A Damsel in Distress (Chapter 2, page 1 of 14)


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Chapter 2

The sun that had shone so brightly on Belpher Castle at noon, when
Maud and Reggie Byng set out on their journey, shone on the
West-End of London with equal pleasantness at two o'clock. In
Little Gooch Street all the children of all the small shopkeepers
who support life in that backwater by selling each other vegetables
and singing canaries were out and about playing curious games of
their own invention. Cats washed themselves on doorsteps,
preparatory to looking in for lunch at one of the numerous garbage
cans which dotted the sidewalk. Waiters peered austerely from the
windows of the two Italian restaurants which carry on the Lucretia
Borgia tradition by means of one shilling and sixpenny _table d'hôte_
luncheons. The proprietor of the grocery store on the corner was
bidding a silent farewell to a tomato which even he, though a
dauntless optimist, had been compelled to recognize as having
outlived its utility. On all these things the sun shone with a
genial smile. Round the corner, in Shaftesbury Avenue, an east wind
was doing its best to pierce the hardened hides of the citizenry;
but it did not penetrate into Little Gooch Street, which, facing
south and being narrow and sheltered, was enabled practically to
bask.

Mac, the stout guardian of the stage door of the Regal Theatre,
whose gilded front entrance is on the Avenue, emerged from the
little glass case in which the management kept him, and came out to
observe life and its phenomena with an indulgent eye. Mac was
feeling happy this morning. His job was a permanent one, not
influenced by the success or failure of the productions which
followed one another at the theatre throughout the year; but he
felt, nevertheless, a sort of proprietary interest in these
ventures, and was pleased when they secured the approval of the
public. Last night's opening, a musical piece by an American
author and composer, had undoubtedly made a big hit, and Mac was
glad, because he liked what he had seen of the company, and, in the
brief time in which he had known him, had come to entertain a warm
regard for George Bevan, the composer, who had travelled over from
New York to help with the London production.

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