John Galsworthy
                The Broken Boot

Файл с книжной полки Несененко Алексея OCR: Несененко Алексей январь 2004
The actor, Gilbert Caister, who had been "out" for six months, emerged from his east-coast seaside lodging about noon in the day, after the opening of "Shooting the Rapids", on tour, in which he was playing Dr Dominick in the last act. A salary of four pounds a week would not, he was conscious, remake his fortunes, but a certain jauntiness had returned to the gait and manner of one employed again at last. Fixing his monocle, he stopped before a fishmonger's and, with a faint smile on his face, regarded a lobster. Ages since he had eaten a lobster! One could long for a lobster without paying, but the pleasure was not solid enough to detain him. He moved upstreet and stopped again, before a tailor's window. Together with the actual tweeds, in which he could so easily fancy himself refitted, he could see a reflection of himself, in the faded brown suit wangled out of the production of "Marmaduke Mandeville" the year before the war. The sunlight in this damned town was very strong, very hard on seams and buttonholes, on knees and elbows! Yet he received the ghost of aesthetic pleasure from the reflected elegance of a man long fed only twice a day, of an eyeglass well rimmed out from a soft brown eye, of a velour hat salved from the production of "Educating Simon" in 1912; and in front of the window he removed that hat, for under it was his new phenomenon, not yet quite evaluated, his mйche blanche. Was it an asset, or the beginning of the end? It reclined backwards on the right side, conspicuous in his dark hair, above that shadowy face always interesting to Gilbert Caister. They said it came from atrophy of the - something nerve, an effect of the war, or of undernourished tissue. Rather distinguished, perhaps, but-! He walked on, and became conscious that he had passed a face he knew. Turning, he saw it also turn on a short and dapper figure - a face rosy, bright, round, with an air of cherubic knowledge, as of a getter-up of amateur theatricals. Bryce-Green, by George! "Caister? It is! Haven't seen you since you left the old camp. Remember what sport we had over 'Gotta-Grampus'? By Jove! I am glad to see you. Doing anything with yourself? Come and have lunch with me." Bryce-Green, the wealthy patron, the moving spirit of entertainment in that south-coast convalescent camp. And drawling slightly, Caister answered: "I shall be delighted." But within him something did not drawl: "By God, you're going to have a feed, my boy!" And - elegantly threadbare, roundabout and dapper - the two walked side by side. "Know this place? Let's go in here! Phyllis, cocktails for my friend Mr Caister and myself, and caviare on biscuits. Mr Caister is playing here; you must go and see him." The girl who served the cocktails and the caviare looked up at Caister with interested blue eyes. Precious! - he had been "out" for six months! "Nothing of a part," he drawled, " took it to fill a gap." And below his waistcoat the gap echoed: "Yes, and it'll take some filling." "Bring your cocktail along, Caister, we'll go into the little further room, there'll be nobody there. What shall we have - a lobstah?" And Caister murmured: "I love lobstahs." "Very fine and large here. And how are you, Caister? So awfully glad to see you - only real actor we had." "Thanks," said Caister, "I'm all right." And he thought: "He's a damned amateur, but a nice little man." "Sit here. Waiter, bring us a good big lobstah and a salad; and then - er - a small fillet of beef with potatoes fried crisp, and a bottle of my special hock! Ah! and a rum omelette - plenty of rum and sugah. Twig?" And Caister thought: "Thank God, I do." They had sat down opposite each other at one of two small tables in the little recessed room. "Luck!" said Bryce-Green. "Luck!" replied Caister; and the cocktail trickling down him echoed: "Luck!" "And what do you think of the state of the drama?" Oh! ho! A question after his own heart. Balancing his monocle by a sweetish smile on the opposite side of his mouth, Caister drawled his answer: "Quite too bally awful!" "H'm! Yes," said Bryce-Green; "nobody with any genius, is there?" And Caister thought: "Nobody with any money." "Have you been playing anything great? You were so awfully good in ' Gotta-Grampus'!" " Nothing particular. I've been - er - rather slack." And with their feel around his waist his trousers seemed to echo: "Slack!" "Ah!" said Bryce-Green. "Here we are! Do you like claws? " "Tha-a-nks. Anything!" To eat - until warned by the pressure of his waist against his trousers! What a feast! And what a flow of his own tongue suddenly released - on drama, music, art; mellow and critical, stimulated by the round eyes and interjections of his little provincial host. "By Jove, Caister! You've got a mйche blanche. Never noticed. I'm awfully interested in mйches blanches. Don't think me too frightfully rude - but did it come suddenly? " "No, gradually." "And how do you account for it?" "Try starvation," trembled on Caister's lips. "I don't," he said. "I think it's ripping. Have some more omelette? I often wish I'd gone on the regular stage myself. Must be a topping life, if one has talent, like you." Topping? "Have a cigar. Waiter! Coffee, and cigars. I shall come and see you tonight. Suppose you'll be here a week? " Topping! The laughter and applause - "Mr Caister's rendering left nothing to be desired; its - and its - are in the true spirit of - !" Silence recalled him from his rings of smoke. Bryce-Green was sitting, with cigar held out and mouth a little open, and bright eyes round as pebbles, fixed - fixed on some object near the floor, past the corner of the tablecloth. Had he burnt his mouth? The eyelids fluttered; he looked at Caister, licked his lips like a dog, nervously and said: "I say, old chap, don't think me a beast, but are you at all - er - er - rocky? I mean - if I can be of any service, don't hesitate! Old acquaintance, don't you know, and all that - " His eyes rolled out again towards the object, and Caister followed them. Out there above the carpet he saw it - his own boot. It dangled slightly, six inches off the ground - split - right across, twice, between lace and toecap. Quite! He knew it. A boot left him from the role of Bertie Carstairs, in "The Dupe," just before the war. Good boots. His only pair, except the boots of Dr Dominick, which he was nursing. And from the boot he looked back at Bryce-Green, sleek and concerned. Adrop, black when it left his heart, suffused his eye behind the monocle; his smile curled bitterly; he said: "Not at all, thanks! Why?" "Oh, n-n-nothing. It just occurred to me." His eyes - but Caister had withdrawn the boot. Bryce-Green paid the bill and rose. "Old chap, if you'll excuse me; engagement at half past two. So awf'ly glad to have seen you. Good-bye!" "Good-bye!" said Caister. "Thanks." He was alone. And, chin on hand, he stared through his monocle into an empty coffee cup. Alone with his heart, his boot, his life to come... "And what have you been in lately, Mr Caister?" "Nothing very much lately. Of course I've played almost everything." "Quite so. Perhaps you'11 leave your address; can't say anything definite, I'm afraid." "I - I should - er - be willing to rehearse on approval; or - if I could the part?" "Thank you, afraid we haven't got as far as that." "No? Quite! Well, I shall hear from you, perhaps." And Caister could see his own eyes looking at the manager. God! What a look!... A topping life! A dog's life! Cadging - cadging - cadging for work! A life of draughty waiting, of concealed beggary, of terrible depressions, The waiter came skating round as if he desired to clear. Must go! Two young women had come in and were sitting at the other table between him and the door. He saw them look at him, and his sharpened senses caught the whisper: "Sure - in the last act. Don't you see his mй che blanche? " "Oh! yes - of course! Isn't it - wasn't he - I" Caister straightened his back; his smile crept out, he fixed his monocle. They had spotted his Dr Dominick! "If you've quite finished, sir, may I clear? " "Certainly. I'm going." He gathered himself and rose. The young women were gazing up. Elegant, with a faint smile, he passed them close, so that they could not see, managing - his broken boot.