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قراءة كتاب Ahead of the Show; Or, The Adventures of Al Allston, Advance Agent

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‏اللغة: English
Ahead of the Show; Or, The Adventures of Al Allston, Advance Agent

Ahead of the Show; Or, The Adventures of Al Allston, Advance Agent

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

of the opera house just now."

"Humph! I was excited, and spoke a little louder than I ought. Well, why do you think it will not be necessary for me to send the telegram?"

"Because I am sure you can find just the person you want right here in Boomville."

"An advance agent to be picked up offhand in this place? That would be too much luck. What is your man's name?"

"Allen Allston."

"I never heard of him. What company was he with last?"

"He has never been with any company, sir, but——"

Mr. Wattles surveyed the boy with a look of supreme disgust.

"Do you suppose for one moment," he interrupted, "that I am going to take an inexperienced jay from a town like this and send him ahead of an organization like Wattles' New York Comedy Company? Well, hardly. I've got to have an experienced man."

"And you're going to telegraph for one now, sir?"

"This minute."

"But suppose you can't get the man you want—will you talk with me then, sir?"

"Er—yes, in that case you might send your friend to see me, though it seems nonsense. But I shall get my man all right."

"I suppose you are going to request an immediate answer to your telegram, Mr. Wattles?"

"I am; I shall get it within an hour, in all probability."

"Where can I find you after you have received it?"

"At the hotel next door. You are a persistent young rascal; your friend has a good advocate in you."

The boy smiled.

"I am the best friend he has in the world," he said.

"Well, if you are you had better advise him to stick to farming, or whatever he is doing, and keep out of the theatrical business; we have too many farmers in it already."

"He wouldn't take the advice, sir."

Mr. Wattles laughed as he entered the telegraph office.

"If the boy's friend has got as much 'go' as he has," he muttered, "he might do something in the business."

In a few minutes the message had been sent. An hour and a half later a messenger entered the lobby of the hotel with a telegram.

"For me?" questioned the manager, who had been impatiently pacing the floor for the last twenty minutes.

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Wattles tore open the envelope.

A muttered exclamation escaped his lips as he hurriedly perused the message.

"Well, sir?" said a voice at his elbow.

Turning, he confronted the lad with whom he had had the brief interview which we have recorded.

"You here? Well, you do mean business."

"Is your offer accepted, sir?" the boy asked.

"Confound it, no! The man I wanted signed yesterday with another manager. Well, send your friend round and I'll talk with him."

"He is here, sir."


"I am Allen Allston."


Mr. Wattles stared at the boy a moment in speechless surprise, then burst into a loud laugh.

"You don't mean to say," he almost gasped, "that you made that application for yourself?"

"That's just what I mean to say, sir," replied the lad, quietly.

"Why, you must be crazy!"

"I don't think I am."

"You are only a boy."

"I'll get over that in time, Mr. Wattles; and besides, that fact is no proof that I am crazy."

"Oh, pshaw! I can't stand here bandying words with you."

Al was not in the least taken aback.

"That's just what I was thinking," he said.


"That we had been standing up too long. Let's sit down."

"Well," said the manager, "you have cheek enough, anyhow."

"Cheek is necessary for an advance agent, isn't it, sir?" laughed the boy.

"Yes, but—oh, really, this is ridiculous, you know!"

"What is ridiculous?"

"Your applying for this position."

"Why is it ridiculous?"

"Who ever heard of a boy advance agent?"

"That's just the point. Nobody ever did, and it will be a complete novelty, and a big ad. for the show."

Mr. Wattles gazed at the boy almost admiringly.

"Well, you are a corker!" he exclaimed.

"A good advance agent ought to be a corker, oughtn't he, sir?"

"I suppose so—yes."

"Shan't we sit down and talk the matter over?"


And the manager sank into a convenient chair, gazing at his youthful companion with an expression indicative of bewilderment.

"I've got him now sure," murmured the lad, but his companion did not hear him; Al did not intend that he should.

When they were both seated the boy said:

"Now, sir, you want an advance agent, and I want a position. It is lucky we met."

"Yes," interrupted Mr. Wattles, "but what the mischief do you know about the business of an advance agent?"

"A lot," was the calm reply.

"How did you learn it?"

"By reading and observation."

"Nonsense! You might as well talk about learning to swing on a trapeze by reading and observation."

"There's a big difference, sir."

"Not much."

"Well, I've always thought I should like to do work of that sort, and I think I could do it well."

"Stage-struck, eh?"

"Not a bit of it, Mr. Wattles. Now, will you listen to me a few moments, sir?"

"Go ahead."

And the manager assumed an air of resignation.

"I generally keep my eyes open," began the boy, "and I have had a chance to watch the movements of most of the theatrical people who come to this town, particularly the advance agents."

"Why the advance agents in particular?" interrupted Mr. Wattles.

"Because I have been in the editorial office of the Boomville Herald, and have had a chance to see how they work the press. Some of them are very slick, but I think that if I had a little experience I should be as slick as any of them."

"Ah," said the manager, "that's the point. You haven't had experience."

"Well, I've got to begin some time, sir. If all managers had talked like you the race of advance agents would have been extinct long ago."

"There's something in that," laughed Mr. Wattles.

"There's lots in it."

The manager of the New York Comedy Company surveyed his companion for a few moments without speaking.

"My boy, I rather like you," he said, at last.

"Well, that's one point in my favor, sir," said Al.

"I'd like to give you a chance, but I really do not see how I can."

"Why can't you?"

"You must remember that the New York Comedy Company is not a common, fly-by-night organization, but a first-class enterprise. I have put a good many dollars into the thing, and I can't afford to experiment. If so much did not depend upon the result, if I were running a cheap side show, I might give you the trial you ask, but——"

"I wouldn't have anything to do with any such show," interrupted the boy. "I don't intend to be that sort of advance agent. But I can understand how you feel, sir."

"Then you can also understand how impossible it is for me to engage your services."

"Oh, no, I can't understand that at all, Mr. Wattles. Now let me ask you a question."

"What is it?"

"I heard you tell Mr. Perley that you did not expect there would be four hundred dollars in the house to-night."

"That's what I said. I shall be agreeably disappointed if there is as much as that."

"Yet the opera house will hold twelve hundred dollars."

"I see you are posted, my boy."

"I am. Now, Mr. Wattles, it is a little out of the line of an advance agent's work, but, just to show you that I have a