E-text prepared by Rick Niles, Kat Jeter, John Hagarson, Rosanna Yuen, and
the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE SORROWS OF A SHOW GIRL
A STORY OF THE GREAT "WHITE WAY"
BY KENNETH MCGAFFEY
These Stories were originally printed in
_The Morning Telegraph_, New York.
1 Sabrina Discourses Theatrical Conditions
2 The Carrier Pigeon as a Benefit to Humanity
3 Sabrina Receives Money from an Unexpected Source
4 Sabrina Receives Her Fortune and Says Farewell to the Hall Bedroom
5 Sabrina Visits Her Patents in Emporia, and Shocks that Staid Town
6 Details of How Sabrina Stood Emporia on Edge and was Ejected
7 The Chorus Girls' Union Gave their Annual Ball
8 Sabrina Falls In Love with a Press Agent with Hectic Chatter
9 Sabrina Returns to the Chorus, so that She Can Keep Her Automobile
Without Causing Comment
10 Sabrina and Her Former Room-mate Involved in an Argument at a
11 The Dramatic Possibilities of the "Mangled Doughnut"
12 Sabrina Passes a Few Remarks on Love, Comedians, and Spring Millinery
13 Sabrina Scores a Great Personal Success
14 Methods of the House Breakers' Association Disclosed
15 Sabrina Denounces the Male Sex as Being All Alike, and Threatens to
Take the Veil
16 After Investigating the Country Atmosphere Carefully, Sabrina Says
the Only Healthful Ozone is Out of a Champagne Bottle
17 Sabrina Visits the Racetrack and Returns with Money
18 A Pink Whiskered Bark Tries to Convert the Merry-merry
19 Sabrina Advises Chorus Girls, Charging Time for their Company
20 Sabrina is Married and Goes Abroad on Her Wedding Trip
In the following chapters some of Sabrina's remarks are likely to cause
the reader to elevate his eyebrows in suspicion as to her true
In order to set myself right with both the public and the vast army of
Sabrinas that add youth and beauty to our stage, and brilliancy and
gaiety to our well known cafes, I wish to say that she is all that she
should be. She is a young lady who, no matter how old she may be, does
not look it. She is always well dressed, perhaps a little in advance of
the fashion, but invariably in good taste. Among strangers or in public
places her conduct is all that could be desired, while with those of her
own set she becomes more familiar and may occasionally lapse into slang.
Fate may compel her to earn her own living or she may receive an income
from a source that has nothing to do with these stories. Any person
without the circle of theatrical or newspaper life is looked upon as an
interloper by Sabrina and treated accordingly. Hundreds of her like may
be found any evening after the theatre in the cafes and restaurants of
the "wiseacres" known as the "Tenderloin."
In which Sabrina rushes on the scene and begins to discourse
breathlessly on theatrical conditions, boobs that send poetry
for presents, the tribulations of hunting employment, and the
outlook for a New Year's dinner.
"Ain't it appalling," demanded Sabrina, the Show Girl, "ain't it
appalling the way the show game has gone to the morgue this season?
"I never seen nothing like it since I been in the business, and while I
ain't going to flash no family Bible that's been some time. Why, shows
that were making money if they played to thirty-two dollars on the day
just naturally died. Me? You know I wasn't hep to the outlook. I come
prancing into town fresh from doing one-night stands through the
uncultured West. We did bum business for fair, but shucks, there ain't
five dollars' worth of real money in all of Southern Kansas at no time.
Salaries! Huh! I had to send home for money to pay my fines with. I
cavort gaily out to hunt a job and find a line from Mr. Seymour's office
that made the run on the Knickerbocker Trust Company look like the
nightly window sale of 'The Evangelist.' I never seen so many of my
friends in town at one time in my life, and if you make a noise like a
dollar-bill anywhere between the two Flatirons you're liable to be the
center of a raging mob. I heard it breathed that all the theatrical
storehouses in town were playing to S.R.O.
"I got a chance to shake down a little change as prima donna with a
turkey show. What do you know about that? I played with one last
Thanksgiving, and - excuse these tears - it was a college town and the
show was on the blink. 'Nough said. The manager hasn't left there yet.
"Oh, Listerine, have you heard the news? Alia McGraw has turned poetess.
You know she always was peculiar. I was visiting her the other evening
in her dressing room when she declared that she was going to give up her
dramatic art and go to painting word pictures. Whatever they are. You
see it was this way: She had a boob on her staff who was paying her his
devoted attention. According to her statistics that's all he ever did
pay for. Well, he commenced doing advance work about a present he was
going to give her until he got poor Alla to thinking that it was nothing
less than an automobile, and she treated him accordingly. One morning a
messenger boy makes his entrance into the flat and hands her a book. Can
you beat that? The only thing that kept Alia from foaming at the mouth
was because she was combing her Dutch braid. It - the book - was called a
Rubaiyat by Omar Quinine, or something like that. This Omar party never
wrote a comic opera in his life. But Alla wasn't discouraged, for she
looked through every page in hopes of finding a Clearing House
certificate, but not a leaf stirred. All she came across was a marked
verse that went something like this:
"A book of verse underneath a bough,
A Jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou
Beside me sitting in the wilderness -
Oh, wilderness is Paradise enow.
"Did you ever hear of such a short sport? Wanted to buy it by the keg
and go sit under a tree in Bronx Park. As soon as Alla run out of
language she sat down and in less than three hours doped out an answer.
I got it here on the back of her laundry list:
"A book of verse is not what I can use,
But give me, if still my love is thine,
A wine list from which to pick and choose.
Cut out the shady bough for mine.
"Give your bough to some nice 'feller,'
And if you would make my life sublime
Put me in some cool rathskeller
And we'll forget the jug of wine.
"Wine in a jug! What do I hear?
Not with a loaf of bread and thou,
A cheese sandwich and a glass of beer,
Unless you've changed your brand ere now.
"This sitting in the wilderness may be fine
For those who the realms of nature seek,
A restaurant is at least a paradise divine
With payday on the first of every week.
"I guess maybe that won't show him up! Ain't it just glorious? It's
kinda wabbly on its feet, but just think, it's her first attempt. She
said there were a lot more things she could say, but even her desire to
be a poetess wouldn't let her forget that she was a lady. Alla told me
that the height of her ambition was to write the words of a popular song
and have Harry Von Seltzer sing it in the College Inn. She can't ever
make a hit as a poem producer though 'cause she hasn't got high cheek
bones and teeth like a squirrel. Alla was pensive all through the first
act, and while she was making her change from a lady-in-waiting to a
bathing girl she remarked that she was going to write an ode - past tense
of I O U, I guess - entitled 'Thoughts on Hearing Ben Teal Conduct a
Chorus Rehearsal.' They won't let her publish it.
"What do you know about the new law about tanks having to have their
names on the barroom door? I see where the Metropole will lose money
unless they furnish disguises to their steady customers. Can you imagine
the suspense certain parties will feel when they rush into a shop for
their early morning 'thought mop' and have to cling to the bar while
Arthur looks up their past performances in Bingham's Bartenders' Guide.
"A gentleman friend had the kindness to extend me courtesies to 'The
Witching Hour' the other evening, and listen to muh: There is some class
to that show. Ain't you seen it? It's a song and dance about this mental
telepathy gag. There is a gambling gentleman who can tell a poker hand
every time. The only reason he ain't a heiress is because his conscience
jumps up and gives him a kick in the face. This party in the play
influences people's minds. He thinks of something, and people miles away
think of the same thing. All the same wireless. Take it from me, there's
a whole lot to it at that. I was out with a kind friend the other
evening whose general disposition is to try and make Frank Daniels look
like a spendthrift, so I knew it would be beer for mine unless I made a
great mental effort, so all the way up the street in the taxicab I just
held thumbs and concentrated my mind - I saw more new style hats,
too - and said to myself, 'For Heaven's sake, order wine,' 'Please loosen
up and order wine.' All to myself, you understand, never once out loud,
for though I am in the business I don't seek the reputation as a working
"Well I hope I may never look a lobster in the face again. No, I am not
speaking of this party. But I hope I may never look a lobster in the
face again if he didn't swell all up, prance into the eat hut and say
careless like over his shoulder to the waiter, 'A bottle of that Brut.'
Just like that. I tried the concentration gag on him for a pearl ring he
had on, thinking I had him under the gypsy curse, but there was a person
who had the nerve to call herself a lady who had been saying things
about me sitting at another table with a Harry who had led me to believe
that I was his own little Star of Hope, and I just couldn't get my mind
"Honest to goodness, I don't know what I'll do unless I find work. My
suite of apartments is reduced now to one hall room and a closet, and
the Dennett & Child's circuit is beginning to look like K. & E. booking.
The only thing I can think of for me to do is to get engaged and hock
the betrothal ring for a meal ticket.
"Me for roller skates. Here I've been hunting a job until I wore out two
pair of these Sorosis things and not a bush shakes. Can't even sign a
contract for a Friday night amateur contest. By gum, I'd take a job
barking for a snake race. I had an offer to go into vaudeville. What do
you know about that? The act hasn't any time yet, but it will get time
as soon as it makes good, and to make good all its needs is a trial
performance, and the backer thinks he knows where he can get a trial
performance, and to get ready for the trial performance will require
about five weeks' rehearsal at nix per week. Do you think a stunt like
that is worthy of my attention? Adversity does sure land on the poor
chorus doll with both feet at every stage of the game.
"I was reading in the paper the other day that some old pappy guy out in
Chi was making a noisy fuss that the chorus ladies stay up too late
nights. I wish somebody would show him to me, that's all I ask, just
show him to me. I suppose old Pink Whiskers was a chorus man once
himself and has got all the dope on the subject. So we stay up late, do
we? I suppose he will be wanting us to read helpful books instead of
making up, next. To my mind, of course I may be wrong, but to my mind
the staying up late nights ain't half as bad as getting up in the
morning. Of course, I don't know who or what this old wop is that made
this crack, but if he thinks we spend most of our time in sinful
idleness he'd better copper his bet. All we do is rehearse all morning,
matinee all afternoon, performance all evening and travel all night. The
rest of the time we have to ourselves, and he thinks we frivol. Why, he
ain't wise to half the privations they force on us. Would you believe
it? I have gone forty weeks without never even catching a glimpse of
Broadway, and once went for ten without even a cheese sandwich to bring
gladness to my heart. Can you beat that? And then he goes and turns
loose a rebel yell because when we do get a little time to ourselves we
stay up late nights. Oh, Mellen's Food! When does he want us to stay up?
Mornings? Some wise boy once said, 'Early to bed, early to rise, but you
don't meet any prominent people,' and I guess maybe he wasn't right. He
got the number then all right, all right, and he didn't have to speak
harsh to Central at that. We gotta do something to amuse ourselves, and
I never had a traveling gentleman yet conduct me to a watch meeting. A
girl comes out of the stage door tired and lonesome; some village cut-up
prances out and gets acquainted; the girl is hungry, so why not? Perhaps
she is sending money home every week and can't afford a little lunch
after the show herself. No, that's no taproom jest. There is more than
one of the merry-merry putting her little sister through school and
don't you forget it for a minute. And he gets sore because we stay up
late nights. He'd better roll another pill, get at the cause and then
hang the curfew on a few of those town romps. If he hands out another
song and dance number like that again, send him up to me, I'll give him
a bunch of inside info that will make him think something broke loose.
"I managed to slip in and see 'The Talk of New York' the other night.
Say, that's a great play. Did you get wise to the way that Kid Burns
party juggles the loose talk? I don't believe there ever was a party
that slings slang the way that guy does. My mother was always particular
about my bringing up, and if I ever passed out any of this George Cohan
style of repartee she would give me a slap on the map and tell me to
chase back and handle my harangue as per Mr. Webster. So, though I have
traveled about a bit, I still retain my pure English, even when I lose
my temper, which is going some for a lady.
"What am I going to do New Year's? I know one thing. I ain't going to
play an encore to the sozzle session number I pulled off last season.
Didn't you hear about it? Evidently you were not on Broadway last New
Year's Eve. A couple of young ladies and myself were playing a
progressive hell party all up and down the main street. You see, you
play it this way. A guy comes up and blows a horn in your ear. You swat
the horn quickly on the end with your hand. If the guy swallows more
than half the horn you win and are allowed to 'phone for the ambulance.
But that was only a prelude to the main event. Ah, me! I blush to
chronicle it. There were so many shows in town that the supply of
college students didn't come up to the demand, and as me and the bunch
had sorta turned them down after they went and lost all their money on
the Thanksgiving game, so we had an intimation that developed into a
hunch that our little 'welcome' mat on the doorstep would not be crowded
with an eager throng. We engaged a couple of window tables at the Cafe
des Beaux Minks realizing that though we were not in the money we were
still on the track. This was last New Year's Eve. New Year's afternoon
we held a reception up at Miss Verneaque's flat, took up a collection
for the widows and orphans and cleared $4.43 apiece on it. The place got
pinched and we all had to hide on the roof until the cops beat it. But
not for me this year. Me for the peaceful kind of a celebration. I don't
know what to do. The only people I have on my calling list now are the
agents, and they will all be home splashing in the egg-nog.
"Gee, but I wish I was home. Was you ever in a country town on a New
Year's Day? Say, list. Sixty laughs in sixty minutes looks like a busy
day at the morgue compared to the laughs they hand out in one of those
one-night stand dumps. The Sons of Temperance all go out and get a bun
on ad lib. and everybody inhales good cheer. I sang in the choir. Honest
I did, but it didn't take. I got a silver cigarette case yet the
choirmaster gave me. But no home this year; me to the Cafe des Enfants.
What? Will I? Don't make such a foolish noise. I'll be there with my
hair in a braid. Two-thirty at Hector's. Say, you've got the Good
Samaritan looking like a rent collector. So long."
In which Sabrina discloses a little of her past and those of the
members of the company, tells how she was a bridesmaid and goes
into detail in regard to the benefit to humanity of having
carrier pigeons trained to rush the growler.
I was strolling down Broadway the other afternoon with Oscar when we
happened to meet Miss Sabrina, the show girl. I introduced them, of
course, and then retired to the background. This is what followed:
"I am very glad to meet you, Mr. Jenkins. I've heard the party here
speak of you."
"Yes; and I have heard him say several nice things about you."
"Is that so?"
"Sure. But don't take it to heart; he means well."
"Well, I can only say he treats me like a true friend."
"Speaking of treats, I'll buy the beer."
"My goodness! Ain't you afraid of catching cold - taking so much money
out of your clothes all at once?"
"What was that you handed out? Come again, please."
"I merely remarked that it was awful kind of you."
"Oh, that's all right; I always was careless with my money."
"I always like this place; it reminds me so much of the back of the drug
store in Emporia."
"Then you are from the West, Miss De Vear."
"Oh, yes, indeed, I'm a Western girl pure and simple - "
"You said, 'pure and simple,' did you not?"
"I most certainly did, and I'd like to see the party that's got anything
on me. I come from a dead swell family, I do. I may be only a poor
chorus girl, but by gosh! I was brung up right. Did you know that I was
featured for three seasons in the church choir in my home town and would
have had it for life if the stage manag - I mean the choirmaster hadn't
forgot he was a gentleman; so I just quit rather than cause talk. Why,
would you believe it? - my father was mayor of Emporia for nearly two
terms. You'd be surprised if I told you my real name and some of the
people I am related to. Say, what are you going to do with that book?
Trying to dope out whether you can buy another drink, I suppose."
"No. I'm just keeping track of the girls I met whose fathers are mayors
of towns. I've got forty-seven for Providence, R.I., fifteen for Peoria,
Ill., ten for Atlanta, Ga., and your two makes seven for Emporia. I've
got fifty-three for chief of police, twenty-one fire captains, and
eleven postmas - "
"Excuse me, but are you trying to infer that I am telling an untruth?"
"Oh, forget it! Can't you stand a little jolly without going up in the
"Well, I'll accept your apology, but I don't like to have people casting
slurs on my pa and ma, and beer wont appease my wrath when I feel like a
"Go as far as you like. I was only ordering what I thought you were
"Say, Mr. Percival B. Fresh, you certainly are the village wag when it
comes to the Oriental repartee, ain't you?"
"Sure I am, but I have to go to the mat when they commence to dish out
this Emporia humor. Oh. Laza! Do you care for the one in red?"
"Of course I may go wrong, but in my mind no gentleman would make
remarks about another girl when he is with a lady."
"Say, girlie, you're all right - lovely hair, beautiful eyes and all
that - but cut it; drop in your penny and get wise to yourself. That's a
great show you are with."
"When was you out front?"
"Night before last."
"Night before last! My Heavens! Wasn't I a sight? You know the girl I
dress with had been out to a wine supper and she came splashing into the
dressing room lit up like a show window and cried my makeup box full of
tears over the death of her baby sister, and the way I had to put it on
I thought was sure good for a fine, and to make matters worse some hussy
got next to all my toothpicks and I had to use a hairpin for a liner;
but did you notice the way that cat of a soubrette keeps me out of the
spotlight? Professional jealousy, that's all; but it don't do me no good
to kick, because the stage manager sends her silk stockings and that
kind of junk, while the best I get is a chance to hold hands with the
electrician; but, of course, he gets his orders."
"Say, that piece of work that stands on the end opposite you is all to
the berries, ain't she?"
"Surest thing you know. She looks like a night-blooming pippin to me."
"My, gracious, Mr. Jenkins, I never knocked a living soul, but I don't
mind telling you as a friend that I personally would not degrade myself
by speaking to her, and of course you know that the hair she wears is
not her own. I haven't a thing in the world against the poor creature,
but it has been breathed around the company that she is not all she
should be. Of course, I don't know positively, but it is what everybody
says, and I only wish she would make good with that four bits of mine."
"Well, I'm glad there's no hard feeling between you two, as I would like
to meet her."
"I'm very sorry, but you will have to pardon me if I refuse to give you
a knockdown, for I would steer no friend of a friend of mine up against
a flim flam where there's so many nice girls running loose. Take Tessie
Samonies, for example, she ain't very pretty, but she's awfully cute,
and after she gets a couple of sloe gins boosted into her she certainly
is the life of the party."
"All right, frame it up for me and I'll open wine or a window or
something to show that I'm a true sport."
"You bet I will, and we'll have a nice little family party, no knocking
or nothing; just sit and talk real friendly like."
"That's the idea and if anyone starts the anvil chorus they get the
skiddo. What? Who will we have?"
"Well, let's see, we'll have Tessie and you, me and Silent Murphy
here - and let's see who else?"
"Joe Zeweibaum and Miss Veronique."
"Not yet. Joe is all right in a crowd if you can keep him from talking
about his sales, but the dame - not for me, for if there's any one gets
my goat she's it."
"Shall we have Frank Millar and his first wife?"
"Oh, heavings! No! For if we did his third wife would hear about it and
then she would knock me to my husband, for you know they are engaged, so
if she hears anything about me you can bet she plays it up strong."
"Well, can't you think of some one else?"
"No, I don't know a soul that is any good but us four. My goodness, I've
got to roll my hoop and do a shopping number, get my hair gargled - I
slept in it last night - and see a sick friend.
"Fate sure does sic tribulations on me at every turn of the road. This
business of hunting employment has got to be so balmy that I snort and
jump sideways every time anybody says 'job.'
"Now that the first of the year has kicked in, I thought everything
would be as merry as a marriage bell, but as yet there hasn't been a
ripple on the water. The only thing that acts as a star of hope to my
miserable existence is a date with a Summer stock that opens the first
of June, and there is a heap of smoke around that. I wish some one would
tip me off to some way of earning an honest living without having to
resort to a sock full of sand or a strong arm. But why be downhearted? I
haven't drunk up all my Christmas presents yet. As a last hope I can
load upon them and get some kind ambulance to drag me up to the dippy
department of some nice hospital. Honest, I am getting so thin that
before long I won't be able to understudy a drop of water in Mr. Hawk's
"A nice gentleman presented himself to me on Broadway the other evening
and, after passing the compliments of the season, invited me out to
inhale a young table d'hote. The way I sprang to his side made a leap
for life seem like sinful idleness. And where do you think he took me? I
ask as a friend, Where do you think he took me? To one of those joints
where you get everything from soup to nuts, including a scuttle full of
red ink for thirty-five scudi. I was going to balk and rear in the
harness when he started to lead me up the steps of the foundry, but as I
always maintained discretion is the better part of valor, I'm two-bits
ahead anyway you play it. So I climb into the nosebag without a peep.
Yet - would you believe it? - when that wop came to cash in he shook the
mothballs out of a roll of bills that looked like nine miles' worth of
hall carpet. I had been acting very reserved heretofore, but when he
made this flash he commenced to look like a very dear friend of mine who