“You s’prise me,” ses the big man; “you’re wasting of your life by not doing so.”
“But I can’t act,” ses Rupert.
“Stuff and nonsense!” ses the big man. “Don’t tell me. You’ve got an actor’s face. I’m a manager myself, and I know. I don’t mind telling you that I refused twenty-three men and forty-eight ladies only yesterday.”
“I wonder you don’t drop down dead,” ses the barmaid, lifting up ’is glass to wipe down the counter.
The manager looked at her, and, arter she ’ad gone to talk to a gentleman in the next bar wot was knocking double knocks on the counter with a pint pot, he whispered to Rupert that she ’ad been one of them.
“She can’t act a bit,” he ses. “Now, look ’ere; I’m a business man and my time is valuable. I don’t know nothing, and I don’t want to know nothing; but, if a nice young feller, like yourself, for example, was tired of the Army and wanted to escape, I’ve got one part left in my company that ’ud suit ’im down to the ground.”
“Wot about being reckernized?” ses Rupert.
The manager winked at ’im. “It’s the part of a Zulu chief,” he ses, in a whisper.
Rupert started. “But I should ’ave to black my face,” he ses.
“A little,” ses the manager; “but you’d soon get on to better parts—and see wot a fine disguise it is.”
He stood ‘im two more glasses o’ sherry wine, and, arter he’ ad drunk ’em, Rupert gave way. The manager patted ’im on the back, and said that if he wasn’t earning fifty pounds a week in a year’s time he’d eat his ’ead; and the barmaid, wot ’ad come back agin, said it was the best thing he could do with it, and she wondered he ’adn’t thought of it afore.
They went out separate, as the manager said it would be better for them not to be seen together, and Rupert, keeping about a dozen yards behind, follered ’im down the Mile End Road. By and by the manager stopped outside a shop-window wot ’ad been boarded up and stuck all over with savages dancing and killing white people and hunting elephants, and, arter turning round and giving Rupert a nod, opened the door with a key and went inside.
“That’s all right,” he ses, as Rupert follered ’im in. “This is my wife, Mrs. Alfredi,” he ses, introducing ’im to a fat, red-’aired lady wot was sitting inside sewing. “She has performed before all the crowned ’eads of Europe. That di’mond brooch she’s wearing was a present from the Emperor of Germany, but, being a married man, he asked ’er to keep it quiet.”
Rupert shook ’ands with Mrs. Alfredi, and then her ’usband led ’im to a room at the back, where a little lame man was cleaning up things, and told ’im to take his clothes off.
“If they was mine,” he ses, squinting at the fire-place, “I should know wot to do with ’em.”
Rupert laughed and slapped ’im on the back, and, arter cutting his uniform into pieces, stuffed it into the fireplace and pulled the dampers out. He burnt up ’is boots and socks and everything else, and they all three laughed as though it was the best joke in the world. Then Mr. Alfredi took his coat off and, dipping a piece of rag into a basin of stuff wot George ’ad fetched, did Rupert a lovely brown all over.