"Dear me"' said Mr. Mackwayte' "I'm afraid I'm a bit behind the times. Has she been appearing here long?"
"First appearance in London, old man' and she's made good from the word 'Go!' She's been in Paris and all over the Continent, and America, too, I believe, but she had to come to me to soar to the top of the bill. I saw at once where she belonged! She's a real artiste, temperament, style and all that sort of thing and a damn good producer into the bargain! But the worst devil that ever escaped out of hell never had a wickeder temper! She and I fight all the time! Not a show, but she doesn't keep the stage waiting! But I won! I won't have her prima donna tricks in this theatre and so I've told her! Hullo, Georgie's he's finishing..."
The great curtain switched down suddenly, drowning a cascade of applause, and a bundle of old clothes, twitching nerves, liquid perspiration and grease paint hopped off the stage into the centre of the group. An electric bell trilled, the limelights shut off, with a jerk that made the eyes ache, a back-cloth soared aloft and another glided down into its place, the comedian took two, three, four calls, then vanished into a horde of dim figures scuttling about in the gloom.
An electric bell trilled again and deep silence fell once more, broken only by the hissing of the lights.
"You ought to stop behind after your turn and see her, Mac," the stage manager's voice went on evenly. "All right, Jackson! On you go, Mac!"
Barbara felt her heart jump. Now for it, daddy!
The great curtain mounted majestically and Arthur Mackwayte, deputy turn, stumped serenely on to the stage.
CHAPTER II. CAPTAIN STRANGWISE ENTERTAINS A GUEST