Half a dozen people supping at a table in one of the upper-Broadway
all-night restaurants were making too much noise. Three times the
manager walked past them with a politely warning glance; but their
argument had waxed too warm to be quelled by a manager's gaze. It was
midnight, and the restaurant was filled with patrons from the theatres
of that district. Some among the dispersed audiences must have
recognized among the quarrelsome sextet the faces of the players
belonging to the Carroll Comedy Company.
Four of the six made up the company. Another was the author of the
comedietta, "A Gay Coquette," which the quartette of players had been
presenting with fair success at several vaudeville houses in the city.
The sixth at the table was a person inconsequent in the realm of art,
but one at whose bidding many lobsters had perished.
Loudly the six maintained their clamorous debate. No one of the Party
was silent except when answers were stormed from him by the excited
ones. That was the comedian of "A Gay Coquette." He was a young man
with a face even too melancholy for his profession.
The oral warfare of four immoderate tongues was directed at Miss
Clarice Carroll, the twinkling star of the small aggregation.
Excepting the downcast comedian, all members of the party united in
casting upon her with vehemence the blame of some momentous
misfortune. Fifty times they told her: "It is your fault, Clarice--it
is you alone who spoilt the scene. It is only of late that you have
acted this way. At this rate the sketch will have to be taken off."
Miss Carroll was a match for any four. Gallic ancestry gave her a
vivacity that could easily mount to fury. Her large eyes flashed a
scorching denial at her accusers. Her slender, eloquent arms
constantly menaced the tableware. Her high, clear soprano voice rose
to what would have been a scream had it not possessed so pure a
musical quality. She hurled back at the attacking four their
denunciations in tones sweet, but of too great carrying power for a
Finally they exhausted her patience both as a woman and an artist.
She sprang up like a panther, managed to smash half a dozen plates and
glasses with one royal sweep of her arm, and defied her critics. They
rose and wrangled more loudly. The comedian sighed and looked a
trifle sadder and disinterested. The manager came tripping and
suggested peace. He was told to go to the popular synonym for war so
promptly that the affair might have happened at The Hague.
Thus was the manager angered. He made a sign with his hand and a
waiter slipped out of the door. In twenty minutes the party of six
was in a police station facing a grizzled and philosophical desk
"Disorderly conduct in a restaurant," said the policeman who had
brought the party in.
The author of "A Gay Coquette" stepped to the front. He wore
nose-glasses and evening clothes, even if his shoes had been tans
before they met the patent-leather-polish bottle.
"Mr. Sergeant," said he, out of his throat, like Actor Irving, "I
would like to protest against this arrest. The company of actors who
are performing in a little play that I have written, in company with a
friend and myself were having a little supper. We became deeply
interested in the discussion as to which one of the cast is
responsible for a scene in the sketch that lately has fallen so flat
that the piece is about to become a failure. We may have been rather
noisy and intolerant of interruption by the restaurant people; but the
matter was of considerable importance to all of us. You see that we
are sober and are not the kind of people who desire to raise
disturbances. I hope that the case will not be pressed and that we may
be allowed to go."
"Who makes the charge?" asked the sergeant.
"Me," said a white-aproned voice in the rear. "De restaurant sent me
to. De gang was raisin' a rough-house and breakin' dishes."
"The dishes were paid for," said the playwright. "They were not broken
purposely. In her anger, because we remonstrated with her for
spoiling the scene, Miss--"
"It's not true, sergeant," cried the clear voice of Miss Clarice
Carroll. In a long coat of tan silk and a red-plumed hat, she
bounded before the desk.
"It's not my fault," she cried indignantly. "How dare they say such
a thing! I've played the title role ever since it was staged, and if
you want to know who made it a success, ask the public--that's all."
"What Miss Carroll says is true in part," said the author. "For five
months the comedietta was a drawing-card in the best houses. But
during the last two weeks it has lost favour. There is one scene in
it in which Miss Carroll made a big hit. Now she hardly gets a hand
out of it. She spoils it by acting it entirely different from her old
"It is not my fault," reiterated the actress.
"There are only two of you on in the scene," argued the playwright
hotly, "you and Delmars, here--"
"Then it's his fault," declared Miss Carroll, with a lightning glance
of scorn from her dark eyes. The comedian caught it, and gazed with
increased melancholy at the panels of the sergeant's desk.
The night was a dull one in that particular police station.
The sergeant's long-blunted curiosity awoke a little.
"I've heard you," he said to the author. And then he addressed the
thin-faced and ascetic-looking lady of the company who played "Aunt
Turnip-top" in the little comedy.
"Who do you think spoils the scene you are fussing about?" he asked.
"I'm no knocker," said that lady, "and everybody knows it. So, when I
say that Clarice falls down every time in that scene I'm judging her
art and not herself. She was great in it once. She does it something
fierce now. It'll dope the show if she keeps it up."
The sergeant looked at the comedian.
"You and the lady have this scene together, I understand. I suppose
there's no use asking you which one of you queers it?"
The comedian avoided the direct rays from the two fixed stars of Miss
"I don't know," he said, looking down at his patent-leather toes.
"Are you one of the actors?" asked the sergeant of a dwarfish youth
with a middle-aged face.
"Why, say!" replied the last Thespian witness, "you don't notice any
tin spear in my hands, do you? You haven't heard me shout: 'See, the
Emperor comes!' since I've been in here, have you? I guess I'm on the
stage long enough for 'em not to start a panic by mistaking me for a
thin curl of smoke rising above the footlights."
"In your opinion, if you've got one," said the sergeant, "is the frost
that gathers on the scene in question the work of the lady or the
gentleman who takes part in it?"
The middle-aged youth looked pained.
"I regret to say," he answered, "that Miss Carroll seems to have
lost her grip on that scene. She's all right in the rest of the
play, but--but I tell you, sergeant, she can do it--she has done
it equal to any of 'em--and she can do it again."
Miss Carroll ran forward, glowing and palpitating.
"Thank you, Jimmy, for the first good word I've had in many a day,"
she cried. And then she turned her eager face toward the desk.
"I'll show you, sergeant, whether I am to blame. I'll show them
whether I can do that scene. Come, Mr. Delmars; let us begin. You
will let us, won't you, sergeant?"
"How long will it take?" asked the sergeant, dubiously.
"Eight minutes," said the playwright. "The entire play consumes but
"You may go ahead," said the sergeant. "Most of you seem to side
against the little lady. Maybe she had a right to crack up a saucer
or two in that restaurant. We'll see how she does the turn before we
take that up."
The matron of the police station had been standing near, listening to
the singular argument. She came nigher and stood near the sergeant's
chair. Two or three of the reserves strolled in, big and yawning.
"Before beginning the scene," said the playwright, "and assuming that
you have not seen a production of 'A Gay Coquette,' I will make a
brief but necessary explanation. It is a musical-farce-comedy--
burlesque-comedietta. As the title implies, Miss Carroll's role is
that of a gay, rollicking, mischievous, heartless coquette. She
sustains that character throughout the entire comedy part of the
production. And I have designed the extravaganza features so that she
may preserve and present the same coquettish idea.
"Now, the scene in which we take exception to Miss Carroll's acting is
called the 'gorilla dance.' She is costumed to represent a wood nymph,
and there is a great song-and-dance scene with a gorilla--played by
Mr. Delmars, the comedian. A tropical-forest stage is set.
"That used to get four and five recalls. The main thing was the
acting and the dance--it was the funniest thing in New York for five
months. Delmars's song, 'I'll Woo Thee to My Sylvan Home,' while he
and Miss Carroll were cutting hide-and-seek capers among the tropical
plants, was a winner."
"What's the trouble with the scene now?" asked the sergeant.
"Miss Carroll spoils it right in the middle of it," said the
With a wide gesture of her ever-moving arms the actress waved back the
little group of spectators, leaving a space in front of the desk for
the scene of her vindication or fall. Then she whipped off her long
tan cloak and tossed it across the arm of the policeman who still
stood officially among them.
Miss Carroll had gone to supper well cloaked, but in the costume of
the tropic wood nymph. A skirt of fern leaves touched her knee; she
was like a humming-bird--green and golden and purple.
And then she danced a fluttering, fantastic dance, so agile and light
and mazy in her steps that the other three members of the Carroll
Comedy Company broke into applause at the art of it.
And at the proper time Delmars leaped out at her side, mimicking
the uncouth, hideous bounds of the gorilla so funnily that the
grizzled sergeant himself gave a short laugh like the closing of a
padlock. They danced together the gorilla dance, and won a hand from
Then began the most fantastic part of the scene--the wooing of the
nymph by the gorilla. It was a kind of dance itself--eccentric and
prankish, with the nymph in coquettish and seductive retreat, followed
by the gorilla as he sang "I'll Woo Thee to My Sylvan Home."
The song was a lyric of merit. The words were non-sense, as befitted
the play, but the music was worthy of something better. Delmars
struck into it in a rich tenor that owned a quality that shamed the
During one verse of the song the wood nymph performed the grotesque
evolutions designed for the scene. At the middle of the second verse
she stood still, with a strange look on her face, seeming to gaze
dreamily into the depths of the scenic forest. The gorilla's last
leap had brought him to her feet, and there he knelt, holding her
hand, until he had finished the haunting-lyric that was set in the
absurd comedy like a diamond in a piece of putty.
When Delmars ceased Miss Carroll started, and covered a sudden flow of
tears with both hands.
"There!" cried the playwright, gesticulating with violence; "there
you have it, sergeant. For two weeks she has spoiled that scene in
just that manner at every performance. I have begged her to consider
that it is not Ophelia or Juliet that she is playing. Do you wonder
now at our impatience? Tears for the gorilla song! The play is lost!"
Out of her bewitchment, whatever it was, the wood nymph flared
suddenly, and pointed a desperate finger at Delmars.
"It is you--you who have done this," she cried wildly. "You never
sang that song that way until lately. It is your doing."
"I give it up," said the sergeant.
And then the gray-haired matron of the police station came forward
from behind the sergeant's chair.
"Must an old woman teach you all?" she said. She went up to Miss
Carroll and took her hand.
"The man's wearing his heart out for you, my dear. Couldn't you tell
it the first note you heard him sing? All of his monkey flip-flops
wouldn't have kept it from me. Must you be deaf as well as blind?
That's why you couldn't act your part, child. Do you love him or must
he be a gorilla for the rest of his days?"
Miss Carroll whirled around and caught Delmars with a lightning glance
of her eye. He came toward her, melancholy.
"Did you hear, Mr. Delmars?" she asked, with a catching breath.
"I did," said the comedian. "It is true. I didn't think there was
any use. I tried to let you know with the song."
"Silly!" said the matron; "why didn't you speak?"
"No, no," cried the wood nymph, "his way was the best. I didn't know,
but--it was just what I wanted, Bobby."
She sprang like a green grasshopper; and the comedian opened his arms,
"Get out of this," roared the desk sergeant to the waiting waiter from
the restaurant. "There's nothing doing here for you."