A Jolly Good Show – Episode 31

IT was Monday morning, and Sally arrived at the Manchester theatre where “Stardust” was due to start another week’s run. She was passing the doorkeeper’s little cubby hole when the hatch shot open and Charlie’s head popped out, half a cigarette behind one ear.

“Morning, miss. Mr Knowles would like to see you when you’ve got a minute.” He slipped back into his box.

Mr Knowles was the theatre manager. Sally wondered what he wanted. Another complaint from Clarice Dupont? “Sally won’t do this”; “Sally won’t do that”. Well, I’m just in the mood, Sally thought as she marched up to the office door, knocked and went in.

Mr Knowles greeted her with a smile and waved her to a chair opposite his desk. He was an elderly man with a shock of snow-white hair and an old-fashioned high-neck collar and black cravat. Bright blue eyes looked at Sally through thin gold-rimmed spectacles.

“And how are things with you, Miss Swift?” he asked benignly.

Oh, well, in for a penny, in for a pound.

“To tell you the truth, Mr Knowles, I’m fed up. I will

not . . .” she banged her umbrella on the floor to emphasise her point “. . . be Miss Dupont’s servant. Just what is the point of my being with the show?”

He opened his mouth to speak but Sally went on.

“I do not wish Miss Dupont any harm, believe me, but short of her breaking a leg or being abducted by aliens, there is no chance of me getting on stage.”

“Ah, but there is, Miss Swift.” Mr Knowles paused for a moment. “Yes, I know . . .” he waved his hands in surrender “. . . Miss Dupont is a trouper, isn’t she?”

“That’s one word for her,” Sally said.

“The thing is, Miss Swift, I’ve had a telephone call from Mr Jacob Foster’s office, and the insurers of the show would feel happier if the star’s understudy had the experience of performing at least one complete performance. How would Wednesday’s matinee suit?” He beamed at her.

Sally nodded.

“Yes. Yes, of course,” she said weakly. “Does Miss Dupont know?”

Mr Knowles’s lips pouted.

“I’ll be telling her later this morning.”

Sally left Mr Knowles’s office in a mixture of emotions. She was excited, a little apprehensive, determined but nervous, everything swirling round in her mind and butterflies fluttering in her stomach. The moment she had waited for was here. Could she seize it?

She knew whom she had to thank for this. Will Griffiths had told her he would help. He must have been in touch with his war-time friend and begged a favour. Well, she couldn’t let him down.

Her mind went back to when they’d last met. She’d been so sad and then he’d kissed her; she was in his arms and she felt safe and happy, and when he’d gone she still wanted his arms around her. Was it just her unhappiness, or was she falling in love with that quiet, strong man?

Would she swap stardom for a place back with her friends in the Jolly Goods? They had encouraged her, supported her. She owed it to them to give it her best shot. There was a sharp knock at her dressing-room door. She knew who it was.

“Come in, Clarice.”


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