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The Big-Time Heart

W. Carey Wonderly

An unusual story of vaudeville and the people who make it when it is at its best. Perhaps you do not think there is much heart in the making of variety entertainments. If you think so, you do not know. Because the heart is there—even if it is not visible.

IT was Hal's idea, and, because it was, Ruby, quite naturally, fell in love with it at once. For Hal was her husband, he had handsome Irish eyes, and a winning smile, and he was ambitious for Broadway's approval.

"It made a hit with me right off th' bat," Ruby confessed to Sammy Braker. "Of course, it'll cost real money, but we've got a few pennies laid by, an' I don't see how we could put 'em to better advantage—do you?"

"It—listens well," acknowledged Sam. Braker was the third member of the Three Flying Shamrocks, a shy, slim little man, with thin hair and outstanding ears. Just now, with Ruby and Hal, he was living in a Forty-fifth Street rooming house, and he had come down from his third-floor back to the second-floor front to discuss, for the hundredth time, the possibility of Donlin's scheme with Ruby, while Hal roamed from one booking office to another, and combined business with pleasure in the most amazing fashion.

"Jus' you wait," nodded Ruby. "You know what Hal is! Talk about class—d'y' know he wouldn't go back to Waddles' this time jus' because she puts napkins over th' soiled places in the tablecloth! That man oughta be toppin' bills this minute, Sam, an' he would, too—if it wasn't the managers are all th' time bringin' in foreign acts like Bernhardt an' Lauder. I'd like to see them repeatin' on the Sun time inside a month—that's what the Flyin'

Shamrocks done!"

Braker reached for the shaker, dusted a little salt in his glass, and thoughtfully shook it round and round.

"That's the beauty of havin' a good, sound act—it's always welcome anywhere," he observed.

Ruby agreed heartily. "Ain't it the truth? After all, the Shamrocks have been pretty lucky, Sam, and there's lots worse things in this world than the small time. Not that Hal's not got the right idea— for he has! But we've been happy—even if we did only get to New York once a year, and then in July."

"New York never made no hit with me—you know that," Braker looked up to say.

"Now, Sammy—"

"There's no heart and soul to Broadway," he added, in a voice which was half a growl; "I know—I seen it!"

Ruby shook her wonderful head of golden curls and sighed loudly.

"I don't know what to make o' you, Sam Braker, when you talk that way," she declared. "Sometimes I think—"

"Well, what do you think?" he asked, as she broke off abruptly.

"S-sh!" admonished Ruby, craning her neck and listening. "Yes! Here comes Hal!"

The Shamrocks were a casting act. In the cheaper vaudeville theaters they were counted among the best of their kind, and to the patrons of these houses their name was a household word. For five years they had played the smalltime circuit. Hal had suddenly rebelled. He had refused a route in the Middle West, had spurned a Canadian offer, and, marshaling his forces, charged upon New York.

"It's the big-time for us from now on!" said he. His wife, while dubious at heart, accepted his decision with enthusiasm. Sammy Braker said nothing; he didn't care one way or the other what they did, and the Donlins, knowing this, didn't even make a pretense of consulting him in the matter.

"It's like this," explained Hal, who spoke with a brogue only for publication; "we've got something near five hundred cases in the bank—"

"Fare you well, little home in th' country!" breathed Ruby to herself.

"What we want to do is to take this money and spread ourselves," Hal continued, with many elaborate gestures. "Can't expect to be playin' the big-time houses with small-time props, y' know. No, we'll take this money and dress the act—all new costumes, new apparatus, green plush curtain, with shamrocks and harps on it. Maybe that won't get us a week at Cammerstein's!"

"You can't do all that with five hundred dollars, Hal," said Ruby, in an apologetic voice.

"I can!" he declared. "You mean Thoid Avenoo," cut in Braker. "Secondhand rings and bars ain't always safe, Hal."

"An' cast-off clo's—" sighed Ruby. Donlin smiled—and this smile of his would have made a stock company on One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, as th' sayin' is," he told them. "Th' big feature of th' new Flyin' Shamrocks is—a fourth member, another lady!"

"A—what?" gasped Ruby. Donlin bowed low to her. "A-nother lady," he repeated.

Sam Braker looked up quickly. "Cut it, Donlin," said he. "We got no use for strange skirts 'round here."

But Hal was explaining his wonderful idea to Ruby; it was out of all reason that old Sammy should show objection.

"There's nothin' classier than a neat little castin' act, girlie," her husband told her. "Of'en I've wished there was four of us instead o' three—Four Shamrocks—see? There must be four to be a shamrock, Rube. You an' me work fine and grand together—what we want is a nifty little lady partner to work op'site Sam."

"Cut it!" growled Braker, but to no apparent effect.

"Yes," finished Donlin triumphantly; "then we'll be an act—a big-timer. I'll jus' run down tomorrow and look out this new Shamrock— somethin' pretty and re-fined, eh, Rube?"

"A lady from her puffs to her pumps, Hal!" pleaded Ruby.

He had set out directly after breakfast, at noon, and now he was returning, perhaps with the new Shamrock in tow. Ruby glanced hurriedly around the room. It was neat and clean. She herself had donned her best kimono—the baby blue with the lace at neck and wrists; and the table with the green pitcher and green glasses gave a homelike touch. True, Sam was in his shirt sleeves, and he would wear suspenders, and wouldn't blouse his shirt, but—at least he was quiet, and always asked permission to smoke w...

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