“What nonsense!” But the blood was secretly stirred in her veins. She saw herself walking along the Black Hole with the programme-girl, but her point of view had been modified since she had received a similar suggestion with a shudder. If she could play Rosalind to a great London audience, the staring men-folk would matter little.
“Why not?” went on the bass tempter. “A humour like yours with such a voice and such a face!”
“The stage is full of better voices and better faces.”
“No, indeed. Why, there isn’t a girl at the Half-and-Half—” He stopped and almost blushed.
She smiled. “Oh, I don’t mind your going to such places. What is the Half-and-Half, a place where they drink beer?”
“Oh, it’s just our slang name for a little music-hall that’s just between the East End and the West End, with a corresponding programme.”
“Our slang name?”
“Well—” he paused. “If you’ll keep it very dark—but of course you will—I appear there myself.”
“You! What do you do?”
“I sing patriotic songs and drinking-songs—”
“Aren’t they the same thing in England?”
“Don’t say that on the stage or they’ll throw pewter pots. They’re very patriotic.”
“That’s just what I said. What’s your name—I suppose you change it?”
“Yes—as I hope you will yours—some day.”
“I shan’t take yours.”
“Nobody arxed you, miss,” he said. “And, besides, mine is copyright—Jolly Jack Jenkins. I make a fiver a week by it.”
“A fiver!” The bass chorister suddenly took on an air of Arabian nights. At this rate she could buy back the family castle. Her struggling brothers—how they would bless their magician sister—Mick should have a London practice, Miles a partnership in an engineering firm.
“You come with me and see Fossy,” continued Jolly Jack Jenkins.
Eileen declined with thanks. It took a week of Sundays to argue away her objections—religious, moral, and social. To play Rosalind to fashionable London was one thing: to appear at a variety theatre or low-class music-hall, which nobody in her world or Mrs. Lee Carter’s had ever heard of, was another pair of shoes. Yet strange to say, it was the last consideration that decided her to try. Even if admitted to the boards, she could make her failure in secure obscurity. It would simply be another girlish escapade, and she was ripe for mischief after her long sobriety.
“But even your Mr. Fossy mustn’t know my real name or address,” she stipulated.
“Who shall I say you are?”
“Ripping. Flows from the tongue like music.”
“Then it’s rippling you mean.”
“What a tongue! Wait till Fossy sees you.”
“Will he ask me to stick it out?”
“Oh, Lord, I wish I had your repartee. But I’m thinking—Nelly O’Neill—doesn’t it give you away a bit?”