EVERYONE else had gone, it seemed. Cyril and Enid were talking quietly on stage. Kate suspected that Delia was in Sally’s dressing-room. Backstage she followed a scraping noise until she found Will Griffiths, his back to her, at a work bench, rhythmically planing a long piece of wood.
“Hello!” she called tentatively.
He glanced round, gave her his usual ready smile and turned to face her.
“If you’ve come to have a peep at Nesbo’s latest contraption, I’m afraid it’s not allowed.” He tapped the side of his nose. “Very hush-hush.”
“No, it’s not that. I expect I’ll know soon enough.” She was quiet for a moment. “I came to see how you are.”
He raised his eyebrows and put on a feigned expression of puzzlement.
“Me? I’m fine. Why?”
Kate folded her arms and said bluntly, “You know very well why. I thought Sally was quite beastly. It was quite uncalled for and what she said was . . .” She could feel herself going red.
Will shrugged his shoulders.
“It was only a word. Sticks and stones, you know.”
“Words can be sharper than sticks and harder than stones,” Kate said forcefully.
He smiled at her.
“You’re very wise, Miss Flynn, for one so young.”
She blushed furiously.
“Actually, it’s what my father used to say. I didn’t mean to sound so pompous. I’m sorry.” She began to turn away.
“No, don’t go. It was very kind of you to come back here. Thank you. But don’t be too hard on Sally. You see, she has this driving ambition to be a star. And at the moment she can think of nothing else.”
He paused for a moment and then, almost as if he was talking to himself, he said, “Actually, she’s a very caring, lovely girl. A confused, very vulnerable girl.”
Suddenly Kate began to realise. She hesitated for a moment then she said softly, “You like her a lot, don’t you?”
He looked down at the plane he still held in his hands, then glanced up.
“’Fraid so. Head over heels. I’m thirty-three years old and like a lovesick schoolboy. You won’t say anything?”
“Of course not. I think Sally is a very lucky girl, if only she knew it. And you’re right, Sally is nice when she’s not having a tantrum.”
“You know, Kate, it seems to me that in this show-business caper you need a lot of talent and a lot of luck. You need to have your chance.”
“I expect so, yes.”
His face was serious, determined. He said, almost to himself, “I’ve put it off. I’ve put off making sure she had a chance. But not any longer.”
“Yes?” Kate said, the surprise evident in her voice.
He lowered his voice slightly.
“I have a pal, Jacob Foster, very big in music and theatre. He’d make sure Sally was given a chance if I asked him. You see, we spent three nights pinned down under fire in a shell hole in Passchendaele in December nineteen seventeen, freezing by day and freezing by night.” He tapped his left leg. “I lost two toes. But Jake and I got through it together.”
“But if your friend helps Sally and she succeeds it means she’ll . . .”
“Yes,” he said quickly. “She’ll leave the Jolly Good Company behind. But I’ve been selfish long enough. It won’t do, Miss Flynn. It won’t do.” He put the plane that was still in his hands on the work bench. “I’ll go and make a trunk call to London now, before I change my mind.” He looked at Kate. “What she said was out of desperate unhappiness.”
She could feel tears filling her eyes. She watched him as he limped away. Oh, Sally, she thought, I hope you’re worth it.