Bloodhound by P. G. Wodehouse
There's a divinity that shapes out ends. Consider the case of Henry
Pifield Rice, detective.
I must explain Henry early, to avoid disappointment. If I simply
said he was a detective, and let it go at that, I should be obtaining
the reader's interest under false pretences. He was really only a sort
of detective, a species of sleuth. At Stafford's International
Investigation Bureau, in the Strand, where he was employed, they did
not require him to solve mysteries which had baffled the police. He had
never measured a footprint in his life, and what he did not know about
bloodstains would have filled a library. The sort of job they gave
Henry was to stand outside a restaurant in the rain, and note what time
someone inside left it. In short, it is not 'Pifield Rice,
Investigator. No. 1.—The Adventure of the Maharajah's Ruby' that I
submit to your notice, but the unsensational doings of a quite
commonplace young man, variously known to his comrades at the Bureau as
'Fathead', 'That blighter what's-his-name', and 'Here, you!'
Henry lived in a boarding-house in Guildford Street. One day a new
girl came to the boarding-house, and sat next to Henry at meals. Her
name was Alice Weston. She was small and quiet, and rather pretty. They
got on splendidly. Their conversation, at first confined to the weather
and the moving-pictures, rapidly became more intimate. Henry was
surprised to find that she was on the stage, in the chorus. Previous
chorus-girls at the boarding-house had been of a more pronounced
type—good girls, but noisy, and apt to wear beauty-spots. Alice Weston
'I'm rehearsing at present,' she said. 'I'm going out on tour next
month in “The Girl From Brighton”. What do you do, Mr Rice?'
Henry paused for a moment before replying. He knew how sensational
he was going to be.
'I'm a detective.'
Usually, when he told girls his profession, squeaks of amazed
admiration greeted him. Now he was chagrined to perceive in the brown
eyes that met his distinct disapproval.
'What's the matter?' he said, a little anxiously, for even at this
early stage in their acquaintance he was conscious of a strong desire
to win her approval. 'Don't you like detectives?'
'I don't know. Somehow I shouldn't have thought you were one.'
This restored Henry's equanimity somewhat. Naturally a detective
does not want to look like a detective and give the whole thing away
right at the start.
'I think—you won't be offended?'
'I've always looked on it as rather a sneaky job.'
'Sneaky!' moaned Henry.
'Well, creeping about, spying on people.'
Henry was appalled. She had defined his own trade to a nicety. There
might be detectives whose work was above this reproach, but he was a
confirmed creeper, and he knew it. It wasn't his fault. The boss told
him to creep, and he crept. If he declined to creep, he would be sacked
instanter. It was hard, and yet he felt the sting of her words, and
in his bosom the first seeds of dissatisfaction with his occupation
You might have thought that this frankness on the girl's part would
have kept Henry from falling in love with her. Certainly the dignified
thing would have been to change his seat at table, and take his meals
next to someone who appreciated the romance of detective work a little
more. But no, he remained where he was, and presently Cupid, who never
shoots with a surer aim than through the steam of boarding-house hash,
sniped him where he sat.
He proposed to Alice Weston. She refused him.
'It's not because I'm not fond of you. I think you're the nicest man
I ever met.' A good deal of assiduous attention had enabled Henry to
win this place in her affections. He had worked patiently and well
before actually putting his fortune to the test. 'I'd marry you
tomorrow if things were different. But I'm on the stage, and I mean to
stick there. Most of the girls want to get off it, but not me. And one
thing I'll never do is marry someone who isn't in the profession. My
sister Genevieve did, and look what happened to her. She married a
commercial traveller, and take it from me he travelled. She never saw
him for more than five minutes in the year, except when he was selling
gent's hosiery in the same town where she was doing her refined
speciality, and then he'd just wave his hand and whiz by, and start
travelling again. My husband has got to be close by, where I can see
him. I'm sorry, Henry, but I know I'm right.'
It seemed final, but Henry did not wholly despair. He was a resolute
young man. You have to be to wait outside restaurants in the rain for
any length of time.
He had an inspiration. He sought out a dramatic agent.
'I want to go on the stage, in musical comedy.'
'Let's see you dance.'
'I can't dance.'
'Sing,' said the agent. 'Stop singing,' added the agent, hastily.
'You go away and have a nice cup of hot tea,' said the agent,
soothingly, 'and you'll be as right as anything in the morning.'
Henry went away.
A few days later, at the Bureau, his fellow-detective Simmonds
'Here, you! The boss wants you. Buck up!'
Mr Stafford was talking into the telephone. He replaced the receiver
as Henry entered.
'Oh, Rice, here's a woman wants her husband shadowed while he's on
the road. He's an actor. I'm sending you. Go to this address, and get
photographs and all particulars. You'll have to catch the eleven
o'clock train on Friday.'
'He's in “The Girl From Brighton” company. They open at Bristol.'
It sometimes seemed to Henry as if Fate did it on purpose. If the
commission had had to do with any other company, it would have been
well enough, for, professionally speaking, it was the most important
with which he had ever been entrusted. If he had never met Alice
Weston, and heard her views upon detective work, he would have been
pleased and flattered. Things being as they were, it was Henry's
considered opinion that Fate had slipped one over on him.
In the first place, what torture to be always near her, unable to
reveal himself; to watch her while she disported herself in the company
of other men. He would be disguised, and she would not recognize him;
but he would recognize her, and his sufferings would be dreadful.
In the second place, to have to do his creeping about and spying
practically in her presence—
Still, business was business.
At five minutes to eleven on the morning named he was at the
station, a false beard and spectacles shielding his identity from the
public eye. If you had asked him he would have said that he was a
Scotch business man. As a matter of fact, he looked far more like a
motor-car coming through a haystack.
The platform was crowded. Friends of the company had come to see the
company off. Henry looked on discreetly from behind a stout porter,
whose bulk formed a capital screen. In spite of himself, he was
impressed. The stage at close quarters always thrilled him. He
recognized celebrities. The fat man in the brown suit was Walter
Jelliffe, the comedian and star of the company. He stared keenly at him
through the spectacles. Others of the famous were scattered about. He
saw Alice. She was talking to a man with a face like a hatchet, and
smiling, too, as if she enjoyed it. Behind the matted foliage which he
had inflicted on his face, Henry's teeth came together with a snap.
In the weeks that followed, as he dogged 'The Girl From Brighton'
company from town to town, it would be difficult to say whether Henry
was happy or unhappy. On the one hand, to realize that Alice was so
near and yet so inaccessible was a constant source of misery; yet, on
the other, he could not but admit that he was having the very dickens
of a time, loafing round the country like this.
He was made for this sort of life, he considered. Fate had placed
him in a London office, but what he really enjoyed was this unfettered
travel. Some gipsy strain in him rendered even the obvious discomforts
of theatrical touring agreeable. He liked catching trains; he liked
invading strange hotels; above all, he revelled in the artistic
pleasure of watching unsuspecting fellow-men as if they were so many
That was really the best part of the whole thing. It was all very
well for Alice to talk about creeping and spying, but, if you
considered it without bias, there was nothing degrading about it at
all. It was an art. It took brains and a genius for disguise to make a
man a successful creeper and spyer. You couldn't simply say to
yourself, 'I will creep.' If you attempted to do it in your own person,
you would be detected instantly. You had to be an adept at masking your
personality. You had to be one man at Bristol and another quite
different man at Hull—especially if, like Henry, you were of a
gregarious disposition, and liked the society of actors.
The stage had always fascinated Henry. To meet even minor members of
the profession off the boards gave him a thrill. There was a resting
juvenile, of fit-up calibre, at his boarding-house who could always get
a shilling out of him simply by talking about how he had jumped in and
saved the show at the hamlets which he had visited in the course of his
wanderings. And on this 'Girl From Brighton' tour he was in constant
touch with men who really amounted to something. Walter Jelliffe had
been a celebrity when Henry was going to school; and Sidney Crane, the
baritone, and others of the lengthy cast, were all players not unknown
in London. Henry courted them assiduously.
It had not been hard to scrape acquaintance with them. The
principals of the company always put up at the best hotel, and—his
expenses being paid by his employer—so did Henry. It was the easiest
thing possible to bridge with a well-timed whisky-and-soda the gulf
between non-acquaintance and warm friendship. Walter Jelliffe, in
particular, was peculiarly accessible. Every time Henry accosted
him—as a different individual, of course—and renewed in a fresh
disguise the friendship which he had enjoyed at the last town, Walter
Jelliffe met him more than half-way.
It was in the sixth week of the tour that the comedian, promoting
him from mere casual acquaintanceship, invited him to come up to his
room and smoke a cigar.
Henry was pleased and flattered. Jelliffe was a personage, always
surrounded by admirers, and the compliment was consequently of a high
He lit his cigar. Among his friends at the Green-Room Club it was
unanimously held that Walter Jelliffe's cigars brought him within the
scope of the law forbidding the carrying of concealed weapons; but
Henry would have smoked the gift of such a man if it had been a
cabbage-leaf. He puffed away contentedly. He was made up as an old
Indian colonel that week, and he complimented his host on the aroma
with a fine old-world courtesy.
Walter Jelliffe seemed gratified.
'Quite comfortable?' he asked.
'Quite, I thank you,' said Henry, fondling his silver moustache.
'That's right. And now tell me, old man, which of us is it you're
Henry nearly swallowed his cigar.
'What do you mean?'
'Oh, come,' protested Jelliffe; 'there's no need to keep it up with
me. I know you're a detective. The question is, Who's the man you're
after? That's what we've all been wondering all this time.'
All! They had all been wondering! It was worse than Henry could have
imagined. Till now he had pictured his position with regard to 'The
Girl From Brighton' company rather as that of some scientist who,
seeing but unseen, keeps a watchful eye on the denizens of a drop of
water under his microscope. And they had all detected him—every one of
It was a stunning blow. If there was one thing on which Henry prided
himself it was the impenetrability of his disguises. He might be slow;
he might be on the stupid side; but he could disguise himself. He had a
variety of disguises, each designed to befog the public more hopelessly
than the last.
Going down the street, you would meet a typical commercial
traveller, dapper and alert. Anon, you encountered a heavily bearded
Australian. Later, maybe, it was a courteous old retired colonel who
stopped you and inquired the way to Trafalgar Square. Still later, a
rather flashy individual of the sporting type asked you for a match for
his cigar. Would you have suspected for one instant that each of these
widely differing personalities was in reality one man?
Certainly you would.
Henry did not know it, but he had achieved in the eyes of the small
servant who answered the front-door bell at his boarding-house a
well-established reputation as a humorist of the more practical kind.
It was his habit to try his disguises on her. He would ring the bell,
inquire for the landlady, and when Bella had gone, leap up the stairs
to his room. Here he would remove the disguise, resume his normal
appearance, and come downstairs again, humming a careless air. Bella,
meanwhile, in the kitchen, would be confiding to her ally the cook that
'Mr Rice had jest come in, lookin' sort o' funny again'.
He sat and gaped at Walter Jelliffe. The comedian regarded him
'You look at least a hundred years old,' he said. 'What are you made
up as? A piece of Gorgonzola?'
Henry glanced hastily at the mirror. Yes, he did look rather old. He
must have overdone some of the lines on his forehead. He looked
something between a youngish centenarian and a nonagenarian who had
seen a good deal of trouble.
'If you knew how you were demoralizing the company,' Jelliffe went
on, 'you would drop it. As steady and quiet a lot of boys as ever you
met till you came along. Now they do nothing but bet on what disguise
you're going to choose for the next town. I don't see why you need to
change so often. You were all right as the Scotchman at Bristol. We
were all saying how nice you looked. You should have stuck to that. But
what do you do at Hull but roll in in a scrubby moustache and a tweed
suit, looking rotten. However, all that is beside the point. It's a
free country. If you like to spoil your beauty, I suppose there's no
law against it. What I want to know is, who's the man? Whose track are
you sniffing on, Bill? You'll pardon my calling you Bill. You're known
as Bill the Bloodhound in the company. Who's the man?'
'Never mind,' said Henry.
He was aware, as he made it, that it was not a very able retort, but
he was feeling too limp for satisfactory repartee. Criticisms in the
Bureau, dealing with his alleged solidity of skull, he did not resent.
He attributed them to man's natural desire to chaff his fellow-man. But
to be unmasked by the general public in this way was another matter. It
struck at the root of all things.
'But I do mind,' objected Jelliffe. 'It's most important. A lot of
money hangs on it. We've got a sweepstake on in the company, the holder
of the winning name to take the entire receipts. Come on. Who is he?'
Henry rose and made for the door. His feelings were too deep for
words. Even a minor detective has his professional pride; and the
knowledge that his espionage is being made the basis of sweepstakes by
his quarry cuts this to the quick.
'Here, don't go! Where are you going?'
'Back to London,' said Henry, bitterly. 'It's a lot of good my
staying here now, isn't it?'
'I should say it was—to me. Don't be in a hurry. You're thinking
that, now we know all about you, your utility as a sleuth has waned to
some extent. Is that it?'
'Well, why worry? What does it matter to you? You don't get paid by
results, do you? Your boss said “Trail along.” Well, do it, then. I
should hate to lose you. I don't suppose you know it, but you've been
the best mascot this tour that I've ever come across. Right from the
start we've been playing to enormous business. I'd rather kill a black
cat than lose you. Drop the disguises, and stay with us. Come behind
all you want, and be sociable.'
A detective is only human. The less of a detective, the more human
he is. Henry was not much of a detective, and his human traits were
consequently highly developed. From a boy, he had never been able to
resist curiosity. If a crowd collected in the street he always added
himself to it, and he would have stopped to gape at a window with
'Watch this window' written on it, if he had been running for his life
from wild bulls. He was, and always had been, intensely desirous of
some day penetrating behind the scenes of a theatre.
And there was another thing. At last, if he accepted this
invitation, he would be able to see and speak to Alice Weston, and
interfere with the manoeuvres of the hatchet-faced man, on whom he had
brooded with suspicion and jealousy since that first morning at the
station. To see Alice! Perhaps, with eloquence, to talk her out of that
ridiculous resolve of hers!
'Why, there's something in that,' he said.
'Rather! Well, that's settled. And now, touching that sweep, who
'I can't tell you that. You see, so far as that goes, I'm just where
I was before. I can still watch—whoever it is I'm watching.'
'Dash it, so you can. I didn't think of that,' said Jelliffe, who
possessed a sensitive conscience. 'Purely between ourselves, it isn't
me, is it?'
Henry eyed him inscrutably. He could look inscrutable at times.
'Ah!' he said, and left quickly, with the feeling that, however
poorly he had shown up during the actual interview, his exit had been
good. He might have been a failure in the matter of disguise, but
nobody could have put more quiet sinister-ness into that 'Ah!' It did
much to soothe him and ensure a peaceful night's rest.
On the following night, for the first time in his life, Henry found
himself behind the scenes of a theatre, and instantly began to
experience all the complex emotions which come to the layman in that
situation. That is to say, he felt like a cat which has strayed into a
strange hostile back-yard. He was in a new world, inhabited by weird
creatures, who flitted about in an eerie semi-darkness, like brightly
coloured animals in a cavern.
'The Girl From Brighton' was one of those exotic productions
specially designed for the Tired Business Man. It relied for a large
measure of its success on the size and appearance of its chorus, and on
their constant change of costume. Henry, as a consequence, was the
centre of a kaleidoscopic whirl of feminine loveliness, dressed to
represent such varying flora and fauna as rabbits, Parisian students,
colleens, Dutch peasants, and daffodils. Musical comedy is the Irish
stew of the drama. Anything may be put into it, with the certainty that
it will improve the general effect.
He scanned the throng for a sight of Alice. Often as he had seen the
piece in the course of its six weeks' wandering in the wilderness he
had never succeeded in recognizing her from the front of the house.
Quite possibly, he thought, she might be on the stage already, hidden
in a rose-tree or some other shrub, ready at the signal to burst forth
upon the audience in short skirts; for in 'The Girl From Brighton'
almost anything could turn suddenly into a chorus-girl.
Then he saw her, among the daffodils. She was not a particularly
convincing daffodil, but she looked good to Henry. With wabbling knees
he butted his way through the crowd and seized her hand
'Why, Henry! Where did you come from?'
'I am glad to see you!'
'How did you get here?'
'I am glad to see you!'
At this point the stage-manager, bellowing from the prompt-box,
urged Henry to desist. It is one of the mysteries of behind-the-scenes
acoustics that a whisper from any minor member of the company can be
heard all over the house, while the stage-manager can burst himself
without annoying the audience.
Henry, awed by authority, relapsed into silence. From the unseen
stage came the sound of someone singing a song about the moon. June was
also mentioned. He recognized the song as one that had always bored
him. He disliked the woman who was singing it—a Miss Clarice Weaver,
who played the heroine of the piece to Sidney Crane's hero.
In his opinion he was not alone. Miss Weaver was not popular in the
company. She had secured the role rather as a testimony of personal
esteem from the management than because of any innate ability. She sang
badly, acted indifferently, and was uncertain what to do with her
hands. All these things might have been forgiven her, but she
supplemented them by the crime known in stage circles as 'throwing her
weight about'. That is to say, she was hard to please, and, when not
pleased, apt to say so in no uncertain voice. To his personal friends
Walter Jelliffe had frequently confided that, though not a rich man, he
was in the market with a substantial reward for anyone who was man
enough to drop a ton of iron on Miss Weaver.
Tonight the song annoyed Henry more than usual, for he knew that
very soon the daffodils were due on the stage to clinch the
verisimilitude of the scene by dancing the tango with the rabbits. He
endeavoured to make the most of the time at his disposal.
'I am glad to see you!' he said.
'Sh-h!' said the stage-manager.
Henry was discouraged. Romeo could not have made love under these
conditions. And then, just when he was pulling himself together to
begin again, she was torn from him by the exigencies of the play.
He wandered moodily off into the dusty semi-darkness. He avoided the
prompt-box, whence he could have caught a glimpse of her, being loath
to meet the stage-manager just at present.
Walter Jelliffe came up to him, as he sat on a box and brooded on
'A little less of the double forte, old man,' he said. 'Miss Weaver
has been kicking about the noise on the side. She wanted you thrown
out, but I said you were my mascot, and I would die sooner than part
with you. But I should go easy on the chest-notes, I think, all the
Henry nodded moodily. He was depressed. He had the feeling, which
comes so easily to the intruder behind the scenes, that nobody loved
The piece proceeded. From the front of the house roars of laughter
indicated the presence on the stage of Walter Jelliffe, while now and
then a lethargic silence suggested that Miss Clarice Weaver was in
action. From time to time the empty space about him filled with girls
dressed in accordance with the exuberant fancy of the producer of the
piece. When this happened, Henry would leap from his seat and endeavour
to locate Alice; but always, just as he thought he had done so, the
hidden orchestra would burst into melody and the chorus would be called
to the front.
It was not till late in the second act that he found an opportunity
for further speech.
The plot of 'The Girl From Brighton' had by then reached a critical
stage. The situation was as follows: The hero, having been disinherited
by his wealthy and titled father for falling in love with the heroine,
a poor shop-girl, has disguised himself (by wearing a different
coloured necktie) and has come in pursuit of her to a well-known
seaside resort, where, having disguised herself by changing her dress,
she is serving as a waitress in the Rotunda, on the Esplanade. The
family butler, disguised as a Bath-chair man, has followed the hero,
and the wealthy and titled father, disguised as an Italian
opera-singer, has come to the place for a reason which, though
extremely sound, for the moment eludes the memory. Anyhow, he is there,
and they all meet on the Esplanade. Each recognizes the other, but
thinks he himself is unrecognized. Exeunt all, hurriedly,
leaving the heroine alone on the stage.
It is a crisis in the heroine's life. She meets it bravely. She
sings a song entitled 'My Honolulu Queen', with chorus of Japanese
girls and Bulgarian officers.
Alice was one of the Japanese girls.
She was standing a little apart from the other Japanese girls. Henry
was on her with a bound. Now was his time. He felt keyed up, full of
persuasive words. In the interval which had elapsed since their last
conversation yeasty emotions had been playing the dickens with his
self-control. It is practically impossible for a novice, suddenly
introduced behind the scenes of a musical comedy, not to fall in love
with somebody; and, if he is already in love, his fervour is increased
to a dangerous point.
Henry felt that it was now or never. He forgot that it was perfectly
possible—indeed, the reasonable course—to wait till the performance
was over, and renew his appeal to Alice to marry him on the way back to
her hotel. He had the feeling that he had got just about a quarter of a
minute. Quick action! That was Henry's slogan.
He seized her hand.
'Sh-h!' hissed the stage-manager.
'Listen! I love you. I'm crazy about you. What does it matter
whether I'm on the stage or not? I love you.'
'Stop that row there!'
'Won't you marry me?'
She looked at him. It seemed to him that she hesitated.
'Cut it out!' bellowed the stage-manager, and Henry cut it out.
And at this moment, when his whole fate hung in the balance, there
came from the stage that devastating high note which is the sign that
the solo is over and that the chorus are now about to mobilize. As if
drawn by some magnetic power, she suddenly receded from him, and went
on to the stage.
A man in Henry's position and frame of mind is not responsible for
his actions. He saw nothing but her; he was blind to the fact that
important manoeuvres were in progress. All he understood was that she
was going from him, and that he must stop her and get this thing
He clutched at her. She was out of range, and getting farther away
He sprang forward.
The advice that should be given to every young man starting life
is—if you happen to be behind the scenes at a theatre, never spring
forward. The whole architecture of the place is designed to undo those
who so spring. Hours before, the stage-carpenters have laid their
traps, and in the semi-darkness you cannot but fall into them.
The trap into which Henry fell was a raised board. It was not a very
highly-raised board. It was not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a
church-door, but 'twas enough—it served. Stubbing it squarely with his
toe, Henry shot forward, all arms and legs.
It is the instinct of Man, in such a situation, to grab at the
nearest support. Henry grabbed at the Hotel Superba, the pride of the
Esplanade. It was a thin wooden edifice, and it supported him for
perhaps a tenth of a second. Then he staggered with it into the
limelight, tripped over a Bulgarian officer who was inflating himself
for a deep note, and finally fell in a complicated heap as exactly in
the centre of the stage as if he had been a star of years' standing.
It went well; there was no question of that. Previous audiences had
always been rather cold towards this particular song, but this one got
on its feet and yelled for more. From all over the house came rapturous
demands that Henry should go back and do it again.
But Henry was giving no encores. He rose to his feet, a little
stunned, and automatically began to dust his clothes. The orchestra,
unnerved by this unrehearsed infusion of new business, had stopped
playing. Bulgarian officers and Japanese girls alike seemed unequal to
the situation. They stood about, waiting for the next thing to break
loose. From somewhere far away came faintly the voice of the
stage-manager inventing new words, new combinations of words, and new
And then Henry, massaging a stricken elbow, was aware of Miss Weaver
at his side. Looking up, he caught Miss Weaver's eye.
A familiar stage-direction of melodrama reads, 'Exit cautious
through gap in hedge'. It was Henry's first appearance on any stage,
but he did it like a veteran.
'My dear fellow,' said Walter Jelliffe. The hour was midnight, and
he was sitting in Henry's bedroom at the hotel. Leaving the theatre,
Henry had gone to bed almost instinctively. Bed seemed the only haven
for him. 'My dear fellow, don't apologize. You have put me under
lasting obligations. In the first place, with your unerring sense of
the stage, you saw just the spot where the piece needed livening up,
and you livened it up. That was good; but far better was it that you
also sent our Miss Weaver into violent hysterics, from which she
emerged to hand in her notice. She leaves us tomorrow.'
Henry was appalled at the extent of the disaster for which he was
'What will you do?'
'Do! Why, it's what we have all been praying for—a miracle which
should eject Miss Weaver. It needed a genius like you to come to bring
it off. Sidney Crane's wife can play the part without rehearsal. She
understudied it all last season in London. Crane has just been speaking
to her on the phone, and she is catching the night express.'
Henry sat up in bed.
'What's the trouble now?'
'Sidney Crane's wife?'
'What about her?'
A bleakness fell upon Henry's soul.
'She was the woman who was employing me. Now I shall be taken off
the job and have to go back to London.'
'You don't mean that it was really Crane's wife?'
Jelliffe was regarding him with a kind of awe.
'Laddie,' he said, in a hushed voice, 'you almost scare me. There
seems to be no limit to your powers as a mascot. You fill the house
every night, you get rid of the Weaver woman, and now you tell me this.
I drew Crane in the sweep, and I would have taken twopence for my
chance of winning it.'
'I shall get a telegram from my boss tomorrow recalling me.'
'Don't go. Stick with me. Join the troupe.'
'What do you mean? I can't sing or act.'
Jelliffe's voice thrilled with earnestness.
'My boy, I can go down the Strand and pick up a hundred fellows who
can sing and act. I don't want them. I turn them away. But a seventh
son of a seventh son like you, a human horseshoe like you, a king of
mascots like you—they don't make them nowadays. They've lost the
pattern. If you like to come with me I'll give you a contract for any
number of years you suggest. I need you in my business.' He rose.
'Think it over, laddie, and let me know tomorrow. Look here upon this
picture, and on that. As a sleuth you are poor. You couldn't detect a
bass-drum in a telephone-booth. You have no future. You are merely
among those present. But as a mascot—my boy, you're the only thing in
sight. You can't help succeeding on the stage. You don't have to know
how to act. Look at the dozens of good actors who are out of jobs. Why?
Unlucky. No other reason. With your luck and a little experience you'll
be a star before you know you've begun. Think it over, and let me know
in the morning.'
Before Henry's eyes there rose a sudden vision of Alice: Alice no
longer unattainable; Alice walking on his arm down the aisle; Alice
mending his socks; Alice with her heavenly hands fingering his salary
'Don't go,' he said. 'Don't go. I'll let you know now.'
* * * * *
The scene is the Strand, hard by Bedford Street; the time, that
restful hour of the afternoon when they of the gnarled faces and the
bright clothing gather together in groups to tell each other how good
Hark! A voice.
'Rather! Courtneidge and the Guv'nor keep on trying to get me, but I
turn them down every time. “No,” I said to Malone only yesterday, “not
for me! I'm going with old Wally Jelliffe, the same as usual, and there
isn't the money in the Mint that'll get me away.” Malone got all worked
It is the voice of Pifield Rice, actor.