The Case of the Gilded Fly

The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin Read Free Book Online

Book: The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edmund Crispin
sort of naïve seductiveness, but it did not seem to please Donald. ‘Wretched display!’ he muttered; and then, turning to Nigel: ‘I can’t think how these women can bring themselves to do that sort of thing. Yet they seem to love it.’
    â€˜It’s quite harmless, you know,’ said Nigel mildly. ‘I suppose you mean the music.’
    â€˜No, I don’t, I mean the sex. And they adore showing off that way.’
    â€˜Well, it’s not very surprising,’ replied Nigel, ‘that a woman should enjoy making an elementary form of sexual advance to a roomful of men without the slightest chance, so to speak, of being taken at her word. It must be a most delightful feeling.’
    â€˜Wouldn’t you mind if it were your wife?’
    Nigel looked at him curiously. ‘No,’ he said slowly, ‘I don’t think –’
    â€˜Right!’ The conversation was cut short by the conclusion of the song and Robert’s voice. ‘That’s lovely, dear, thank you,’ he said to Yseut.
    â€˜Did you really like it, darling?’
    â€˜One or two things may have to be altered when we get it properly set,’ he said, sternly refusing to be drawn beyond the bounds of conventional politeness. ‘Jane, dear!’ he continued hastily, ‘will you ring for everyone: we’re going to do Act 1.… And Jane!’
    â€˜Yes?’
    â€˜Has Clive arrived yet?’
    â€˜Yes, he’s just got in.’
    â€˜Thank God for that.’
    The call bell clamoured vociferously all over the theatre. The company assembled little by little, including the miserable Clive, a bland young man in a black hat, who seemed quite unaware of the delay he had caused; and after a while the rehearsal was launched.
    About half-way through the act, a girl approached Donald and Nigel whom Nigel had not met before. It was Jean Whitelegge, and with her appearance Nigel realized he had found yet another part of the tangle whose centre was Yseut, and which had been so aggravated by Robert’s arrival. That the girl was madly in love with Donald there was no doubt: little tricks of speech, gestures, everything made it obvious to the very blindest. Nigel groaned inwardly; he couldn’t imagine what Jean saw in Donald, whom he thought rather a silly little man, and even less could he imagine what Donald saw in Yseut. It was all very difficult. He inquired politely whether she were watching the rehearsal.
    â€˜No, I’ve been working here for the last few weeks,’ she said. ‘They let me do props out of term-time.’
    Let
you do props, indeed! thought Nigel, who knew enough about the theatre to be aware of the thanklessness of the job. Jean, he decided, was one of that all-too-large body of amateur actresses who get excited at the smallest contact with the professional stage, and fritter away their lives in useless jobs connected with it. But while he was still summoning up an interested grimace, she turned and began talking to Donald in a low voice. Donald, Nigel saw, was becoming irritable under a stream of reproaches. It’s ordinary comedy, thought Nigel – a pure Restoration drama situation – but it refuses to be comic; it’s bitter and dull and sordid and witless. Later he was to realize just how bitter these quarrels were, and to reproach himself for not paying more attention to them.
    At a quarter to twelve they finished the act. And Nigel, who had been watching, fascinated, the way the thing came to life even with the players reading and frequent interruptions to arrange moves, was sorry to hear Robert say:
    â€˜All right, people, break for coffee! Quarter of an hour only!’
    â€˜There’s coffee in the green room if you want it,’ said Jean to Nigel. ‘And by the way, have you got a ’cello?’
    â€˜Good heavens, no,’ said Nigel in alarm.
    â€˜And you wouldn’t lend it even if you had; I know.

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