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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 26, 1954, Image 96

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1954-12-26/ed-1/seq-96/

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Midnight Heritage
By Joseph Gies
Illustrated by John Ruge
novels Mr. Gies is apt to apply a sardonic
touch to his subject but usually turns
to humor in his short stories. This
time he writes a cheerful story with
a warm dramatic twist in the ending.
The two young people sat side by side, on the sofa, pale
and tense, the young man’s jaw outthrust in half-frightened
defiance, the girl’s face frankly terrified, her hand clutching his;
Opposite them Evan Archer stood, grim and polished in
white tie and tails, a carnation in his buttonhole. His coat,
hat and stick were flung into the chair next to him. He drew
a silver case from his pocket, lighted a cigarette and. still with
out taking his eyes from the pair on the sofa, tossed the match
accurately into the china bowl on the mantel.
’’You realize,” he told the young man. “that if I were to
shoot you down like a dog, no jury would convict me. In the
eyes of all decent people, you are a scoundrel.
"However ”he gave the slow, worldly shrug that had
become his hallmark “we are not decent people." His two
hearers looked up more hopefully, the tension easing. “There
fore. I say, go your way. I release you both from all obliga
tions to me. Take her; take him; go.”
They rose; the girl kissed Evan; the young man pressed
his hand.
And then, at the last moment, as the girl disappeared out
t£e door, the older man, with a confidential grin, informed the
younger, ‘To be utterly candid, for the last six months I’ve
been hoping to be relieved of the boredom of her company.”
Out of the darkness beyond the footlights burst a storm of
applause from the packed New Year’s Eve house. The cur
tains swept together, only to part immediately, revealing Evan
Archer alone on the set, bowing and summoning his supporting
cast from the wings the young man, the girl, the comic land
frdy, the policeman. %
The applause was for Evan alone, and ordinarily it would
have been silly to pretend he didn’t love every second of these
curtain calls. But this New Year’s Eve was different, and he
strode impatiently offstage after a mere two, leaving the audi-
ence clamoring behind him. Nobody, he thought, would be
at his job at a time like this, when his wife was having a baby
40 blocks north. Nobody except an actor, whose working day
might be short, but could never, never deviate from schedule
from 8:40 to (in this-run) precisely 11:14.
He made his way swiftly through the wings to the phone
booth by the street exit, grabbing a towel from his dressing
room doorknob as he passed. Stagehands and fellow actors
parted to let him pass. He dialed the number with one hand,
- rubbing off grease paint with the other. “Hello, twelfth floor
maternity, please... This is Mr. Archer. Can you tell me ”
“Oh, Mr. Archer, you have a baby girl!” the nurse exclaimed
with unprofessional breathlessness. “She was just bora ten
minutes ago!”
He 8(pod holding the receiver, the hand with the towel
• I I
arrested in the midst of its task. A girl. But of course. . .
“Hello, Mr. Archer?”
He thanked the nurse, elicited that Madeline
had come through with flying colors, and told her he would be
there directly.
Slowly replacing the phone, he turned to wave to the others
before stepping through the door. The whole bunch were
standing there, watching respectfully. “It’s a girl, everybody!”
he called. “Mad’s okay.” There was a chorus of oh’s, ah’s
and congratulations.
“But didn’t you want a boy?” someone asked tactlessly. He
turned, his hand cm the door. “Nonsense,” he said. “I’ve
always preferred girls.”
Nice exit line laughter followed him into Forty-eighth
Street. A cab was coming up from Eighth Avenue; he grabbed
it before it reached the theater entrance, where the first of the
crowd were just emerging.
Some of the other theaters were already emptied, and tonight
the whole Broadway area was jammed with more than the
after-theater crush. The din grew as they glided through the
throng of pedestrians to cross Broadway, and glancing to his
right Evan saw the mass blocking the street a few Nocks
down. Lucky to get away this quick, Evan thought. As they
turned up Madison Avenue he spotted a florist shop. Com
manding the cab to wait, he jumped out to the curb. Roses
Madeline’s favorite flower. They looked as if they wouldn’t
■ last till daybreak, but no matter; you could always get more
* roses, and he bought four dozen.
How many roses hajd he given her, he wondered, since the
first ones, in London in 1937? There were at least a million
roses at the wedding in Paris. And when Mad was in Holly
wood while he was on Broadway he had telegraphed them
. across the country. He had even managed to send them some
times when he was in the Navy...
The cab, now headed east again, was caught in another jam
between Madison and Park. Evan finished wiping his make
up off with his handkerchief, peering into the rear-view mirror
A girl... The important thing now was to keep Mad from
guessing how disappointed he was. That would take some
pretty good acting. Mad was no ordinary audience, and she
knew him so well. But he could do it.
There had always been a touch of good-natured rivalry in
ThU Wumk Mmpssbw— Bn—lp It, WH

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