“Oh, bah!” he exclaimed, gruffly derisive. “Ven you begome star then you can have dem tantrums, but not now, not mit me. You blay vat I say, or I send back after some von else. You bedder not get too gay, or you lose your job damn quick. You don’t vant Mooney to make lofe to you? You don’t vant him to giss you?—hey, vos dot it?”
“Yes, that was exactly it.”
“Ach!—you too nice to be brofessional; you like to choose your lofer, hey? You forget you earn a livin’ so. Vot you got against Mooney?”
Miss Norvell, her cheeks burning indignantly, her eyes already ablaze, did not mince words.
“Nothing personally just so long as he keeps away from me,” she retorted clearly. “He is coarse, vulgar, boorish, and I have far too much respect for myself to permit such a man to touch me, either upon the stage or off; to have him kiss me would be an unbearable insult.”
Albrecht, totally unable to comprehend the feelings of the girl, shifted uneasily beneath the sharp sting of her words, yet continued to smile idiotically.
“Dot is very nice, quite melodramatic, but it is not brofessional, Meess,” he stammered, striving to get hold of some satisfactory argument. “Vy, Mooney vos not so pad. Meess Lyle she act dot bart mit him all der last season, and make no kick. Dunder! vat you vant—an angel? You don’t hafe to take dot bart mit me, or Meester Lane either, don ’t it, hey?”
Miss Norvell turned contemptuously away from him, her face white with determination.
“If you really want to know, there is only one man in all your troupe I would consent to play it with,” she declared calmly.
“Und dot is?”
“I do not even know his name,” and she turned her head just sufficiently to look directly into Albrecht’s surprised face; “but I refer to your new utility man; he, at least, possesses some of the ordinary attributes of a gentleman.”
The door of her dressing-room opened and closed, leaving the startled manager standing alone without, gasping for breath, his thick lips gurgling impotent curses, while Winston discreetly drew farther back amid the intricacy of scenery.
A BREAKING OF ICE
The troupe in its wandering arrived at Bolton Junction early on a Saturday afternoon, and Winston, lingering a moment in the hotel office, overheard Miss Norvell ask the manager if they would probably spend Sunday there; and later question the hotel clerk regarding any Episcopalian services in the town. Their rather late arrival, however, kept him so exceedingly busy with stage preparation for the evening’s performance that this conversation scarcely recurred to mind until his night’s labor had been completed. Then, in the silence of his room, he resolved upon an immediate change in conditions, or else the deliberate giving up of further experiment altogether. He was long since tired enough of it, yet a strange, almost unaccountable attraction for this young woman continued binding him to disagreeable servitude.