A Successful Rehearsal
by Anthony Hope
Mr. Aloysius Tappenham,
Road, was a dealer in
frauds. It must not be understood
from this statement that he
was either a company-promoter or
the manager of a philanthropic
undertaking. On the contrary,
he was as honest a man of business
as you would find in London,
and he earned his living by discovering
and introducing new
attractions in the shape of “Wonders,”
“Phenomenons,” and so
forth. The music-halls were Mr.
Tappenham’s best customers, and
when he successfully launched a
new impostor, he reaped a handsome
return in the way of commissions
on the salary of the impostor
and the profits of the entrepreneur.
All his protégés were
a success—a fact chiefly to be attributed
to his unvarying habit of
insisting that he himself should be
shown “how it was done.” He
promised and observed absolute
secrecy; but, as he always said, he
could not properly judge of the
merit of any particular fraud, unless
he were allowed a private view
of the machinery by which it was
worked. Some few years ago, in
the very prime of life and the full
tide of a profitable trade, Mr.
Tappenham suddenly retired from
business. This was the reason:
One day Mr. Tappenham discovered
a treasure in the shape of
a very attractive young lady whose
name was Hopkins, but who proposed
to call herself Mlle. Claire.
Claire was hardly suitable to
the music-halls; Mr. Tappenham
thought that she was above that,
and proposed to “run” her himself
in Bond Street, on half-profit
terms. Her specialty was the
production of any spirit you liked
to order. She received in a dimly
lighted room; you told her who
you were, and whose spirit you
wished to interview, and forthwith,
without any nonsense of
hand-holding or table-turning, she
caused to appear a shadowy yet
clearly perceptible figure which
was exactly like the person you
named, spoke with that person’s
voice, and exhibited full—or reasonably
full—knowledge of everything
which that person, and that
person only, might be expected to
Mr. Tappenham was much
struck with the dexterity of this
performance. Of course, when
explained, it resolved itself into
some clever optical illusion, a little
ventriloquism, and a good deal
of tact in returning to the inquirer
in another form information
pumped out of him beforehand.
The materials were simple, the
result was highly artistic; and Mr.
Tappenham determined to furnish
the only thing needful to set London
aflame with the new marvel—namely,
capital. However, before
taking the last irreparable
step, he decided on a final trial. He
prepared the mise-en-scène with due
completeness, and invited Mlle.
Claire to experiment on himself.
“Consider me as one of the
public,” he said, “and give me a
Mlle. Claire protested that he
was too much behind the scenes;
but, on being pressed, she consented
to try, and asked Mr. Tappenham
to name his spirit.
He thought for a moment, and
then said, “When I was a young
man, I knew a girl called Nellie
Davies—a pretty girl, my dear. I
dare say I didn’t treat her over
well; but that’s neither here nor
there. Let’s have her.”
Clever little Mlle. Claire asked
a question or two—and Mr. Tappenham
admired the neat and apparently
undesigned nature of her
questions—and then set to work,
after drawing the curtains a shade
closer, and turning the light a
Mr. Tappenham sat comfortably
in an armchair, his hands
crossed over his white waistcoat,
and a smile of satisfaction on
his face. Presently the shadowy
shape began to form itself a yard
or two from Mr. Tappenham.
“Capital, capital!” he chuckled.
“That’ll fetch ’em.” The shape
grew more definite.
“Will that do?” asked Mlle.
Claire triumphantly. “Is it like?”
“Now, by Jove, it is rather!
Make it speak.”
Mlle. Claire laughed, and, projecting
her voice to the shape,
began in low, sweet, sad tones.
“You summoned me. What do
you desire of your dead friend?”
She stopped, laughing again,
and said, “It’s no use, when
you’re up to it beforehand.”
Mr. Tappenham did not answer
her. He sat looking at the shape,
and seemed to be listening intently.
“Shall I go on?” she inquired.
Mr. Tappenham took no notice.
“What’s the matter with him?”
thought Mlle. Claire. “I shan’t
go on if he’s not listening.”
Assuming her pretended voice
again, she said, “I will try to forgive.
Farewell, farewell!” and,
with a merry, boisterous laugh,
she displaced the arrangement
which produced the illusion, and
said to Mr. Tappenham:
“Now are you satisfied?” Then
she added, in a tone of surprise,
“Whatever is the matter?” For,
as she looked, the expression of
his face changed from attention
to surprise, from surprise to uneasiness.
He turned to her and
said, with a forced smile, “It’s too
clever—a sight too clever. That’ll
do; stop it, please.”
“Yes. I’ve had enough. It’s—it’s
damned absurd, but it’s getting
on my nerves. Stop it, I
say—stop it!” His voice rose at
the end almost into a cry.
“Why, I have stopped it this
three minutes!” she answered in
His eyes had wandered from
her to where the shape had been;
but at her last words he turned to
her again with a start. “What?
No, no! No nonsense! Come,
now, be a good girl and stop it.
I’ve had enough.”
“Are you drunk?” asked Mlle.
Claire impatiently. “It’s all
“I won’t be made a fool of,”
said he angrily. “Stop it, or not
a farthing do you get from me.”
“Heaven bless the man, he’s
mad!” exclaimed the lady, who
began to be a little uncomfortable
herself. It is an eerie thing to see
a man looking hard at—nothing,
and listening intently to—nothing.
Suddenly he jumped up and
ran toward Mlle. Claire. He
seized her by the arm, and cried,
“Stop, you little devil, stop!
Do you want to madden me? I
never did it, I never did. At
least, I never meant it—so help
me, God, I never meant it.”
“Mr. Tappenham, you’re
dreaming. There’s nothing there.
I’m saying nothing.”
“She’s coming! she’s coming!”
he cried. “Take her
away! take her away!”
Mlle. Claire looked at his face.
Then she too gave a shriek of
fright, and, hiding her face in her
hands, sank on the floor, sobbing.
She saw nothing. But what was
that face looking at?
As for Mr. Tappenham, he fled
into the corner of the room. And
when Mlle. Claire recovered herself
enough to draw back the curtains,
and let in the blessed sun,
he lay on the floor like a man
Mlle. Claire was a good girl.
She had a mother and two little
brothers to keep: so she stuck to
the business; but she never liked
it very much after that day. Mr.
Tappenham could afford to retire,
and he did retire. He lives very
quietly, and gives large sums in
charity. Mlle. Claire knows all
the tricks that ever were invented;
she is a thorough-going little skeptic,
and believes in nothing that
she does not see, and in very little
of what she does. Therefore she
merely exemplifies feminine illogicality
when she thinks to herself,
as she cannot help thinking
now and then:
“I wonder what he did to Nellie
She told me about it, and I
believed her when she said that
she was not playing a trick on Mr.
Tappenham. But perhaps she
was deceiving me also; if so, that
is an explanation.
I repeated the story to a scientific
man. He said that it furnished
an interesting instance of
the permanence of an optical impression
after the removal of the
external excitant. That is another
Or it may have been the working
of conscience: that is an
explanation in a way, though an
improbable one, because, in spite
of many opportunities, Mr. Tappenham’s
conscience had never
given him any inconvenience before.
It has since.