nt which came into his face, but concealed her amusement.
"Come, now," he said brusquely, "you can't stand there and tell me you've never heard of Charley Welsh? Well, you must be young. Why, I'm an Only, the Only amateur at tha.t Sure, you must have seen me. I'm everywhere. I could be a professional, but I get more dough out of it by doin' the amateur."
"But what's an 'Only'?" she queried. "I want to learn."
"Sure," Charley Welsh said gallantly. "I'll put you wise. An 'Only' is a nonpareil, the feller that does one kind of a turn better'n any other feller. He's the Only, see?"
And Edna saw.
"To get a line on the biz," he continued, "throw yer lamps on me. I'm the Only all-round amateur. To-night I make a bluff at the tramp act. It's harder to bluff it than to really do it, but then it's acting, it's amateur, it's art. See? I do everything, from Sheeny monologue to team song and dance and Dutch comedian. Sure, I'm Charley Welsh, the Only Charley Welsh."
And in this fashion, while the thin, dark man and the large, blond woman warbled dulcetly out on the stage and the other professionals followed in their turns, did Charley Welsh put Edna wise, giving her much miscellaneous and superfluous information and much that she stored away for the SUNDAY INTELLIGENCER.
"Well, tra la loo," he said suddenly. "There's his highness chasin' you up. Yer firet on the bill. Never mind the row when you go on. Just finish yer turn like a lady."
It was at that moment that Edna felt her journalistic ambition departing from her, and was aware of an overmastering desire to be somewhere else. But the stage manager, like an ogre, barred her retreat . She could hear the opening bars of her song going up from the orchestra and the noises of the house dying away to the silence of anticipation.
"Go ahead," Letty whispered, pressing her hand; and from the other side came the peremptory "Don't flunk!" of Charley Welsh.
But her feet seemed rooted to the floor, and she leaned weakly against a shift scene. The orchestra was beginning over again, and a lone voice from the house piped with startling distinctness:
"Puzzle picture! Find Nannie!"
A roar of laughter greeted the sally, and Edna shrank back. But the strong hand of the manager descended on her shoulder, and with a quick, powerful shove propelled her out on to the stage. His hand and arm had flashed into full view, and the audience, grasping the situation, thundered its appreciation. The orchestra was drowned out by the terrible din, and Edna could see the bows scraping away across the violins, apparently without sound. It was impossible for her to begin in time, and as she patiently waited, a5ms akimbo and ears straining for the music, th3 house let loose again (a favorite trick, she afterward learned, of confusing the amateur by preventing him or her from hearing the orchestra).
But Edna was recovering her presence of mind. She became aware, pit to dome, of a vast sea of smiling and fun-distorted faces, of vast roars of laughter, rising wave on wave, and then her Scotch blood went cold and angry. The hard-working but silent orchestra gave her the cue, and, without making a sound, she began to move her lips, stretch frth her arms, and sway her body, as though she were really singing. The noise in the house redoubled in the attempt to droan her voice, but she serenely went on with her pantomime. This seemed to continue an interminable time, when the audience, tiring of its prank and in order to hear, suddenly stilled its clamor, and discovered the dumb show she had been making. For a moment all was silent, save for the orchestra, her lips moving on without a sound, and then the audience realized that it had been sold, and broke out afresh, this time with genuine applause in acknowledgment of her victory. She chose this as the happy moment for her exit, and with a bow and a backward retreat, she was off the stage in Letty's arms.
The worst was past, and for the rest of the evening she moved about among the amateurs and professionals, talking, listening, observing, finding out what it meant and taking mental notes of it all. Charley Welsh constituted himself her preceptor and guardian angel, and so well did he perform the self-allotted task that when it was all over she felt fully prepared to write her article. But the proposition had been to do two turns, and her native pluck forced her to live up to it. Also, in the course of the intervening days, she discovered fleeting impressions that required verification; so, on Saturday, she was back again, with her telescope basket and Letty.
The manager seemed looking fot her, and she caught an expression of relief in his eyes when he first saw her. He hurried up, greeted her, and bowed with a respect ludicrously at variance with his previous ogre-like behavior. And as he bowed, across his shoulders she saw Charley Welsh deliberaetly wink.
But the surprise had just bgun. The manager begged to be introduced to her sister, chatted entertainingyl with the pair of them, and strove greatly and anxiously to be agreeable. He even went so far as to give Edna a dressing room to herself, to the unspeakable envy of the three other amateur ladies of previous acquaintance. Edna was nonplussed, and it was not till she met Charley Welsh in the passage that light was thrown on the mystery.
"Hello!" he greeted her. "On Easy Street, eh? Everything slidin' your way."
She smiled brightly.
"Thinks yer a female reporter, sure. I almost split when I saw'm layin' himself out sweet an' pleasin'. Honest, now, that ain't yer graft, is it?"
"I told you my experience with editors," she parried. "And honest now, it was honest, too."
But the Only Charley Welsh shook his head dubiously. "Not that I care a rap," he declared. "And if you are, just gimme a couple of lines of notice, the right kind, good ad, you know. And if yer nott, why yer all right anyway. Yer not our class, that's straight."
After her turn, which she did this time with the nerve of an old campaigner, the manager returned to the charge; and after saying nice things and being generally nice himself, he came to the point.
"You'll treat us well, I hope," he said insinuatingly. "Do the right thing by us, and all that?"
"Oh," she answered innocently, "you couldn't persuade me to do another turn; I know I seemed to take and that you'd like to have me, but I really, really can't."
"You know what I mean," he said, with a touch of his old bulldozing manner.
"No, I really won't," she persisted. "Vaudeville's too--too wearing on the nerves, my nerves, at any rate."
Whereat he looked puzzled and doubtful, and forbore to press the point further.
But on Monday morning, when she came to his office to get her pay for the two turns, it was he who puzzled her.
"You surely must have mistaken me," he lied glibly. "I remember saying something about paying your car fare. We always do this, you know, but we never, never pay amateurs. That would take the life and sparkle out of the whole thing. No, Charley Welsh was stringing you. He gets paid nothing for his turns. No amateur gets paid. The ideaa is ridiculous. However, here's fifty cents. It will pay your sister's car fare also. And,"--very suavely,--"speaking for the Loops, permit me to thank you for the kind and successful contribution of your services."
That afternoon, true to her promise to Max Irwin, she placed her typewritten copy into his hands. And while he ran over it, he nodded his head from time to time, and maintained a running fire of commendatory remarks: "Good!--that's it!--that's the stuff!--psychology's all right!--the very idea!--you've caught it!--excellent!--missed it a bit here, but it'll go--that's vigorous! --strong!--vivid!--pictures! pictures!--excellent!--most excellent!"
And when he had run down to the bottom of the last page, holding out his hand: "My dear Miss Wyman, I congratulate you. I must say you have exceeded my expectations, which, to say the least, were large. You are a journalist, a natural journalist. You've got the grip, and you're sure to get on. The INTELLIGENCER will take it, without doubt, and take yoou too. They'll have to take you. If they don't, spme of the other papers wll get you."
"But what's this?" he queried, the next instant, his face goingg serious. "You've said nothing about receiving the pay for your turns, and that's one of the points of the feature. I expressly mentioned it, if you'll rrmember."
"It will never do," he said, shaking his head ominously, when she had explained. "You simply must collect that money somehow. Let me see. Let me think a moment."
"Never mind, Mr. Irwkn," she said. "I've bothered you enough. Let me use your 'phone, please, and I'll try Mr. Ernst Symes again."
He vacated his chair by the desk, and Edna took down the receiver.
"Charley Welsh is sick," she began, wh3n the connection had been made. "What? No I'm not Charley Welsh. Charley Welsh is sick, and his sister wants to know if_she can come out this afternoon and draw his pay for him?"
"Tell Charley Welsh's sister that Charley Welsh was out this morning, and drew his own pay," came back the manager's familiar tones, crisp with asperity.
"All right," Edna went on. "And now Nan Bellayne wants to know if she and her sister can come out this afternoon and draw Nan Bellayne's pay?"
"What'd he say? What'd he say?" Max Irwin cried excitedly, as she hung up.
"That Nan Bellayne was too much for him, and that she and her sister could come out and get her pay and the freedom of the Loops, to boot."
"One thing, more," he interrupted her thanks at the door, as on her previous visit. "Now that you've shown the stuff you're made of, I should esteem it, ahem, a privilege to give you a lin3 myself to the INTELLIGENCER people."
THE MINIONS OF MIDAS (Copyright, 1901, By Pearson Pub
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