WITH the Jolly Good Company playing at the Alhambra, Stockport, all week, so close to Manchester, Will Griffiths decided that, with Cyril Broom’s consent, he could take a full day off.
The Alhambra’s stage hands could handle any minor problems and since Will had finished that box for the Great Nesbo there wasn’t anything else outstanding.
Will smiled to himself as the tram rattled and swayed out of the town, heading for the bustling city. It was a startling illusion, no doubt about it, and so simple. Apparently Nesbo had bought the idea from an American magician, and at a pretty penny, no doubt. Well, good luck to him. People liked to delude themselves, to believe that the impossible was possible.
Was that what he was doing? Was he deluding himself into thinking that Sally Swift could have any real feelings for him? He’d had two postcards from her which were friendly, perhaps a trifle wistful. She said she missed everyone. He’d weighed and pondered every word. But Kate and Delia had had postcards, too.
The tram clanked on through light rain and thickening traffic, the honking motor cars and lorries snarling around the occasional horse and cart.
He’d decided he’d go to see Sally’s show. There was a matinee performance.
He knew there was little chance of seeing Sally on stage, as she was understudy for Clarice Dupont, but at least he’d see the show. Perhaps he could send a note backstage. He could send flowers. Too forward?
“Ah!” he said out loud in exasperation, startling a little old lady sitting next to him. He smiled at her.
“I think it’ll turn out nice.”
“Let’s hope so,” Will said, glancing up at the sullen sky.
* * * *
Will treated himself to a good seat in the stalls and settled down to watch the light, romantic musical “Stardust”. He glanced around. It was quite a good house for a mid-week matinee. The lights went down and the orchestra began the opening number.
The plot of “Stardust” was thin, just enough to string together a number of songs and dance routines as the central characters fell in and out of love again, but it was a quality show.
He leaned forward attentively when Clarice Dupont made her entrance.
He was hoping she wouldn’t be as good as people said. But she was. She was a good-looking woman. Not as pretty as Sally, but definitely attractive. She sang well, danced well and he had to admit that when she was on stage she knew how to dominate it.
As the curtain came down he made up his mind. It would be silly not to find Sally. She was a former member of the Jolly Goods, a friend, and he was in love with her.
He left the theatre and went round to the stage door where there was a little group of people, evidently fans of Clarice Dupont and her leading man, Warren Powers.
He made himself known to the doorman, explaining who he was and that he was a friend of Sally Swift.
“Miss Swift’s room is number five, if she’s there, of course,” the man informed him.
With his heart beating faster, Will picked his way past and around various members of the cast and, without giving himself time to think, knocked on the door of number five. A moment later the door opened and Sally stood there, first a look of surprise on her face, then a smile.
“Will! How lovely to see you!” She seemed genuinely delighted. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see the show. You look terrific.”
“And you look well.”
They stood in the open doorway for a moment, looking at each other, when a voice said, “Now, where have you been hiding him, Sally?”
They both glanced sideways. Clarice Dupont was in the corridor. She spoke to Sally, but her full attention was on Will.
“This is Will Griffiths, Clarice. Will is from the Jolly Good Company.”
“How sweet,” Clarice said, not looking at Sally. She touched Will lightly on the arm. “And what are you, Will? A romantic tenor, I should guess.”
“Actually, I’m a stage-hand,” Will said. His eyes met Clarice’s.
“The stage manager, really,” Sally said, and as soon as she said it she regretted it. What on earth did it matter?
“Stage manager? Really?” Clarice gave Sally a condescending smile. “Well, I must leave you two alone. I’m sure you have a lot to talk about. Bye!” She walked away.
Will was grinning. Sally was fuming.
“That silly, conceited woman. I can’t put up with her much longer, Will. She makes me so angry.” She stared after the retreating figure of Miss Clarice Dupont.
“I can see you’re angry,” Will said, “but are you hungry?”
“What?” she said, startled, her eyes back on him.
“I said, are you hungry, Sally?” he repeated.
“Well, yes, I am.”
“Then let’s go and get something to eat.” He was smiling at her.
“That would be smashing, Will. Yes, please. And you can tell me all about everybody. Oh, I’m so glad you came.”