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The Actor
by [?]

Mr Levinski, the famous actor-manager, dragged himself from beneath the car, took the snow out of his mouth, and swore heartily. Mortal men are liable to motor accidents; even kings’ cars have backfired; but it seems strange that actor-managers are not specially exempt from these occurrences. Mr Levinski was not only angry; he was also a little shocked. When an actor-manager has to walk two miles to the nearest town on a winter evening one may be pardoned a doubt as to whether all is quite right with the world.

But the completest tragedy has its compensations for some one. The pitiable arrival of Mr Levinski at “The Duke’s Head,” unrecognized and with his fur coat slightly ruffled, might make a sceptic of the most devout optimist, and yet Eustace Merrowby can never look back upon that evening without a sigh of thankfulness; for to him it was the beginning of his career. The story has often been told since–in about a dozen weekly papers, half a dozen daily papers and three dozen provincial papers–but it will always bear telling again.

There was no train to London that night, and Mr Levinski had been compelled to put up at “The Duke’s Head.” However, he had dined and was feeling slightly better. He summoned the manager of the hotel.

“What does one do in this dam place?” he asked with a yawn.

The manager, instantly recognizing that he was speaking to a member of the aristocracy, made haste to reply. Othello was being played at the town theatre. His daughter, who had already been three times, told him that it was simply sweet. He was sure his lordship …

Mr Levinski dismissed him, and considered the point. He had to amuse himself with something that evening, and the choice apparently lay between Othello and the local Directory. He picked up the Directory. By a lucky chance for Eustace Merrowby it was three years old. Mr Levinski put on his fur coat and went to see Othello.

For some time he was as bored as he had expected to be, but half-way through the Third Act he began to wake up. There was something in the playing of the principal actor which moved him strangely. He looked at his programme. “Othello–Mr EUSTACE MERROWBY.” Mr Levinski frowned thoughtfully. “Merrowby?” he said to himself. “I don’t know the name, but he’s the man I want.” He took out the gold pencil presented to him by the Emperor–(the station-master had had a tie-pin)–and wrote a note.

He was finishing breakfast next morning when Mr Merrowby was announced.

“Ah, good-morning,” said Mr Levinski, “good-morning. You find me very busy,” and here he began to turn the pages of the Directory backwards and forwards, “but I can give you a moment. What is it you want?”

“You asked me to call on you,” said Eustace.

“Did I, did I?” He passed his hand across his brow with a noble gesture. “I am so busy, I forget. Ah, now I remember. I saw you play Othello last night. You are the man I want. I am producing ‘Oom Baas,’ the great South African drama, next April at my theatre. Perhaps you know?”

“I have read about it in the papers,” said Eustace. In all the papers (he might have added) every day, for the last six months.

“Good. Then you may have heard that one of the scenes is an ostrich farm. I want you to play ‘Tommy.'”

“One of the ostriches?” asked Eustace.

“I do not offer the part of an ostrich to a man who has played Othello. Tommy is the Kaffir boy who looks after the farm. It is a black part, like your present one, but not so long. In London you cannot expect to take the leading parts just yet.”

“This is very kind of you,” cried Eustace gratefully. “I have always longed to get to London. And to start in your theatre!–it’s a wonderful chance.”