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A Breath Of Life
by [?]

“Yes, yes,” he said. “Your plan is better. I will say you are ill. It is true; you are mad. To-morrow we will play it as it was written.”

“You can’t,” said the author gloomily. “The critics won’t come till the Fourth Act, and they’ll assume that the Third Act ended as it did to-night. The Fourth Act will seem all nonsense to them.”

“True. And I was so good, so much myself, in that Act.” He turned to Prosper. “You–fool!”

“Or there’s another way,” began the author. “We might—-“

And then a gentleman in the gallery settled it from the front of the curtain. There was nothing in the programme to show that the play was in four acts. “The Time is the present day and the Scene is in Sir Geoffrey Throssell’s town-house,” was all it said. And the gentleman in the gallery, thinking it was all over, and being pleased with the play and particularly with the realism of the last moment of it, shouted “Author!” And suddenly everybody else cried “Author! Author!” The play was ended.

. . . . .

I said that this was the story of a comedy which nearly became a tragedy. But it turned out to be no tragedy at all. In the three acts to which Prosper Vane had condemned it the play appealed to both critics and public; for the Fourth Act (as he recognised so clearly) was unnecessary, and would have spoilt the balance of it entirely. Best of all, the shortening of the play demanded that some entertainment should be provided in front of it, and this enabled Mr. Levinski to introduce to the public Professor Wollabollacolla and Princess Collabollawolla, the famous exponents of the Bongo-Bongo, that fascinating Central African war dance which was soon to be the rage of society. But though, as a result, the takings of the Box Office surpassed all Mr. Levinski’s previous records, our friend Prosper Vane received no practical acknowledgment of his services. He had to be content with the hand and heart of the lady who played Winifred, and the fact that Mr. Levinski was good enough to attend the wedding. There was, in fact, a photograph in all the papers of Mr. Levinski doing it.