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Broadway Broke by Earl Derr Biggers

First published in The Saturday Evening Post, Feb 3, 1923

YOU may have met them drifting along Broadway—men whose names were once in the lights, women who were the toast of the town. Something, they tell you, is gone from their theater; something they find it hard to define. But they who have followed it from Union Square to Madison, thence north to Herald and finally to Long Acre, feel that in each of the neighborhoods it deserted it left a little of its glamour, a little of its romance. They shake their heads and travel on, seeking one more engagement, one more opportunity to wrest a living from their profession before the final curtain falls. Unless you wish to encounter heartbreak, do not inquire too closely into their fate. It is an alien land through which they wander now, a "show me" country where the cry is ever for youth.

On a humid August afternoon Nellie Wayne was walking up Broadway—our Nellie of the magic voice. Your father will remember her if you do not. At the old Fourteenth Street Theater early in the 'eighties she first flashed on the town, and thereafter for twenty years her name was synonymous with beauty. Lady Teazle, Viola, Rosalind, Camille—it mattered not in which guise the young men saw her first, from that moment her portrait adorned their bureaus and her lovely face often haunted their dreams.

It was at that forgotten playhouse, the Standard, that she appeared in the comedies and melodramas written by the brilliant Charlie Farren. She was Charlie's wife then, and when the critics urged her back to the classics she only laughed, for to her Charlie's poorest line was better than Shakespeare at his best. Late in the 'nineties Charlie died, and in the hour of her sorrow she first began to realize that something almost as precious had left her, too—her stock in trade, her youth. One black morning a manager offered her a mother role, and though she at first indignantly refused, she took it in the end and so started down the long slope beyond the hilltop.

She was well down that slope this August afternoon, a woman of—well, no one could say precisely how many years; but sixty-eight is a good guess. A beauty still, her age considered; tall, with the carriage of a great lady and a face but faintly lined. Though her hair was snow white, a youthful sparkle lingered in her eyes. Yes, a fine figure of a woman, but lacking something—hope, high spirits, a real destination along this famous thoroughfare. Once, when she walked on Broadway, twenty blocks down, people nudged one another and turned to stare; but now in the cold, fishy eyes about her gleamed no faintest spark of recognition. Well down the slope, indeed.

A stocky, prosperous-looking man was standing on the corner of Forty-Fourth Street, gazing out across the alien tide that drifted by him; a gray-haired man who seemed lonesome on that crowded corner. Suddenly he chanced to see Nellie Wayne. His face lighted and he strode boldly through the horde of lesser creatures between and seized both her hands.

"Nellie!" he cried. She looked up, startled. Old memories of her golden past flooded her heart and her eyes filled with the quick tears of the artist.

"Tom! Tom Kerrigen!"

"Nellie, is it you? Fine and blooming as ever!"

To have some one step out of the mob and tell her that! Life was worth living, after all.

"Tom—where from? Whereto?"

"From Denver. I've been living out there since I closed here—ten years ago."

"In business, Tom?"

He shook his head.

"Retired." They walked along together through the Wednesday matinee throng. "I decided it wasn't any game for an honest man any more."

She glanced up at him, a little breathless, thrilled. It was wonderful just to see him again. Charlie's best friend, Square Tom Kerrigen, a dazzling figure on the old Broadway, a patron of the drama, front row on the aisle every opening night; Square Tom, whose establishment just off Fifth Avenue was the favorite resort of the men about town whose gaming instincts were active and who preferred to play where the game was fair.

"Nothing but crooks in my business to-day," Tom was saying. "The dirty outcasts of Europe—the scum of the earth. I saw it coming—no Americans left. Besides, I wouldn't pay tribute to any man living, in uniform or out. So I quit when it stopped being a gentleman's game. I dropped it. Denver was my old town—my daughter's out there. But I had to come back for one more look at the big street. And I'm sorry I did. I've spoiled it all." He turned to her wistfully. "Where's our Broadway, Nellie?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't know, Tom. Gone! Gone with the theater we knew—the theater that had traditions. Show business. That's what the drama is now—the drama of Booth and Cushman and the rest. Show business—a trade, like cloaks and suits." They walked on for a moment in silence. "I'm mighty glad to see you," she told him. "But I'm sorry you came back."

"I know—I suspected—but I got to thinking. So many old friends I had to see once more."

"And have you found them?"

"I've found you, and there's none I'd rather meet. But the others—lord, I don't know where to look for them! Once it would have been simple—a stroll up Broadway at the cocktail hour, from Martin's to the Metropole, and you met every last soul you knew. But now—"

"Not now," she smiled sadly.

"I shouldn't have come," he admitted. "But my memories brought me. Lord, Nellie, what good times we used to have! Nights after the show, in your old house on Twenty-Second Street, with Charlie at the head of the supper table—good old Charlie. Then afterward, when you'd sing for us, and the good talk lasting till morning, and Charlie following us to the door, holding us back, pleading with us not to go. 'The night's young,' he always said."

"Dear Charlie," she sighed. "Never wanted to go to bed. Never wanted to get up once he got there."

"I wonder what he'd think of our Broadway now." They walked along. "You—you're not working, Nellie?"

She looked away from him.

"Not for two years," she said softly.

"Oh!" He glanced at her quickly, then away. "Where you stopping?"

"I'm living with Grade." Gracie was her daughter, her only child. "We've got a lovely—a little apartment on Forty-Eighth, near Sixth Avenue. Gracie and young Nellie and I. Young Nellie's just turned seventeen."

"No, by gad! Well, if she looks like her grandmother at the same age—but there never could be another Nellie Wayne. What's become of Grade's husband?"

"Joe? Oh, he's on the road most of the time."

"An actor, eh?"

"Well, he's in vaudeville."

"Oh, I see! I don't recall his act."

"No?" She was silent a moment, as though debating something. "H'm—Karger and Chum. That's the name of it."

"Chum? Who's Chum?"

"He's—it's—it's a dog act."

Tom Kerrigen was too tactful to reply. He knew what the admission must have cost her. Nellie Wayne, Charlie Farren—all the glory, all the lights, all the applause—and the line ending in a dog act. The old gambler's heart was touched.

"You and Charlie made a lot of money once," he began, rather clumsily. "I—I understand you hung on to some of it. Enough—enough so that—you're all right, I hope, Nellie?"

"You know me," she answered, looking toward the street. Her head went up. "I'm all right, Tom, and thank you for asking."

"I'm glad to hear it. That was the impression I got from Lew Gorman. Lew made a lot managing you, and he's held on to it, believe me. By the way, he's in town. I met him on the train coming from Chicago. See much of him now?"

"Not for years," she said.

"Lew spends his winters in Hollywood, putting out a picture now and then just to pass the time. Tells me he makes good money out of them. A foxy boy, Lew."

"You don't need to tell me that. I'm going down here, Tom." They were at the corner of Forty-Ninth. "I thought I'd drop in and see Madge Foster's new piece."

"I'll walk along to the door," said Kerrigen. "Listen here, Nellie, why don't you take a fling at the movies? Something to keep you amused."

She turned on him, her eyes flashing.

"The movies! Are you serious? I'd die first."

He was surprised at the fervor of her tone.

"Well, I don't care much for the pictures myself," be began.

"I should hope not, after what they've done to our theater, our Broadway. Silly pap for fools. I hate the movies! There used to be a road to play to. Where is it now? There used to be gallery boys." Her voice softened. "Do you remember when I came back from England late in the 'eighties—my first night at the Standard, when they let down that banner from the ceiling—'The Gallery Boys Welcome Their Nellie'? The flowers and the tears and the cheering? Where are the gallery boys to-day? Oh, Tom, Tom, the movies have killed it all; the dignity and the glamour; everything that was human and lovable about the theater."

"I didn't know you felt that way," he said apologetically.

"I told you I'd die before I'd touch them," Nellie answered. "I meant it."

At the door of the playhouse Kerrigen invited her to dine with him that night, and she accepted. She would meet him, she said, in the foyer of his hotel, but he insisted on calling for her. Rather reluctantly she gave him the address.

"The fifth floor," she said. "A walk-up apartment. Or are—"

"Don't worry, I can make it, Nellie," he assured her with a laugh.

She went into the lobby of the theater. She was somewhat late, the place was deserted, the audience all inside. Through the front of the house as she entered spread the sudden coolness that instinctively greets the seeker for free seats. No, the man at the box office didn't know where Mr. McCarthy was—very busy somewhere, no doubt. Oh, sure, she could stand round and wait if she wanted to. Not much use, though. Mr. McCarthy probably wouldn't return.

With all the dignity she had she moved over to a corner. A beardless young press agent followed.

"Anything I can do?" he inquired. She explored her bag and offered him her card.

"I'd like a seat, please."

He read the card and glanced at her coldly.

"In the profession?" he inquired.

In the profession! Nellie Wayne! The insult set her heart thumping with indignation.

"My name is rather well known," she said haughtily, "to any one who matters."

Johnny McCarthy, fat, bald, genial, bounced out of the auditorium past the ennuied ticket taker.

"Nellie!" he cried. "You stranger!"

"Come here, Johnny," she said. "Come here and tell this young man whether I'm in the profession or not."

McCarthy's smile faded as he looked at the press agent.

"You lost your bib somewhere," he said. "Go back to the nursery and find it. Nellie Wayne in the profession? You poor bonehead!" The young man beat a hasty retreat. "They make me sick, these kids," continued Mr. McCarthy. "They think they invented Broadway. How many you want, Nellie? Are you all alone?"

"Just one, John."

He went to the box office and returned with the coupon for a good seat.

"How's all the folks?" he inquired.

"Oh, Gracie's well. We all are."

"I caught Joe's act over in Philly. The dog's good, but Joe sort of crabs it."

"You never liked Joe, did you, John?"

"I couldn't understand why Gracie preferred him to me. I always told you he was lazy, and now—living off a dog!"

"Joe's been a good son, John. Mighty kind and gen—and gentlemanly. By the way, I'm not working. If you hear of anything—"

"Oh, sure! I'll keep you in mind, Nellie. But it's not going to be a big year. Last season was so bad everybody's lying low." He looked at her pityingly. He had heard how, two seasons before when she was rehearsing a part, her memory had deserted her and she had been unable to learn the lines. All Broadway had heard; it was common talk for a time; and there was no engagement for Nellie Wayne; would probably never be one again. "The theater's been through some pretty tough times," he went on. "Worse than 'ninety-three, and they're not over yet. You can be glad you laid away your pile, Nellie."

"What? Oh, yes."

"Better go on in. Foster's entrance is about due. You'll enjoy her in this"—he lowered his voice—"she's rotten! But she still gets the crowd. Over a thousand in the box this afternoon."

"That's good," said Nellie, and went to her seat, where she spent an envious afternoon.

When she returned to the street after the matinee her spirits were drooping. She had meant to go behind and congratulate Madge Foster, but the task was beyond her. Broadway was sizzling. Men had draped handkerchiefs about their collars; some carried their coats. The street is at its worst in August, though hope is in the air; high hope for the new season; a hit perhaps, recognition at last! Managers, authors, actors, pinning their faith to a new play, all the old failures forgotten—this—this is the one! Millions in it! Millions!

Rehearsals were still on, and round the stage doors of theaters not yet open for the season little groups of perspiring players awaited their cues. Nellie Wayne hurried by. The sight was almost more than she could bear. To be called again for rehearsal—the dim stage, the dusty piles of scenery, the empty auditorium, the droning voices, the kitchen chairs set to represent exits, and in the distance the first night looming, inspiring hope and terror too! Just once more—once more! She'd get the lines; she'd have them. That last trouble—that was the author's fault. His silly speeches didn't mean anything. Why should they hold that against her still?

With heavy heart she climbed the five flights to the little flat. Gracie was playing solitaire in the parlor—pale, colorless Gracie, who had come into the world without one spark of either parent's genius; Gracie, her inexplicable child, who now looked up from her game with a frown.

"Hello, you back?"

"Any word from Joe?"

"Not a line. I can't understand. You'd think the Orpheum in Frisco would answer my wire."

"You'd think Joe would answer." Nellie took ofF her hat and sat down in a rocker by the window. "No money order for three weeks—what does he figure you're going to live on? But then he's no good. I always said so."

"Now, Mother, I won't have that." Gracie pushed the cards aside. "Talking against Joe—and you living on his money for two years past."

"His money! That's good, that is! A fine time I'd have had of it on any money Joe could earn. The dog's money, you mean. And do you think I'm proud of it? Do you think I want to be reminded of it? Me—Nellie Wayne—supported by a trick dog in vaudeville!" She took out her handkerchief. "If Charlie Farren were alive to see me now—"

"Oh, Mother, don't cry! Things are bad enough as it is."

"I'll cry if I like. I met Tom Kerrigen on the street—you remember him. Your father's old friend."

"He's got money, hasn't he?" Gracie inquired.

"Yes, and he'll keep it for all of me. I'd die if he found out—I'd die. If he knew what I've come to—"

The door opened and young Nellie came in, a slender, sweet girl in a blue tailored suit. She had a newspaper in her hand, her eyes were big with excitement.

"Mother," she cried, "I got a Frisco paper! Dad isn't on the bill. The act was canceled."

"Why?"

"I don't know. It doesn't say."

"I can't make it out." Grade's face was blanker than usual. "What could have happened to him? Why doesn't he send us a wire?"

"You can starve for all he cares," Nellie Wayne said.

"That's no way to speak of Joe Karger," Gracie objected. "Every week regular he's come across—you know that. And never a word of complaint when you quit working—"

"Go on! Reproach me with it! Throw my misfortune in my face!"

"Well, if you'd saved a little of your money—"

"You know where the last of it went. Joe put it into those oil stocks. A fine business man he is! If he's paid my keep it's no more than he owes me!"

"Please," said young Nellie. "What are we going to do? That's what I want to know."

"The agent for the landlord was here," Gracie said. "He's given us two more days. I got that out of him. Heaven knows I'm not fitted for that sort of thing, but I managed it. There's no ice, and the milk has soured, and what more we can pawn I don't know."

"I told you not to buy that gray foulard," her mother reminded her.

"But it was marked down—a bargain. And I needed it; I really did. I'm not accustomed to going about in rags."

"If I could only get an engagement!" sighed young Nellie.

Nellie Wayne stared at her.

"What do you mean—an engagement?"

"She's been round to the agents," Gracie explained. "She thought—we both thought—"

"I won't have it! Baby on the stage!"

"Please stop calling me Baby," protested the girl. "I'm grown up. I've got to go to work some time. Why not now?"

"But not in the theater!" Nellie cried. "Look at me! Look at what it's done to me!" She stood up as though called upon for a speech. "Gave it my best, I did; made a name, a big name—none bigger. And what has it all come to? What's been the end? Forgotten, slighted, insulted, living on the earnings of a trick dog! That's the theater for you! I'd rather see you in your grave!"

"Well, it's all true, of course," Gracie admitted. She picked up the cards and shuffled them. "I've heard interior decorating is a splendid profession for women. If you could take that up, Baby—or even stenography—"

"Nonsense!" said the girl. "I'm going on the stage."

"Listen to her!" cried Nellie Wayne. "Gracie, have you no authority—"

"Oh, Mother, do stop!" Gracie was dealing the cards. "What ails you anyhow?"

"I'm upset." She sat down again and wiped her eyes. "Upset, and I can't help it. Seeing Tom Kerrigen and remembering the old happy days—and a young fool of a press agent asked me if I was in the profession! Me! That's Broadway for you—no gratitude, no memory. A star to-day and a has-been to-morrow. It's just as Charlie used to say—"

A knock on the door interrupted her. The three women sat for a moment, startled into silence.

"It might be the agent for the landlord," Gracie whispered. "He said he was going to put it up to the boss; maybe we're evicted. I could never hold up my head again." The knock came again, more insistent. "We'll pretend we're out— "

"We can't do that," young Nellie said. She walked boldly to the door and opened it: "Dad!" she cried.

"Hello, Baby!" Joe Karger came into the room, an overdressed, wise-looking citizen of forty, sleek and debonair, but with a weak mouth. "Hello, Gracie! How goes it? Ma, how are you?" He kissed them both.

Through the open door behind him trotted a small Irish terrier with a huge rhinestone collar about his neck—Chum, the vaudeville artist; three hundred a week, real money. Young Nellie dropped to her knees and put her arms about him.

"Joe, what happened?" Gracie cried. "We haven't had a word from you in three weeks. What you doing here? We thought you were booked solid through the winter."

"It's a long story," replied Mr. Karger, throwing his straw hat on to the table. "A long, sad story." He sat, but added nothing. Like all small souls, he enjoyed keeping others in suspense. It tickled his vanity.

"But, Joe, things are pretty bad here. The agent for the landlord—"

"Things are worse than you think," Joe assured her, and still he held back his news.

"Father!" pleaded young Nellie.

Joe Karger pointed to Chum, who stood trembling slightly and looking exceedingly guilty.

"It's the dog," said Joe. "He's laid down on us. He's quit us cold."

"What? What do you mean?" Grade's voice was terror-stricken.

"Old age, I guess," Joe said. "I never got his age straight, and it seems I was off a few years. Anyhow, out in Los Angeles one night, what does he do but forget his routine." He glanced meaningly at Nellie Wayne. "I'd heard of it happening to actors, but never to an animal act. However, he forgets it—balls up the whole turn—we're a frost. They canceled me. I took Chum to a vet and he tells me the dog's too old; nearly blind for one thing—can't get my signals. This vet says there's nothing left but chloroform."

"Oh, no!" young Nellie cried.

"Well, I guess Chum wouldn't want to be a burden, Baby," said Joe. "I guess he'd understand."

They sat there in a circle, staring at the dog, these four grown people who had been living on his wages. And Chum looked back at them; looked anxiously from one to the other, a humble plea for forgiveness in his tired old eyes. He had sinned; he knew it; committed the deadly fault, lost the routine and crabbed the act. Yet there was his honorable past, his long years of service to the arts. Only in young Nellie's eyes could he find an answering spark of friendliness.

"Poor Chum!" she said softly.

"He was a good wagon, but he done broke down," said Joe.

Gracie's face, capable only of the simpler emotions, registered dismay. As for Nellie Wayne, she regarded Chum with renewed hostility. She had never been friends with the dog. To her he had been the symbol of her shame. She had hated him while she took her share of the money he earned. And now, to quote Joe, he had quit her cold. An icy fear gripped her heart. He had led her along a little way and then deserted her, and the great horror of these last years had descended on her at last. She was old and done for—broke, with not a ray of hope in sight.

"Joe, what can we do?" Gracie wanted to know. "We've spent pretty freely, with you booked solid over the Orpheum time. The rent's due, and the meat man wants his, and—and I don't see where we're going to end."

"Oh, we'll get along," said Joe the optimist.

"You—you got any money, Joe?"

"Me? Say, what do you think I am? Three weeks out of the bill, and my fare to pay from Frisco. This is a hell of a reception, anyhow!" Talk about money always annoyed him. "Ain't any of you glad to see me? I haven't heard you say it. You ain't, I guess. No, you'd rather have me out slaving, playing four shows a day, writing money orders. That's all you want out of me—money orders."

"Now, Joe, we're worried, that's all," Gracie said.

"Well, what the devil's the use of that? What does worry get you? Something will turn up. I can pawn that collar of Chum's for a few dollars. Then I'll look round. I'm going into business. Where I should have been long ago, with my talents. If I'd only gone into that broker's office when I had the chance! Oh, I'll find something. It's up to me of course. Nobody else will lend a hand."

"I'm going on the stage," young Nellie announced.

"Sure, you're old enough," Joe approved. "And you got what they want—you got youth."

"Mother doesn't think she ought to," Gracie began.

"Oh, is that so?" Joe turned and glared at Nellie Wayne. "And what has Mother got to say about it? What right has she to butt into our affairs? I haven't seen any of her money paying the grocery bills."

"Oil stock—that's where my money is," Nellie reminded him. "Going to be rich soon. That's what I was told when I handed it over to the person who got me into it."

"That's right, bring that up again!" growled Joe. "I was only trying to do you a favor."

A knock on the door interrupted him; and, opening it, Nellie admitted Tom Kerrigen. Mr. Kerrigen was in a gay mood, and if he found his old friend in surroundings that surprised him he gave no sign. Presently they all retired and left him in the parlor, while Nellie Wayne made ready for dinner. As she passed through the dining-room on her way Joe resumed their argument.

"Don't you try to interfere!" he warned. "If Baby wants to break into the profession it's no business of yours. Somebody's got to work round here. Somebody's got to support you, now that the dog's quit."

"Hush, Joe! Hush!" Nellie cried.

"Afraid your friend'll know, eh?" sneered Joe. "Well, I don't care who knows. You been sponging off that dog—"

"Father!" young Nellie cried. She alone could silence him; he subsided. The girl kissed her grandmother. "Have a good time," she said.

A good time! Nellie Wayne paused for a moment outside the parlor door, gathering her wits. Then she opened it and swept in as though it had been the entrance at rear center and the shabby parlor lay in the footlights' glare; swept in with her famous smile, her air of a great and vivacious lady. Tom Kerrigen went back thirty years at sight of her.

He took her to a quiet old restaurant, where the head waiter, a bent veteran of seventy, greeted them in a voice quavering with excitement:

"Nellie Wayne! Mr. Kerrigen! You remember me?"

They recognized in him a relic of their dead past. He had been a slender, blond young waiter at Delmonico's when that restaurant stood three blocks south of Union Square; a lad who haunted the theaters about Fourteenth Street, who worshiped at the shrine of Nellie Wayne. Only that afternoon she had wondered as to the whereabouts of her gallery boys, and here was one of them—wrinkled, feeble, one foot in the grave, but her admirer still.

During dinner he came again and again to their table with bits of old gossip, shreds of loving reminiscence. His open homage and the gallant attentiveness of Tom Kerrigen, looking very handsome in evening clothes, combined to make the evening a happy one for Nellie. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkled, her troubles were temporarily forgotten.

They witnessed the last two acts of a modern play and agreed that the acting would not have been tolerated for a moment by Augustin Daly. When Nellie climbed to the fifth floor after her evening with the past she found the little flat silent and in darkness. A bed had been prepared for her on the couch in the parlor. She heard Joe snoring loudly in the room at the rear—the room she had been sharing with Gracie.

As she was stooping over to unlace her shoes a pathetic little creature crept in from the kitchen. Chum, unable to sleep, walking the house, conscious of something wrong, something that was his fault. He came up to her timidly, apologetically, and touched her bare arm with his nose.

But Nellie Wayne was back in the present now, the icy fear again in her heart. The dog's advances annoyed her.

"Go back! Go back, sir!" she whispered, and he meekly turned to obey. She watched him as he reluctantly left the room, dignified but hurt.

"Chloroform for you!" she said bitterly. "But for me—what? God knows!"

in the morning things looked a little brighter. Joe awoke in an aggressively optimistic mood. Everything, he announced, was all for the best. But for the dereliction of Chum he might have gone on indefinitely wasting his talents in vaudeville, when as a matter of fact he belonged in business, where he would shortly pile up an amazing fortune. He was a bit late starting, but he would show 'em now. He was through with the theater.

"Know a guy up in Columbus Circle sells automobiles," he said. "Three years ago he tells me I'm a born salesman. I'll just walk in on him this morning and ask when do I go to work."

After the meager breakfast Joe put on his hat and called to Chum. The dog ran to him eagerly, barking his joy, anticipating a happy stroll in the sunshine. Joe stooped and removed the rhinestone collar from Chum's neck.

"I'll see how much I can get on this," he told them. He winked. "Chum won't need it where he's going." And he went blithely out, leaving the dog whining his disappointment.

At six o'clock that evening Mr. Karger returned to them, wilted and again in the depths. His day had not been happy.

"Seems the car trade's all shot," he announced. "Nothing doing there. And the best I could do on Chum's collar was six measly ones. 'But look here, Uncle,' I says, 'them stones is set in sterling silver.' 'Six bucks,' he answers, 'and not a penny more.'"

"Oh, Joe," cried Gracie, "and the agent for the landlord coming back to- morrow! I told him positively—"

"I'm doing my best, ain't I?" Joe demanded. "What's the rest of you doing? Was you round to the agents, Baby?"

"Yes," said young Nellie. "They told me to call again."

"The old bunk! Ma, I don't suppose you got anything up your sleeve."

"I'd like to help if I could, Joe. I've got a sort of a plan—"

"Kerrigen?" he inquired eagerly.

"No, not Kerrigen."

"Well, Ma, he looks to me like your best bet."

"That's not the way he looks to me," said Nellie Wayne.

"Well, come on, folks." Joe stood up. "We'll dine at the automat. While the six last we live high."

Nellie Wayne asked to be excused. She had lunched well, she said, and had eaten a wonderful dinner only last night. The three went out and left her. For a long time she sat, staring into space.

She was thinking of Madge Foster. An old friend, Madge; they had toured together years ago, shared the same make-up box, the same bed in dreary hotel rooms. Madge was slightly younger. Nellie had given her her first engagement, shown her many a kindness in that dim past. Now that Madge was working, prosperous, she could not well refuse a little temporary aid to her old friend and benefactor.

Nellie sighed. It would not be easy to walk into Madge's dressing-room, and there amid the many evidences of her old associate's success and prosperity confess her own plight. Still, the situation was desperate; she must face the ordeal; she owed the sacrifice to Gracie and to Joe.

She arrayed herself in the best she had, and at seven-thirty was on her way up Broadway. The theater crowds were not yet on the streets; only occasional pedestrians, many of them actors hurrying to their work. Their work! With bitterly envious eyes she saw them turn off into narrow alleyways that led to various stage doors. Once she, too, had had a destination at this hour, had known the cheery greeting of the door man, had hurried to the star's dressing room and found her maid waiting for her in the bright interior, with the lid of the make-up box open under the mirror; the mirror lined with a hundred telegrams and messages, friendly words from camp followers of success.

She came to the alleyway beside the theater where Madge was playing, and turned in. An old man with drooping shoulders was loitering near the tall iron fence.

"Nellie Wayne!" he cried.

"Why, Frank Shore!" she said.

"Hello, Nellie! I ain't seen you since that week in New Orleans eighteen years ago. Remember? Bidwell's, in Canal Street—Charlie's piece, The Midnight Flyer."

"As long ago as that! Working, Frank?"

"Me? I ain't had a berth for three seasons, Nellie. I'm—I'm at the end of my rope. Been to the fund five times—I can't go again. Just—just begging in the street, Nellie."

Again the easy tears in her eyes. Frank Shore, an artist, a man who respected his profession, come to this!

"Wait for me here," she said. "I'll be along again in a few minutes."

She nodded to the door man, an old acquaintance, and crossed the stage, set for the first act, to the star's dressing-room. Madge Foster, resplendent in the evening gown she wore at the beginning of her play, greeted her effusively. She kissed Nellie on both cheeks and gushed with all the fervor at the command of a famous emotional actress.

"Nellie darling, this is a treat! Marie, a chair for Miss Wayne. Sit down, dearie—do. You're not in the way. Really, you're not. Where have you been keeping yourself?"

"Oh, I've been around," Nellie said. "How are you, dear?"

"Never better." Madge sat, too, a handsome woman, a magnetic personality, but with a face that bore the mark of many years of selfishness, of thinking only of Madge Foster. She leaned forward eagerly. "Have you seen me in this piece?"

"Yes; I was out front on Wednesday." A pause, while Madge waited impatiently for the laurel wreath. "I want to tell you—I think you're splendid, dear. Growing all the time."

"Thanks," said Madge. The implication that there was still room for artistic growth did not please her. "I don't know anybody I'd rather hear say that. I value your opinion, my dear, even though you're no longer working."

The shot went home. Nellie sat straighter in her chair.

"Of course, it's a wonderful part, dearie. Almost actor-proof."

"Oh, you think so?"

"But I'm glad to see you going so well, Madge."

Madge shrugged her white shoulders.

"If I was doing any better I'd be worried. Honest, Nellie, I get scared sometimes, the way things keep breaking for me. You wouldn't believe the money I'm drawing down! I told Levy it was too much, but he insisted."

"He would," smiled Nellie.

"And my children—all artists—all successful—all making big money. I ought to be a very happy woman, Nellie."

"You certainly ought, dear. Everybody's not so lucky. I met old Frank Shore in the alley."

Madge's face clouded.

"Is he still out there? You wouldn't believe, Nellie, what a woman in my position is up against. The appeals for help, the panhandlers—"

"I can imagine, dearie. I've been through it all myself, as you may recall. And I always tried to be kind—ours is such a precarious profession. One never knows what one's own finish is to be."

"Oh, I'm not worried about mine. Did you spend the summer in town?"

"Why, yes! You see, I didn't know what minute I might be called for rehearsal."

"Oh," said Madge, "I thought you'd quit."

Nellie's head went up.

"I'm trying to drop out, Madge, but they just won't let me."

"Really?" The tone was incredulous. "Well, if I'd known you were about I'd have had you down to my place in Great Neck. Like to have you see it, dearie. It's a darling little house—tiny, of course; I only paid fifty thousand for it. But that's enough about me. How about you, Nellie? How's Gracie?"

"Grade's fine, and very happy with Joe. Joe's doing well. 1 '

"Got a trick dog in vaudeville, I hear."

"Yes, temporarily," Nellie admitted. "He'd like to go out alone, but the dog's so popular. It would be a crime to refuse the money they pay him."

"Well, dearie, I'm glad to hear that," Madge said. "Must come in handy in your old age, so few engagements and all."

Nellie laughed lightly.

"Means nothing to me, Madge. I laid away my pile and I can take care of myself. I'd have been a fool if I hadn't—and me the best Rosalind of a generation, as Winter called me. Then there was Charlie's royalties—there's never been a playwright could touch him. Don't worry about me, dearie."

"I'm not worrying," Madge assured her. "How's that granddaughter of yours? It must make you feel old to look at her."

"I'll never feel old, dear; not while I've got my figure. Baby's well. Just at present we have all we can do to keep her off the stage. Every manager on Broadway is after her. I guess they figure she's a good deal like me."

"Oh, they want youth, Nell. Youth's the ticket. You can't get by without it." She glanced complacently at her mirror.

"That's why I always say you're such a wonder, Madge," said Nellie sweetly. She stood up, a triumphant figure, proud, successful, smiling. "I must run along. Just happened to have a free evening, so I thought I'd run in and offer my congratulations."

"Must you go, dearie?" Madge rose too. "Sorry the place in Great Neck is closed—like to have you down. Perhaps next summer—"

"That's mighty kind of you, Madge. Next summer, maybe—if I don't go abroad. I'm thinking of it. So many good friends in London. You remember my big hit over there. They write me to come—I don't know—"

"Well, it was good of you to drop in. Now don't be such a stranger." They kissed—to the outward view warmly, affectionately.

"Good-by," said Nellie. "Here's hoping your good luck continues, dear—as mine has." And with a gracious smile she swept from the room.

She crossed the stage—the old odors, the old thrill! She was extremely well satisfied with herself. But in the alley, where Frank Shore came shuffling toward her, she felt suddenly guilty.

"Well, Nellie, here I am." His quavering old voice was hopeful.

She took him by the arm and led him along.

"Listen, Frank. I can tell you what I can't tell many. I'm broke too."

"Nellie—not you!" There was real distress in his voice. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that! It doesn't matter about me—I was never much, but you, Nellie, you were so wonderful!"

"Don't, Frank!" she said. "Don't, or I'll cry! It's the truth, I went in to borrow something from Madge Foster, but—I don't know exactly what happened. She started boasting, and I—I just couldn't do it. I couldn't tell her."

"Of course you couldn't," he said approvingly. "Don't you take any of her dust, Nellie. She's an amateur; a rotten little amateur compared with you."

"But I'm sorry for your sake, Frank. Here—here's a dollar."

"Can you spare it, Nellie? I'd rather not—"

"Nonsense! We old-timers—we must stick together. Get yourself a meal and a bed, just for auld lang syne."

"God bless you, Nellie! There was never one could touch you. An artist and a lady. I always said it. One of my proudest memories—I played with Wayne."

"Good-by, Frank, and good luck."

"Good-by, Nellie." He started to leave her, paused. Trained as he was in the old artificial comedies, the exit line did not suit him. "A meal and a bed," he added. "And dreams of the old Broadway where we were young together."

That was better, and he shuffled off into the crowd. Nellie turned toward home. The theatergoers filled the street, shining limousines drew up to the curb, expensively dressed people alighted. Inside, the orchestras were tuning up, the actors were strolling about in the wings; presently would come the rise of the curtain. The rise of the curtain! Then on for that first sweet laugh, that first beloved ripple of applause.

She climbed wearily to the fifth floor and knocked. No answer at first, and then the sharp bark of Chum. Taking out her key, she unlocked the door and entered the dark passageway. Chum, overjoyed, frisked at her feet. She turned on the light and glanced down at him. He looked strange without his collar; but he wouldn't need it where he was going, and it meant six more dollars, the last he had to give.

There was a note from Gracie on the table—"Joe and I have gone to the Palace." How like them—the precious six fading fast! "Baby will be in soon."

Removing her hat, Nellie sat down by a parlor window—the one at the side that overlooked the alleyway of the theater next door. She could see far up the street the electric signs flashing in front of half a dozen playhouses, the dense throngs daring the August heat—the pleasure seekers.

The hour of eight! It was the hardest of all the twenty-four for her. Every evening at eight a feeling of restlessness overwhelmed her. What was she doing here, at home?

She leaned far out into the humid August night. A thousand memories assailed her, little pictures out of her past: a dress rehearsal that lasted till morning—and the greatest manager of all time on his knees before her in the dawn, thanking her for the genius she had shown; a big dinner table back stage, a Christmas tree in the center, and the great Nellie Wayne passing out the presents to her retinue; a moonlit night on Boston Common after the show, with Charlie Farren walking beside her, beseeching her to marry him; the dining-room of the house on Twenty-Second Street at midnight, dear, handsome Charlie standing at the head of the table, a champagne glass in his hand; a first night at the Lyceum, her dressing-room banked with flowers, flushed, excited people crowding in to acclaim her newest triumph.

Down below, through the open doors of the theater, she heard the orchestra tuning up. She began to speak, the magic voice choked and uncertain: old lines from forgotten plays, deathless lines from the classics, lines taken at random from the jumble for ever passing through her mind. Little wonder she could not learn a new role now. Up from below came a quick crash of music. The overture! Nellie Wayne was silent, and her head sank down on her arms.

Suddenly close beside her sounded a loud, sharp, excited bark. She turned, startled, and there stood Chum, every muscle alert, trembling with anticipation, his ears pointed, his absurd little tail wagging furiously. And then Nellie Wayne realized—it was eight o'clock for Chum!

He was not in this shabby little parlor—he was in the wings of a theater. The overture blared louder, and Chum's nervous bark rose above the music. He leaped against her, fell away, leaped again. It was time to go on. Time for his act.

"All right, Chum," she said. "Go to it!"

He tumbled into the center of the room as though into a spotlight's glare. Lie rolled over, played dead, did his drunken bit, walked on an imaginary ball, counted with sharp staccato barks as Joe had trained him. He had it all wrong, the routine twisted; but night had fallen, the orchestra was playing, and Chum was doing his act.

He finished as the music did and stood there before her, awaiting her applause. She saw him through her tears, his old eyes looking into hers. She reached down and gathered him into her arms.

"Chum! Chum, you darling! I understand! We're in the same boat now. We're old—old, and it's youth they want. We're finished, you and me. Our act's out. And Broadway goes rolling on. Poor Chum! Poor fellow!"

She sat by the window for a long time, holding the little dog in her lap. She and Chum were friends at last.

At nine o'clock, putting the dog on the floor, she rose with determination. She dashed cold water into her eyes, put on her hat and went to the door. Chum followed.

"You wait here," she said gently. "You just wait, Chum. Maybe we're not quite finished yet."

She went directly to Tom Kerrigen's hotel. A bell-boy discovered him lingering over his cigar in the dining-room. Nellie went in to where he sat. He leaped to his feet.

"Nellie, I was just thinking about you. This is fine! Won't you eat something?"

"No, thanks, I've had dinner."

"Just a little coffee then?"

"Thanks, Tom. I will have that." She sat in the chair the waiter held ready. "I'm glad to find you. I thought you might have gone to a theater."

He shook his head.

"I don't care much for the plays they have now. Sex stuff, and all that. I like 'em clean, Nellie—I always did. Clean, like Peter Pan." The old gambler closed his eyes. "I saw that twelve times, and whenever Maude Adams came to the footlights and asked us did we believe in fairies I shouted louder than any kid in the house. I'm afraid I'm too old-fashioned."

The waiter brought her coffee and disappeared.

"Tom," she began, "I've come to make a confession. The other day I let you think I was well fixed—had money. It's not true. I've hardly a penny in the world. I'm down and out. Broadway broke, they call it nowadays."

He nodded solemnly.

"I suspected. And it's a raw deal. You deserve better than this."

"It's happened, though." She smiled cheerfully. "And now, Tom, I've come to you for help."

"Everything I've got—it's yours." He leaned across the table. "I don't want you to think I'm taking advantage, Nellie—but do you remember? That time, before you knew Charlie, when I followed you to Philadelphia. You were playing at the old Seventh Street Opera House; stopping at that boarding-house that stood where the Bellevue-Stratford is now—what was the name?—oh, yes, Petrie's Rest. It was in the parlor there—I told you—I was crazy about you—"

She laid her hand on his arm.

"Don't, Tom!"

"I must! I'm still—crazy. Take me and you'll never want for anything again."

"Dear friend!" His anxious, ruddy face, his keen gray eyes, the absurd old- fashioned diamond stick pin in his tie—she saw all these through a mist of tears. "It can't be, Tom. That's for youth. We're only ghosts. And then—there's Charlie. It's just as though he still lived—with me."

He smiled bravely.

"Right you are, Nellie. It's as you say. But everything I have is yours, just the same."

"I don't want your money, Tom dear. I want you to do something else for me. I want you to help me get into—the pictures."

"The pictures! Why, Nellie, you said—"

"I know, but that was all wrong. We live too much in the past, Tom—we old people. The world moves, and we've got to move with it—or go down. And I'm not ready to go down."

"I should hope not!"

"Besides, I've got somebody to take care of now; somebody who's been taking care of me."

"Yes?"

"A dog. A dog named Chum."

He stared at her in wonder. "I want you to go to Lew Gorman, Tom, and sort of put the idea in his head—"

"Gorman, hell!" Tom cried. "I'll finance a picture myself, and star you. We'll get a good story—say, what's the matter with one of Charlie's plays? By heaven, that's the idea! You own the rights to all of Charlie's stuff, don't you?"

"I do," she told him. "I've been thinking about that myself."

"It's an idea! We'll take one of Charlie's comedies—or better still, a melodrama. Lew tells me melodrama is going strong now. How about The Midnight Flyer? I'll buy the picture rights from you—pay you ten thousand—fifteen—"

She laughed. "Is that an offer? Fifteen thousand?"

"It is—unless you want more."

"That's like you, Tom. But you needn't risk a penny. Keep out of this yourself. All you need do is run into Lew Gorman casually and tell him you hear some one is thinking of making a picture out of The Midnight Flyer. Tell him I've refused fifteen thousand for the rights. I think that's honest, don't you?"

"Honest? Sure it is! My offer stands. Lew Gorman made a fortune out of you and out of Charlie's plays, and he has most of it yet. It's about time he split a bit with you. But do you think he'll fall?"

"I know he will. If I went to him and said I was broke and wanted to sell that play he wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. But once let him hear some one else is after it, and—well, I know managers. He won't sleep till he owns it. You've got your lines down, Tom?"

"I sure have! I'll run into him accidentally early in the morning, and I'll call you before noon."

"You're a dear, Tom."

"And if Lew doesn't come through, my offer still holds good; any one of my offers—or all of them."

She smiled and rose.

"You're the best friend any one ever had," she said.

"Do you think so? Honest, Nellie?"

"I do, Tom." His broad face lightened. "And it's what Charlie always said."

"Oh, yes—Charlie." His smile faded. "Good old Charlie!" said Square Tom Kerrigen a little wistfully.

* * * * *

ANOTHER morning, with Joe cast this time in the role of pessimist. An evening at the Palace, where he saw a lot of acts the popularity of which he was utterly at a loss to explain, had soured his outlook on life. During breakfast his eye happened to light on Chum, munching at a bone in the corner

"Guess we'll say good-by to him to-day," Joe announced in a low voice.

"No, Dad—no!" cried young Nellie in alarm.

"Well I can't have him round here eating his head oft.

"Not to-day, Joe," said Nellie Wayne. "Give him another twenty-four hours, please."

"What's it to you?"

"It's a lot to me, if you must know.

"Beginning to appreciate what Chum did for you, eh? he sneered. "Maybe you'll thank me next."

"I do thank you, Joe. And Chum and I happen to be good friends now. Give him another day."

Joe regarded her curiously.

"You got something on your mind?" he inquired.

Nellie stared at him blankly.

"Not a thing in the world," she said.

But Joe was unconvinced.

"I believe there's something up with Ma, he said later to Gracie.

"She does look cheerful," Gracie admitted. "Though how she can feel that way, with the agent coming to-day for his money?"

"Oh, give us a rest on that!" Joe cried.

"That's all very well for you to say, but it's me has to see him."

"Well, string him along."

"I've gone the limit now. It's cash to-day or the street."

But Joe had jammed his hat on to his head, and the outer door slammed behind him. Baby, too, hurried off on some mysterious errand Nellie waited, an unaccustomed color in her cheeks. It was past eleven when a surly hall boy climbed the stairs to tell her she was wanted at the telephone on the first floor. She gave him the last coin in her purse-a quarter-and beat him down.

"Hello, Nellie, that you?" Good old Tom—it was his voice. Her heart almost stopped beating with suspense.

"Well, Nellie, I sat round Lew's hotel for two hours this morning, and oddly enough I happened to run into him. I just casually mentioned that offer you had for Charlie's play and the shot went home."

"He fell, did he, Tom?"

"Sure did! You must have heard the thud up where you were. He wants to see you before noon. He's leaving to-night for the West. The lad's all het up. I told him I'd do my best to get you round there, though it looked pretty doubtful to me. He's got a desk in Shane's office—you know where that is. Now be careful, Nellie. Remember your big offer. And besides, you've got so much money you don't care whether you sell or not."

"Leave him to me," answered Nellie. "I can handle Lew. I know him of old."

"All right, Nellie. Let me know what happens. Good luck!"

"Thanks, Tom. God bless you!"

She hurried back to the flat for her hat, but said nothing of her business to Gracie. The thing might fall through, and in that case she would bear the disappointment alone. A few moments later she was out on the hot street.

Shrewd little Lew was waiting, but greeted her with an assumption of great carelessness. At sight of his placid poker face she remembered what she was up against, and knew that she would have need of all her cunning.

"Hello, Nellie! It's great to see you again. Where you been hiding? Minna was saying only last night, 'Why don't we ever see Nellie no more?'"

"How is Minna?"

"She's fine, thanks. We're going West to-night. Just wanted to see you before I went—say hello, for old times' sake."

"Well, Lew, I'm glad to drop in. But I've an engagement at the Claremont for lunch—"

"Oh, I won't keep you. Why don't you come out West sometime and visit us?"

"Thanks, Lew, I'll think about it. But Broadway still looks pretty good to me."

"That so?" He took up a paper knife and toyed aimlessly with it. "Anything on your mind, Nellie?"

"Not a thing."

"Humph! Feeling well, ain't you?"

"Never better."

"That's good." He stared past her out the window.

"Did you want to see me about anything in particular, Lew?"

"Oh, no; no, I guess not."

She rose.

"Well, give my love to Minna—"

He rose, too, stifled a yawn.

"I sure will. Mighty good of you to come in." He followed her to the door; her hand was on the knob. "By the way, I hear you're selling some of Charlie's stuff to the pictures."

She laughed a little scornfully.

"Oh, I don't know. They're after The Midnight Flyer. They say there's a wonderful picture in it, but I haven't made up my mind. I don't need the money, you know."

"So? How much do they offer you?"

"Oh, not much—fifteen thousand."

Despite his best efforts an expression of pain crossed Lew's chubby little face.

"They're kidding you," he said warmly. "There ain't that much money in the business any more."

"Well, it doesn't matter," Nellie answered. "I don't believe I'll sell, anyhow. I hear prices will go up later."

"Don't you believe it. Prices have reached the peak and they're going down every minute we stand here. I know, because I've been dabbling a bit in the movies myself."

"That so, Lew? Well, I'll go along." She opened the door.

"Wait a minute, Nellie. Come back here and sit down." She hesitated, seemed reluctant, but obeyed. She was wishing she had borrowed Baby's wrist-watch for this encounter. Lew sat down too—on the edge of his chair. "Now look here, Nellie," he began. "It seems to me that if anybody makes pictures out of Charlie's stuff it ought to be me. I produced all his plays and I loved him like a brother. I'd have been down for a slice of the picture money, only, of course, in those days there was no such thing."

"Well, I guess that was the only bet you ever overlooked, Lew."

Lew ignored this.

"If Charlie was sitting in that chair now, do you know what he'd say, Nellie? He'd tell you if you sold to anybody you ought to sell to me. He'd say, 'Think of all Lew done for us, Nellie.'"

"And made a million doing it."

"A million! How do you figure that? I'm a poor man, Nellie?"

"Maybe I could lend you something, Lew. Was that what you wanted?"

"It was not." He looked her firmly in the eye. "I want the rights to The Midnight Flyer. But I'm not paying any fifteen thousand, and don't think for a minute I am."

"Well, then, you're outbid, Lew." Again she stood up. "I really must go."

"Come now, Nellie, listen to reason. I tell you somebody's been kidding you. Such prices ain't paid any more. Who made the offer, anyhow?"

"Tell Minna I'm sorry not to see her—"

She was moving toward the door. He followed at her heels.

"I'll give you ten thousand, Nellie."

"I was always so fond of Minna."

"Twelve thousand—for Minna's sake. You wouldn't rob Minna's husband?"

"This engagement of mine is for one o'clock—"

"Nellie, have a heart! For auld lang syne—"

"For auld lang syne you can have it at fifteen. I'll not ask you to go above these other people, though it's hardly fair to them."

"Nellie! Don't old times mean nothing to you?"

"Not where money is concerned, Lew. I'm like you that way. Now make up your mind, for I'm going."

"All right—go! Ungrateful! Nellie, I hate to say it, but you're ungrateful. Charlie wouldn't like it."

"Charlie wouldn't be so easy." She opened the door. "Good-by, Lew."

"Fourteen thousand dollars!"

"Good luck on the Coast!"

"What do you think you're selling—Ben Hurt"

"I'm not selling. You're trying to buy, that's all. Acting like a piker too. The Midnight Flyer—the most popular play of its generation!"

"Yeah. And everybody dead that ever heard of it."

"There's a few of us left. You must have heard of it, Lew. You cleared four hundred thousand on it. My love to Minna, remember."

"Minna—Minna! Minna's heart would break if she heard you. Fourteen thousand five hundred and not another nickel!"

Nellie came back into the room and closed the door.

"Sold!" she cried.

"I should think so!" wailed Lew. "And me bankrupt!"

"On one condition!"

"What now? Nellie, how you have changed!"

"I play in the picture."

"You—-you—in the picture! At your age! What you thinking of, Nellie? We got to get a young girl for your part."

"Of course. I'm not insane, Lew. I play the grandmother."

"Oh, the grandmother! Well, that's all right. Only naturally you understand we don't pay much for a little part like that."

"You'll pay me! Think of what my name will mean! Nellie Wayne and The Midnight Flyer billed together again! All over the country are millions who will remember—"

"Millions—yes—in the graveyards."

"No, on their feet, going strong, like you—and me."

"Well, you're going strong. I'll admit that, Nellie. All right, we put it in the contract—the grandmother part. A hundred and fifty a week."

"Three hundred!"

"Nellie, you robber!"

"Take it or leave it! What say, Lew?" He was muttering to himself.

"I ain't saying—I'm choking. Maybe I can do it—if I close my eyes when I sign."

"Nonsense! You'll get it all back, and a lot more. If that wasn't so I'd be on my way to the Ritz now."

"The Claremont, you said," he reminded her.

"But I'm to pick up some friends at the Ritz."

"All right, Nellie. Sit down. I'll go and dictate a contract."

"You be careful what you dictate. I can still read, Lew."

He left her. She sat erect in her chair, her eyes shining. She had not looked so beautiful in years. The joy of battle was in her heart, the thrill of victory. If Charlie knew—but perhaps he did. Perhaps he had been at her elbow, fighting too. Clever Charlie! Dead more than twenty years, but supporting her still; supporting her by his wit and industry; saving the day for her when all seemed lost. That was the theater—the dear theater. The hits never died.

"How you want the money?" Lew called.

"Give me your check for two thousand now. I'll take the rest when we get to Hollywood."

He came back to her presently with three copies of the contract ready for her signature—and the check.

"How soon can you start?" he wanted to know. "Why not go along with Minna and me to-night? You can get ready—an old trouper like you."

"I'll be there. When and where?"

"The Pennsylvania Station at eight. I'll buy your ticket."

"Thanks."

"And you can pay me on the train," he added hastily. He blotted the signatures. His spirits appeared to be rising. "I'm going to give this thing a whale of a production, and if it goes over I might try one or two more of Charlie's pieces. But I ain't paying such prices again."

"We'll discuss that later," she smiled.

"You better settle down out West," he suggested. "I'd have work for you now and then, and you could pick up something occasionally in the other studios. You got a name, Nellie—a big name. I know, because I give it to you."

"Thanks, Lew." She folded the check. "I'll think about that."

"Me and Minna will look for you at the train." He followed her to the door. "Maybe you think I'm close, Nellie; but if I am I got a reason. All my life something's been hanging over me—a fear—an obsession. I got it watching the other managers. One by one I seen them go Broadway broke, and I been afraid; afraid it would get me too. It wouldn't be any fun, Nellie, being broke and old in this game."

"No, I guess it wouldn't, Lew," she answered gravely. "See you to-night at the train."

She traveled the short distance back to the flat as blithely as a girl of twenty. Five flights up suited her mood. She pushed open the door. Something struck her at once—a silence, a disappointment—something gone. Chum! Chum, who frisked about the feet of all who entered there.

Gracie sat by a window, languidly scanning the department-store advertising in a morning paper.

"Where's Chum?" Nellie demanded.

"Hello, Ma! Chum? Oh, Joe came back and we made up our minds it was time to part with poor old Chum. So Joe took him down to the vet—"

Nellie's heart sank.

"What vet? Where?"

"Meyer, I think the name was. Somewhere on Tenth Street—East Tenth—over near the river. Ma, where you going?"

"Out!" Nellie was at the head of the stairs.

Gracie followed. "The agent was here," she called. "He's coming again at three."

"Let him come. It's all right, I'm working," Nellie replied over her shoulder, and left the dazed Gracie far behind. She ran over to Broadway and signaled the first taxi she saw.

"Never mind the speed laws!" she cried, climbing in. "Matter of life and death!"

"Where to?" inquired the driver, naturally curious on that point.

"East Tenth. I don't know the number. Near the river. We'll find it somehow. We've got to find it!"

The car started. Nellie was angry now. This was like Joe—a little opposition and he was off, couldn't wait; wanted to show he took nobody's orders. Well, she had the upper hand now. The check in her purse gave her that. And little Joey would step round. The taxi crept in and out of the traffic; at every enforced stop her spirits sank.

On East Tenth luck was with her. She looked out the window of the car and saw Joe plodding along—alone. She directed the driver to draw up to the curb, and before the taxi had quite halted she leaped to the sidewalk and confronted her son-in-law.

"Where's Chum?"

"Ma, what are you doing here?"

"Where's Chum? Answer me!"

"I left him in there." He pointed over his shoulder. "They'll take care of Chum."

She ran past him and through the open door of an ancient brick stable. The darkness blinded her for a moment—and then she saw a thin streak of white coming toward her, heard a familiar bark. Nellie Wayne knelt on the dirty floor and opened her arms.

"All right, Chum. Everything's all right. You're not staying here. You're going with me."

Joe came forward, officious.

"Now, see here, Ma, I won't have you butting in. Chum will be better off. And I can't afford to have him round eating his head off."

"Forget it, Joe," she advised. "After this Chum belongs to me."

"To you? That's good! How you going to take care of him?"

She stood up and took a pink bit of paper from her purse. "Read that," she said. It was the simplest explanation.

"Two thousand!" Joe gasped. "From Lew Gorman!"

"Yes, and there's a lot more still coming to me."

"What's he going to do—star you?"

She did not reply, but knelt again and took Chum in her arms. An old, unshaven man shuffled out of a smelly office.

"All right, Doc," Joe told him. "We changed our mind about the dog. You can give me back the two dollars." The old man objected with surprising vehemence. He was, he said, ready to do his part.

"Come along, Joe," Nellie called. "You can ride with us if you like."

Joe hesitated between his two and Nellie's two thousand, but only for an instant. He followed her and meekly climbed to her side in the taxi.

"I don't get this," he said.

"I sold one of Charlie's old plays to Gorman for a picture," she explained. "And I'm going out to Hollywood to act in it."

"In the movies! You, in the movies!" Joe threw back his head and laughed loudly. "After all you've said against them—"

"Well, I can change my mind, can't I? I see my mistake. It's up to me to move along with the times. You can't just stand round mooning about the good old days. If you do you're sunk."

"Now you're talking sense," Joe approved. They rode on in silence for a time. "A fellow was telling me that copper's the thing," he went on presently; "a fellow who works in Wall Street. 'Just put a few thousand in copper,' he says, 'and'—"

"Listen!" cut in Nellie. "All the money I used to have hated me, Joe. It left me right away. But this is friendly money. It's going to stick around."

"Well, I was just suggesting—"

"I'll pay the rent and give Gracie five hundred to tide along until you get work. Then I'm going out to California and buy a little bungalow—a little home for Chum and me; a place where he can lie round all day in the sun, or maybe chase butterflies if he feels ambitious. Do they have butterflies out there?"

"They got everything," said Joe.

"I'll pick up a bit of work now and then. And what's left over after buying the house goes into bonds—government bonds. My home will always be open to you, Joe—to Nellie and Gracie—/just the way yours was to me. Only there won't be any agent for the landlord in the cast."

"Well, I done my best," he said.

"That's all right, Joe. You did, and I'm mighty grateful. And there'll always be a welcome for you out West."

"Somehow, I can't see you leaving Broadway," said Joe.

"Why not? My Broadway left me long ago."

She stopped the cab at a bank not far from the flat and sent Joe home with Chum. A cashier, who knew her well, translated Lew's hieroglyphics into a magnificent roll of bills. She rode in triumph back to the walk-up apartment.

In the parlor Gracie and young Nellie were bending anxiously above a black silk dress, over which Gracie was waving an uncertain needle. Nellie went to them at once and seized the garment.

"What's this?" she wanted to know.

"Ma, Joe says you got an engagement."

"Yes; but what's this?"

"It's mine," young Nellie answered. She seemed breathless with excitement; her big brown eyes were glowing. "I've got a part too! Levy's rushing me into his new comedy—a maid role, only a few lines, but a beginning. The girl who had the role was fired, and we're trying to make her costume over to fit me. The dress rehearsal's to-night."

Nellie Wayne stood silent, staring at the costume with a sort of contempt.

"Nonsense!" she said suddenly, and tossed it into a waste-basket.

With a little cry young Nellie rescued it. She faced her grandmother, trembling, flushed, determined.

"How dare you?" she cried. "How dare you interfere? It's my life, I can live it as I please. I'm going on the stage. You had your day, you had your fun; you can't stop me. I'm going on the stage, I tell you! I love it! I want it! I'd die if I didn't!"

"Baby!" Nellie put her hands on the girl's slim shoulders. "Baby, that wasn't bad at all. A little more voice, perhaps—a little more authority—but that will come in time; when you've lived longer—suffered. Going on the stage! O f course you are! But not in that dress. Come with Nellie Wayne and she'll buy you the best in town."

Young Nellie wilted.

"Oh, I'm sorry! Excuse me! But I thought, after what you said—"

"What did I say?"

"About my acting. You said you'd rather see me in my grave; that Broadway was a dreadful place—no gratitude—no heart—"

"What rot, Baby! You're dreaming! I never did!"

"But, Mother," protested Gracie, "I heard you myself!"

"You're crazy, both of you! I may be getting old, my dears, I may be fifty"—Gracie looked at her—"or thereabouts, but I fancy I know what I said. Would I belittle the profession that gave me so many happy years? Would I smirch the memories I've got by wild talk like that—me, the best Viola of a generation? I should hope not! Of course, Baby's going to act! I want her in the profession—carrying on the torch—but not in one of Levy's hand- me-downs; not while Nellie has a roll of bills like this." She opened her pocketbook; they saw and gasped. "It's your father, Gracie. It's from him. Dead and gone, but helping us still. Now, Baby, get your hat. If your dress rehearsal's to- night we must rush. Besides, I'm off at eight myself."

The girl disappeared into her room. Nellie walked the floor, beaming, happy.

"A maid's part! To think of it, Gracie! I had a maid's part my first engagement too. What was that line? 'My lady, the curate is waiting for you in the garden.' Our Baby! She's got the spark, Gracie! Did you see how she flared out at me?"

Gracie put her hand to her head.

"So many things are happening," she complained.

Nellie explored her purse and threw a handful of bills on the table.

"There—some of it's for the rent man, with Nellie Wayne's love. Give the janitor ten dollars and tell him to bring my trunks up from the storeroom. We'll have to spend the afternoon packing." Young Nellie reappeared. "Come, child, I'll take you to Madame Claire. It's a rush job, but Maggie will do it for me. And oh, Gracie dear, call up the Walden and engage a table! I'm giving a farewell party to-night. Better say six o'clock. I mustn't miss my train. And order it, too, will you, so we shan't be kept waiting."

"What—what shall I order?" asked Gracie.

"Oh, I don't know. Just shut your eyes and spend, Gracie. It's Nellie Wayne's good-by."

* * * * *

THE dinner was over and they emerged from the hotel. Nellie Wayne, erect and blooming—booked again! Then Baby and Gracie, Joe, carrying a florist's box, Tom Kerrigen with Chum in his arms.

"Now, Gracie, I want you and Joe to go with Baby. Her first dress rehearsal—you've got to be there. Tom will take me to the train."

"All right, Mother, if you wish it."

"Did you order the taxi, Tom?"

"Here he is, Nellie."

"And he's got the top down. That's good! I'm not going to say the word, Gracie; such a sad word; just au revoir."

Joe proffered his box.

"So long, Ma. A few roses—from the three of us."

"Oh, Joe, you're too good to me!"

"Your money paid for them," said Joe humbly.

"Your kindness bought them." She took the box. "You and Gracie must visit me—"

"We'll be there," Joe promised. "Fellow in Los Angeles wanted me to go into the real-estate game with him. Maybe you'd better hold off buying that house— "

She smiled, pressed his hand, turned to her daughter.

"Well, Gracie—what you crying for? You've seen me start on the road a thousand times. Baby"—she put her arm about the girl—"you're in the profession now; the greatest profession in the world. Respect it, give it your best, no matter what's in the box. That's the first rule—the only one."

"I'll never forget," young Nellie said, "what's behind me—you—and grandfather. I'll never forget this afternoon—buying the dress—my first costume. You'll be proud of me."

"God bless you, dear. You're on your way. A great star—I'm sure of it. How happy Charlie would be to see you tonight!" Her voice broke. "Run along now, please, the three of you."

She stood looking after them until them were lost in the throng on Broadway. Her eyes were wet.

"We'd better start," Tom Kerrigen said gently. "The taxi's waiting."

She turned to him.

"I wanted this last ride with you, Tom, down our old street together. Tell him to drive to the Pennsylvania by way of Union Square. I guess there's time." He helped her into the cab and deposited Chum in her lap. The dog was restless, excited—the lights, the crowd, eight o'clock again. "There, Chum, old fellow," she said, "calm down. We're not showing to-night; we're off for the road; booked solid into the hereafter—and it's a long sleeper jump."

The cab swung into Long Acre, into the dazzling square of the electric signs. The new Rialto—all glitter and no heart. They crossed Forty- Second Street, and the White Way grew darker. They were moving on into the past.

The Empire was left behind, and then the Knickerbocker. No more playhouses, no more in reality; tall loft buildings towering overhead—Feinberg & Morris, Ladies' Waists; Max Hirschfield, Artificial Flowers—and then the big grim department stores of Herald Square.

No more playhouses in reality, but a dozen or more in their dreams. Famous temples of the drama, torn down and forgotten. The Herald Square, the Bijou, the Standard! Nellie Wayne in Charlie Farren's Latest! Wallack's and Daly's. Nellie Wayne in As You Like It! Prancing horses at the curb, fine ladies and fine gentlemen descending, silk hats gleaming above the crowd. The crack of cabbies' whips. Carriages at eleven-thirty sharp! They were in Madison Square.

"Did you see what I saw, Tom?"

"Ghosts, Nellie; a thousand ghosts. I'm going home tomorrow."

"We're ghosts, too, Tom. The stage is set for a new piece and here we are mumbling the old lines, the lines nobody wants to hear."

"Over there at the Hoffman House I saw Charlie that last night. He said he wasn't feeling right."

"Tell the driver to turn down Twenty-Second. Never mind Union Square. I've seen enough."

"You shouldn't have come this way, Nellie."

"Nonsense, Tom! I came on purpose. It saddens me, but it makes it easier to go—to go and never to come back. There's nothing to come back for."

Into the dark of Twenty-Second the taxi swerved, and Nellie laid a hand on her friend's arm.

"Have him stop just a moment, Tom." The bored driver obeyed.

They had come to a halt before a battered old brick house almost obliterated by time—a weary old house given over to trade. Alien names decorated its front. Talk of blouses and whalebone and leather goods. Wholesale only. On the first floor a lunchroom, closed for the night.

"Do you remember my garden at the rear? The hollyhocks? And the canary in the dining-room window—the canary that used to wake and sing when we came home after the play?"

"Sometimes I'd get here first, Nellie, and I'd sit on the steps and wait for the sound of the horse's hoofs. And then the shining news hansom with Reilly on the box passing the gaslight on the corner—and Charlie on the sidewalk, helping you down?"

Silence for a moment.

"Tell him to go on now, Tom," she said softly.

The rattle of a protesting engine followed, and they moved away.

"That's all over and done with," Nellie said. "We're just old useless props cluttering up the scene. It will be different out West. Thank heaven, I've still got work to do!"

"That's right, Nellie." They rode along. "I—I'll be spending the winters down near you. I'll see you now and then."

"I'm glad to hear that, Tom. The best friend anybody ever had. Wasn't it strange how clearly we seemed to see him—there in front of the old house? Charlie, I mean. Did you see him too?"

"Yes," said Kerrigen, "I saw him."

"His name will be on the billboards again, all over the country, just the way it used to be."

"So it will."

She took something from her purse.

"Tom, I want you to look up an old actor—a character man named Frank Shore. Give him that and tell him I'm going to find him a berth out on the Coast."

"I'll do it, Nellie."

They were speeding up Seventh Avenue; the station was close ahead. Nine blocks off the lights of Long Acre were flaming. Nellie Wayne lifted Chum where he could see.

"Take your last look, Chum, old fellow. We're saying good-by." Chum's tired old eyes swept the yellow horizon and he barked a rather faint farewell.

"Sorry, Nellie?" Kerrigen asked.

She shook her head.

"Not very sorry. One thought keeps running through my mind. Whatever happens, I'll never be Broadway broke again."

The taxi swung suddenly into the tunneled drive at the south end of the station—the long dim tunnel where the lights of Long Acre were just another memory.

 
 
 

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