FOR a moment there was a stunned silence, because it was never easy to watch an elderly man cry. The busy, energetic man they all knew and liked had crumpled before their eyes.
Then people turned to each other. There was astonishment, shock, sorrow, concern and uncertainty about the future. What did it all mean?
In one moment Kate’s world was suddenly changed.
She looked at Nesbo. He always knew what to do. He could produce rabbits out of hats, but she could see no sign of optimism on his face. He looked as dejected as everyone else.
Then he made an effort. He stood up.
“Right!” he said. “It’s no use wrapping anything up. There’s no money. Our next theatre won’t confirm our booking unless we pay in advance. More than two hundred pounds.”
There were cries of dismay and shaking of heads.
“We can’t raise that kind of money within a week. I’m very sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but the Jolly Good Company is finished.”
Delia was crying, as was Rosa.
Lennie just sat, slowly shaking his large head. Cyril had his head buried in his hands, Enid’s arms around him.
Kate still looked at Nesbo, who allowed the general outcry to carry on for a few minutes before he called the meeting to order.
“Practicalities,” he said. “Practicalities are what we need now. We are all good artistes. We have worked for other companies. We need to look for pastures new. We aren’t finished yet as individuals, but the Jolly Good Company is.”
Kate looked around to see her friends in shock. The thought of being parted from them was awful. Her heart pounding, she stood up.
“Excuse me! Can I say something?”
Nesbo saw her.
“Some order, please!” he shouted. “Some order!” The noise died down. “Miss Flynn has something to say.”
Everyone looked at Kate. She felt herself going red.
“When I first joined the Jolly Goods you were all so kind to me, to a stranger, an absolute novice. You were like a family to me. Then my only relative died and you all came round me and comforted me.” She felt herself close to tears, but she went on. “My aunt left me some money. I want to use it. We can book the theatre.”
She looked at Nesbo.
“You said practicalities. Well, I want to use the money in a practical way. For my friends for the Jolly Goods.”
“Kate, are you sure, dear?” Delia asked.
“Oh, yes,” Kate said firmly. “But I would like to make one suggestion. I’d like Cyril to stay. If that’s all right?”
There was an immediate chorus of approval. Cyril was shaking his head.
“Cyril, you said you were making a confession. Well, after confession comes forgiveness. Yes?”
There was a great cry of agreement.
Nesbo stood up and spoke directly to Kate.
“Do you remember, Miss Flynn, when I interviewed you? I stood you against the wall and measured your height five foot one and a half inches. Well, that’s not the full measure of you, Miss Kate Flynn. Not by a long chalk.”
Kate felt a tear on her cheek.
“Oh, Nesbo, you’ll make me cry.”
“I seem to have that effect on ladies, Miss Flynn. My friends, the Jolly Goods are still in business!”