**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


A Breath Of Life
by [?]

. . . . .

I met Prosper Vane at the club some ten days before the first night, and asked him how rehearsals were going.

“Oh, all right,” he said. “But it’s a rotten play. I’ve got such a dashed silly part.”

“From what you told me,” I said, “it sounded rather good.”

“It’s so dashed unnatural. For three whole acts this girl and I are in love with each other, and we know we’re in love with each other, and yet we simply fool about. She’s a dashed pretty girl, too, my boy. In real life I’d jolly soon—-“

“My dear Alfred,” I protested, “you’re not going to fall in love with the girl you have to fall in love with on the stage? I thought actors never did that.”

“They do sometimes; it’s a dashed good advertisement. Anyway, it’s a silly part, and I’m fed up with it.”

“Yes, but do be reasonable. If Dick got engaged at once to Winifred what would happen to Levinski? He’d have nothing to do.”

Prosper Vane grunted. As he seemed disinclined for further conversation I left him.

. . . . .

The opening night came, and the usual distinguished and fashionable audience (including myself), such as habitually attends Mr. Levinski’s first nights, settled down to enjoy itself. Two acts went well. At the end of each Mr. Levinski came before the curtain and bowed to us, and we had the honour of clapping him loud and long. Then the Third Act began….

Now this is how the Third Act ends:–

Exit Sir Geoffrey.

Winifred (breaking the silence). Dick, you heard what he said. Don’t let this silly money come between us. I have told you I love you, dear. Won’t you–won’t you speak to me?

Dick. Winifred, I—- (He gets up and walks round the room, his brow knotted, his right fist occasionally striking his left palm. Finally he comes to a stand in front of her.) Winifred, I—- (He raises his arms slowly at right angles to his body and lets them fall heavily down again.) I can’t. (In a low, hoarse voice) I–can’t! (He stands for a moment with bent head; then with a jerk he pulls himself together.) Good-bye! (His hands go out to her, but he draws them back as if frightened to touch her. Nobly) Good ber-eye.

[He squares his shoulders and stands looking at the audience with his chin in the air; then with a shrug of utter despair, which would bring tears into the eyes of any young thing in the pit, he turns and with bent head walks slowly out.


That is how the Third Act ends. I went to the dress rehearsal, and so I know.

How the accident happened I do not know. I suppose Prosper was nervous; I am sure he was very much in love. Anyhow, this is how, on that famous first night, the Third Act ended:–

Exit Sir Geoffrey.

Winifred (breaking the silence). Dick, you heard what he said. Don’t let this silly money come between us. I have told you I love you, dear. Won’t you–won’t you speak to me?

Dick (jumping up). Winifred, I—- (with a great gulp) I LOVE YOU!!!

Whereupon he picked her up in his arms and carried her triumphantly off the stage … and after a little natural hesitation the curtain came down.

. . . . .

Behind the scenes all was consternation. Mr. Levinski (absolutely furious) had a hasty consultation with the author (also furious), in the course of which they both saw that the Fourth Act as written was now an impossibility. Poor Prosper, who had almost immediately recovered his sanity, tremblingly suggested that Mr. Levinski should announce that, owing to the sudden illness of Mr. Vane, the Fourth Act could not be given. Mr. Levinski was kind enough to consider this suggestion not entirely stupid; his own idea having been (very regretfully) to leave out the two parables and three reminiscences from India and concentrate on the love-scene with the widow.