A Jolly Good Show – Episode 29

AFTER the performance Johnny West insisted he would take Kate for a drink to celebrate. She’d looked for Delia, but her dressing-room was empty.

She and Johnny sat together in a red plush semi-circular booth of the Queen’s Hotel, both looking rather pleased with themselves.

“It was a great trick, Kate. I don’t know how you do it, but it’s a great trick. It was terrific.”

“It’s simply magic, Johnny,” she said airily.

“I must admit I’ll miss Nesbo’s tricks when I go,” Johnny said.

“What?” Kate sat up straight. Johnny was evidently pleased by the look of surprise and alarm on her face. He moved a little closer to her, his voice was excited.

“I’m leaving the Jolly Goods.”

“Oh, no, Johnny, you mustn’t,” Kate pleaded. He had been her first friend in the company and he was sweet and kind.

He took her hand and held it tight.

“I’ve got a job in America, Kate. Through my agent. In three weeks’ time I join the Yankee Doodles in New York. Isn’t it exciting?”

Kate’s mind was in a whirl. Everything was changing. First Sally and now Johnny. She must try to be pleased for him.

“It’s what you wanted and it’s wonderful, of course, but I’ll miss you dreadfully, Johnny.”

“Don’t miss me!” He grabbed both her hands. “Come with me! We’ll conquer America together.”

“What would I do in America?” she protested.

“Why, you’re a tip-top magician’s assistant. You’d easily find a job.”

“No, Johnny, I couldn’t. It’s too uncertain, too insecure. If things went wrong ”

“You’d have me,” Johnny interrupted. He was looking at her earnestly, her hands still in his. “Kate, you know I love you. I want to look after you, to cherish you, all the days of my life. Come to America with me, as my wife. Marry me, Kate. Will you?”

* * * *

On the Cunard Building the great, green Liver Birds were perched on high, as if ready to take flight across the Mersey, across the Irish Sea and then on to the vast Atlantic Ocean, to the new world. Liverpool in 1927 was still the major port for the trans-Atlantic liners carrying passengers to the United States.

At that moment the Liver Birds looked down on the RMS Mauretania, moored alongside the quay with two slender gangplanks still connecting her to the old world, while three squat tug boats bumped against her starboard side ready to nudge her into the running tide.

Her port side was lined with passengers gazing down on the quay below, where friends and onlookers looked up, searching for the face of a friend or a loved one and waving.

Close by one of the gangplanks, a young man and a young woman stood hand in hand, looking into each other’s eyes.

“Will you miss me, Kate?”

“Of course I will, Johnny,” Kate replied, her eyes soft with tears.

“And Salty Sam?”

She hesitated.

“Yes.” She laughed and buried her face against his chest. “You could always make me laugh.” She clung to him. “Oh, I shall miss you so.”

He held her away from him and looked down at her tear-stained face.

“I’m very jealous, you know,” he said.


“Yes. Some lucky chap is going to come along some day and you’ll fall in love with him and live happily ever after. Why couldn’t it have been me, Kate?”

“You’ll always be dear to me, Johnny.”

“I know.” He smiled at her.

“Excuse me, sir,” a porter in the uniform of the Cunard Line interrupted. “Are you staying in Liverpool or going to New York? In a minute, you’ll have to jump.”

“Yes, OK.” Johnny turned back to Kate. “Goodbye, Kate. Be happy.” He bent and kissed her quickly.

“Goodbye, Johnny.”

He let go of her and ran swiftly up the gangplank. A moment later it was pulled away from the ship, the thick coiled hawsers splashed into the water and RMS Mauretania edged away from the quay, the flying streamers and the cheering crowds and the tear-stained faces. Smoke plumed from her four great stacks, the haunting sound of her siren shivered across the river and she was ploughing through the brown waters of the Mersey, a wide white wake behind her taking Johnny West to New York and out of Kate Flynn’s life.

She watched the ship until it was a dot. Her life with the Jolly Goods wouldn’t be the same without him, but she knew that she had made the right decision. She felt that if she did ever meet that someone special, she’d know without doubt.

In the meantime, she had the world of illusion in the theatre, the world of imagination in her writing, and Aunt Norma. Since she’d left Aunt Norma’s to join Nesbo, she’d heard nothing from her. Kate had written to her and sent postcards, but had heard nothing in return.

Even so, being in Liverpool and so near to her, she felt she should go to see her only living relative, and so she turned away from the river and began walking to Lime Street station.


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