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."Any news?" Sidney began to ask againevery evening, but I managed always to say,"Not yet!" with cocky assurance."He'll sendfor me, never fear," I said, warmed with thethought of the applause I was getting and thepress notices.The season with Casey's Circus was ending andI took care not to let any hint of my inten-tion to leave reach the cars of the manager,but I refused to believe that I would beobliged to fall back on him.I looked eagerlyevery day for another note from Carno."Don't worry'-, I'll see you get your bitwhen the time is ripe," I told the old comedianwhenever he importuned me for news, as he didfrequently."You know how it is, old top— you have to manage these big men justright."At last the note came.It reached me at mylodgings early one morning, having been senton from the theater, and I trembled with ex-citement while I dressed.I forced myself toeat breakfast slowly and to idle about a bitbefore starting for Carno's offices, not toreach them too early and appear too eager,but when at last I set out the cab seemed todo no more than crawl."Well, I find I can use you in the Americancompany," Mr.Carno said."Very well," I replied nonchalantly."And — er — as to salary — ," he began, butI cut in."Salary?" I said, shrugging my shoulders."Why mention it ? We went over that before,"and I waved my hand carelessly."Sixpounds," I said airily.He looked at me a minute, frowning.Thenhe laughed."All right, confound you I" he said, smiling,and took out the contract.Three weeks later, booked for a solid year inthe United States, looking forward to playingon the Keith circuit among the Eastern sky-scrapers and on the Orpheum circuit in theWild West among the American red men, Istood on the deck of a steamer and saw therugged sky-line of New York rising from thesea.CHAPTER XXIVIn which I discover many strange things in thatstrange land, America; visit San Francisco forthe first time; and meet an astounding receptionin the offices of a cinematograph company.NOW, since I was twenty at the time, four yearsago, when I stood on the deck of the steamerand saw America rising into view on the horizon,it may seem strange to some persons that I hadno truer idea of this country than to supposejust west of New York a wild country inhabitedby American Indians and traversed by greatherds of buffalo.It is natural enough, however,when one reflects that I had spent nearly all mylife in London, which is, like all great cities,a most narrow-minded and provincial place, andthat my only schooling had been the little mymother was able to give me, combined later withmuch eager reading of romances.Fenimore Cooper,your own American writer, had pictured for methis country as it was a hundred years ago,and what English boy would suppose a wholecontinent could be made over in a short hundredyears?186So, while the steamer docked, I stood quiver-ing with eagerness to be off into the wondersof that forest of skyscrapers which is NewYork, with all the sensations of a boy trans-ported to Mars, or any other unknown world,where anything might happen.Indeed, oneof the strangest things — to my way of think-ing — which I encountered in the New World,was brought to my attention a moment after Ilanded.At the very foot of the gangplankMr.Reeves, the manager of the American com-pany, who was with me, was halted by a veryfat little man, richly dressed, who rushed upand grasped him enthusiastically by bothhands."Velgome! Velgome to our gountry!" hecried."How are you, Reeves? How goes it?"Mr.Reeves replied in a friendly manner, andthe little man turned to me inquiringly."Who's the kid?" he asked."This is Mr.Chaplin, our leading comedian,"Mr.Reeves said, while I bristled at the word"kid." The fat man, I found, was Marcus Loew,a New York theatrical producer.He shookhands with me warmly and asked immediately,"Veil, and vot do you think of our gountry,young man?""I have never been in Berlin," I said stiffly."I have never cared to go there," I addedrudely, resenting his second reference to myyouth."I mean America.How do you like America? Thisis our gountry now.We're all Americans togetherover here !" Marcus Loew said with real enthus-iasm in his voice, and I drew myself up inhaughty surprise."My word, this is a strangecountry," I said to myself.Foreigners, andall that, calling themselves citizens ! Thisis going rather far, even for a republic,even for America, where anything might happen.That was the thing which most impressed mefor weeks.Germans, it seemed, and Englishand Irish and French and Italians and Poles,all mixed up together, all one nation —it seemed incredible to me, like somethingagainst all the laws of nature.I went aboutin a continual wonder at it.Not even the highbuildings, higher even than I had imagined,nor the enormous, flaming electric signs onBroadway, nor the high, hysterical, shrillsound of the street traffic, so differentfrom the heavy roar of London, was so strangeto me as this mixing of races.Indeed, it wasmonths before I could become accustomed to it,and months more before I saw how good it is,and felt glad to be part of such a nationmyself.188We were playing a sketch called 'A Night in aLondon Music-Hall', which probably many peoplestill remember.I was cast for the part of adrunken man, who furnished most of the comedy,and the sketch proved to be a great success,so that I played that one part continuouslyfor over two years, traveling from coast tocoast with it twice.The number of American cities seemed endlessto me, like the little bores the Chinese make,one inside the other, so that it seems nomatter how many you take out, there are stillmore inside [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]