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IS IT A MAN? 241

every night ! Hush ! you will see acting


He had silenced me when I was about to ask
him if he was here every night. I judged him
an ardent admirer of Miss O'Reilly, and had
further evidence during the first act that one
man may lead the applause as a conductor
leads the orchestra. When Miss Helrnsley
entered, and some pittites began to cheer, my
neighbour cried " Sh-sh " so fiercely that the
demonstration stopped abruptly, and Miss
Helmsley withdrew her curtsey. When the
heavy father stopped in the middle of his
long speech for a " hand " to help him on his
way, he would have got it but for the " Sh-sh "
of the little man. When the comedian nudged
the elderly spinster in the ribs, which is how
elderly spinsters are made love to on the stage,
some ladies giggled, but my neighbour looked
at them with a face that said, " There is nothing
funny in that," and they restrained their mirth.


242 IS IT A MAN?

But when Miss O'Reilly snatched the smoking-
cap from Leonard and put it on her own flaxen
head, he chuckled till the whole audience
admitted the fun of it, and when Miss O'Reilly
told Lord John to stand back and let her pass,
my neighbour brought down the house ; and
when she made her reluctant exit he brought
down the house again ; and when the curtain
fell on the first act he shouted " O'Reilly " until
we were all infected. Not until he had her
before the curtain would he retire, and then it
was to speak about her to me. The exchange
of a vesta introduced us to each other.

" You have seen the piece before ? " I asked,
with the good-nature that is born of a cigarette.
I had already sufficient interest in him to
wonder who he was.

" The piece ? " he echoed indifferently. " Oh
yes ; I have seen the greater part of it

" How does it end ? "

IS IT A MANf 243

He shrugged his shoulders.

" I don't know," he answered contemptuously.
"I always walk out of the house just before
the last tableau."

" Is Miss O'Reilly not on the stage in that
tableau ? " I asked.

" She is not," he replied, rapping out an
oath or two, and trembling with rage. " Did
you ever hear of anything so monstrous ? She
is leading lady, the idol of the town, and yet
she is not on at the end. Excuse me, sir. I
am always taken in this way when I think of it/'

He bit his cigarette in two and asked for
another vesta. Then he explained.

" She dies, you know, in the middle of the

" Ah, that accounts for it," I said.

" Not at all," he retorted ; " she ought not
to die until the tableau. And if she had to
die then, that should have been the tableau.
What do people come to the theatre to see ? "

244 & IT A MAN?

" The play," I suggested.

" Pooh, the play ! " he sneered. " There are
twenty plays to be seen nightly at West End
theatres, but only one O'Reilly. They come
to see the O'Reilly, sir, and it is defrauding the
public to let her die a moment before the end."

" Still," I said, " the author "

" Pshaw ! " he broke in, " who thinks of the
author ? He could easily have brought down
the curtain on the O'Reilly's death, and I am
confident he meant to do it. But Helmsley
is the management's niece, and insisted on
being the only lady in the tableau. You
noticed that Helmsley was a complete frost ?
I distinctly heard some one hissing her."

" So did I," I said, smiling, for the some
one had been himself.

" You heard it too," he cried audaciously.
" Thank you, sir," he said, and shook me
warmly by the hand.

The O'Reilly herself," he added, had no

IS IT A MANf 245

wish to be in the tableau, but she knew the
public would expect it. She is a woman, that,


" She is," I agreed.

" Ha ! " he exclaimed. " You, too, were
struck by it ? But she impresses every one in
the same way. The management pay her a
princely salary ; but she is worth it. Did you
hear how that man in the pit laughed over her
lines about bread and cheese and kisses ? I
wonder who he is ? "

" What salary does she get ? " I asked, with
the curiosity of a theatre-goer.

" They say," he replied, looking at me
sharply, " that she gets eighty pounds a week."

" Hem ! " I said.

He coughed. " What a carriage she has ! "
he exclaimed ; and then waited for me to agree.

" Wonderful ! " I said, for I never contradict
a man who is in love.

" You think she has a wonderful carriage ? "

246 IS IT A MAN?

he asked, as if I had put the idea into his head.
"Yes, you are quite right. I will tell her
you remarked on it."

" You know her personally ? "

"I have that honour," he replied with
dignity. " Candidly now, is not her education
superb ? "

" It is," I said.

" I agree with you," he answered, " and you
have used the one word that properly describes
it. Superb ! Yes, that is the very word. 1
will tell her you said superb. I see you know
acting, sir, when you see it. Not that I would
call it acting. Would you call it acting ? "

" Certainly not," I answered recklessly, but
hoping he would not ask me to give it a name.

" No," he said, " it is not acting. It is
simply genius."

" Genius," I said from memory, " is all the
talents in a nutshell."

" Ha ! " he cried, " that is how you would

IS IT A MAN? 247

describe her? All the talents in a nutshell!
What a capital line for the advertisements.
All the talents in a nutshell ! I will tell her
you said that about her."

He lowered his voice. " Press ? " he asked
with some awe. I shook my head.

" Got friends on the press ? " he next

" Yes," I said, remembering that a pressman
owed me five pounds.


" I shouldn't wonder."

"Then," he said eagerly, "put them up to
that line, ' all the talents in a nutshell.' Or
stop ; would you mind giving me their private
address ? "

" Unfortunately, I cannot."

" That is a pity, because if you could see
your way to a ' par,' I think I might be able
to introduce you to the O'Reilly. But she is
very particular."

248 IS IT A MAN?

" You are an enthusiast about her," I re-

" Who could help it ? " he answered. " I
have watched her career since she was on my
soul, sir, since she was nobody in particular.
There was a time when that woman was no
more famous than you are. You were speaking
of her genius a minute ago, but, would you
believe it, she rose from the ranks, positively
from the ranks."

If I had swooned at this, his hands would
have been ready to catch me ; but I kept my

"Your interest in her," I ventured to say,
"was very natural, but it must have taken up
a good deal of your time."

" All my time," he said.

" Except during business hours, of course."

" From the time I rise until midnight."

" Then you have no profession ? "

" That is my profession/'



IS IT A MAN? 251

" What ? "

" The interest I take in her."

" And did you never do anything else ? " I
asked, beginning to envy the little man his

At once the melancholy look, of which I
have spoken, came back to his face.

"I used to be in the profession myself/' he
said, sighing. " I am Jolly Little Jim."

He did not look it at that moment.

"You have forgotten me, I see/' he said,
dolefully. u Think a moment. Jolly Little
Jim was the name."

"I am afraid I never heard it," I had to

" Nonsense ! " he answered testily. <c Every-
body knew that name once. I got no other,
though my real name is James Thorpe. Why,
I advertised as Jolly Little Jim. You must
have heard it."

" Perhaps I have," I replied, pitying his

252 IS IT A MAN f

" If you would care to read my press notices,"
he began putting his hand into his pocket,
"lean "

" Not to-night," I interposed hurriedly.

" I can repeat most of them," he said brightly.

" Rather tell me why you gave up a pro-
fession," I said, " which you doubtless adorned."

"Thank you," he answered, again pressing
my hand. " Well, sir, the O'Reilly has the
responsibility for that."

" You gave up acting because it interfered
with your interest in her ? "

" You may put it in that way. I gave up
everything for her. If that woman, sir, had
asked me to choose between her and my press
notices, I believe I would have burned them."

" How has she rewarded you ? " I asked,
seeing that he was of a communicative nature.

" She married me," he answered, drawing
himself up to his full height. " Yes, I am her
husband ! "

IS IT A MAN? 253

It was I who shook his hand this time. I
could think of nothing else to do. He was
beginning his story, when the bell tinkled,
warning us to return to our seats.

" She is on immediately," he said, " so we
must go back and give her a hand. I'll meet
you here again after the second act."


DURING the second act Mr. Thorpe behaved as
previously, drinking in Miss O'Reilly's every
word, cheering her comings and goings, arid
yawning, and even reading a newspaper, when
he should have been listening to Miss Helrnsley.
Once I saw him make a note on his programme,
and felt sure it was, " All the talents in a nut-
shell." I started him on his story as soon as
he joined me in the smoking-room. (He had
remained in his seat to shout " O'Reilly.")
" The first time I ever set eyes on her," he

254 / IT A MANf

began, " was at Dublin, where we had both
been engaged for pantomime. Yes, that woman
once played in pantomime ; and, what is more,
she was only second girl. That is a strange
thing to think of. I was the first villain,
Deepdyeo, and the Shamrock said of my creation,
' Another part admirably rendered is the Deep-
dyeo of Mr. James Thorpe, better known to
fame as Jolly Little Jim. Mr. Thorpe, who
was received with an ovation

" But you were to tell me of Miss O'Reilly,"
I reminded him.

" Ah," he said, " I shall never forget that
first meeting. It took place at rehearsal, and
when I left the theatre that afternoon I was a
changed man."

" You fell in love with her at first sight ? "

" Not absolutely at first sight. You see, I
was introduced to her before the rehearsal
began, and there was no opportunity of falling
in love with her then."

IS IT A MANf 255

" Still, she had impressed you ? "

"How could she impress me before I had
seen her do anything ? What is it in a woman
that one falls in love with ? "

"Who can tell?" I said.

" Anybody can tell," he answered, putting
me down for a bachelor. " It is the genius in
her, or rather what we consider genius, for
many men make a mistake about that."

" So you loved her for her genius ? "

u What first struck me was her exit. I
suppose I may say that I fell in love with it
at once. Then she sang ; only a verse, but it
was enough. Later she danced, and that, sir,
was a revelation. I knew the woman was a
genius. By the time the pantomime was in
full swing, she was the one woman in the
world for me."

"Arid she had fallen in love with your
genius, too ? "

" I could not be certain. You see, we

256 IS IT A MAN?

were not on speaking terms ; she was so

" But that," I said, " is recognized as a sign
of love. No doubt, she wanted you entirely
to herself. Who was the lady ? "

" What lady ? " he asked, in surprise.

" The lady Miss O'Reilly was jealous of," I

" I never said she was jealous of a lady ;
though, of course, she would be jealous of the
principal girl. I spoke of myself."

" But how/' I questioned, " could she be
jealous unless she thought you were paying
attention to some other woman ? "

" Oh ! " he said, with slow enlightenment,
" I see what_ you mean, but you don't see what
I mean. It was of rne that she was jealous, or
rather of my song. You may not be aware
that in pantomime we are allowed to choose
our own songs. Well, it so happened that she
and I both wanted to sing the same song. It

IS IT A MAN? 257

was an exquisite thing, called, ' Do yon think
when you wink ? ' and as I had applied for
permission to sing it first she was told to select
something else. That was why we did not

" But if you loved her," I said, speaking, it
is true, on a subject of which I knew little,
" you would surely have consented to waive
your rights to the song. Love, it is said,
delights in self-sacrifice."

" No doubt," he admitted, " but you know
the lines, ' I could not love you, dear, so much,
loved I not honour more.' Well, my honour
was at stake, for I had promised my admirers
in Dublin and they were legion (see the
Shamrock for January 12, 1883) to sing that
song. And my fame was at stake as well as
my honour, for I created quite a furore with
* Do you think when you wink ? ' :

" Still," I insisted, " love is all powerful."

" I admit it," he answered, " and, what is

258 IS IT A MAN?

more, I proved it, for after I had sung the
song a week, I transferred it to her."

" Did she sing it as well as you had done ? "

There was a mighty struggle within him
before he could reply, but when he did speak
he was magnificent.

"She sang it far better than I/' he said
firmly, and then winced.

" It was a great sacrifice you made," I said
gently, " but doubtless it had its reward. Did
she give you her hand in exchange for the



" No," he answered, " we were not married
until a year after that. She was grateful to
me, but soon we quarrelled again. The fact
is that I took a ' call ' which she insisted was
meant for her. She felt that disappointment
terribly ; indeed, she has not got over it yet.
She cannot speak about it without crying."

" You mean," I said, " that you years ago
deprived her of the privilege of curtseying to

IS IT A MANf 259

an audience ? Surely she would not let that
prey on her mind ? "

" You don't understand," he replied, " that
fame is food and drink to an artist. It was
months before she forgave me that, though she
is naturally the most tender-hearted creature.
Our baggage man stole fifty pounds from her,
and she would not prosecute him because she
knew his sister. But you see it was not money
that I deprived her of it was fame."

" And did you win your way back into her
favour ? " I asked, " by letting her take a ' call '
that was meant for you ? "

"No/' he said; "several times I determined
to do so, but when the moment came I could
not make the sacrifice. I spent about half my
salary in presents to her ; but, although she took
them, she refused to listen to any proposal of
marriage. By this time I had confessed my
love for her. Well, we parted, and soon
afterwards I got an engagement as chief


260 IS IT A MAN?

comedian in the ' Powder Monkey ' Company,
which was then on tour. She was playing
chambermaid in it. Fancy that woman fling-
ing herself away on chambermaids ! I made
a big hit in my part. The Lincoln Observer
said, ' Mr. James Thorpe, the celebrated Jolly
Little Jim, created a ' "

" But about Miss O'Reilly," I asked.

" We got on swimmingly at first," he said.

" She had decided to forgive you ? "

"No, she was stiff the first day, but I put
her up to a bit of business, that used to be
encored nightly, and then she accepted my
offer of marriage. But a week after I had
given her the engagement-ring she returned it
to me. I don't blame her."

" You admit that she had just cause of
complaint against you ? "

" Yes ; no woman who was an artist could
have stood it. The fact is, that one night I
took the ' up ' side of her in our comic love

IS IT A MANf 261

scene. That is to say, I had my face to the
audience, and so she was forced to turn her
back to them. I had no right to do it, but a
sort of madness came over me, and I yielded
to the impulse. As soon as we had made our
exits she flung the ring in my ah, she gave
me back the ring, and, for the remainder of the
tour, she was not civil to me. The tour ended
abruptly ; indeed, the manager decamped,
owing us all a fortnight's salary, and we were
stranded in Bootle without money to pay for
our lodgings, not to speak of our tickets back to
London. I pawned my watch and sold my fur
coat, and shared what I got for them with her."
" And so the engagement was resumed ? "
" No, no ; that was merely a friendly act,
and it was accepted as such. The engagement
was not resumed until I got a ' par ' about her
into a Sunday paper. But that is the bell
again., I'll tell you the rest after her death


262 IS IT A MAN*


Miss O'REILLY died as slowly as the manage-
ment would allow her, and, when she had
gasped her last gasp with her hair down, Jolly
Little Jim that was led the tears and the
cheers, cried out, " Superb, by Jove ! that
woman has all the talents in a nut-shell," and
strutted from the stalls in a manner that in-
vited the rest of the audience to follow. But
everybody, save Mr. Thorpe and myself, re-
mained to see the comic man produce the
missing will, and so my little friend and I got
the smoking-room to ourselves.

" The next time we were on tour together,"
he continued, after I had given the death scene
a testimonial, " was in ' Letters of Fire,' with
a real steam-engine. I was Bill Body, the
returned convict, and the Rochester Age said,
' Mr. Thorpe, who, as Jolly Little Jim, made
such a

IS IT A MAN? 263

" The engagement was resumed by tliis
time ? " I asked.

" I told you the ' par ' had done that. How-
ever, we had another tiff during rehearsals,
because I got the epilogue to speak. I dare
say that would have led to a rupture had
not "

" Had not she loved you so deeply," I sug-

" She loved me fondly/' he replied, " but she
loved fame more. Every true genius does.
No, the reason she did not break with me then
was that I was c on ' in her great scene in the
fourth act. You see, as chief comedian I had
a right to a little comic by-play in that scene,
and if I had exercised that right I should have
drawn away attention from herself. Thus I
had the whip hand of her. I am inclined to
think that had I pressed the point I could have
married her during the run of that piece."

"By threatening, if she delayed the wedding,

264 IS IT A MAN?

to introduce comic business into her great


" Yes ; but I did not, and you are no doubt
wondering why. The fact is, I thought my
self-denial would soften her heart and so bring
about the results I was pining for. Perhaps
it would have done so, but unfortunately,
' Letters of Fire ' did not draw (though a great
success artistically), and we had to put ' London
Slums ' on in its place. In that piece the
leading juvenile played up to her so well
that she began to neglect me. I was in despair,
and so not quite accountable for my actions.
Nevertheless, you will think the revenge I
took as cold-blooded as it seemed to her. You
must understand that, though our pieces were
splendidly billed, the O'Reilly had fifty chromos
of herself, done at her own expense, and all
framed. These she got our agent in advance
to exhibit in the best places in the best shops,
and undoubtedly they added to her fame. They

IS IT A MAN? 265

preceded us by a week, and so she was always
well known before we opened anywhere. Well,
sir, 1 got fifty chromos of myself framed, and
ten days before we were due at Sheffield I had
them put into fifty barbers' shops there."

" Why barbers' shops ? " I interposed.

" Because they are most seen and discussed
there," he explained. " It comes natural to a
man when he is being shaved to talk about
what is on at the theatres. I can't say why
that is so, but so it is. Perhaps one reason
is that barbers are nearly always enthusiasts on
matters of art. Well, if there is a good chromo
in the shop, of course it comes in for its share
of discussion, and the barber tells what parts
you have played before, and so on. It is a
great help. However, the O'Eeilly no sooner
heard what I had done than she told me all
was over between us."

" Still," I said, " the barbers would have had
room for her pictures as well as for yours."

266 IS IT A MAN?

" I got the best places," he answered ; " and
there is this^ too, to consider. The more
chromes there are to look at, the less attention
does any particular one get ; and she held that
if I loved her truly I would not have stepped
in, as it were, between her and the public.
She did not get a reception that opening night
at Sheffield, and, of course, she gave me the
blame. It seriously affected her health."
" But you made that quarrel up ? "
"Not for three weeks. Then she gave in.
Instead of my going to her, she came to me
and offered to renew the engagement if I would
withdraw my chromos."

" Which you did gladly, of course ? "
" I took a night to think of it. You who are
not an artist cannot conceive how I loved my
chromos. Did I tell you that I had printed
beneath them, 4 Yours very sincerely, Jolly
Little Jim ' ? However, I did yield to her
wishes, and we were to be married at Newcastle,

fS IT A MAN? 267

when a terrible thing happened. We have now
come to the turning-point of my life. At New-
castle, sir, I made my last appearance on the

Mr. Thorpe turned his face from me until he
recovered command of it. Then he resumed.

" Two days before the marriage was to take
place a Newcastle paper slated her and praised
me. It said, ' Miss O'Reilly ought to take a
page out of Mr. Thorpe's book. She should
learn from him that the action should suit the
word, not precede it. She should note his
facial expression, which is comedy in picture,
and control her own tendency to let her face
look after itself. She should take note of his
clear pronunciation arid model her somewhat
snappy delivery on it.' Sir, I read that notice
with mixed feelings. As an artist I could not
but delight in its complimentary references to
myself, but as a lover I dreaded its effect on the
O'Eeilly. After breakfast I went to call on

268 IS IT A MAN?

her at her lodgings, and happening to pass a
number of news-shops on the way, I could not
resist the temptation to buy at each a paper
with the notice. I concealed the papers about
my person, and as I approached her door I
tried to look downcast. But I fear my step
was springy. Perhaps she saw me from her
window. At all events, her landlady informed
me that Miss O'Reilly declined to see me.
4 Here is something I was told to give you,'
said the woman, handing me a pill-box. It
contained the ring! I compelled the O'Reilly
to listen to me that night at the theatre, and
she allowed that I was not to blame for the
notice. But she pointed out that there could
be no chance of happiness for a husband and
wife whose interests were opposed, and I saw
that it was true. I walked about the streets of
Newcastle all that night, such was my misery,
such the struggle in my breast between love
and fame. Well, sir, love conquered, as it

IS IT A MAN? 269

never could have conquered her, for she was a
great artist, and I only a small one, though the
Basingstoke Magpie said of me, ' The irre-
sistibly droll Mr. Thorpe, better known as

"The play will end in a minute/' I said.
" How did you win her ? "

" I offered," he replied, with emotion, " to
give up my profession and devote myself to
furthering her fame."

" And to live on her ? " I said aghast.

" You who do not understand art may put it
in that way," he replied ; " but she realized the
sacrifice I was making for her sake, and doubted
my love no longer. Was it nothing, sir, to
give up my fame, to give up the name I was
known by all over England (as the Torquay
Chat said), and sink to the level of those who
have never been mentioned in the papers?
Why, you yourself had forgotten the famous
Jolly Little Jim."

His voice was inexpressibly mournful, and

270 IS IT A MAN?

I felt that I really had been listening to a love
romance. The last three hours, too, had shown
me that Mr. Thorpe was responsible for some

of the fame of his wife.

" The management," he went on bravely,
" allowed me to retire without the usual fort-
night's notice, and so the marriage took place
on the day we had previously arranged it

" Had you a pleasant honeymoon ? " I

" In one sense," he replied, " we had no
honeymoon, for she played that night as usual;
but in another sense it has been a honeymoon
ever since, for we have the same interests, the
same joys, the same sorrows/'

"That is to say, you have both only her fame
to think of now ? May I ask, did she, for
whom you made such a sacrifice, make any
sacrifice for you ? "

" She did indeed," he answered. " For four

IS IT A MANf 271

weeks she let her name be printed in the bills

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