To Every Man a Damsel or Two
By Arthur Cosslett Smith
HE wandered up the carpeted steps, rather afraid all the while of
the two tall men in uniform who opened the great doors wide
to let him into the soft warm light and babble of voices within. At
the top he paused, and slowly unbuttoned his overcoat, not know-
ing which way to turn ; but the crowd swept him up, and carried
him round, until he found himself leaning against a padded wall
of plush, looking over a sea of heads at the stage far beneath.
He turned round, and stood watching the happy crowd, which
laughed, and talked, and nodded ceaselessly to itself. Near him,
on a sofa, with a table before her, was a woman spreading herself
out like some great beautiful butterfly on a bed of velvet pansies.
He stood admiring her half unconsciously for some time, and at
last, remembering that he was tired and sleepy, and seeing that
there was still plenty of room, he threaded his way across and sat
The butterfly began tossing a wonderful little brown satin shoe,
and tapping it against the leg of the table. Then the parasol
slipped across him, and fell to the ground. He hastened to pick
it up, lifting his hat as he did so. She seemed surprised, and
glancing at a man leaning against the wall, caught his eye, and
they both laughed. He blushed a good deal, and wondered what
he had done wrong. She spread herself out still further in his
direction, and cast side glances at him from under her Gains-
“What were you laughing at just now ?” he said impulsively.
“My dear boy, when ?”
“With that man.”
“Which man ?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, blushing again.
She looked up, and winked at the man leaning against the
“Have I offended you by speaking to you ?” he said, looking
with much concern into her eyes.
She put a little scented net of a handkerchief up to her mouth,
and went into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
“What a funny boy you are !” she gasped. “Do do it again.”
He looked at her in amazement, and moved a little further
“I’m going to tell the waiter to bring me a port—after that
last bit of business.”
“I don’t understand all this,” he said desperately : “I wish I
had never spoken to you ; I wish I had never come in here
“You’re very rude all of a sudden. Now don’t be troublesome
and say you’re too broke to pay for drinks,” she added as the
waiter put the port down with great deliberation opposite her, and
held out the empty tray respectfully to him. He stared.
“Why don’t you pay, you cuckoo ?”
Mechanically he put down a florin, and the waiter counted out
There was a pause. She fingered the stem of her wine-glass,
taking little sips, and watching him all the while.
“How often have you been here before ?” she said, suddenly
catching at his sleeve. “You must tell me. I fancy I know your
face : surely I’ve met you before somewhere ?”
“This is the first time I have ever been to a music-hall,” he
She drank off her port directly.
“Come—come away at once. Yes, all right—I’m coming with
you ; so go along.”
“But I’ve only just paid to come in,” he said hesitatingly.
“Never mind the paying,” and she stamped her little satin foot,
“but do as I tell you, and go.” And taking his arm, she led him
through the doors down to the steps, where the wind blew cold,
and the gas jets roared fitfully above.
“Go,” she said, pushing him out, “and never come here again ;
stick to the theatres, you will like them best.” And she ran up
the steps and was gone.
He rushed after her. The two tall men in uniform stepped
before the doors.
“No re-admission, sir,” said one, bowing respectfully and
touching his cap.
“But that lady,” he said, bewildered, and looking from one to
The men laughed, and one of them, shrugging his shoulders,
pointed to the box-office.
He turned, and walked down the steps. Was it all a dream ?
He glanced at his coat. The flower in his buttonhole had gone.
Smith, Arthur Cosslett. “To Every Man a Damsel or Two.” The Yellow Book, vol 3, October 1894, pp. 155-157. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/YBV3_smith_everyman/