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“TOMORROW and tomorrow and tomorrow,” said Edmund Sutton in a tone of unendurable fatigue and despair; I sat transfixed, although I had heard him rehearse the role for three months and thought myself inured by repetition. Around me in the darkness the audience was hushed, caught up in the performance they were watching. “... to the last syllable of recorded time ...”

Beside me, Mycroft Holmes shifted in his seat, his dark-grey eyes fixed on the actor who was his double when he was not essaying roles like MacBeth. “He has them,” he muttered to me; he, too, was aware of the audience, all but mesmerized by Sutton’s interpretation.

“... who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more ...” Suppressed emotion lent the words pathos that wrenched my heart. Sutton turned away from the audience, delivering his lines upstage. Every word was audible, although his voice seemed no louder than when he had begun the short, tragic speech. “... and fury, signifying”—a brief pause as he turned back, marked by a faint, despondent smile—“nothing.”

“Masterful” whispered Mycroft Holmes, his praise as genuine as anything I had ever heard him say. “Astonishing. A most propitious opening.”

I nodded, not wanting to break the spell with words. I was as moved as Holmes was, and startled to be so. Who would have thought, I asked myself, that there could be such a tremendous change between learning lines and acting them? But I should have known: I had seen Sutton in many roles for our mutual employer, most convincingly as Mycroft Holmes himself. I kept my eyes on the stage, watching the fight begin, knowing the play was nearly over.

As the curtain came down and the applause began, the spell broke and I clapped along with the rest, waiting for the curtains to part again for the actors to take their bows.

“I think we may agree he acquitted himself very well,” said Mycroft Holmes as the cast once again appeared, this time in a long line, to accept the enthusiastic response of the audience. “He looks tired,” Holmes remarked as he studied Sutton’s face. Underneath the makeup that added a decade of hard use to his face there was very real fatigue.

“Small wonder,” I said. “I’m exhausted and all I’ve done is sit.” I clapped more vigorously for Lady MacBeth, a woman of dainty proportions who possessed a voice that wrung the heart with every word: her madness had filled me with horror, and now, here she was, smiling and flirting with the audience. I recalled that Sutton had said she had a rare temper and an eye to older men with money; as she had performed I would never have believed it, but now, I could see what Sutton meant. There was something about her handsomeness that had an edge to it, and a quality to her manner that I did not find wholly pleasing.

“Beatrice Motherwell not to your liking?” Mycroft Holmes asked archly.

“She ... is a bit ... overdone,” I allowed.

The curtain opened three times for the cast, and then the applause died and the audience began to depart. The lights, which had been bright, were dimmed as an obvious hint to the audience that the theatre was about to close. It was not so long ago that Henry Irving had ordered the house lights—as Sutton called them—dimmed during performances; I saw such a strategy had the double purpose of speeding the audience as one would hurry a lingering guest. As I rose I looked around the theatre, thinking again that I was sorry this excellent production was not scheduled for a longer run; the Duke of York’s Theatre was an appropriate venue, but the short run lessened the advantage of the theatre’s prestige. I reached for my cloak, which I had draped over the seat behind me, and swung it around my shoulders. “Where now, Mister Holmes?”

Mycroft Holmes smiled. “Why, we return to the flat. We still have work to do tonight.” He must have seen disappointment in my eyes, for he said, “We will save our comments for later, when he arrives at my flat. It would not do to let it be known that Sutton and I have any association beyond that of player and ... er ... playee.” He chuckled at his witticism. “But he will join us as soon as he may, and you will be able to heap upon him all the praise you wish.”

“He deserves praise,” I said, a bit stubbornly. “I should like to congratulate him now. But I do see the wisdom of your precaution.”

“No doubt, my boy, no doubt.” He had tugged on his cloak and was making his way to the aisle. No one impeded his progress; such a tall, portly, imposing figure could cut through crowds as easily as a steamship might pass through pleasure-boats. I followed along in his wake as we made for the door.

Sid Hastings was waiting a short distance down the block, away from the cabs and carriages that gathered at the front of the Duke of York’s Theatre. He lowered the steps as he saw us approaching and touched the brim of his hat with his whip. “A good evening, sir,” he said to our mutual employer as we climbed into the cab.

“That it is,” said Mycroft Holmes with great satisfaction. “A fine evening indeed.” The misty chill of the November night had no effect upon his expansive good humor. “Take us back to Pall Mall, if you would. And then return for Mister Sutton. He should be ready to leave in ninety minutes.” He gestured to the horse between the shafts. “Working out, is he?”

“He’s not Jenny, but he’s learning,” said Sid Hastings.

“You miss her,” Holmes said, sympathy coloring his tone.

“Just so,” said Sid Hastings as he signaled his horse to walk on.

We rode a short while in silence, and then Holmes sighed. “I sometimes wonder if it is not unfair of me, to keep Sutton as my double, for surely his labors on my behalf have stopped him from achieving the recognition he so richly deserves. I knew from the first that he was remarkably gifted, and tonight has only served to deepen my conviction in that regard. When I see so superior a performance as he has just given, I can find it in my heart to question my demands on him.” He shook his head. “And yet, I cannot spare him, since he is willing to do the work I require. Where else would I find such an accomplished actor who is my height and of a similar build, whose talent is so great as Sutton’s, and whose loyalty would be so dedicated as Sutton’s has been?” He stared out into the night. “I know he is irreplaceable. Just as you are, dear boy.” He pulled at his lower lip, a sure sign of consternation. “Yet I am aware of how much Sutton has given up for me. This performance has only served to remind me.”

“It was an impressive performance,” I said, wondering if he had noticed any trace of himself in Sutton’s interpretation of MacBeth, for I thought I had seen something of Mycroft Holmes—distorted and corrupted by ambition—in the air of leadership and capability with which Sutton had invested the role at the beginning of the play; the bearing and the age he assumed might or might not draw from our mutual employer, but the authority he portrayed was familiar to me.

“Sutton has a great deal of talent.” Holmes leaned back against the squabs and stared into the middle distance. “As well as I know the play, he showed me new facets of its brilliance tonight.”

“He impressed me as well,” I admitted. “He was remarkable in what he did.”

Holmes nodded. “When he arrives, we will toast him with champagne.” The decision pleased him. “It is the least we can do, given his performance.”

“Very good, sir,” I said, glad that there was no pressing business to demand our attentions at the crack of dawn, for we had recently brought to a successful conclusion some very tricky negotiations involving the Turks and the Russians regarding British access to the Black Sea. It also deserved a toast I thought, and was about to say so when Mycroft Holmes sat up.

“We will drink to the Russians and the Turks as well,” he exclaimed, as if reading my thoughts. “You acquitted yourself very well, Guthrie, and deserve applause as much as Sutton does; you, also, delivered a most commendable performance.”

“Hardly, sir,” I said. “I merely carried the necessary messages and had a few documents signed. They were willing to do what we required so long as it was not made public, which was very much to my liking. Nothing like essaying one of Shakespeare’s greatest roles, and in front of an audience. I think I would rather face half a dozen of the Brotherhood’s men, fully armed, than a theatre full of people.” I chuckled to show I was exaggerating for the purpose of humor, but not by much.

The mention of that nefarious organization brought another change to my employer’s demeanor. “Do not say that, even in jest,” Mycroft Holmes warned. “The Brotherhood has seemed to be inactive for the last four months, which worries me.”

“Do you suppose they are up to something?” I asked, anticipating his answer.

“I must always keep in mind what an implacable enemy the Brotherhood can be. Nothing I do is safe from their schemes, nor can we relax our vigilance in regard to their activities. We have supposed they are inactive, but that may be wishful thinking. The Brotherhood are utterly ruthless and single-minded in their determination to bring down all the governments of Europe.” He coughed as if to announce a change of subject. “We’re nearly to Pall Mall,” he observed. “Not before time.”

“Very likely not,” I said, aware that Holmes was restive, and wondering why he was. “Has anything happened this afternoon that I should know of?”

Mycroft Holmes frowned and shrugged. “Nothing I am aware of,” he conceded. “But I cannot rid myself of the sense that—” he broke off, then quoted, “By the pricking of my thumbs/Something wicked this way comes.”

“Sutton would tell you it is bad luck to recite lines from MacBeth,” I pointed out.

Pall Mall was light of traffic at this hour, with perhaps half a dozen cabs and a small berline coach making their way along the street. Few pedestrians were about, and the constable making his rounds ambled rather than strode. Out of habit I watched all the movement near the building where Mycroft Holmes had his flat, and around the front of the Diogenes Club, directly across the street from it.

“Actors’ superstitions, as is calling it ‘The Scottish Play’ to avoid the curse of the name,” Holmes said impatiently. “It is the one thing about Sutton that troubles me, but I cannot suppose any other actor would be more rational about such things. If it is the worst he does, he is a gem among men.” As Sid Hastings drew his cab up to the kerb, Holmes added, “Good luck or bad, my thumbs are pricking, and that bothers me.”

“Small wonder,” I said as I got out of the cab after him.

Before mounting the stairs to his flat, Holmes turned around and looked at Hastings. “Once you bring Mister Sutton back here, you may go off duty. I will not need you until nine in the morning.”

Sid Hastings nodded. “Very good, Mister Holmes.” And with that, he turned his cab around, heading off into the night.

“Does he ever sleep?” I wondered aloud, for I had never known Sid Hastings not to answer Mycroft Holmes’ summons at any hour.

“I suppose he must,” said Mycroft Holmes. “He has not complained,” he added pointedly.

I stared down the dark street, listening to the retreating sound of Lance’s hooves. “Well, more power to him,” I said.

“Come, Guthrie,” Mycroft Holmes said. “Let us make the most of this rare opportunity and celebrate Sutton’s achievement, and our own. Tyers will have a meal ready for us shortly, and there is champagne.”

“An honor, sir,” I said, and followed him up to the top Boor, thinking as I went, that for a portly man of forty-nine years, Mycroft Holmes could set an energetic pace when he chose to.

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