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Buchen, Walther (ed.) / The Wisconsin magazine
Vol. VII, No. 8 (May 1910)

Jarvis, Harold P.
The understudy,   pp. 27-28


Page 27


THE UNDERSTUDY
The Understudy
      HAROLD P. JARVIS
  Paul Hollister gaily ascended the steps
of the Bradley residence and tapped
lightly on the plateglass door. Instantly
the portieres of the drawing room  were
swept apart, a slender figure darted across
the hallway, and a moment later he found
himself greeting Alice Bradley in a most
fervid manner and lamely explaining the
reasons which had made him late. Her
piquant spirit would have delighted in
telling him that his nose was very, very
cold, but instead she led him to an invit-
ing seat before the spacious fireplace
within which the logs gleamed a deep
cherry. Long ago she had observed that
nothing so quickly and completely places
a man at his ease as a wood fire into
which to gaze occasionally, and besides,
Paul rather liked a wood fire.
  He was not of a nature to meditate long
without putting his thoughts into words.
  "Alice," he exclaimed joyously, "Rob-
ertson is ill, and I am going on tomorrow
evening."
  "Fine," she ejaculated, for only too
well did she appreciate the impatience
and the longing with which he had been
awaiting this most golden of golden op-
portunities.
  "Yes, it was only this morning that a
note was brought to my apartments in-
forming me of Robertson's indisposition
and his consequent inability to appear in
the leading role at the first performance
of the week, tomorrow evening." He
paused. She sat with her chin cradled
in her hands enraptured with the man at
her side.
  "Just to think," she murmured ebul-
liently, "that the image of your dreams
and of your reveries has at last become
a delicious reality." He was staring into
the fire and as the flames illumined his
face she could not but observe the admir-
able poise of his head, the quiet eyes and
the full, passionate lips. For her own
part, she had loved him for himself, and
had never doubted that eventually his
merits would command fame and perhaps
fortune. The reverse of situation would
afford an excellent stepping stone toward
popularity and a place in the theatrical
firmament. "Just to think of it," she re-
iterated, and this time he averted his head
and smiled.
  The talk drifted to other topics and
the evening wore on. But although other
themes were discussed and some only re-
ferred to, there was one which remained
predominant in the minds of both. When
he departed late in the evening, he men-
tally resolved to more than make good
for her sake, and she, devoted little but-
terfly that she was, resolved to be there
to see him do it.
  The orchestra had emerged from the
dock and had commenced the overture.
Ushers dashed up and down the aisles
guiding with a reckless assurance the
elite of the metropolis to their respective
seats in the orchestra or in the loudly
adorned  boxes.  A  group of boarding
school girls, under the relentless eye of
an austere chaperone, jostled down the
aisle glibly commenting on everything in
sight, and seated themselves with a flour-
ish of silks and furs. Amid the crackle
of programs, the opening of bon-bon
boxes and the nervous laughter of women,
one could hear the belated hammering of
a stage carpenter or the scraping of a
piece of scenery as it was shoved into
place.  The last blatant strains of the
overture were being rendered. Just then
Alice Bradley came in.
  She was accompanied by several fem-
inine friends to whom she chatted gaily
as the usher escorted the little party to
its box. As the usher threw back the
curtains at the rear of the box, she cov-
ertly handed him a tiny white package
and instructed him to convey it at once
to Mr. Hollister.    Then, serene   and
charming, she rejoined her party.
27


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