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To-Day's Short Story.I


To-Day's Short Story.I ECCLES." I L Tlie Melrose Amateur Dramatic Club, of Which I was stage-manager, had decided to make their first public appearance in ilobert- eon's comedy. Caste." The part of Ecclee was .given to a clerk, whom I will call John Brown. Brown had come from London about three years previously, and at this time was engaged to be married to a Miss 1'n «all her Gordon, the elder daughter of a vznedical man. Miss Gordon's sister, Nellie, was to play Polly Ecclee; but Miss Gordon herself took no part in the comedy, though she made herself generally useful, and gave great assistance :n ■making dresses, and preparing things for the stage. She also acted a., prompter, and ootild do so without a book. having every word 'f -the comedy off by heart. We were to give two performances for a charitable purpose. Old Eccles and Polly were the talk of the i'Itown, and many who were present, on the first tnigh,t procured tickets for the second night's .performance. Lord and Lady C- and other distinguished visitors to the hydropathic inefcitution signified their intention of being present. During the forenoon the chief-con- '•table called on me, and told me to try and get some one else to take the part of Eccles, Be Brown had just been arrested on a charge of embezzlement, the crime having been com- mitted in London before Brawn came to Mel- roee. JW throe years he had eluded capture, but A detective had come from London that morn- ing and apprehended him. A rejected lover W Miss Gordon, who had recently get employ- ment in the establishment in London where • Brown had committed the crime, had given the information which led to his capture, and Brown was to be taken back to Lomdon that afternoon. Here was a dilemma' I determined to see the detective, and try to persuade him to postpone hia departure HHI next day, so that Brown might play his ,Ipaft that night. At first he would not listen to my proposal, but eventually he yielded. I /learned afterwards the detective was new to ithe business, this being his first case. The fUert difficulty was to get the consent of thrown himaell. Poor fellow, he was sadly ;cloprea-ed, and keenly felt his position. No, he would not play his part that night, Knit wanted to be taken away an qui<;kly as -jwesibie. I told him that nobody in the town hut myself knew of the his arrest, and asked Niun to think of the great loss and disappoint- 3ment that would result by his non-appear- ance; but ail to no purpose-he could not 4>lay the part under the circumstances. I left him. west direct to Miss Gordon, and "told her what had happened. She was over- whelmed with grief at the news, but all at "once she became calm. and saying, "111 manage the business." asked me to go back with her to the police office. After a brief i-Sinterview with the prisoner she returned, and said that Brown had consented to play his part. I On getting to the hall that night I found Brown there before me, and the detective I eesieting him to "make up." The chief-constabie, Mr. Jones, was also in 'the dressing-room, but none of the cpmpany I were surprised at that. as he frequently i attended our rehearsals. The detective was I introduced to the company as Mr. Harley, from London. a friend of Mr. Jones. Long before the hoar for commencing the hall was literally packed, the audience including the most influential people of the district. When aJl was ready to begin, we discovered we were minus a prompter. Miss Gordon not having oome, her sister explaining that she wes indisposed. JJie detective volunteered to .act as prompter, as he had no fear of Eocles trying to escape; besides, Mr. Jones was also behind the scenes, and a police-sergeant was -at the door. I had grave fears that poor Brown would not give such a good rendering his part as on the previous evening, but I •was agreeably disappointed. His acting left nothing to be desired, and UR his points were loudly applauded by the great assembly. The whole perfor. gave I unbounded satisfaction, and at tr eg?zl l ———' scores of friends came behind the curtain to congratulate us. All the while the detective and Mr. Jonea kept close to their prisoner, lest perhaps he might effect his escape amongst the crowd. When our friends had depaxted, Polly came forward to the detective, and asked him when he intended to leave for London. Consulting his time-table, he replied:— "By the 10.40 a.m. train to-morrow." "Then I'll be there to bid you and your prisoner good-bye." "And so shall I," said each of the other ladies. "Im sure I'll be delighted to see you all," replied the detective, wondering, no doubt, if the ladies were sincere in what they said. "And you'll be there too, Eocles, won't you?" said Polly. Oh, certainly," answered the old toper; "Mr. Harley won't go away without me." Oh, are you going to London with Mr. Harley?" asked the Marquise de St. Maur with affected surprise. "I believe he intends to take me with him, don't you. Mr. Harley?" feaid the old repro- bate, brushing his dilapidated hat the while. "You might take me. too." said Polly. "And me," chimed in the other ladies. The detective and the policeman looked hard at F-mles, as if they doubted whether he was really their prisoner. I stood 6v, rompletely puzzled at the ladies' conduct. "Well, good-night, Mr. Harley," said Polly, extending her hand; "you'll be sure to leave with the 10.40 a.m. train?" The other ladies then shook hands with him. and then old Eccles came tottering forward, a black bottle in one hand, and holding out the other to the detective, he said:- "Good-night. Mr. Harley, I'll be at the station to-morrow to see you away." "What do you mean?" said the detective; come away Brown, and get your dress changed." "Brown? I'm not Brown," said old Eccles, affecting astonishment. The ladies standing behind giggled, the policeman tried to drag Ecoles a-way, and the detective, making a clutch a.t his wig, pulled it off and revealed the head, not of Brown, bat of Miss Gordon! "By all that's wonderful. Miss Gordon!' I exclaimed in amazement. "By all that's horrible, Miss Gordon!" shouted the policeman. "Where's Brown?" roared the detective; while the ladies screamed with laughter. Why, Mr. Harley," said Miss Gordon, quietly; "Brown left here fully three hours ago." "But you don't mean to say." I asked. "that you played the part of Eccles to-night?" "I did," was her reply. She then went to her dressing-room, and her sister came for- ward and told the whole plot. When Mieis Gordon heard of her lover's arrest her fertile brain qudckly traced out a plan '}y which she hoped to effect his escape in order that he might goto London, throw himself on the mercy of his former employers, and pro- mise. with her aimistam-ce, to re-pay the money he bad appropriated. Her plan was to play the part of Eccles herself. She knew every word, not only of that part, but of the entire comedy. Brown's voice being rat.her womanish, she had no difficulty in imitating it. It was an easy task to pro- vide a dress similar to tht worn by Brown, as she herself had supplied him with a dress, which consisted of' some of her father's cast- off garments. In her dressing-room she donned the Eccles costume, a.nd her sister, with materials zhe had borrowed from me that evening without telling me what she wanted them for, made up her face in exactly the sani-e wa.y that Brown's had been made up the previom night. Then, with the oloak of the Marquise thrown over her, and accom- panied by the other ladies, Miss Gordon went behind the scenes just as the play was com- mencing. It wne a simple matter to remove the wig from Brown's head and place it on her own, even while standing at the policeman's side. Transferring the cloak to Brown's shoulders. that individual retired to the ladies' dreseing- room, unobserved, and made his escape by a closet window. Brown was more fortunate than he expected, as he obtained the forgiveness of his employers, and a remission of his debt, in consideration of Miss Gordon,'a deration. He returned the following day, and not long afterwaa-ds the two a.ble impersonators oi Eccles wore united in matrimony. Their first-born, a. boy, is named Ecoles. The detec- tive disappointed the ladies who went to the station to see him away. Perhaps, when he takes to writing detective stories, he will narrate how he was outwitted by Foolea.


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