Lady Larkspur

Language: English
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"It was hard luck," said Searles, "that I should spend a year writing a play for a woman only to find that she had vanished—jumped off the earth into nowhere. This was my highest flight, Singleton, the best writing I ever did, and after the vast pains I took with the thing, the only woman I ever saw who could possibly act it is unavailable; worse than that, absolutely undiscoverable! Nobody knows I have this script; I've kept quiet about it simply because I'm not going to be forced into accepting a star I don't want. I have a feeling about this play that I never had about my other things. That girl was its inspiration. The public has been so kind to my small offerings that I'm trying to lead 'em on to the best I can do; something a little finer and more imaginative, with a touch of poetry, if you please. And now——"

He rose from his broad work-table (he scorned the familiar type of desk) and glared at me as though I were responsible for his troubles. As he knew I had been flying in the French Aviation Corps for two years and had just been invalided home, I didn't think it necessary to establish an alibi. But I hastened to express my sympathy for his predicament. Fate had been kind to Dick Searles. In college he had written a play or two that demonstrated his talent, and after a rigid apprenticeship as scene-shifter and assistant producer he had made a killing with "Let George Do It," a farce that earned enough to put him at ease and make possible an upward step into straight comedy. Even as we talked a capacity house was laughing at his skit, "Who Killed Cock Robin?" just around the corner from his lodgings. So his story was not the invention of a rejected playwright to cover the non-appearance of a play which nobody would produce.

"Isn't it always a mistake to write a play for a particular star?" I suggested. "Seems to me I've read somewhere that that is among the besetting sins of you playwrights."

"Old stuff, my boy; but this isn't one of those cases. The person I had in mind for this play wasn't a star, but a beginner, quite unknown. It was when I was in London putting on 'Fairy Gold' that I saw her; she had a small part in a pantomime, and pantomime is the severest test of an actor's powers, you know. A little later she appeared in 'Honourable Women,' a capital play that died early, but there again I felt her peculiar charm—it was just that. Her part was a minor one, but she wore it as she might wear a glove; she was exquisite! No one ever captured my imagination as she did. I watched her night after night. I was afraid that when I heard her voice it would break the spell, and I actually shook like a man with an ague when she tripped out on the stage as the ingénue in 'Honourable Women.' And her laughter! You know how hollow the usual stage mirth is, but that girl's laugh had the joy of the lark ascending!"

"By Jove!" I ejaculated, "there's more here than appears. You're in love with the girl!"

"Rubbish," he cried impatiently. "You'll think I'm talking rot, but this girl was the visualization of a character I had dreamed of and groped after for years....