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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: 4

little snap and business ability, I will guarantee to fill the opera house to its utmost capacity to-night, if you will agree to give me a chance as advance agent after that."

"Do you know what you are talking about?"

And the manager stared in renewed amazement at the youth.

"I do."

"You will undertake to fill the house to-night, in spite of the disadvantages under which we are laboring?"

"The 'Standing Room Only' sign will be displayed before eight o'clock."

"Well, what is your scheme?"

"You will agree to follow my suggestions?"

"Not until I hear them."

"If you don't like them you will agree not to repeat anything I may say to you?"


"Then I'll give you my idea. I see you are getting ready to guy me, sir," as a rather cynical smile appeared upon the manager's face.

"Oh, no."

"You don't think I can knock out such a strong opposition as the 'Crack of Doom' Company, do you?"

"I do not."

"Well, I'll show you that I can, and get you not only a full house, but the elite of the place."

"Well, well," interrupted Mr. Wattles, impatiently, "have done with preliminaries and let me know how you propose to accomplish all this."


"Mr. Wattles," said Al, in a low tone, "I suppose you have in your time met a few stage-struck amateurs—people who thought they knew it all, and only needed a chance to show the world that they were the equal of anyone who ever trod the boards?"

The manager laughed.

"I should say yes. The woods are full of them."

"Well, we have one here."

"Only one?"

"There are others, but one whom it will be worth your while to know."

"Who is she?—for it is a woman, of course."

"Yes, sir, it is a woman; she is the wife of the mayor."

"The wife of the mayor of Boomville stage-struck?"

"In the worst way, Mr. Wattles; she believes herself the only legitimate successor of Charlotte Cushman."

"They all do. Well, what has all this to do with your scheme?"

"A good deal. Mrs. Anderson—that is her name—is very anxious to appear on the professional stage."

"Of course."

"Why can't you give her a chance?"

"Eh? I? How?"

"Send her word that one of your actresses has been taken suddenly ill, and ask her to take her place. She'll do it, take my word for that, and all Boomville will go to see her."

"Well, you must be crazy, young man," said Mr. Wattles, in a tone of disgust. "So that is your scheme, is it?"

"That is part of it."

"Well, it won't work."

"Why not?"

"For a dozen reasons. If I had two or three weeks to work up the thing it would be different; then it would, perhaps, be a good scheme. But you seem to forget that the performance takes place to-night."

"There's plenty of time to work up business," said Al, calmly. "It is not ten o'clock yet. See Mrs. Anderson, get her consent to play, and I'll prove my executive ability by doing all the rest."

"But, good gracious! how could the woman memorize a part between this and night?"

"Give her a short part—any old part. Two or three lines will do. What she wants is a chance to show herself on the professional stage."

"There is a small part," hesitated Mr. Wattles, "one that she could learn in half an hour. But, no, it won't do. The woman might queer the performance, and I should be the laughingstock of the profession for the next year."

"She's not as bad as all that," said Al. "She has appeared in amateur performances here and made a success. Better see her, Mr. Wattles. I know she'll be tickled to death with the idea. You'll be in plenty of time to get a big ad. in this afternoon's Herald, and you'll have the biggest house of the season."

The manager brought his fist down on the table by his side, and said:

"By jingo, boy, I will do it! Lots of money has been made out of stage-struck society women, and perhaps I may come in for a little of it."

"You'll come in for a lot of it to-night, sir, if you just follow my advice. And now I'll show you the way to the mayor's house."

"Wait a minute. You said this amateur racket was only a part of your scheme; what is the rest of it?"

"Souvenirs. This town is wild on souvenirs. The 'Crack of Doom' Company give hand-painted fans to-night. Why don't you go one better, and announce that every lady attending your performance will receive a heavily plated silver souvenir spoon?"

"But where the mischief could I get the spoons?"

"I'll provide them."



"But where are you going to get them?"

"I've got them. You see, sir, I am a sort of speculator. I attend auction sales and that sort of thing, and if I see a big bargain I take advantage of it. It's better than clerking at five dollars a week. A few days ago I struck a bankrupt sale in New York, and bought a lot of plated spoons at 'way below cost. I meant to sell them to the stores here, but I'll let you have them at just what they cost me—you can afford to give them away if you buy them at that price—and there will be plenty to go round."

Mr. Wattles surveyed his companion in amused wonder.

"Well, you are a queer sort of lad," he said. "You seem to have a pretty old head on those young shoulders of yours!"

"I think I have enough to look out for number one, sir."

"I should say you did. I should like to know more of you."

"You will, sir, when I become your advance agent."

"Well, we'll see all about that. And now I'd better be off for the home of the stage-struck mayoress. Meet me in half an hour."

"I'll be here, sir."

As the manager walked away, he muttered:

"I'm afraid I'm going on a fool's errand. Confound it! I believe that young rascal has hypnotized me. But, after all, I can't afford to neglect the chance. The treasury is pretty low, and if this scheme doesn't work there may be trouble on salary day. I'll do my best to get this woman to play, and I guess I shall succeed; people used to say that Gus Wattles was the champion jollier, and I don't think he has lost his powers yet."

Al was doing a little soliloquizing, too.

"I didn't think I had so much nerve," he mused. "I'm beginning to have a little more confidence in myself. If to-night's performance is a success I shall get the job sure—he can't refuse me. But if it isn't a success, if Mrs. Anderson refuses to have anything to do with the scheme—I won't let myself think of that."

It was nearly an hour before Mr. Wattles returned.

"Well, sir?" questioned the boy, breathlessly.

"It's all right."

"She will play?"

"Not only that, but she is going to pay me for the chance. Oh, there are no flies on Augustus Wattles, my boy! Yes, she is going to play, and she is delighted because the part will give her a chance to exhibit herself in a new costume which she has just imported from Paris. Now, then, my lad, we must get up the ads. How much time have we before they must be in the newspaper office?"

"An hour at least. And you had better get out some posters announcing Mrs. Anderson's appearance. They can be on the walls in two hours. Will you leave that part to me?"

"Yes; but first you can help me with the advertisement. Undoubtedly you can give me some points."

Al was able to do so. The manager was plainly delighted and surprised at the aptitude he displayed.

"I begin to think," he said, "that you were cut out for this business."