphant!
What've you done but catch a girl at her first bungling job! It
makes you feel awfully cocky, don't it? `What a big man am I!'
Bah!" I blew the smoke up toward the ceiling from my mouth, with
just that satisfied gall that he had had; or rather, I pretended
to. He let down the front legs of his chair and began to stare at
"And you don't know it all, Mr. Manager, not you. Your
clown-criminal don't jump into the ring because he's so full of
fun he can't stay out. He goes in for the same reason the real
clown does--because he gets hungry and thirsty and sleepy and
tired like other men, and he's got to fill his stomach and cover
his back and get a place to sleep. And it's because your kind
gets too much, that my kind gets so little it has to piece it out
with this sort of thing. No, you don't know it quite all.
"There's a girl named Nancy Olden that could tell you a lot,
smart as you are. She could show you the inside of the Cruelty,
where she was put so young she never knew that children had
mothers and fathers, till a red-haired girl named Mag Monahan
told her; and then she was mighty glad she hadn't any. She
thought that all little girls were bloodless and dirty, and all
little boys were filthy and had black purple marks where their
fathers had tried to gouge out their eyes. She thought all women
were like the matron who came with a visitor up to the bare room,
where we played without toys--the new, dirty, newly-bruised ones
of us, and the old, clean, healing ones of us--and said, `Here,
chicks, is a lady who's come to see you. Tell her how happy you
are here.' Then Mag's freckled little face, her finger in her
mouth, looked up like this. She was always afraid it might be her
mother come for her. And the crippled boy jerked himself this
way--I used to mimic him, and he'd laugh with the rest of
them--over the bare floor. He always hoped for a penny. Sometimes
he even got it.
"And the boy with the gouged eye--he would hold his pants up
like this. He had just come in, and there was nothing to fit him.
And he'd put his other hand over his bad eye and blink up at her
like this. And the littlest boy--oh, ha! ha! ha!--you ought have
seen that littlest boy. He was in skirts, an old dress they'd
given me to wear the first day I came; there were no pants small
enough for him. He'd back up into the corner and hide his
face--like this--and peep over his shoulder; he had a squint that
way, that made his face so funny. See, it makes you laugh
yourself. But his body--my God!--it was blue with welts! And
me--I'd put the baby down that'd been left on the door-steps of
the Cruelty, and I'd waltz up to the lady, the nice, patronizing,
rich lady, with her handkerchief to her nose and her lorgnette to
her eyes--see, like this. I knew just what graft would work her.
I knew what she wanted there. I'd learned. So I'd make her a
curtsy like this, and in the piousest sing-song I'd--"
There was a heavy step out in the hall--it was the policeman! I'd
forgot while I was talking. I was back--back in the empty garret,
at the top of the Cruelty. I could smell the smell of the poor,
the dirty, weak, sick poor. I could taste the porridge in the
thick little bowls, like those in the bear story Molly tells her
kid. I could hear the stifled sobs that wise, poor children
give--quiet ones, so they'll not be beaten again. I could feel
the night, when strange, deserted, tortured babies lie for the
first time, each in his small white cot, the new ones waking the
old with their cries in a nightmare of what had happened before
they got to the Cruelty. I could see the world barred over, as I
saw it first through the Cruelty's barred windows, and as I must
see it again, now that--
"You see, you don't know it quite all--yet, Mr. Manager!"
I spat it out at him, and then walked to the cop, my hands ready
for the bracelets.
"But there's one thing I do know!" He's a big fellow but quick
on his feet, and in a minute he was up and between me and the
cop. "And there isn't a theatrical man in all America that knows
it quicker than Fred Obermuller, that can detect it sooner and
develop it better. And you've got it, girl, you've got it! . . .
Officer, take this for your trouble. I couldn't hold the fellow,
after all. Never mind which way he went; I'll call up the office
He shut the door after the cop, and came back to me. I had fallen
into a chair. My knees were weak, and I was trembling all over.
"Have you seen the playlet Charity at the Vaudeville?" he
roared at me.
I shook my head.
"Well, it's a scene in a foundling asylum. Here's a pass. Go up
now and see it. If you hurry you'll get there just in time for
that act. Then if you come to me at the office in the morning at
ten, I'll give you a chance as one of the Charity girls. Do you
God, Mag! Do I want it!
Do you remember Lady Patronesses' Day at the Cruelty, Mag?
Remember how the place smelt of cleaning ammonia on the bare
floors? Remember the black dresses we all wore, and the white
aprons with the little bibs, and the oily sweetness of the
matron, and how our faces shone and tingled from the soap and the
rubbing? Remember it all?
Well, who'd 'a' thought then that Nance Olden ever would make use
of it--on the level, too!
Drop the Cruelty, and tell you about the stage? Why, it's bare
boards back there, bare as the Cruelty, but oh, there's something
that you don't see, but you feel it--something magic that makes
you want to pinch yourself to be sure you're awake. I go round
there just doped with it; my face, if you could see it, must look
like Molly's kid's when she is telling him fairy stories.
I love it, Mag! I love it!
And what do I do? That's what I was trying to tell you about the
Cruelty for. It's in a little act that was made for Lady Gray,
that there are four Charity girls on the stage, and I'm one of
Lady Gray? Why, Mag, how can you ever hope to get on if you don't
know who's who? How can you expect me to associate with you if
you're so ignorant? Yes--a real Lady, as real as the wife of a
Lord can be. Lord Harold Gray's a sure enough Lord, and she's his
wife but--but a chippy, just the same; that's what she is, in
spite of the Gray emeralds and that great Gray rose diamond she
wears on the tiniest chain around her scraggy neck. Do you know,
Mag Monahan, that this Lady Harold Gray was just a chorus
girl--and a sweet chorus it must have been if she sang
there!--when she nabbed Lord Harold?
You'd better keep your eye on Nancy Olden, or first thing you
know she'll marry the Czar of Russia--or Tom Dorgan, poor fellow,
when he gets out! . . . Well, just the same, Mag, if that
white-faced, scrawny little creature can be a Lady, a girl with
ten times her brains, and at least half a dozen times her good
looks--oh, we're not shy on the stage, Mag, about throwing
bouquets at ourselves!
Can she act? Don't be silly, Mag! Can't you see that Obermuller's
just hiring her title and playing it in big letters on the bills
for all it's worth? She acts the Lady Patroness, come to look at
us Charity girls. She comes on, though, looking like a fairy
princess. Her dress is just blazing with diamonds. There's the
Lady's coronet in her hair. Her thin little arms are banded with
gold and diamonds, and on her neck--O Mag, Mag, that rose diamond
is the color of rose-leaves in a fountain's jet through which the
sun is shining. It's long--long as my thumb--I swear it is,
Mag--nearly, and it blazes, oh, it blazes--
Well, it blazes dollars into Obermuller's box all right, for the
Gray jewels are advertised in the bill with this one at the head
of the list, the star of them all.
You see it's this way: Lord Harold Gray's bankrupt. He's poor
as--as Nance Olden. Isn't that funny? But he's got the family
jewels all right, to have as long as he lives. Nary a one can he
sell, though, for after his death, they go to the next Lord Gray.
So he makes 'em make a living for him, and as they can't go on
and exhibit themselves, Lady Gray sports 'em--and draws down two
hundred dollars a week.
But do you know it isn't the two hundred dollars a week that
makes me envy her till I'm sick; it's that rose diamond. If you
could only see it, Mag, you'd sympathize with me, and understand
why my fingers just itched for it the first night I saw her come
'Pon my soul, Mag, the sight of it blazing on her neck dazzled me
so that it shut out all the staring audience that first night,
and I even forgot to have stage fright.
"What's doped you, Olden?" Obermuller asked when the curtain
went down, and we all hurried to the wings.
I was in the black dress with the white-bibbed apron, and I
looked up at him still dazed by the shine of that diamond and my
longing for it. You'd almost kill with your own hands for a
diamond like that, Mag!
"Doped? Why--what didn't I do?" I asked him.
"That's just it," he said, looking at me curiously; but I could
feel his disappointment in me.
"You didn't do anything--not a blasted thing more than you were
told to do. The world's full of supers that can do that."
For just a minute I forgot the diamond.
"Then--it's a mistake? You were wrong and--and I can't be an
He threw back his head before he answered, puffing a mouthful of
smoke up at the ceiling, as he did the night he caught me. The
gesture itself seemed to remind him of what had made him think in
the first place he could make an actress of me. For he laughed
down at me, and I saw he remembered.
"Well," he said, "we'll wait and see. . . I was mistaken,
though, sure enough, about one thing that night."
I looked up at him.
"You're a darn sight prettier than I thought you were. The gold
brick you sold me isn't all--"
He put out his hand to touch my chin. I side-stepped, and he
turned laughing to the stage.
But he called after me.
"Is a beauty success going to content you, Olden?"
"Well, we'll wait and see," I drawled back at him in his own
Oh, I was drunk, Mag, drunk with thinking about that diamond!
I didn't care even to please Obermuller. I just wanted the feel of
that diamond in my hand. I wanted it lying on my own neck--the
lovely, cool, shining, rosy thing. It's like the sunrise, Mag,
that beauty stone. It's just a tiny pool of water blushing.
How to get it! How to get away with it! On what we'd get for that
diamond, Tom and I--when his time is up--could live for all our
lives and whoop it up besides. We could live in Paris, where
great grafters live and grafting pays--where, if you've got wit
and fifty thousand dollars, and happen to be a "darn sight
prettier," you can just spin the world around your little
But, do you know, even then I couldn't bear to think of selling
the pretty thing? It hurt me to think of anybody having it but
just Nance Olden.
But I hadn't got it yet.
Gray has a dressing-room to herself. And on her table--which is a
big box, open end down--just where the three-sided big mirror can
multiply the jewels and make you want 'em three times as bad, her
big russia-leather, silver-mounted box lies open, while she's
dressing and undressing. Other times it's locked tight, and his
Lordship himself has it tight in his own right hand, or his
Lordship's man, Topham, has it just as tight.
How to get that diamond! There was a hard nut for Nance Olden's
sharp teeth to crack. I only wanted that--never say I'm greedy,
Mag--Gray could keep all the rest of the things--the pigeon in
rubies and pearls, the tiara all in diamonds, the chain of
pearls, and the blazing rings, and the waist-trimming all of
emeralds and diamond stars. But that diamond, that huge rose
diamond, I couldn't, I just couldn't let her have it.
And yet I didn't know the first step to take toward getting it,
till Beryl Blackburn helped me out. She's one of the Charities,
like me--a tall bleached blonde with a pretty, pale face and
gold-gray eyes. And, if you'd believe her, there's not a man in
the audience, afternoon or evening, that isn't dead-gone on her.
"Guess who's my latest," she said to me this afternoon, while
we four Charities stood in the wings waiting. "Topham--old
It all got clear to me then in a minute.
"Topham--nothing!" I sneered. "Beryl Big-head, Topham thinks
of only one thing--Milady's jewel-box. Don't you fool yourself."
"Oh, does he, Miss! Well, just to prove it, he let me try on the
rose diamond last night. There!"
"It's easy to say so but I don't see the proof. He'd lose his
job so quick it'd make his head spin if he did it."
"Not if he did, but if they knew he did. You'll not tell?"
"Not me. Why would I? I don't believe it, and I wouldn't expect
anybody else to. I don't believe you could get Topham to budge
from his chair in Gray's dressing-room if you'd--"
"What'll you bet?"
"I'll bet you the biggest box of chocolate creams at Huyler's."
"Done! I'll send for him to-night, just before Gray and her Lord
come, and you see--"
"How'll I see? Where'll I be?"
"Well, you be waiting in the little hall, right of Gray's
dressing-room at seven-thirty to-night and--you might as well
bring the creams with you."
Catch on, Mag? At seven-thirty in the evening I was waiting; but
not in the little hall of Gray's dressing-room. I hadn't gone
home at all after the afternoon performance--you know we play at
three, and again at eight-thirty. I had just hidden me away till
the rest were gone, and as soon as the coast was clear I got into
Gray's dressing-room, pushed aside the chintz curtains of the big
box that makes her dressing-table--and waited.
Lord, how the hours dragged! I hadn't had anything to eat since
lunch, and it got darker and darker in there, and hot and close
and cramped. I put in the time, much as I could, thinking of Tom.
The very first thing I'd do after cashing in, would be to get up
to Sing Sing to see him. I'm crazy to see him. I'd tell him the
news and see if he couldn't bribe a guard, or plan some scheme
with me to get out soon.
Afraid--me? What of? If they found me under that box I'd just
give 'em the Beryl story about the bet. How do you know they
wouldn't believe it? . . . Oh, I don't care, you've got to take
chances, Mag Monahan, if you go in for big things. And this was
big--huge. Do you know how much that diamond's worth? And do you
know how to spend fifty thousand?
I spent it all there--in the box--every penny of it. When I got
tired spending money I dozed a bit and, in my dream, spent it
over again. And then I waked and tried to fancy new ways of
getting rid of it, but my head ached, and my back ached, and my
whole body was so strained and cramped that I was on the point of
giving it all up when--that blessed old Topham came in.
He set the big box down with a bang that nearly cracked my head.
He turned on the lights, and stood whistling Tommy Atkins. And
then suddenly there came a soft call, "Topham! Topham!"
I leaned back and bit my fingers till I knew I wouldn't shriek.
The Englishman listened a minute. Then the call came again, and
Topham creaked to the door and out.
In a twinkling I was out, too, you bet.
Mag! He hadn't opened the box at all! There it stood in the
middle of the space framed by the three glasses. I pulled at the
lid. Locked! I could have screamed with rage. But the sound of
his step outside the door sobered me. He was coming back. In a
frantic hurry I turned toward the window which I had unlocked
when I came in four hours ago. But I hadn't time to make it.
I heard the old fellow's hand on the door, and I tumbled back into
the box in such a rush that the curtains were still waving when
he came in.
Slowly he began to place the jewels, one by one, in the order her
Ladyship puts them on. We Charity girls had often watched him
from the door--he never let one of us put a foot inside. He was
method and order itself. He never changed the order in which he
lifted the glittering things out, nor the places he put them back
in. I put my hand up against the top of the box, tracing the spot
where each piece would be lying. Think, Mag, just half an inch
between me and quarter of a million!
Oh, I was sore as I lay there! And I wasn't so cock-sure either
that I'd get out of it straight. I tried the Beryl story lots of
ways on myself, but somehow, every time I fancied myself telling
it to Obermuller, it got tangled up and lay dumb and heavy inside
But at least it would be better to appear of my own will before
the old Englishman than be discovered by Lord Gray and his Lady.
I had my fingers on the curtains, and in another second I'd been
"Miss Beryl Blackburn's compliments, Mr. Topham, and would you
step to the door, as there's something most important she wants
to tell you."
Oh, I loved every syllable that call-boy spoke! There was a
giggle behind his voice, too; old Topham was the butt of every
joke. The first call, which had fooled me, must have been from
some giddy girl who wanted to guy the old fellow. She had fooled
me all right. But this--this one was the real article.
There was a pause--Topham must be looking about to be sure things
were safe. Then he creaked to the door and shut it carefully
It only took a minute, but in that minute--in that minute, Mag, I
had the rose diamond clutched safe in my fingers; I was on the
top of the big trunk and out of the window.
Oh, the feel of that beautiful thing in my hand! I'd 'a' loved it
if it hadn't been worth a penny, but as it was I adored it.
I slipped the chain under my collar, and the diamond slid down my
neck, and I felt its kiss on my skin. I flew down the black
corridor, bumping into scenery and nearly tripping two stage
carpenters. I heard Ginger, the call-boy, ahead of me and dodged
behind some properties just in time. He went whistling past and I
got to the stage door.
I pulled it open tenderly, cautiously, and turned to shut it
And something held it open in spite of me.
No--no, Mag, it wasn't a man. It was a memory. It rose up there
and hit me right over the heart--the memory of Nancy Olden's
happiness the first time she'd come in this very door, feeling
that she actually had a right to use a stage: entrance, feeling
that she belonged, she--Nancy--to this wonderland of the stage!
You must never tell Tom, Mag, promise! He wouldn't see. He
couldn't understand. I couldn't make him know what I felt any
more than I'd dare tell him what I did.
I shut the door.
But not behind me. I shut it on the street and--Mag, I shut for
ever another door, too; the old door that opens out on Crooked
Street. With my hand on my heart, that was beating as though it
would burst, I flew back again through the black corridor,
through the wings and out to Obermuller's office. With both my
hands I ripped open the neck of my dress, and, pulling the chain
with that great diamond hanging to it, I broke it with a tug, and
threw the whole thing down on the desk in front of him.
"For God's sake!" I yelled. "Don't make it so easy for me to
I don't know what happened for a minute. I could see his face
change half a dozen ways in as many seconds. He took it up in his
fingers at last. It swung there at the end of the slender little
broken chain like a great drop of shining water, blushing and
sparkling and trembling.
His hands trembled, too, and he looked up at last from the
diamond to my face.
"It's worth at least fifty thousand, you know--valued at that."
I didn't answer.
He got up and came over to where I had thrown myself on a bench.
"What's the matter, Olden? Don't I pay you enough?"
"I want to see Tom," I begged. "It's so long since he--He's up
at--at--in the country."
"You poor little devil!"
That finished me. I'm not used to being pitied. I sobbed and
sobbed as though some dam had broken inside of me. You see, Mag,
I knew in that minute that I'd been afraid, deathly afraid of
Fred Obermuller's face, when it's scornful and sarcastic, and of
his voice, when it cuts the flesh of self-conceit off your very
bones. And the contrast--well, it was too much for me.
But something came quick to sober me.
It was Gray. She stormed in, followed by Lord Harold and Topham,
and half the company.
"The diamond, the rose diamond!" she shrieked. "It's gone! And
the carpenters say that new girl Olden came flying from the
direction of my dressing-room. I'll hold you responsible--"
"Hush-sh!" Obermuller lifted his hands and nodded over toward me.
"Olden!" she squealed. "Grab her, Topham. I'll bet she stole
that diamond, and she can't have got rid of it yet."
Topham jumped toward me, but Obermuller stopped him.
"You'd win only half your bet, my Lady," Obermuller said
softly. "She did get hold of the Gray rose, worth fifty thousand
dollars, in spite of all your precautions--"
The world seemed to fall away from me. I looked up at him.
I couldn't believe he'd go back on me.
"--And she brought it straight to me, as I had asked her to, and
promised to raise her salary if she'd win out. For I knew that
unless I proved to you it could be stolen, you'd never agree to
hire a detective to watch those things, which will get us all
into trouble some day. Here! Scoot out o' this. It's nearly time
for your number."
He passed the diamond over to her, and they all left the office.
So did I; but he held out his hand as I passed. "It goes--that
about a raise for you, Olden. Now earn it."
Isn't he white, Mag--white clean through, that big fellow
I got into the train, Mag, the happiest girl in all the country.
I'd a big basket of things for Tom. I was got up in my Sunday
best, for I wanted to make a hit with some fellow with a key up
there, who'd make things soft and easy for my Tommy.
I had so much to tell him. I knew just how I'd take off every
member of the company to amuse him. I had memorized every joke
I'd heard since I'd got behind the curtain--not very hard for me;
things always had a way of sticking in my mind. I knew the newest
songs in town, and the choruses of all the old ones. I could show
him the latest tricks with cards--I'd got those at first hand
from Professor Haughwout. You know how great Tom is on tricks.
I could explain the disappearing woman mystery, and the mirror
cabinet. I knew the clog dance that Dewitt and Daniels do. I had
pictures of the trained seals, the great elephant act,
Mademoiselle Picotte doing her great tight-rope dance, and the
Brothers Borodini in their pyramid tumbling.
Yes, it was a whole vaudeville show, with refreshments between
the acts, that I was taking up to Tom Dorgan. I don't care much
for a lot of that truck--funny, isn't it, how you get to turn up
your nose at the things you'd have given a finger for once upon a
time? But Tom--oh, I'd got everything pat for him--my big,
handsome Tom Dorgan in stripes--with his curls all shaved
I'd got just so far in my thoughts, sitting there in the train,
when I gave a shiver. I thought for a minute it was at the idea
of my Tom with one of those bare, round convict-heads on him,
that look like fat skeleton faces. But it wasn't. It was--
Both of us thought the same thing of each other for the first
second that our eyes met. I could see that. He thought I was
caught at last. And I thought he'd been sharp once too often.
And, Mag, it would be hard to say which of us would have been
happier if it had been the truth. Oh, to meet Moriway, bound sure
enough for Sing Sing!
He got up and came over to me, smiling wickedly. Se took the seat
behind me, and leaning forward, said softly:
"Is Miss Omar engaged to read to some invalid up at Sing Sing?
And for how long a term--I should say, engagement?"
I'd got through shivering by then. I was ready for him. I turned
and looked at him in that very polite, distant sort o' way Gray
uses in her act when the Charity superintendent speaks to her.
It's the only decent thing she does; chances are that that's how
Lord Gray's mother looks at her.
"You know my sister, Mr.--Mr.--" I asked humbly.
He looked at me, perplexed for just a second.
"Sister be hanged!" he said at last. "I know you, Nat, and I'm
glad to my finger-tips that you've got it in the neck, in spite
of all your smartness."
"You're altogether wrong, sir," I said very stately, but hurt a
bit, you know. "I've often been taken for my sister, but
gentlemen usually apologize when I explain to them. It's hard
enough to have a sister who--" I looked up at him tearfully,
with my chin a-wabble with sorrow.
"Liars should have good memories," he sneered. "Miss Omar said
she was an orphan, you remember, and had not a relative in the
"Did she say that? Did Nora say that?" I exclaimed piteously.
"Oh, what a little liar she is! I suppose she thought it made
her more interesting to be so alone, more appealing to
kind-hearted gentlemen like yourself. I hope she wasn't
ungrateful to you, too, as she was to that kind Mr. Latimer,
before he found her out. And she had such a good position there,
I wanted to look at him, oh, I wanted to! But it was my role to
sit there with downcast eyes, just--the picture of holy grief.
I was the good one--the good, shocked sister, and though I wasn't a
bit afraid of anything he could do to me, or any game he could
put up, I yearned to make him believe me--just because he was so
suspicious, so wickedly smart, so sure he was on.
But his very silence sort of told me he almost believed, or that
he was laying a trap.
"Will you tell me," he said, "how you--your sister got Latimer
to lie for her?"
"Mr. Latimer--lie! Oh, you don't know him. He expected a lady to
read to him that very evening. He had never seen her, and when
Nora walked into the garden--"
"After getting a skirt somewhere."
"Yes--the housekeeper's, it happened to be her evening out--why,
he just naturally supposed Nora was Miss Omar."
"Ah! then her name isn't Omar. What might it be?"
"I'd rather not tell--if you don't mind."
"But when Latimer found out she had the diamonds--he did find
"She confessed to him. Nora's not really so bad a girl as--"
"Very interesting! But it doesn't happen to be Latimer's
version. And you say Latimer wouldn't lie."
I got pale--but the paleness was on the inside of me. Think I was
going to flinch before a chump like Moriway, even if I had walked
straight into his trap?
"It isn't?" I exclaimed.
"No. Latimer's note to Mrs. Kingdon said the diamonds were found
in the bell-boy's jacket the thief had left behind him."
"Well! It only shows what a bad habit lying is. Nora must have
fibbed to me, for the pure pleasure of fibbing. I'll never dare
to trust her again. Do you believe then that she didn't have
anything to do with the hotel robbery? I do hope so. It's one
less sin on her wicked head. It's hard, having such a girl in the
family!" Oh, wasn't I grieved!
He looked me straight in the eye. I looked at him. I was
unutterably sad about that tough sister of mine, and I vow I
looked holy then, though I never did before and may never again.
"Well, I only saw her in the twilight," he said slowly,
watching my face all the time. "You two sisters are certainly
The train was slowing down, and I got up with my basket. I stood
right before him, my full face turned toward him.
"Are we?" I asked simply. "Don't you think it's more the
expression than anything else, and the voice? Nora's really much
fairer than I am. Good-by."
He watched me as I went out. I felt his eyes on the back of my
jacket, and I was tempted to turn at the door and make a face at
him. But I knew something better and safer than that. I waited
till the train was just pulling out, and then, standing below his
window, I motioned to him to raise it.
"I thought you were going to get out here," I called. "Are you
sure you don't belong in Sing Sing, Mr. Moriway?"
I can see his face yet, Mag, and every time I think of it, it
makes me nearly die of laughing. He had actually been fooled
another time. It was worth the trip up there, to make a guy of
him once more.
And whether it was or not, Mag, it was all I got, after all.
For--would you believe Tom Dorgan would turn out such a sorehead?
He's kicked up such a row ever since he got there, that it's the
dark cell for him, and solitary confinement. Think of it--for
I begged, I bluffed, I cried, I coaxed, but many's the Nance
Olden that has played her game against the rules of Sing Sing,
and lost. They wouldn't even let me leave the things for him, or
give him a message from me. And back to the station I had to
carry the basket, and all the schemes I had to make old Tom
All the way back I had him in my mind. He's a tiger--Tom--when
he's roused. I could see him, shut up there by himself, with not
a soul to talk to, with not a human eye to look into, with not a
thing on earth to do--Tom, who's action itself! He never was much
of a thinker, and I never saw him read even a newspaper. What
would he do to kill the time? Can't you see him there, at bay,
back on his haunches, cursing and cursed, alone in the
everlasting black silence?
I saw nothing else. Wherever I turned my eyes, that terrible
picture was before me. And always it was just on the verge of
becoming something else--something worse. He could throttle the
world with his bare hands, if it had but one neck, in the mood he
must be in now.
It was when I couldn't bear it a moment longer that I set my mind
to find something else to think of.
I found it, Mag. Do you know what it was? It was just three
words--of Obermuller's: "Earn it now."
After all, Miss Monahan, this graft of honesty they all preach so
much about hasn't anything mysterious in it. All it is, is
putting your wits to work according to the rules of the game and
not against them. I was driven to it--the thought of big Tom
crouching for a spring in the dark cell up yonder sent me
whirling out into the thinking place, like the picture of the
soul in the big book at Latimer's I read out of. And first thing
you know, 'pon honor, Mag, it was as much fun planning how to
"earn it now" as any lifting I ever schemed. It's getting the
best of people that always charmed me--and here was a way to fool
'em according to law.
So busy I was making it all up, that the train pulled into the
station before I knew it. I gave a last thought to that poor old
hyena of a Tom, and then put him out of my mind. I had other fish
to fry. Straight down to Mother Douty I went with my basket.
"A fool girl, mother, on her way up to Sing Sing, lost her
basket, and Nance Olden found it; it ought to be worth a good
She grinned. You couldn't make old Douty believe that the Lord
himself wouldn't steal if He got a chance. And she knows the
chances that come butting up against Nancy Olden.
Why did I lie to her? Not for practice, I assure you. She'd have
beaten me down to the last cent if she thought it was mine, but
she always thinks there'll be a find for her in something that's
stolen. So I let her think I'd stolen it in the railway station,
and we came to terms.
With what she gave me I bought a wig. Mag, I want you some day,
when you can get off, to come and see that wig. I shouldn't
wonder but you'd recognize it. It's red, of very coarse hair, but
a wonderful color, and so long it--yes, it might be your own, Mag
Monahan, it's so much like it. I went to the theater and got my
Charity rig, took it home, and sat for hours there just looking
at 'em both. When evening came I was ready to "earn it now."
You see, Obermuller had given me the whole day to be away, and
neither Gray nor the other three Charities expected me back.
I had to do it on the sly, you sassy Mag! Yes, it was partly
because I love to cheat, but more because I was bound to have my
chance once whether anybody else enjoyed it or not.
I came to the theater in my Charity rig and the wig. It looked as
if I'd slept in it, and it came down to the draggled hem of the
skirt. All the way there I walked like you, Mag. Once, when a
newsboy grinned at me and shouted "Carrots!" I grinned
back--your own, old Cruelty grin, Mag. I vow I felt so much like
you--as you used to be--that when I lurched out on the stage at
last, stumbling over my shoe laces and trying to push the hair
out of my eyes, you'd have sworn it was little Mag Monahan I
making her debut in the Cruelty room.
Oh, Mag, Mag, you darling Mag! Did you ever hear a whole house, a
great big theater full of a peevish vaudeville audience, just
rise at you, give one roar of laughter they hadn't expected at
all to give, and then settle down to giggle at every move you
Girl alive, I just had 'em! They couldn't take their eyes off me.
If I squirmed, they howled. If I stood on one foot, scratching
the torn leg of my stocking with the other--you know, Mag!--they
yelled. If I grinned, they just roared.
Oh, Mag, can't you see? Don't you understand? I was It. The
center of the stage I carried round with me--it was just Nancy
Olden. And for ten minutes Nancy had nothing to do but to play
with 'em. 'Pon my life, Mag, it's just like stealing; the old
graft exactly; it's so fascinating, so busy, and risky, except
that they play the game with you and pay you and love you to fool
When the curtain fell it was different. Grays followed by the
Charities, all clean and spick-and-span and--not in it; not even
on the edge of it--stormed up to Obermuller standing at the
"I'll quit the show here and now," she squawked. "It's a
shame, a beastly shame. How dare you play me such a trick, Fred
Obermuller? I never was treated so in my life--to have that dirty
little wretch come tumbling on like that, without even so much as
your telling me you'd made up all this new business for her! It's
indecent, anyway. Why, I lost my cue. There was a gap for a full
minute. The whole act was such a ghastly failure that I--"
"That you'd better go out now and make your prettiest bow, Gray.
Phew! Listen to the house roar. That's what I call applause. Go
Me? I didn't say a word. I looked at Obermuller and--and I just
did like this. Yes, winked, Mag Monahan. I was so crazily happy I
had to, didn't I?
But do you know what he did? Do you know what he did?
Well, I suppose I am screaming and the Troyons will put me out,
And then Gray came trailing back into the wings, and the
shrieking and thumping and whistling out in front just went
on--and on--and on--and on. Um! I just listened and loved
it--every thump of it. And I stood there like a demure little
kitten; or more like Mag Monahan after she'd had a good licking,
and was good and quiet. And I never so much as budged till
"Well, Nance, you have earned it. The gall of you! But it only
proves that Fred Obermuller never yet bought a gold brick. Only,
let me in on your racket next time. There, go on--take it. It's
Oh, to have Fred Obermuller say things like that to you!
He gave me a bit of a push. 'Twas just a love-pat. I stumbled out
on to the stage.
And that's why, Marguerite de Monahan, I want you to buy in with
the madam here. Let 'em keep on calling it Troyon's as much as
they want, but you're to be a partner on the money I'll give you.
If this fairy story lasts, it'll be your own, Mag--a sort of
commission you get on my take-off of you. But if anything happens
to the world--if it should go crazy, or get sane, and not love
Nancy Olden any more, why, here'll be a place for me, too.
Does it look that way? Divil a bit, you croaker! It looks--it
looks--listen and I'll tell you how it looks.
It looks as though Gray and the great Gray rose diamond and the
three Charities had all become a bit of background for Nance
Olden to play upon.
It looks as though the audience likes the sound of my voice as
much almost as I do myself; anyway, as much as it does the sight
It looks as though the press, if you please, had discovered a new
stage star, for down comes a little reporter to interview me--me,
Nancy Olden! Think of that, Mag! I receive him all in my Charity
rig, and in Obermuller's office, and he asks me silly questions
and I tell him a lot of nonsense, but some truths, too, about the
Cruelty. Fancy, he didn't know what the Cruelty was! S. P. C. C.,
he calls it. And all the time we talked a long-haired German
artist he had brought with him was sketching Nance Olden in
different poses. Isn't that the limit?
What d'ye think Tom Dorgan'd say to see half a page of Nancy
Olden in the X-Ray? Wouldn't his eyes pop? Poor old Tom! . . . No
danger--they won't let him have the papers. . . . My old Tommy!
What is it, Mag? Oh, what was I saying? Yes--yes, how it looks.
Well, it looks as though the Trust--yes, the big and mighty T.
T.--short for Theatrical Trust, you innocent--had heard of that
same Nance Olden you read about in the papers. For one night last
week, when I'd just come of and the house was yelling and
shouting behind me, Obermuller meets me in the wings and trots me
of to his private office.
"What for?" I asked him on the way.
"You'll find out in a minute. Come on."
I pulled up my stocking and followed. You know I wear it in that
act without a garter, and it's always coming down the way yours
used to, Mag. Even when it doesn't come down I pull it up, I'm so
in the habit of doing it.
A little bit of a man, bald-headed, with a dyspeptic little black
mustache turned down at the corners, watched me come in. He
grinned at my make-up, and then at me.
"Clever little girl," he says through his nose. "How much do
you stick Obermuller for?"
"Clever little man," say I, bold as brass and through my own
nose; "none of your business."
"Hi--you, Olden!" roared Obermuller, as though I'd run away and
he was trying to get the bit from between my teeth. "Answer the
gentleman prettily. Don't you know a representative of the mighty
T. T. when you see him? Can't you see the Syndicate aureole about
his noble brow? This gentleman, Nance, is the great and only Max
Tausig. He humbleth the exalted and uplifteth the lowly--or, if
there's more money in it, he gives to him that hath and steals
from him that hasn't, but would mighty well like to have. He has
no conscience, no bowels, no heart. But he has got tin and nerve
and power to beat the band. In short, and for all practical
purposes for one in your profession, Nancy Olden, he's just God.
Down on your knees and lick his boots--Trust gods wear boots,
patent leathers--and thank him for permitting it, you lucky
I looked at the little man; the angry red was just fading from
the top of his cocoanut-shaped bald head.
"You always were a fool, Obermuller," he said cordially. "And
you were always over-fond of your low-comedian jokes. If you
hadn't been so smart with your tongue, you'd had more friends and
not so many enemies in--"
"In the heavenly Syndicate, eh? Well, I have lived without--"
"You have lived, but--"
"But where do I expect to go when I die? Good theatrical
managers, Nance, when they die as individuals go to Heaven--they
get into the Trust. After that they just touch buttons; the Trust
does the rest. Bad ones--the kickers--the Fred Obermullers go
to--a place where salaries cease from troubling and royalties are
at rest. It's a slow place where--where, in short, there's
nothing doing. And only one thing's done--the kicker. It's that
place Mr. Tausig thinks I'm bound for. And it's that place he's
come to rescue you from, from sheer goodness of heart and a wary
eye for all there's in it. Cinch him, Olden, for all the traffic
I looked from one to the other--Obermuller, big and savage
underneath all his gay talk, I knew him well enough to see that;
the little man, his mouth turned down at the corners and a sneer
in his eye for the fellow that wasn't clever enough to get in
with the push.
"You must not give the young woman the big head, Obermuller. Her
own is big enough, I'll bet, as it is. I ain't prepared to make
any startling offer to a little girl that's just barely got her
nose above the wall. The slightest shake might knock her off
altogether, or she mightn't have strength enough in herself to
hold on. But we'll give her a chance. And because of what it may
lead to, if she works hard, because of the opportunities we can
give her, there ain't so much in it in a money way as you might
Obermuller didn't say anything. His own lips and his own eyes
sneered now, and he winked openly at me, which made the little
"Blast it!" he twanged. "I mean it. If you've got any notion
through my coming down to your dirty little joint that we've set
our hearts on having the girl, just get busy thinking something
else. She may be worth something to you--measured up against the
dubs you've got; but to us--"
"To you, it's not so much your not having her as my having her
"Exactly. It ain't our policy to leave any doubtful cards in
the enemy's hands. He can have the bad ones. He couldn't get the
good ones. And the doubtful ones, like this girl Olden--"
"Well, that's just where you're mistaken!" Obermuller thrust
his hands deep in his pockets and put out that square chin of his
like the fighter he is. " `This girl Olden' is anything but
doubtful. She's a big card right now if she could be well
handled. And the time isn't so far off when, if you get her, you
people will be--"
"Just how much is your interest in her worth?" the little man
Obermuller glared at him, and in the pause I murmured demurely:
"Only a six-year contract."
Mag, you should have seen 'em jump--both of 'em; the little man
with vexation, the big one with surprise.
A contract! Me?--Nance Olden! Why, Mag, you innocent, of course I
hadn't. Managers don't give six-year contracts to girl--burglars
who've never set foot on the stage.
When the little man was gone, Obermuller cornered me.
"What's your game, Olden?" he cried. "You're too deep for me;
I throw up my hands. Come; what've you got in that smart little
head of yours? Are you holding out for higher stakes? Do you
expect him to buy that great six-year contract and divvy the
proceeds with me? Because he will--when once they get their eye
on you, they'll have you; and to turn up your nose at their offer
if in just the way to make them itch for you. But how the deuce
did you find it out? And where do you get your nerve from,
anyway? A little beggar like you to refuse an offer from the T.
T. and sit hatching your schemes on your little old 'steen dollars
a week! . . . It'll have to be twice 'steen, now, I suppose?"
"All right, just as you say," I laughed. "But why aren't you
in the Trust, Fred Obermuller?"
"Why aren't you in society, Nance?"
"Um!--well, because society's prejudiced against lifting, but
the Trust isn't. Do you know that's a great graft, Mr.
Obermuller--lifting wholesale? Why don't you get in?"
"Because a Trust is a lot of sailors on a raft who keep their
places by kicking off the drowning hands that clutch at it. Can
you fancy a fellow like Tausig stooping down to help me tenderly
on board to divide the pickings?"
"No, but I can fancy you grappling with him till he'd be glad to
take you on rather than be pulled off himself."
"You'd be in with the push, would you, Olden, if you were
managing?" he asked with a grin.
"I'd be at the top, wherever that was."
"Then why the deuce didn't you jump at Tausig's offer? Were you
really crafty enough--"
"I am artiste, Monsieur Obermuller," I gutturaled like
Mademoiselle Picotte, who dances on the wire. "I moost have
about me those who arre--who arre congeniale--"
"You monkey!" he laughed. "Then, when Tausig comes to buy your
"We'll tell him to go to thunder."
He laughed. Say, Mag, that big fellow is like a boy when he's
pleased. I guess that's what makes it such fun to please him.
"And I, who admired your business sagacity in holding off,
Nance!" he said.
"I thought you admired my take-off! of Mademoiselle Picotte."
"Well, why don't you make use of it? Take me round to the
theaters and let me mimic all the swell actors and actresses.
I've got more chance with you than with that Trust gang. They
wouldn't give me room to do my own stunt; they'd make me fit into
theirs. But you--"
"But me! You think you can wind me round your finger?"
He chuckled. I thought I had him going. I saw Nance Olden
spending her evenings at the big Broadway theaters, when, just at
that minute, Ginger, the call-boy, burst in with a note.
Say, Mag, I wouldn't like to get that man Obermuller hopping mad
at me, and Nancy Olden's no coward, either. But the way he
gritted his teeth at that note and the devil in his eyes when he
lifted them from it, made me wonder how I'd ever dared be
facetious with him.
I got up to go. He'd forgotten me, but he looked up then.
"That was a great suggestion of yours, Olden, to put Lord Gray
on to act himself--great!" His voice shook, he was so angry.
"Well!" I snapped. I wasn't going to let him see that a big man
raging could bluff Nance Olden.
What did he mean? Why--just this: there was Lord Harold Gray, the
real Lord behind the scenes, bringing the Lady who was really
only a chorus girl to the show in his automobile; helping her
dress like a maid; holding her box of jewels as he tagged after
her like a big Newfoundland; smoking his one cigarette solemnly
and admiringly while she was on the stage; poking after her like
a tame bear. He's a funny fellow, that Lord Harold. He's a Tom
Dorgan, with the brains and the graft and--and the brute, too,
Mag, washed out of him; a Tom Dorgan that's been kept dressed in
swagger clothes all his life and living at top-notch--a big,
clean, handsome, stupid, good-natured, overgrown boy.
Yes, I'm coming to it. When I'd seen him go tagging after her
chippy Ladyship behind the scenes long enough, I told Obermuller
one day that it was absurd to send the mock Lady out on the
boards and keep the live Lord hidden behind. He jumped at the
idea, and they rigged up a little act for the two--the Lord and
the Lady. Gray was furious when she heard of it--their making use
of her Lord in such a way--but Lord Harold just swallowed his big
Adam's apple with a gulp or two, and said:
"'Pon honor, it's a blawsted scheme, you know; but I'm jolly
sure I'd make a bleddy ass of myself. I cawn't act, you know."
The ninny! You know he thinks Gray really can.
But Obermuller explained to him that he needn't act--just be
himself out behind the wings, and lo! Lord Harold was
Why, she gave in at last; pretended to, anyway--sliding out of
the Charity sketch, and rehearsing the thing with him, and all
that. And--and do you know what she did, Mag? (Nance Olden may be
pretty mean, but she wouldn't do a trick like that.) She waited
till ten minutes before time for the thing to be put on and then
threw a fit.
"She's so ill, her delicate Ladyship! So ill she just can't go
on this evening! Wonder how long she thinks such an excuse will
keep Lord Harold off when I want him on!" growled Obermuller,
throwing her note over to me. He'd have liked to throw it at me
if it'd been heavy enough to hurt; he was so thumping mad.
You see, there it was on the program:
THE CLEVER SKETCH ENTITLED
The Duke of Portmanteau . . . . Lord Harold Gray.
The Duchess . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lady Gray.
The celebrated Gray jewels, including the great Rose Diamond,
will be worn by Lady Gray in this number.
* * * * * * * * * *
No wonder Obermuller was raging. I looked at him. You don't like
to tackle a fellow like that when he's dancing hot. And yet you
ache to help him and--yes, yourself.
"Lord Harold's here yet, and the jewels?" I asked.
He gave a short nod. He was thinking. But so was I.
"Then all he wants is a Lady?"
"That's all," he said sarcastically.
"Well, what's the matter with me?"
"There's nothing the matter with your nerve, Olden."
"Thank you, so much." It was the way Gray says it when she
tries to have an English accent. "Dress me up, Fred Obermuller,
in Gray's new silk gown and the Gray jewels, and you'd never--"
"I'd never set eyes on you again."
"You'd never know, if you were in the audience, that it wasn't
Gray herself. I can take her off to the life, and if the
prompter'll stand by--"
He looked at me for a full minute.
"Try it, Olden," he said.
I did. I flew to Gray's dressing-room. She'd gone home deathly
ill, of course. They gave me the best seamstress in the place.
She let out the waist a bit and pulled over the lace to cover it.
I got into that mass of silk and lace--oh, silk on silk, and
Nance Olden inside! Beryl Blackburn did my hair, and Grace Weston
put on my slippers. Topham, himself, hung me with those gorgeous
shining diamonds and pearls and emeralds, till I felt like an
idol loaded with booty. There were so many standing round me,
rigging me up, that I didn't get a glimpse of the mirror till the
second before Ginger called me. But in that second--in that
second, Mag Monahan, I saw a fairy with blazing cheeks and
shining eyes, with a diamond coronet in her brown hair, puffed
high, and pearls on her bare neck and arms, and emeralds over the
waist, and rubies and pearls on her fingers, and sprays of
diamonds like frost on the lace of her skirt, and diamond buckles
on her very slippers, and the rose diamond, like a sun,
outshining all the rest; and--and, Mag, it was me!
How did it go? Well, wouldn't it make you think you were a Lady,
sure enough, if you couldn't move without that lace train
billowing after you; without being dazzled with diamond-shine;
without a truly Lord tagging after you?
He kept his head, Lord Harold did--even if it is a mutton-head.
That helped me at first. He was so cold, so stupid, so slow, so
good-tempered--so just himself. And after the first plunge--
I tell you, Mag Monahan, there's one thing that's stronger than
wine to a woman--it's being beautiful. Oh! And I was beautiful.
I knew it before I got that quick hush, with the full applause
after it. And because I was beautiful, I got saucy, and then
calm, and then I caught Fred Obermuller's voice--he had taken the
book from the prompter and stood there himself--and after that it
was easy sailing.
He was there yet when the act was over, and I trailed out,
followed by my Lord. He let the prompt-book fall from his hands
and reached them both out to me.
I flirted my jeweled fan at him and swept him a courtesy.
Cool? No, I wasn't. Not a bit of it. He was daffy with the sight
of me in all that glory, and I knew it.
"Nance," he whispered, "you wonderful girl, if I didn't know
about that little thief up at the Bronsonia I'd--I'd marry you
alive, just for the fun of piling pretty things on you."
"The deuce you would!" I sailed past him, with Topham and my
Lord in my wake.
They didn't leave me till they'd stripped me clean. I felt like a
Christmas tree the day after. But, somehow, I didn't care.
Is that you, Mag? Well, it's about time you came home to look
after me. Fine chaperon you make, Miss Monahan! Why, didn't I
tell you the very day we took this flat what a chaperon was, and
that you'd have to be mine? Imagine Nancy Olden without a
No, 'tisn't late. Sit down, Maggie, there, and let me get the
stool and talk to you. Think of us two--Cruelty girls, both of
us--two mangy kittens deserted by the old cats in a city's
alleys, and left mewing with cold and hunger and dirt, out in the
wet--think of us two in our own flat, Mag!
I say, it makes me proud of us! There are times when I look at
every stick of furniture we own, and I try to pretend to it all
that I'm used to a decent roof over my head, and a dining-room,
kitchen, parlor, bedroom and bath. Oh, and I forgot the telephone
the other tenant left here till its lease is up. But at other
times I stand here in the middle of it and cry out to it, in my
"Look at me, Nancy Olden, a householder, a rent-payer, the head
of the family, even if it's only a family of two and the other
one Mag! Look at me, with my name in the directory, a-paying milk
bills and meat bills and bread bills! Look at me with a place of
my own, where nobody's right's greater than my own; where no one
has a right but me and Mag; a place where--where there's nothing
to hide from the police!"
There's the rub, Mag, as Hamlet says--(I went to see it the other
night, so that I could take off the Ophelia--she used to be a
good mimic herself, before she tried to be a leading lady.) It
spoils you, this sense of safeness that goes with the honesty
graft. You lose the quickness of the hunter and the nerve of the
hunted. And--worse--you lose your taste for the old risky life.
You grow proud and fat, and you love every stick in the dear,
quiet little place that's your home--your own home. You love it
so that you'd be ashamed to sneak round where it could see
you--you who'd always walked upright before it with the step of
the mistress; with nothing in the world to be ashamed of; nothing
to prevent your staring each honest dish-pan in the face! 1>
And, Mag, you try--if you're me--to fit Tom Dorgan in here--Tom
Dorgan in stripes and savage sulks still--all these months--kept
away from the world, even the world behind bars! Maggie, don't
you wish Tom was a ventriloquist or--or an acrobat or--but this
isn't what I had to tell you.
Do you know what a society entertainer is, Miss Monahan? No?
Well, look at me. Yes, I'm one. Miss Nance Olden, whose services
are worth fifty dollars a night--at least, they were one night.
Ginger brought me the note that made me a society entertainer. It
was from a Mrs. Paul B. Gates, who had been "charmed by your
clever impersonations, Miss Olden, and write to know if you have
the leisure to entertain some friends at my house on Thursday of
Had I the leisure--well, rather! I showed the note to Gray, just
to make her jealous. (Oh, yes, she goes on all right in the act
with Lord Harold every night. Catch her letting me wear those
things of hers twice!) Well, she just turned up her nose.
"Of course, you won't accept?" she said.
"Of course, I will."
"Oh! I only thought you'd feel as I should about appearing
before a lot of snobs, who'll treat you like a servant and--"
"Who'll do nothing of the sort and who'll pay you well for it,"
put in Obermuller. He had come up and was reading the note I had
handed to him. "You just say yes, Nance," he went on, after
Gray had bounced of to her dressing-room. "It isn't such a bad
graft and--and this is just between us two, mind--that little
beggar, Tausig, has begun his tricks since you turned his offer
down. They can make things hot for me, and if they do, it won't
be so bad for you to go in for this sort of thing--unless you go
over to the Trust--"
I shook my head.
"Well, this thing will be an ad for you, besides,--if the papers
can be got to notice it. They're coy with their notices, confound
them, since Tausig let them know that big Trust ads don't appear
in the same papers that boom anti-Trust shows!"
"How long are you going to stand it, Mr. O?"
"Just as long as I can't help myself; not a minute longer."
"There ought to be a way--some way--"
"Yes, there ought, but there isn't. They've got things down to a
fine point, and the fellow they don't fear has got to fear them.
. . . I'll put your number early to-night, so that you can get
off by nine. Good luck, Nance."
At nine, then, behold Nancy Olden in her white muslin dress,
long-sleeved and high-necked, and just to her shoe-tops, with a
big white muslin sash around her waist. Oh, she's no baby, is
Nance, but she looks like one in this rig with her short hair--or
rather, like a school-girl; which makes the stunts she does in
mimicking the corkers of the profession all the more surprising.
"We're just a little party," said Mrs. Paul Gates, coming into
the bedroom where I was taking of my wraps. "And I'm so glad you
could come, for my principal guest, Mr. Latimer, is an invalid,
who used to love the theaters, but hasn't been to one since his
attack many years ago. I count on your giving him, in a way, a
condensed history in action of what is going on on the stage."
I told her I would. But I didn't just know what I was saying.
Think of Latimer there, Maggie, and think of our last meeting! It
made me tremble. Not that I fancied for a moment he'd betray me.
The man that helps you twice don't hurt you the third time. No,
it wasn't that; it was only that I longed to do well--well before
him, so that--
And then I found myself in an alcove off the parlors, separated
from them by heavy curtains. It was such a pretty little red
bower. Right behind me was the red of the Turkish drapery of a
cozy corner, and just as I took my place under the great
chandelier, the servants pulled the curtains apart and the lights
went out in the parlors.
In that minute I got it, Mag--yes, stage fright. Got it bad.
I suppose it was coming to me, but Lordy! I hadn't ever known
before what it was. I could see the black of the men's clothes in
the long parlors in front of me, and the white of the women's
necks and arms. There were soft ends of talk trailing after the
first silence, and everything was so strange that I seemed to
hear two men's voices which sounded familiar--Latimer's silken
voice, and another, a heavy, coarse bass, that was the last to be
I fancied that when that last voice should stop I could begin,
but all at once my mind seemed to turn a somersault, and, instead
of looking out upon them, I seemed to be looking in on myself--to
see a white-faced little girl in a white dress, standing alone
under a blaze of light in a glare of red, gazing fearfully at
this queer, new audience.
Fail? Me? Not Nancy, Maggie. I just took me by the shoulders.
"Nancy Olden, you little thief!" I cried to me inside of me.
"How dare you! I'd rather you'd steal the silver on this woman's
dressing-table than cheat her out of what she expects and what's
coming to her."
Nance really didn't dare. So she began.
The first one was bad. I gave 'em Duse's Francesca. You've never
heard the wailing music in that woman's voice when she says:
"There is no escape, Smaragdi.
You have said it;
The shadow is a glass to me, and God
Lets me be lost."
I gave them Duse just to show them how swell I was myself; which
shows what a ninny I was. The thing the world loves is the
opposite of what it is. The pat-pat-pat of their gloves came in
to me when I got through. They were too polite to hiss. But it
wasn't necessary. I was hissing myself. Inside of me there was a
long, nasty hiss-ss-ss!
I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear to be a failure with Latimer
listening, though out there in that queer half-light I couldn't
see him at all, but could only make out the couch where I knew he
must be lying.
I just jumped into something else to retrieve myself. I can do
Carter's Du Barry to the Queen's taste, Maggie. That rotten voice
of hers, like Mother Douty's, but stronger and surer; that rocky
old face pretending to look young and beautiful inside that
talented red hair of hers; that whining "Denny! Denny!" she
squawks out every other minute. Oh, I can do Du Barry all right!
They thought I could, too, those black and white shadows out
there on the other side of the velvet curtains. But I cared less
for what they thought than for the fact that I had drowned that
sputtering hiss-ss-ss inside of me, and that Latimer was among
I gave them Warfield, then; I was always good at taking off the
sheenies in the alley behind the Cruelty--remember? I gave them
that little pinch-nosed Maude Adams, and dry, corking little Mrs.
Fiske, and Henry Miller when he smooths down his white breeches
lovingly and sings Sally in our Alley, and strutting old
Say, isn't it funny, Mag, that I've seen 'em all and know all
they can do? They've been my college education, that crowd. Not a
bad one, either, when you come to think of what I wanted from it.
They pulled the curtains down at the end and I went back to the
bedroom. I had my hat and jacket on when Mrs. Gates and some of
the younger ladies came to see me there, but I caught no glimpse
of Latimer. You'd think--wouldn't you--that he'd have made an
opportunity to say just one nice word to me in that easy, soft
voice of his? I tried to believe that perhaps he hadn't really
seen me, lying down, as he must have been, or that he hadn't
recognized me, but I knew that I couldn't make myself believe
that; and the lack of just that word from him spoiled all my
satisfaction with myself, and I walked out with Mrs. Gates
through the hall and past the dining-room feeling as hurt as
though I'd deserved that a man like Latimer should notice me.
The dining-room was all lighted, but empty--the colored, shaded
candlesticks glowing down on the cut glass and silver, on
delicate china and flowers. The ladies and gentlemen hadn't come
out to supper yet; at least, only one was there. He was standing
with his back to me, before the sideboard, pouring out a glass of
something from a decanter. He turned at the rustle of my starched
skirt, and, as I passed the door, he saw me. I saw him, too, and
Yes, I knew him. Just you wait.
I got home here earlier than I'd expected, and I'd just got off
my hat and jacket and put away that snug little check when there
came a ring at the bell.
I thought it was you, Mag--that you'd forgotten your key. I was
so sure of it that I pulled the door open wide with a flourish
Yes, Edward, husband of the Dowager. The same red-faced,
big-necked old fellow, husky-voiced with whisky now, just as he
was before. He must have been keeping it up steadily ever since
the day out in the country when Tom lifted his watch. It'll take
more than one lost watch to cure Edward.
"I--followed you home, Miss Murieson," he said, grabbing me by
the hand and pushing the door closed behind him. "Or is it Miss
Murieson? Which is your stage name, and which your real one? And
have you really learned to remember it? For my part, any old name
will smell as sweet, now that I'm close to the rose."
I jerked my hand away from him.
"I didn't ask you to call," I said, haughty as the Dowager
herself was when first I saw her in her gorgeous parlor, the
Bishop's card in her hand.
"No, I noticed that," he roared jovially. "You skinned out the
front door the moment you saw me. All that was left to me was to
"Why!" He slapped his leg as though he'd heard the best joke in
the world. "To renew our acquaintance, of course. To ask you if
you wouldn't like me to buy you a red coat and hat like the one
you left behind you that day over in Philadelphia, when you cut
your visit so short. To insist upon my privilege of relationship.
To call that wink you gave me in the hall that day, you little
devil. Now, don't look at me like that. I say, let's be friends;
"Not for a red coat trimmed with chinchilla," I cried.
He got between me and the door.
"Prices gone up?" he inquired pleasantly. "Who's bulling the stock?"
"Never you mind, so long as his name isn't Ramsay."
"But why shouldn't his name be Ramsay?" he cooed.
"Just because it isn't. I'm expecting a friend. Hadn't you
better go home to Mrs. Dowager Diamonds?"
"Bully! Is that what you call her? No, I'll stay and meet your friend."
"Oh, I'm not afraid. Does he know as much about you as I do?"
"About your weakness for other girls' coats?"
You do know it all, don't you? And yet you care for me, Maggie
I retreated before him into the dining-room. What in the world to
do to get rid of him!
"I think you'd better go home, Mr. Ramsay," I said again,
decidedly. "If you don't, I'll have to call the janitor to put
"Call, sweetheart. He'll put you out with me; for I'll tell him
a thing or two about you, and we'll go and find a better place
than this. Stock can't be quoted so high, after all, if this is
the best prospectus your friend can put up. . . . Why don't you
I looked at him. I was thinking.
"Well?" he demanded.
"I've changed my mind."
Oh, Mag, Mag, did you ever see the man--ugly as a cannibal he may
be and old as the cannibal's great-grandfather--that couldn't be
persuaded he was a lady-killer?
His manner changed altogether. He plumped down on the lounge and
patted the place beside him invitingly, giving me a wink that was
"But, Mrs. Dowager!" I exclaimed coquettishly.
"Oh, that's all right, little one! She hasn't even missed me
yet. When she's playing Bridge she forgets even to be jealous."
"Playing Bridge," I murmured sweetly, "'way off in
Philadelphia, while you, you naughty man--"
Oh, he loved that!
"Not so naughty as--as I'd like to be," he belllowed, heavily
witty. "And she isn't 'way off in Philadelphia either. She's
just round the corner at Mrs. Gates', and--what's the matter?"
"Nothing--nothing. Did she recognize me?"
"Oh, that's what scared you, is it? She didn't recognize you.
Neither did I, till I got that second glimpse of you with your
hat and jacket on. But even if she had--ho! ho! ho! I say; do you
know, you couldn't convince the Bishop and Henrietta, if you'd
talk till doomsday, that that red coat and hat we advertised
weren't taken by a little girl that was daffy. Fact; I swear it!
They admit you took the coat, you little witch, but it was when
you were out of your mind--of course--of course! `The very fact
that she left the coat behind her and took nothing else from the
house shows a mind diseased,' insisted Henrietta. Of course--of
course! `And her coming for no reason at all to your house,' adds
the Bishop. . . . Say, what was the reason?"
Maggie, I'll tell you a hard thing: it isn't when people think
worse of you than you are, but better, that you feel most
uncomfortable. I got pale and sick inside of me at the thought of
my poor little Bishop. I loved him for believing me straight
"I've been dying of curiosity to know what was in your wise
little head that day," he went on. "Oh, it was wise all right;
that wink you gave me was perfectly sane; there was method in
that madness of yours."
"I will tell you, Mr. Ramsay," I said sweetly, "at supper."
"Yes, the supper you're going to get for me."
His bellowing laughter filled the place. Maggie, our little flat
and our few things don't go well with sounds like that.
"Oh, you're all alike, you women!" he roared. "All right,
supper it is. Where shall we go--Rector's?"
"It's so much more cozy right here," I said. "I'll telephone.
There's Brophy's, just round the corner, and they send in the
"Oh, they do! Well, tell 'em to begin sending."
I thought he'd follow me out in the hall to the 'phone, but he
was having some trouble in pulling out his purse--to count out
his money, I suppose. I got Central and asked for the number. Oh,
yes, I knew it all right; I had called up that same number once,
already, to-day. Brophy's? Why, Maggie Monahan, you ought to know
there's no Brophy's. At least none that I ever heard about.
With my hand over the mouthpiece, so that nobody heard but
Edward, I ordered a supper fit for a king--or a chorus girl! What
didn't I order! Champagne, broiled lobster, crab meat, stuffed
pimentoes, kirschkaffee--everything I'd ever heard Beryl
Blackburn tell about.
"Say, say," interrupted Edward, coming out after me. "That's
enough of that stuff. Tell him to send in a Scotch and soda
For at that moment the connection was made and I cut in sweetly
"Mrs. Edward Ramsay?--just a minute."
Mag, you should have seen the man's face! It was red, it was
white; it was furious, it was frightened.
I put my hand a moment over the mouthpiece and turned on him
then. "I've got her on the 'phone at Mrs. Gates' house. Shall I
tell your wife where you are, Edward? . . . Just a moment, Mrs.
Ramsay, hold the wire; some one wants to speak with you."
"You little devil!" His voice was thick with rage.
"Yes, you called me that some time ago, but not in that tone.
Quick, now--the door or . . . Waiting, Mrs. Ramsay?"
He moved toward the door.
"How'll I know you won't tell her when I'm gone?" he growled.
"Merely by my saying that I won't," I answered curtly. "You're
in no position to dictate terms; I am."
But I could, without leaving the 'phone, latch the chain on the
door behind him, leaving it half open. So he must have heard the
"Yes, Mrs. Ramsay, waiting?" I croaked like the driest kind of
hello-girl. "I was mistaken. It was a message left to be
delivered to you--not some one wanting to speak with you. Who am
I? Why, this is Central. Here is the message: `Will be with you
in half an hour.' Signed `Edward.' . . .
Yes, that's right. Thank you. Good night."
I hung up, gave the door a touch that shut it in his face and
went back into the dining-room to throw open the windows. The
place smelled of alcohol; the moral atmosphere left behind by
that bad old man sickened me.
I leaned out and looked at the stars and tried to think of
something sweet and wholesome and strengthening.