Winnie and the Ultra-Superba

Winnie and the Ultra-Superba (1921)
by Bertram Atkey, illustrated by Leslie L. Benson

Extracted from The Saturday Evening Post, 1921 May 14, pp. 14–15, 65–66, 68, 72–74.

3882248Winnie and the Ultra-Superba1921Bertram Atkey

Winnie and the Ultra-Superba


LITTLE Miss Winnie O’Wynn was engaged in considering a problem of much importance, while the early morning chocolate things and a few fresh flowers helped to make the table by her bed quite a pretty picture.

It Took the Form of a Heavy Bruise on the Shapely Arm of Miss Beryl Allen and Several Fresh Bruises Upon Her Already Somewhat Bruised Heart

Mrs. Darnall, her housekeeper, had reported plentiful fog, keen cold and rather more than the average mud outside, and so the curtains were still drawn, the light still burned and the electric fire still warmed the pinkly cozy inmost nest of the girl as, looking charming in her dressing jacket, she sat up in bed studying the rough pencil notes she had been making upon a sheet of writing paper. The notes were somewhat as follows:


I Have

Money at the bank £18,267
Deduct electric-light money 4
Balance £18,263

No money owed to anybody except for the electric-light account, say £4

and my clothes and furniture and my little race horse, Lullaby, who is paid for till the end of next month.

Five per cent on £18,260 is 182 X 5 = £910. Add 60 shillings = £913.

From which it will be seen that like a sensible little girl Winnie had been entertaining herself with an impersonation of the king in his countinghouse.

She surveyed her balance sheet thoughtfully for some minutes, soliloquizing.

“If daddy were alive I know what he would say,” she murmured. “He would strongly advise turning it over. But I don’t think I am very clever at turning my own money over. It produces a crop even if you do nothing but sit and watch it. Of course I could go into the city and learn how to invest it skillfully and make a fortune—perhaps. I could get a position in a stockbroker’s office and work my way up—or down.”

She frowned a little, thinking hard.

“But if I did I should find myself just a little, lonely, bewildered girl in the middle of crowds and crowds of great, keen men as fierce and merciless as a pack of wolves.” She smiled. “I should have to compete with them in their own forests. But if I stay as I am I don’t compete with them at all, and none of them competes with me. So far they seem to compete for me—in my forests. That is ever so much nicer, I think it will be better to leave it alone.”

She carefully crossed out the question mark opposite her query.

“After all,” she smiled, “I have only been in London six months, and I have made eighteen thousand pounds and a splendid little race horse. That is at the rate of thirty-six thousand a year—and three hundred and sixty thousand in ten years. I am only nineteen, and if I live to be sixty, that will be another forty-one years.”

She worked out another sum—thus:

  • £36,000
  • 41

  • 36,000
  • 144,000

  • £1,476,000

She stared, a little astonished at the figure. Then she laughed.

“And I've forgotten the compound interest,” she said.

She began—much in the spirit in which a kitten light-heartedly chases the wisp of fur it uses as a tail—to work cut the compound interest on £36,000 a year for forty-one years, realized that she was in the land of daydreams and decided that she could leave that particular bit of accountancy for a little.

“I should hardly need it,” she said. A thought came to her. “Why, that’s what daddy used to do!” she murmured—“work out what he would have won if the horses he backed had not lost.”

She sighed, for she had been passionately fond of the father who had taught her so many things that, although not part of the strictly conventional education of a girl, were, at any rate, extraordinarily useful. Then she remembered that she was due in a couple of hours to lunch with the Hon. Gerald Peel; and, emerging from daydream land, adventured a slender little foot out of bed en route to her bath.

Lunch with the Honorable Gerald was not an event which quickened Winnie’s pulse, for, oddly enough, he was not one of the type which Winnie classified as canis lupus. He was a cool, quiet youth, lean, clean-shaven, looking older and harder than he really was, and the only beauty which he regarded as being worth serious attention was equine beauty. The Honorable Gerald would cheerfully have turned away from contemplation of the celebrated ankles of that world-famous dancer, Mlle. Insidia Fée, in order to study the pasterns of any groggy old steeplechaser that happened along, and it is certain that had he been given his choice between the matrimonial possession of Winnie and the ownership of Winnie's beautiful little race horse, Lullaby, he would have chosen Lullaby. Winnie never leveled the twin radiances of her blue eyes at him without realizing that no matter how raptly he might gaze upon her face he probably would have gazed even more raptly into the mouth of Lullaby. He was a nice boy, and his name should have been John Hippo Peel.

Which was probably the reason why Winnie regarded Gerald as one of the few friends she felt she could really trust. It was, indeed, chiefly to talk over the possibilities of Winnie’s little racing aristocrat that the lunch had been arranged. But it led Winnie rather abruptly to other possibilities, for it was while they were gossiping over coffee that the gentleman she came to know later as Mr. Benson Boldre made his appearance. He was an acquaintance rather than a friend of the Honorable Gerald, but because he speedily made it clear that he came bearing if not gifts at least great opportunities for Winnie the Honorable Gerald tolerated his advent. He was an extremely well-dressed man of middle age, with a somewhat worn face, thin but rather full-lipped, with gray, slightly dulled eyes. The first impression of him Winnie registered was that he had seen hard times in the past, had softened them considerably and was now becoming a trifle flaccid.

He expanded quickly under the friendly, open, ingenuous gaze of the girl, and presently confessed that he had been watching her for the past hour from a table in a far corner of the room. Winnie’s eyes widened with wonder at that.

“Watching me, Mr. Boldre?”

She seemed to shrink a little, obviously astonished that anyone should find her worthy of more than, say, a passing glance of mild approval. Mr. Boldre perceived that she was a sensitive plant. She noticed him perceiving it.

“Yes, indeed, Miss O’Wynn,” he said heartily. He laughed a little. “You remind me of someone I never knew. Come now, that’s a puzzle, you think.”

“But, please, that’s too difficult, Mr. Boldre—how could I?”

“It was Queen Anne Boleyn,” affirmed Mr. Boldre, smiling. “I am looking for a lady like Queen Anne Boleyn.”

Winnie’s eyes were misty blue with perplexity. The Honorable Gerald was staring at Mr. Boldre much as he might have stared at a man who had said that he preferred to ride a good tricycle rather than a good horse.

“I’ve puzzled you both, I see,” said Boldre with an indulgent smile. “I mean, of course, that I am looking for a lady who comes up to my conception of Queen Anne Boleyn—in order to try to persuade her to accept the star part in a big new film about to be produced by a firm in which I am interested. I have hunted London for her” his voice dropped impressively—“and I believe I have found her!”

The Honorable Gerald stirred.

“You mean Miss O’Wynn, Boldre?”

“T mean that Miss O’Wynn is exactly my idea of the Anne Boleyn I am seeking.”

Winnie’s slim, graceful hands clasped impulsively over her heart.

“But Anne Boleyn was queen of England!” she said in a hushed voice. “How can you imagine that a little girl like me could possibly act the part of a queen, Mr. Boldre? I—I don’t think I have ever had such a compliment as that—but it is impossible.”

She had never looked more exquisite in her life than she did then. Her lips were slightly parted as she leaned forward, her cheeks had taken on a deeper sea-shell flush, her eyes had darkened almost to a sapphire brilliance. Something like a gleam came into those of Mr. Boldre as he watched her—a gleam she knew of old. She had stared into the eyes of a good many men in her short life—and she knew about eyes and gleams and men—also wolves. Then she sighed.

“Ah, but you only say that because it is your nature to be kind, I think, Mr. Boldre,” she said.

But that Mr. Boldre made haste to deny.

“Before Henry VIII came along and made her father an earl or something, dear Miss O’Wynn, what was Anne? Just a charming, blue-eyed little bit of a slip of a fairy thing playing about in the Old World garden of roses and honeysuckle down in the country, as innocent and sweet as—as——

“A yearling,” suggested the Honorable Gerald seriously, rather carried away by Mr. Boldre’s eloquence.

“Well, say a kitten,” amended the star seeker.

Winnie nodded.

“Yes, she was. She loved the garden in her Old World home at Hever Castle. I’ve read of it,” said Winnie.

“When bluff King Hal proposed to make that charming little country maid his queen,” resumed Mr. Boldre, “I expect she felt that it was an impossible position for her to fill. Yet she filled it—temporarily, at any rate.” He smiled.

“The lady I have been seeking is one who can play that child in the old home garden naturally before the camera, Miss Winnie. The other parts—the queen reels—are a matter of brocades and ermine and jewelry and that sort of thing—comparatively easy. But for the first and last reels I want naturalness, and I believe that you, Miss O’Wynn, could take the part to perfection if it were only possible to persuade you to do it.”

Evidently Mr. Boldre believed Winnie to be some one or other of the Honorable Gerald’s aristocratic and wealthy relatives or friends, but the child speedily undeceived him on that point.

“It seems quite wonderful that I should be anything at all like your idea of Anne Boleyn,” she said. “But if it really is so, Mr. Boldre, of course you could easily persuade me—how nice you were to put it like that—to try to act the part. I have acted in amateur theatricals at home. The vicar wrote a splendid play. Do you mean, please, that you would pay me—like the famous stars—to play Anne Boleyn for you?

“Why, certainly, I should be very glad indeed! I should regard it as a stroke of luck for me,” began Mr. Boldre.

“Pay you a toppin’ salary, Miss Winnie—a movie star gets a bewilderin’ figure nowadays,” said the Honorable Gerald. “Make more out of actin’ a tragedy than she’d make if she picked up the Eclipse Stakes.”

“Well, hardly that, hardly that,” said Mr. Boldre blandly. “But certainly she would do extremely well. One would pay a handsome—even a very handsome—figure to Miss O’Wynn, all being well. That I can promise.”

Like most quiet men, the Honorable Gerald was prone to do the right thing at the right time. He perceived that there seemed to be no urgent reason for his continued presence there. He was well aware that Winnie had a living to earn like himself—he, too, being poor if blue-blooded, and horses being hardy feeders in these days of expensive oats—and he desired to put no difficulties in the way of her earning it. He rose.

“Well, I'll be canterin’, Miss Winnie. I know you will like to talk business. You will drive Miss O’Wynn to Lady Fasterton’s place after, eh, Boldre? You're going on to my fascinatin’ cousin’s, aren’t you, Miss Winnie?”

Mr. Boldre, thus tactfully apprised that Winnie had influential friends even if she did accept movie contracts from comparative strangers, hastily, even anxiously, assured them that he and his car were wholly at Winnie's disposal, and Gerald shook hands.

“Take care of him, Miss Winnie,” he said playfully, but with serious eyes. “Business is business, and dear old Boldre is a fine business man. Charge him about half he’s got—if you can’t get more. You ought to squeeze thousands out of him with luck.”

He laughed. “Get his best offer, double it, multiply by two, take away the number you first thought of, put it in black an’ white and consult an expert before signin’ it. Don’t mind me, old chap! Everybody knows that I am simply a walkin’ fatuity when I get more than five yards from a horse.

It was his way of warning Winnie. She needed no warning, but she appreciated the intention. The Honorable Gerald then cantered.

“I shall have to work very hard to make it a success, I expect,” said Winnie.

But Mr. Boldre hastened to reassure her.

“No, dear Miss O’Wynn, I don’t think so. Just be your own sweet, natural self all the time. It will come more easily to you than to a trained actress.”

Winnie smiled into his dull but avid eyes.

“Does it sound very greedy if I ask how much you would pay me, please?” she cooed. “It seems so—so mercenary to bring money into such a beautiful story, and I would much rather not. Only one has to, in a way, hasn’t one?”

Mr. Boldre leaned towards her.

“Of course, dear Miss Winnie, you needn’t feel ashamed to mention money. Well, now—it’s difficult to say offhand exactly how much I shall be able to guarantee you over this film; but you may rest assured that it won’t be less than two hundred pounds, possibly more.”

Winnie’s eyes widened.

“Oh, what a lot of money!” she cried softly. “For me?”

A pronounced satisfaction softened the features of Mr. Boldre.

“Yes, for you. It may be more.”

He passed his hand across his chin in the manner of one who reflects. Winnie noted anew that he was wearing a very fine ring, a big, marvelously colored emerald set in unusually red gold.

“Yes, it may be more—almost certainly it will be. I must talk it over with the manager, Archer. If you are agreeable, Miss Winnie, we will have a conference to-morrow.”

“The costumes!” cried Winnie suddenly. “I had forgotten those. Will they swallow up all my salary, please?”

Mr. Boldre smiled.

“We shall provide those,” he said speciously.

“Oh, how lucky I am!” sighed Winnie.

“Oh, no, not at all. I am the lucky one, insisted Mr. Boldre.

With a quick, impulsive movement Winnie took off a little ring which she was wearing on the middle finger of her right hand. It was a pretty rather than valuable thing—a fragment of opal matrix, oddly brilliant, with a great preponderance of lapis lazuli blue in it. The ring was not rigid, but a bit of gold chain, the opal being bored and held loosely by a gold wire.

“That is for you, please,” she said with a delicious flush.

Boldre stared.

“For me, child?”

“Whenever a great stroke of good luck happens to me I always give away a valued possession. You see it’s unlucky to be lucky without making some sacrifice. Everyone does it nowadays.”

Mr. Boldre hesitated.

“But you mustn’t give me your pretty little ring, child!” he said.

The lovely eyes darkened and grew misty.

“Oh, please, please let me do it! You must have my ring—it will be so unlucky not to.. I always sacrifice to good luck.”

Mr. Boldre yielded. “But I’ve been lucky, too,” he said. “I must make a sacrifice, too, in that case.”

I Always Make a Sacrifice to the God of Good Luck. And I Regard My Meeting With You as One of the Biggest Strokes of Luck"

His hands wandered rather vaguely about his vest pockets, but came empty away. After all, he couldn't offer her a gold toothpick or any bric-a-brac of that description. And to go out and buy a bit of jewelry was hardly equivalent to sacrificing a valued possession. It was most awkward in that the only valued possession he happened to have on him was the emerald ring, which was worth several hundred times as much as the chain ring. A certain sadness made itself manifest in his dull gray eyes. But his heart was in the nets, and a good deal of his intelligence, too, and—well, she was worth it. And he knew—or fondly fancied that he knew—the value of first impressions. He slipped off the great green stone.

“I always make a sacrifice to the god of good luck, too,” he said, staring steadily at her. “And I regard my meeting with you as one of the biggest strokes of luck that f have had for a long time. So you must indulge me as I have indulged you, dear little lady.”

He passed the emerald. Winnie looked frightened.

“Oh, but please!" she begged. “You must not—indeed, you must not give me that! Why, it must be immensely valuable!”

Mr. Boldre suffocated a sigh and took his medicine.

“No more valuable to me, dear little lady, than your pretty little ring to you. You must—you really must let me play the game.”

“Ah, yes, I forgot that. It would not be fair to you to spoil your sacrifice.” She took the ring, sighing. “I have been very silly, very impulsive. I shall not forgive myself. I ought to have waited—and given my ring away later. I see that now—too late.” She gazed—with marked aversion—at the greenly glittering jewel and dropped it into her bag with a sigh. “I have been foolish,” she said

“Not at all,” declared Mr. Boldre truthfully.

Then he drew forth a card—rather with the air of a man who wishes to forget the past—which he gave her. It was not his own card, but that of one Mr. Adalbert Archer, managing director of the Ultra-Superba Film Company, London.

“That is the firm I am backing,” he said, and proceeded to speak well of it, better of its manager and best of its colossal future.

But Winnie, listening with wide, wondering eyes and parted lips, gathered an impression that his conversation contained only about 14 per cent sincerity. His words about the Ultra-Superba Film Company were the words of an admirer, but they rang cracked, like lead money.

She agreed readily to meet Archer at the offices of the company next morning at eleven in order to discuss preliminaries. Mr. Boldre had a busy morning in the city before him and could not go with her, but he promised to put everything in order with Archer over the telephone. Then he told her some things about himself. She listened carefully, so that when presently he drove her to her friend Lady Fasterton’s, she was aware that he was really rich, with wealth largely derived from South African lands that he made his home mainly in South Africa—“A house like a palace, Miss O'Wynn, though I say it myself, and a park the size of a province”—and that he really came to England in order to invest surplus wealth. She gathered that there was no Mrs. Boldre.

Winnie went to the telephone in the library before greeting her friend, Lady Fasterton, and put in a call to her business friend, gentle Mr. George H. Jay, agent, of Finch Court, Southampton Row.

“Is that Mr. Jay’s office, please? Thank you so much. Please, yes—if he is not too busy—yes, Miss O’Wynn. Oh, thank you! Good afternoon, Mr. Jay. Yes, Miss O’Wynn. How do you do? Oh, yes, thank you, Mr. Jay—perfectly well, but I—I—am a little frightened—nervous. Oh, no, nothing painful of that nature, only I have been offered a large sum of money to act for a film, and I don’t quite know whether I ought to take it. Oh, yes, you could come round at once, if you liked. You are always so kind to me, Mr. Jay. Oh, no, I have not signed anything at all. The firm is called the Ultra-Superba Film Company, and I really wondered if they were good, honorable people with a proper reputation. Yes, that would be better—if you could inquire a little—and, yes, I would call and see you to-morrow morning—whatever you advise me. Thank you again and again—so kind, so kind always. Good-by.”

Winnie hung up and surveyed the instrument with a pensive, blue-eyed smile for a moment.

“Daddy used to say, ‘Set a poacher to catch a poacher,’” she said softly, “and that is the same as setting a wolf to catch a wolf. I know that there is something wolfy about Mr. Boldre, no matter how much he may smile or how nicely he may sacrifice to good luck.”

She took the big green emerald from her bag and looked at it.

“I always loved emeralds,” she said, and slipped it on. “And it will go so well with my hand—when I have had it made smaller.”


IT WAS ten o’clock precisely on the following morning when Winnie, exquisite in a new, very simple walking costume, arrived at the office of George H. Jay. The agent greeted her very cordially, and though there was caution in his eyes, there was also enough admiration to obscure the caution fairly well. He was as breezy as ever, but his breeziness was balmy with a certain deference. Winnie shook hands.

“I am ashamed to bother you so, Mr. Jay,” she said. “But you do understand, don’t you? I have so few friends. Sometimes I think I seem almost fated to be always lonely—all alone in this great city—fighting for myself. Do you remember those terrible Ripons? How good you were to me over that matter! I shall never forget it. Were you lucky enough to find out if the Ultra-Superba Film Company is a firm that a little novice could venture to accept work from, please, Mr. Jay?”

Mr. Jay looked serious.

“I’ve made a lot of inquiries since you rang up, Miss Winnie—a lot of inquiries. I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t get to bed till half past three this morning. I was out with friends in the cinema business.”

Winnie’s eyes widened.

“Oh, Mr. Jay, how tired you must be! All for me!”

Mr. Jay laughed his reverberant and jolly laugh.

“That comes in the way of business—all in the day’s work, ha-ha! Besides, it was worth it. I found out all we need to know about the firm.”

“So soon, Mr. Jay!” marveled Winnie.

“I’m a quick man, you know, Miss Winnie—quick and sure—ha-ha!” Then he became more serious. “I’m puzzled about them,” he went on. “You see, they’re no good. They haven’t any money. And Archer, their manager, may not be a crook. That’s how people put it to me when I asked them about him. They all began like that—‘Archer? Well, Jay, of course he may not be a crook.’ So I pushed my inquiries rather far. In fact, as luck would have it, I got in touch with the man who ran all the office side of their business until Archer discharged him recently. He told me everything.”

Mr. Jay lowered his voice.

“My dear Miss Winnie, the Ultra-Superba Film Company is stone dead, and Archer is liable to bolt any day. Their studio at Willesden Green is next door to derelict, the bailiffs are practically in at Archer's flat and the only staff he keeps now is the lady, Miss Allen, who spends most of her time at Archer’s flat as housekeeper and occasionally lends him a hand at his office as his secretary. The firm is no good, and I beg you to ignore them and any offers they may make. I am glad—grateful—that you rang me up. I want to see you make a great success in London, Miss Winnie, and if you can only remain as you are now, so fresh, so unspoiled, so natural and ingenuous, it will all come in time. Old George H. Jay is working for you. believe him! It won't be long before he has a position to offer you, if you are still open to one. And if you have a gift for acting—well, we'll see. I didn’t know you could act.”

“Well, some years ago the vicar wrote a splendid play, and I acted in that, you see, Mr. Jay,” said Winnie shyly.

Mr. Jay’s mouth went pursy, as if he had bitten upon a lemon-sweet orange in the dark, and he laughed rather hollowly.

“I see, dear Miss Winnie, I see. Well, I shall look out for some nice opening as ingénue. But do keep clear of that Ultra-Superba man. He has no money whatever. Quite dangerous, in fact.”

Winnie rose.

“Thank you very much, dear Mr. Jay. I know it seems mercenary to act like that, but they drive one to be mercenary in self-defense, don’t they?”

“Yes, indeed, they do—ha-ha—certainly!” agreed Mr. Jay.

But in spite of the agent’s alarming advice, Winnie went straight on to the offices of the Ultra-Superba Company, for it was obvious that the breezy George had not heard of Mr. Boldre, and at present the girl did not feel particularly moved to allow him in on the same floor as that shortly to be occupied by the Boldre money. She was as innocent as that.

The Ultra-Superba offices were not very superb, but they were rather ultra-ultra-shabby. Winnie climbed a flight of stairs to get to them. She found the outer office empty, with the opaque-glass door to the inner office half open. She had entered without noise, and it was while she paused a moment, a little disappointed at the dusty shabbiness of the place, that she heard a woman crying in the inner office.She went quietly through the door, to discover a much better-looking office with a big desk by the window. There was a reasonable carpet and a number of flamboyant posters. At the big desk sat a woman. She had been crying, but she heard the movement at the door and lifted her head, hastily drying her eyes. She was a tall, slim brunette, not without a haggard, darkling beauty.

“Oh, I—I am so sorry,” said Winnie. “You see, there was nobody in the outer office.” She came up to the tall woman, offering both her hands impulsively. “Never mind that,” she said. “You—are you in in trouble? Won’t you let me try to help, please? I, too, have had troubles, and we women ought to help each other.”

The dark one looked at her rather helplessly, made an effort, recovered herself and flashed a glance at a clock on the desk. It was a quarter to eleven. Winnie was early. Then the dark eyes suddenly concentrated on Winnie's face in as searching a stare as the girl had ever known, clung, wavered and melted.

“Ah, you are good—sincere. You meant that about helping me. There aren’t many who say it that mean it, you know. But it’s nothing”—the dark eyes went darker yet—“just a silly woman who has made every mistake in the book having a good cry. Nothing—a fool—take no notice. Only—thank you again, my dear. You are as sweet as you are lovely. Now let’s forget it. I know who you are, I think. Miss O’Wynn, isn’t it? Mr. Archer didn’t expect you till eleven. He’s just popped out. I am his secretary, Miss Allen. Won’t you sit down, Miss O’Wynn?”

She had a charming voice, with a faint, unfamiliar accent that puzzled Winnie for a moment. She made a mental effort—and caught what she wanted. Mr. Boldre had a similar faint accent—odd. Filed for consideration. She smiled at Miss Allen—a slow, delicious, friendly smile that was irresistible.

“But there is a quarter of an hour to wait,” she said, “and that will give us time for a cup of chocolate. Do come with me. It’s so cold and foggy this morning, and you could easily put up a piece of paper on the office door—‘Coming back soon.’ I will take all the blame. Do come!”

Whether it was curiosity, a desire for tea or chocolate or just sheer yielding to the sweet, warm friendliness that Winnie radiated Miss Allen never really quite knew. She may not have cared whether Mr. Archer would be annoyed or not, or she may have known that the girl had made such a hit with Mr. Boldre, of the finances, that what Winnie said was extremely likely to go with Archer. However that may have been, she yielded and went. Women who work for their living in a big city are prone to snatch at any proffer of what they recognize as and genuine friendship. And Miss Allen, as her rather ravaged beauty and her tears had already told Winnie, was sorely in need of a friend.

It was at twenty minutes past eleven that Winnie and Miss Allen returned to the office of the Ultra-Superba Film Company. The secretary was extremely nervous about that twenty minutes, but Winnie gently reassured her.

“I will explain to Mr. Archer that I thought you needed a cup of chocolate, and it be quite all right,” she said naïvely.

But it was not quite so naïve as it sounded. When at the age of three, or thereabouts, she had been a wee, wonderful fairy thing, and had learned that a girl who is wanted can do with the people who want her precisely and exactly as she chooses. And ever since that innocent age she had been studying this interesting fact. Mr. Adalbert Archer, she knew, wanted her services badly. So she was not disposed to fret herself because she had caused Mr. Archer's office to be closed for half an hour. He wanted her much too badly to annoy her with absurd grumblings at such minor inconveniences. If he fancied he could grumble at her, he would have to be put in his place

He was standing at the door of the office with a black scowl on his brow, and he shot a word of sharp anger at Miss Allen as she led the way up the stairs. He bit his lip as he saw Winnie following his secretary, dispersed his scowl and became excessive civil. Miss Allen introduced Winnie; and, making polite noises, he ushered her into his office.

“I expect you feel that an apology is due from me for putting you into the unfortunate position of having to shout at your secretary and me, Mr. Archer,” said Winnie very sweetly. That expletive he had sent down the stairs had grazed her temper.

“My dear Miss O’Wynn, certainly, certainly not!” he cried. “It is I who must apologize for my temper. I have been very worried. I—er—of course it was not at you that I shouted—impossible.”

He grinned ingratiatingly at her, and Winnie smiled more sweetly than ever. She wondered whether it was worth while making him apologize to Miss Allen, but decided that apologies were cheap that day. Probably the brunet lady would prefer what Winnie proposed to get for her; so she nodded. Already she had perceived that Mr. Adalbert Archer was a very ordinary sort of blackguard. A rough, harsh, limited, bullying type of person with no real talent or gifts or training or power of application behind him; and he smelled of cloves and eau de Cologne, and his underlip was very and moist. She saw that probably he often popped out of the office, returning with a renewed flavor of cloves, and she understood why the Ultra-Superba Film Company was in need of a backer. Archer had once been a good-looking man, but he had long ago overdrawn his looks account. He was easy to classify.

Sus porcus—meaning plain hog,” reflected Winnie, secretly amazed that a man of Boldre’s ability should be willing to risk money backing such a clear case as Archer.

He began to speak enthusiastically of the Anne Boleyn film. He ran his eyes calculatingly over Winnie and said that he could see that this was going to be the biggest thing in historical films he had yet touched. He had feared that it would be impossible to find a young lady with just that degree of ingenuous charm which in his view had rendered Anne irresistible to Henry VIII. But he no longer feared. He was satisfied. His mind was at rest. Mr. Benson Boldre had told him yesterday afternoon that in Miss O’Wynn he had discovered the ideal actress for the part, and he agreed. It was very fortunate for the Ultra-Superba Company and, he ventured to say, for Miss O’Wynn. The film would give be a world triumph—yes, indeed, and so on.

“And do I have to sign my name to a—a—contract, I think you call it, please, Mr. Archer?” inquired Winnie presently.

“Oh, yes, for your own protection, Miss O’Wynn. Merely formal—nothing more. It is ready. Just one or two things to fill in. Shall I read it?”

“That would be so kind of you, please, Mr. Archer,” said Winnie.

He read it. There was a gap at the place where the contract called for mention of Winnie’s salary. Winnie called for mention of the same also.

“Yes, of course. Mr. Boldre discussed that with me too. We decided that we would wish to make it for as large an amount as the film can stand—namely, two hundred pounds, Miss O’Wynn.”

He looked at her a little anxiously.

“Oh, what a lot of money!” Winnie cried softly. “Surely it is much too much! Why, when I acted in the vicar’s play they only gave us tea at the vicarage, with cress sandwiches.”

Sus Porcus Archer looked at her with an expression that was a blend of pity and relief.

“I will fill in the amount at two hundred pounds, then, Miss O’Wynn.”

“Oh, not for a moment. If it is not troubling you too much, please, I would be so grateful if I could use your telephone for a moment. I promised to consult a friend. I assure you, Mr. Archer, that we had no such figure as two hundred pounds in our minds.”

He gladly got her through to the Hon. Gerald Peel at the New Turf Club. He was feeling sorry—not for her, but because he had not suggested a hundred. He had not dreamed she would be so easy. He handed her the telephone, and she thanked him with dancing eyes.

“Is that Gerald? This is Winnie O’Wynn. I guessed you would be there. Please, for your advice, Gerald. Mr. Archer, of the Ultra-Superba Film Company, has offered me two hundred pounds to act in the film about poor Queen Anne Boleyn. Isn’t that a lot of money, Gerald? I think I ought to sign the contract quickly before they alter their minds, don’t—oh, Gerald, are you serious?”

Mr. Archer’s smile vanished suddenly like the flame of a blown-out candle.

“I don’t understand—not enough? Yes, I hear, Gerald—-oh, but I couldn’t, really! I haven’t courage. It seems so mercenary.”

Mr. Archer’s jaw began to sag. His ears seemed actually to stand out from his craning head at a wider angle as he listened.

“I am to say—tell me again, Gerald. Yes, yes, yes! Of course I will do as you tell me. I am to say, ‘Two hundred be hanged for a tale!’ How rude it sounds! A thousand or nothing, and they can take it or leave it alone—good gracious!”

Mr. Archer breathed through his nose heavily. Winnie turned, putting her hand on the mouthpiece.

“I—I—my friend says he will never speak to me again,” she said, her eyes misty, “unless I say, ‘Two hundred be hanged for a tale’—I don’t mean that unkindly, of course. ‘It must be a thousand pounds, you to take it or—well, leave it alone.’ That is not meant impolitely. It’s Gerald’s way, Mr. Archer. He is so gay and so careless.”

“Careless!” groaned Archer. “My dear young lady, it’s impossible! I could get almost anybody for that sum. The film won't stand it.”

Winnie nodded sympathetically.

“I know—it’s dreadful,” she murmured, and turned again to the telephone.

“Mr. Archer could get almost anybody for a thousand pounds, Gerald, he says, and the film won’t stand it. What am I to say, Gerald? What do you advise? Oh, but I couldn’t say that to Mr. Archer—he is so kind! I must? Very well, but it makes me unhappy to be so cruel and curt. Tell me again. I must say that if they can get almost anybody for that money then in heaven’s name let them go and get them—how rude business men are!—and if the film won't stand it let the film do the other thing. Very well.”

She turned, looking sadly at Mr. Archer, who emerged from a species of petrified calm to say sullenly, “Very well, I agree.”

Winnie announced through the telephone that Mr. Archer kindly agreed, and rang off. She watched him thoughtfully as he filled in the amount. There was reason for thought, and Winnie was well aware of it. Quite apart from certain impressions she had gently gleaned from Miss Allen, her wits had long ago warned her that this was not an ordinary, normal engagement. She did not believe that either Benson Boldre or Sus Porcus Archer wanted her even at two hundred for her screen-acting talent, certainly not at a thousand; yet Archer agreed. She was aware that it was Boldre’s money he agreed to pay her, but it was very evident that it could not have caused him keener anguish if it had been his own money.

Among the hints she had received from Miss Allen was a friendly suggestion that she might be wise not to take too seriously the hope of ever seeing herself in the Anne Boleyn film. Pressed gently and tactfully, the secretary had told her that she had no real reason to believe that the slightest move had yet been made for preparing the film. More than that Miss Allen would not say. So that, mused Winnie, if the secretary were right and the men had no intention at all of producing such a film, they were paying her a thousand for—what? Perhaps they did not intend paying her either. She smiled a little. How funny! How ingenuous men were. Sometimes they were like little children playing in a nursery, trying hard to be pirates or brigands or wolves.

Archer offered her a pen. She took it.

“You sign there, Miss O’Wynn,” he said, still sulkily.

“I see,” she smiled, put down the pen and opened her hand bag and waited. Mr. Archer waited too. Several seconds went tiptoeing past. Something had to give way. It was Mr. Archer.

“Won't you sign, Miss O’Wynn?” he asked with a painful smile.

“Of course I will! But it’s awfully awkward. But, do you know, Mr. Archer, you have forgotten the advance?”

“Advance, Miss O’Wynn?” muttered Archer.

“The 50 per cent of the fee to be paid me when I sign, you know.”

“Fifty per cent! My dear girl, who said anything about 50 per cent advance?” he cried, glaring.

“Why, Gerald!”

“What's Gerald got to do with it?”

“He is my friend, of course. Don’t you see, Mr, Archer?”

He made a semistrangled sound.

“You mean that unless I pay you five hundred down you won't sign this contract?” he said at last.

Winnie gently gave a sigh of relief.

“That is splendidly put, Mr. Archer. I couldn't have put it so—so neatly and concisely for anything. I always feel so nervous and awkward about money.”

Mr. Archer pulled himself together and took a little walk round the room. He became quiet and more dangerous. Twice he went to the telephone; twice he altered his mind and let it alone. Finally he took out his note case, extracted therefrom a check and handed it to her. It was a bearer check for five hundred pounds signed by Benson Boldre. Winnie folded it away. It was tolerably evident to her that it had been given to Archer for just this purpose. Probably it was either Archer’s or Boldre’s idea of a limit for the whole contract paid in advance for reasons best known to wolfy Mr. Boldre. But Archer had not intended letting her have it.

“That check was not really intended for this purpose, you know, Miss O’Wynn,” he said, eying her closely. “But it will do. You can get cash over the counter for it.”

Winnie thanked him, signed the contract and receipt and, leaving her address, went bankwards very thoughtfully indeed.

“The wolves are hunting in couples this time,” she said to herself as presently she paid in at her own bank. “But I don’t think they trust each other very well. I wonder why. This afternoon I will go out to Willesden and see their studios. It might help me to understand better anything that Miss Allen may tell me to-night.”

For she had invited the secretary to dine with her that evening. Perhaps that was instinct, but Winnie trusted her instinct, for so far it had never proved untrustworthy.


THE visit to Willesden merely corroborated Miss Allen and George H. Jay. Winnie discovered that the studios of the Ultra-Superba Film Company had degenerated into a couple of glazed and leaky sheds containing a few shabby properties. A novice could have seen that they called for a very heavy outlay to get them in shape even for a trivial film, and they certainly bore no sign of any intention of the firm to prepare a big historical film. Wisely, Winnie decided not to waste valuable thought on the affair until she had more material to work upon. It saved her an afternoon of profitless concentration upon a puzzle unsolvable without the key.

But the key to much of it was forthcoming that evening. It took the form of a heavy bruise on the shapely arm of Miss Beryl Allen and several fresh bruises upon her already somewhat bruised heart. All had been caused by Mr. Archer, who, Winnie learned, appeared to have visited upon his secretary-housekeeper late that afternoon much of the anger which Winnie’s not unskillful handling of him had aroused in his soul.

He had been in a deadly temper all day, and it seemed—though naturally Winnie did not comment on this—that the relations between his housekeeper-secretary and himself were of a nature sufficiently complicated to justify him, in his own opinion, in expending his anger on her. But Miss Allen, looking very much less haggard, thanks no doubt to some of those staunch and true little toilet-table aids to beauty to which pretty ladies are so deeply indebted, was clearly through with Mr. Archer. She said so, her fine black eyes glowing, with the arrival of the hors d‘œuvres, and she had not changed her mind with the departure of the sweets.

“I have been a fool,” she said tensely over their coffee. “For the last ten years I have allowed my heart—my emotions—to run me, and you see where it has landed me. In future I follow the promptings of my brains. Don’t feel annoyed, Miss O'Wynn, if I advise you to do the same. Trust no man and fewer women. I know, you see. I have been through the mill.”

Winnie smiled upon her and reminded her that it had not robbed her of all her beauty or charm. Miss Allen laughed less tensely.

“Charm!” she said. “Since I have known you I’ve begun to wonder if I ever had any. You are the one with the charm, Miss O’Wynn. You could charm a woman who was jealous of you—and that’s a miracle. As for charming men, you couldn’t help that.”

That was true enough.

They went to Winnie’s flat for the remainder of the evening, and there Winnie charmed her into telling her story, and her story contained practically everything that Winnie wanted to know. After that Winnie told her a few things—things that stripped the years, the bitterness and worry from her like magic, so that she changed wonderfully within a space of hours into another woman.

“If you can do for me half these things, my dear,” she cried, “it will be as though you had lifted from a quicksand some poor soul who was all but submerged. Ah, you will see! I have been a fool! I shall become a wise woman and have some happiness again!”

She flushed and her eyes glowed. And Winnie, watching her—this tall, slender, distinguished woman still on the edge of the thirties—agreed with her.

Within ten minutes of Beryl Allen’s departure Winnie, in a new pink silk thinking kimono, was curled up on the big couch before the fire, fathoms deep in thought.

The secretary-housekeeper’s story had emptied practically all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on her mental table. All she had do was to fit them together. She mused:

“I knew I was right about Mr. Archer—he really is sus porcus. And he is a criminal too. I can’t imagine any woman running away with him, as Beryl Boldre did, even though, ten years ago, he may have been ever so much handsomer and nicer. But Beryl says that Mr. Boldre is as bad, in a different way, as Archer. I don’t think I like either of them very well, but I am not going to allow myself to be victimized by either of them. Both are wolves by temperament and one is a porcus—or is it a sus?—by disposition. I am going to fight hard to defend myself from them both.

“Now let me see. Ten years ago Mr. Boldre, in South Africa, had tired of his wife, Beryl, and was cruel to her. He made a trip to England without her, and while he was gone she met, fell in love and ran away with Archer. After all sorts of ventures—mostly failures—Archer drifted to London and made a failure of his last venture, the Ultra-Superba Film Company, which isn’t really a company at all.

“He has been trying to find somebody to put money into the company and has always failed until he found out that Mr. Boldre, who has become very wealthy in South Africa, has now a good social position in London. He took advantage of the fact that Mr. Boldre did not know who he was to try to get him interested in his film company, and—Beryl thinks—by hinting that he knows and can cause all that old scandal about Boldre’s cruelty to his wife to come up again he managed to get Boldre inclined to consider favorably the idea of investing money in the film company. Beryl is kept out of the way when there is any possibility of her meeting Boldre.

“Archer is really subtly blackmailing Mr. Boldre, but not unendurably, for it suits Boldre to keep all that past quiet, and it may prove a profitable investment as well, particularly as Archer has a good film in view. After all, the Anne Boleyn idea is quite a good idea. But nothing happened, and things were getting worse and worse financially with Archer until Mr. Boldre met me that day with Gerald Peel. He seems to have taken a great liking to me, and sees an opportunity to kill three birds with one stone. How greedy!”

Winnie smiled, ticking her points off on her fingers.

“First, he keeps Archer quiet about the past by agreeing to invest six thousand pounds in his company.

“Second, if the Anne film is good he might make a good deal of money.

“Third, he can ingratiate himself with me—as he wants to, for I know he is a wolf—I saw it in his eyes—by insisting that part of the money he is investing is paid to me nominally as salary for acting in the film. It is just a way of softening me towards him with the same money as he is using to quiet Archer. How ingenious! It is just like a wolf! And he might even make a great profit at the end of it all!”

She laughed gayly as thus satisfactorily she laid bare the gentle Mr. Boldre’s idea of a really good investment for a few-odd thousand. Then she grew serious again. She looked altogether delightful as she sat there, facing the fire, puzzling out this shady-side jig saw, like an exquisite child puzzling out her next-day school work.

“But,” she said—“but Mr. Boldre does not know that—if Beryl guesses rightly—Mr. Archer intends to spend not one penny of the money on any films, but quietly to disappear with it as soon as he gets it, leaving the business and Mr. Boldre and Beryl and me, his star”—her eyes danced—“to do the best we can. I am sure that is so from his reluctance this morning to part with the five hundred pounds Mr. Boldre meant for me.

“That is the position. Both these men wish to take some wolfish advantage of me, and I must fight hard to defend myself. But how? What can a lonely little girl like me do against such merciless, cruel men? And I have to help poor Beryl Allen—do think Archer might have allowed her to call herself Beryl Archer. He is not a bit chivalrous. It makes me ashamed of men for their own sake. I will go to bed when I have had my chocolate and think and think and think until I think of some way of defending both of us,” she concluded indignantly.

Then she rose, smiled affectionately at the charming little vision in the mirror over the mantel and touched the bell to indicate to her housekeeper that she was ready for her going-to-chocolate.


BUT the morning brought a development in the form of an invitation to lunch from Mr. Benson Boldre. Winnie accepted it, though not in the spirit in which possibly it was offered; also the motor run which Boldre proposed for the afternoon and the dinner following the run.

It was, as she expected, the beginning of an extremely assiduous bid for her affections by the gentleman from Africa’s sunny clime—so assiduous, indeed, that Winnie swiftly became aware that Boldre was quite amazingly in love with her. Nevertheless, she expected to receive no proposition from him except some perfectly unacceptable wolfy invitation to share as many of his world’s goods as he could spare except his name. That she was prepared to deal with when it arose.

But she certainly did not expect what actually happened. Boldre was a tolerably competent judge of people, too, it seemed, for he wasted no time in making impossible proposals, though doubtless that had been is intention when he first arranged to endow Winnie with the Anne Boleyn money.

Four days later he quietly but firmly asked Winnie to marry him and settle down with him in South Africa, life there to be mitigated by occasional visits home. Winnie was startled, but as usual she kept her head. She looked at him shyly with those bright and childlike eyes of hers.

“Oh, but, please, I have not thought about marriage yet!” she fluttered. “You see, I am only nineteen.”

He said it all over again. Winnie was too busy a interrupt him. It was evident that either he believed his first wife was dead or could be easily divorced, or he was so carried away that he was willing to risk it. Beryl Allen had been right when she said he was as bad in his way as Archer, reflected Winnie. She temporized.

“You must let me think this over, please,” she cooed. “It is a—a great honor. You are so kind. It moves me very much. I can’t think what you can see in me—just a little girl like me. Please let me think about it all for a few days, Mr. Boldre. I don’t feel that I could cope—you are so rich, aren’t you? I should have to learn about money and how to manage people. It would be so responsible, and I am only nineteen after all!”

“Perhaps that’s why, little girl,” he said avidly.

But he was satisfied with the way she had received his proposal. His quick, hard mind ranged swiftly forward. After all, even if his wife of ten years before ever appeared again—which was unlikely—he had no doubt that she could be swiftly divorced or this sweet, simple child, Winnie, be persuaded into shrinking from the publicity of legal action. Besides, he wanted her, and that settled it. So he smiled one of his less wolfy smiles.

“Take your time, my dear,” he said. “I don’t want to stampede you—to hurry you, As long as you feel you don’t hate me——

“Oh, Mr. Boldre! Hate you!” Winnie was shocked.

He laughed and patted her hand, on one of the slender fingers of which glowed a great green emerald.

“That’s all right, dear little girl. Think it over—only try not to keep me waiting too long.”

Winnie had no intention of keeping him waiting.

It was Monday. She knew that he had arranged to pay Archer the balance of the money he was investing in the Ultra-Superba Company on the following Wednesday, and she decided that she could give him his answer on Thursday. She glanced at him, dropped her eyes, then with an access of courage looked him full in the face, with a wonderful a of half surrender that shot a thrill through him, roué though he was.

“I—I don’t think I want to keep you waiting long,” she whispered. “I will decide on Thursday.”

“Splendid!” he said a little wildly, quite sure of her.

But he could not leave it at that. He was in a very picturesque mood, indeed, and instantly proved it.

“And now,” he said, “I am going to have my own way about something. You have always refused to accept anything from me, my dear. But I insist on marking this afternoon with a white stone”—she thought of diamonds—“yes, a milestone!” She had a better thought. “I am going to buy you something.”

She rose.

“Oh, ought I to accept,” she said, “until after Thursday?”

“You have got to, my dear,” he told her with fond firmness.

“May I telephone to a friend first, please,” she asked with a curious sweet air of submission that charmed him.

“Some girl friend,” he thought, and agreed.

But it was not to any girl friend she telephoned. It was merely to reliable Mr. George H. Jay, that breezy man. Briefly, she begged Mr. Jay to wait at his office that evening until she had seen him. She was in difficulties and needed his never-failing succor. Mr. Jay informed her, with enthusiasm, that large herds of wild horses would fail to drag him from his office until she had called. Sweetly she thanked him, spoke of his kind and chivalrous heart and returned to Mr. Boldre, who had been thinking. He said so.

“I have thought of a splendid scheme,” he said. “This little milestone—I want to know if there is anything, any one thing, which you want particularly. I first thought of giving you a surprise, but I think it would be better to give you something you have wanted badly.”

“There is nothing,” said Winnie, looking sorry to disappoint him.

“Nothing, child?”

She was gazing out at the muddy streets.

“Unless you could invent some wonderful invention by which I could go about London without getting my shoes and skirts splashed by mud.” She laughed gayly. “A new kind of galosh or mackintosh dress protector. Isn’t that absurd? I am so happy to-day that I want to say absurd, impossible things.”

But Mr. Boldre did not appear to think it at all absurd.

“That is soon done!” he said. “And I’ll do it!”

She looked surprised.

“Please, I was only joking!” she cried.

“I am going to buy you a pair of galoshes and a dress protector,” hes aid mysteriously.

She smiled affectionately.

“How funny you are, dear Mr. Boldre!”

Five minutes later they were sliding across Regent Street in Boldre’s big car. They pulled up outside an establishment which had no resemblance whatever to a galoshery or mackintoshery. But it certainly was a very fine motor depot.

“There,” said Boldre speciously—“there is the shoe and dress protector I am going to buy you!”

He pointed to a perfect little miracle of a twelve horse power light coupé in royal blue. Winnie knew it. That little bus was an old friend of hers. It had wanted her from the day they put it in the window. Its graceful little domed mud guards had always seemed like two chubby arms held appealingly out for her; its electric head lamps always seemed like two eyes shining with pleasure at her approach, dulling with disappointment when she left. She had come to see it several times. Once when she had some shopping to do in that street she and Boldre had paused to look at it. But she had not thought he would be quite so quick in the uptake. She had expected a wee trifle more trouble.

“Oh, no, no, please not! Why, it is eight hundred pounds, Mr. Boldre! I couldn’t! It would be so wrong,” she protested, horrified. “I thought you meant just an ordinary present—a stationery case—something like that—a little jewel case——

“Well, my dear, isn’t this a jewel case?”

“Oh, how witty and quick you are!” sighed Winnie, and protested again.

As usual it was all over when Winnie began to protest—all over except the paying.

Boldre was accustomed to having his own way. He had it on this occasion. In any case he knew that his wife would want such a bus sooner or later. It might just as well be now as a few days later. Winnie could drive, he knew. She had told him before how her daddy had taught her.

The car was purchased and ordered to be sent forthwith to Lady Fasterton’s garage with a note from Winnie to that lady. She knew that dear May would extend her hospitality to her little friend’s car for a while. But Winnie was going to dine with Boldre that evening, and it was already late afternoon. She decided to allow the mechanic who was taking the car to Lady Fasterton’s to drop her at her flat. She thanked Boldre while they were running the coupé out. He would have preferred to be thanked in the privacy of his own limousine, but that would have meant denying the jewel her first ride then in the new case. So, as well-trained men do, he put up with it.

But Winnie merely stopped at her flat to pick up her check book and to telephone Miss Beryl Allen at Archer’s flat, asking a question. Whatever it was, the answer was satisfactory. Then she sweetly directed the driver of her nice new coupé to run along to Finch Court. Mr. George H. Jay, as promised, was awaiting her. It was with something remotely resembling paternal or avuncular pride that he welcomed her, and though present, her natural caution was not markedly apparent. He was beginning to realize that the simple innocence of this little ingénue was not so dangerous to him when she came to his office to make use of him as it was when he invited her there with the intention of making use of her.

“Oh, thank you, dear Mr. Jay, for bothering about waiting for me,” she cried. “You know I am ashamed to bother you so, only an idea came into my head, and I thought you would help me, please.”

“Yes, indeed, my dear little lady, that I will,” he offered resonantly.

“It is not very important to you, I know, but it is to me. I want to invest—isn’t that what they say, please—invest?—I want to invest five hundred pounds.”

A faint anxiety flashed into the eyes of gentle Mr. Jay. But he need not have worried. In less than ten minutes she had made it quite clear as to the precise manner in which the five hundred for which she gave him an open check was to be invested. He warned her seriously that she was going to lose her money.

“You are getting a worthless thing for the money, dear Miss Winnie, I assure you. I have made inquiries and I really know.”

But Winnie was gently determined and not to be shaken. She felt sure that she was making a good investment, she said timidly, and even offered to sell Mr. Jay a fifth share of it for one hundred pounds, an offer he declined with some haste and but poorly concealed horror. But he promised at last faithfully to carry out her request, without reservation at all, and she hurried away. He shook his heavy head as he returned from seeing her out.

“Just a baby,” he mused. “A sweet but lucky baby. She’s going to burn her fingers. Well, it may be a good thing for her. Make her careful—a lesson. Lord, what a wildcat buy! Here’s London full of rotten things to invest in, and she’s managed to pick the rottenest of all to put five hundred in! And she offered me a fifth share for a hundred. Me! Old George Careful Jay. Well, well, it only shows you that all the people can’t have all the luck all the time. Pity, though. She’s the prettiest, nicest little thing I’ve ever seen. Like a little bird, bless her! Still, it’ll do her good—and she can afford it.”

Then he looked at the check, pondered a little and made a note or two.

“I’m to be very careful, please,” he chuckled. “Right! I'll pull it off first thing to-morrow. As she’s got to lose her money, I may as well lose it for her as per instructions.”

That was Monday evening. On Wednesday Mr. Benson Boldre was gay, very gay, for Winnie and her friend Lady Fasterton lunched at his flat. He would have preferred Winnie alone, but Winnie thought otherwise. It had been a very jolly lunch, and he was having a little cigarette at the end of it when a note was brought to him. He nodded slightly when he read it and glanced at Winnie.

“Archer is ready now to start serious work on the film,” he said, smiling. “The scenario is fixed up. He wants to arrange about your costumes and some other things at once”—Boldre laughed—“and incidentally he wants the rest of the money I’m investing in it. You must try to get him to pay you another installment of your salary to-morrow.”

Winnie shook her head.

“Oh, I couldn’t press him unkindly,” she said. “Are you sending him the money?”

Boldre nodded.

“If you ladies will forgive the interruption to our little festivity, I will send it now.”

He went across to his desk—they were having coffee in his big, comfortable library—and scribbled the check.

“There, mademoiselle, that’s what your first—and last—appearance in film land is costing me,” he said playfully, passing the pink slip.

It was an open check to the Ultra-Superba Company, as Winnie had judged it would be, for when Archer wanted the money he wanted it quickly—five thousand five hundred pounds. She gazed at it almost, it seemed, in terror. “What a huge sum!” she cried. “I did not dream—look, May dear, it is costing all that money to make the film in which I am acting as Anne Boleyn!”

Lady Fasterton smiled.

“My dear child, that’s quite moderate—extremely moderate for a film nowadays,” she informed the girl, and Boldre nodded.

“It seems vast to me,” sighed Winnie.

She offered the check to Boldre, then drew it back, her eyes sparkling with the excitement of a sudden idea.

“Oh, Mr. Boldre, let me take Mr. Archer this money! I’m sure it will be an omen of good luck. I am going there this afternoon if he is ready to arrange about my costumes. May will come, won’t you? And perhaps you will come, too, Mr. Boldre.”

She was as excited as a child. Boldre smiled.

“All right, you baby,” he said, “you can be the good fairy who hands Archer the money if you like. It’s very kind of Lady Fasterton to help choose your costumes. And if you are likely to be more than an hour at Archer’s, perhaps I may be permitted to come on there presently. I have to wait here till half past two. My lawyer is calling—about some settlements,” he added significantly.

Lady Fasterton had been acting in loco parentis to Winnie, and “marriage” and “settlements” were practically interchangeable terms with dear May. Winnie looked shyly away.

“But you will come on, please, won’t you? We shall wait,” she coaxed.

“Just as quickly as I can,” he promised.

“Ah, you are so kind!” she breathed, her blue eyes radiant.

So she folded and tucked away the check, and with Lady Fasterton went happily off.

“That man is mad for you, child,” said May Fasterton as her car rolled away. “You can tie him round his own little finger. Did you tell Evans where to take us?”

Winnie smiled.

“Yes, dear.”

But Evans, on the quarter-deck of the Fasterton car, went not direct to Archer’s office. Winnie had told him where to go. He stopped first at Boldre’s bank, then at Winnie’s.

Finally he arrived at the office of the Ultra-Superba Company. There was no sign of Beryl Allen—there never was when Boldre was likely to appear. Even as Mr. Adalbert Archer welcomed them another car slipped up, and Boldre entered in high spirits.

“Here we are, then!” he said. “I was quicker than I expected. How about those costumes, Archer?”

Archer said something softly.

“The check—yes, certainly. Miss O’Wynn brought it,” replied Boldre.

He laughed, turning to Winnie. But Winnie did not laugh. She was looking a little shocked.

“Oh, but please, the check was not for Mr. Archer,” she said timidly. “I—surely, Mr. Archer, you don’t expect it. It was to be a little surprise for you”—she smiled to Boldre—“but surely, surely you aren’t surprised, too, Mr. Archer!”

“Not surprised?” choked Archer. He certainly did not look so much surprised as he looked struck by lightning.

“Why, dear Mr. Archer, it was not intended for you, was it? The check was meant for the Ultra-Superba Film Company.”

Boldre’s face grew serious and suspicious. Was this child an adventuress after all? Lady Fasterton was frankly amazed. Winnie went to the door, looked out, smiled and beckoned, and there entered unto the assembled company gentle Mr. George H. Jay, looking as much like a very old-established, excessively respectable family lawyer as he could.

“This gentleman is Mr. Jay, who is so kind that he looks after my business affairs for me. You see”—she smiled witchingly upon them all—“he understands so well about things, and I don’t.”

“One hardly expects to find old heads on young shoulders,” stated Mr. Jay, bowing to everybody. Archer was glaring at him like a man who sees phantoms. Winnie continued:

“Would you please tell Mr. Boldre who is the owner of the Ultra-Superba Film Company, Mr. Jay?”

George H. seemed surprised.

“Why, naturally! You are the owner. I bought it, lock, stock and barrel, on your behalf yesterday from Mr. Archer for the sum of five hundred pounds cash. I—ah—have the documents here, dated yesterday, and all in order, I believe.”

Archer stood forward, his face white with anger.

“It was clearly understood that you take possession as from next Monday—any incoming between then and now was due to me as——

He stopped abruptly as Boldre cut in.

“Sold the business yesterday! What on earth for, man? Were you mad?

Archer said nothing, so Winnie said something for him.

“Why, Mr. Archer is leaving England on Friday. Didn’t you know? He has booked a passage on the Aquatic under the name of Milton.” She had got that from Beryl, who had got it from Archer’s desk.

“Leaving England!” began Boldre, mystified. Then suddenly his face cleared. “Oh, I see, I see! You were bolting with that money, were you, Archer? I see now why you wanted a bearer check! Why, you crook!”

His eyes hardened and he stepped towards the telephone. Archer drew a swift breath, frowned heavily in a violent effort to think, decided not to wait and sprang for the door. He was through it in a flash. Somebody—a woman—cried out in surprise in the outer office, a door banged, and Archer was gone. He had thrown away a certain five thousand five hundred for an extra five hundred precisely and exactly as Winnie had expected he would when she had sent Mr. Jay to offer five hundred for the worthless business.

Archer had thought that he would have cashed the big check and vanished before Mr. Jay put in an appearance to take possession, and he simply could not resist the opportunity of taking the money Mr. Jay, acting on behalf of a client who wished to go into the film business, had offered him.

He had landed the small fish, but the big one had bitten on Winnie’s little hook.

Gratefully, Boldre turned to the girl.

“Thank you, my dear girl,” he said. “You are as wise and sensible as you are good. You shall have a necklace for that. What a good thing you didn’t give that villain the check!”

“Yes, isn’t it! The money is safely in the bank,” said Winnie.

Boldre laughed joyously.

“Yes, in the bank. Splendid!” he said.

“In my bank,” cooed Winnie.

“Eh?” Boldre jumped. Mr. Jay turned his head to hide a smile. He knew exactly how Boldre was feeling. He had been there himself.

“In your bank, my dear girl!” said Boldre. “But why?”

“Because, of course, it is my money, you see,” explained the girl kindly.

There was a strained silence.

“I don’t quite understand——” began Boldre, reasonably enough.

“It was paid to the Ultra-Superba, and I am the Ultra-Superba, don’t you see?” said Winnie patiently. “And do forgive me, but apart from that {2}”

She paused, putting her hand on the door knob.

“Yes, apart from that?” repeated Boldre unpleasantly.

“Apart from that, how dare you insult me by trying—by deliberately arranging to marry me when you are already a married man? You have planned a wicked thing, Mr. Boldre!” cried Winnie with a rather effective sob.

“You will have to prove that!” snapped Boldre.

Winnie opened the door.

“Come in, please, Beryl,” she said, and turned to Boldre as the distinguished-looking Beryl entered.

“Do you know this lady, Mr. Boldre?” asked Winnie almost brokenly, and flew to Lady Fasterton’s ready arms.

“Oh May, May, take me away! I have never been so badly treated in my life!” she seemed to sob. “Are all men wolves?”

Mr. Jay understood then, and he put up his hands in a perfect fury of irrepressible admiration.

“She wins again—by forty thousand lengths! Horse, foot and guns—and the devil take the hindmost!” he babbled.

A horrible thought flashed into his mind.

“Five into fifty-five hundred! Eleven hundred! Good Lord have mercy on us! Me too! Eleven hundred for nothing in twenty-four hours—a fifth share—and I turned it down!”

He looked as if he did not know whether to cry or laugh.

Boldre and Beryl were talking in low tones of repressed anger and recrimination, and oddly Mr. Jay, even in his agony, caught himself thinking that she was one of the most graceful women he had ever seen—as Winnie was the prettiest.

Lady Fasterton spoke in the icy tones of an annoyed aristocrat.

“This is all very tedious—and impossibly sordid,” she said, her arm round Winnie, who seemed on the whole to be bearing up tolerably well, “and I do not see quite why we need suffer it.”

Boldre pushed past his wife.

“I am very upset,” he said naïvely. “There is an explanation, I assure you, Lady Fasterton—Miss O’Wynn. You will hear from me. I can explain everything—only not now. I am very much upset—I am not feeling quite well. I have had a great shock.”

He bowed and departed, no doubt to begin the construction of an explanation—a task which, judging by his subsequent early departure to South Africa, he failed to accomplish.

Winnie observed Mr. Jay’s gaze of open admiration for Beryl, who had made good use of certain financial aid from Winnie and was looking wonderful. The girl smiled, whispering to Lady Fasterton:

“May, dear, don’t bother to wait. Let me dine with you to-night and I'll tell you the whole story.”

“That’s a promise, Winnie, remember. What adventures you have!”—half enviously.

She suffered Mr. Jay to see her into her car. Left alone, Winnie and Beryl shook hands with shining eyes.

“You are wonderful, my dear!” They said it simultaneously.

Winnie passed a check. It was for a thousand.

“Ts that agreeable, Beryl? It will last you until"—she smiled—“Mr. Boldre has got his divorce and I marry you again.”

Beryl, thrilled by the check, laughed.

“Again, you darling! To whom?”

“To whom?” repeated Winnie.

Even as she spoke the door opened and, as though in answer to her inquiry, Mr. George H. Jay stepped into the room. It was, or seemed, so apt and obvious a reply to Beryl’s question that Winnie smiled involuntarily. She knew that Mr. Jay was at least a genuine bachelor. He saw the smile.

“Aha!” said he innocently. “No wonder you smile, dear Miss Winnie! You have something to smile about, you know. But”—he shook his head ruefully, thinking of mere money—“I am afraid that I haven’t.”

Winnie wondered.

It was true that Beryl had a past. But unquestionably, so had Mr. Jay.

Winnie wondered.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1952, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 71 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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