THE MOVING PICTURE HOUSE

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“So,” asked Ruth, “Where did you learn to play the violin? Are you in an orchestra? You sounded very good”
John laughed. “Not any more, I did play in the orchestra, but there’s not much money in it. Come on. Now that I have my violin back, I can earn us some cash.”
“Where are we going,” asked Ruth? As John took her hand and hurried her through the streets.
This time, John never led Ruth through twisty back alleys or through seedy slums, but onto the main thoroughfare and into the busy parts of the town. As they walked briskly, Ruth was amazed at all the fashionable ladies and gentlemen that strolled along. She knew quality when she saw it. She had worked for the Dunns and they were a most respectable and wealthy family. But the Dunns could never have afforded to dress like these people. That dress she is wearing is Poiret, I’m certain of it, thought Ruth, I saw it in one of Madam Dunns, magazines. It must have cost a pretty penny. And that’s without thinking about the price of those furs.
Ruth paid more attention to the society people that passed her by then to where she was going, but suddenly John stopped, outside a large, grand building built in the Art Deco style. The Palace, it said outside in large gold letters.
“Where’s this,” asked Ruth.
“The cinema,” said John. “Moving pictures. This, my girl, is the future.”
John pushed through the ornate doorway and into a large foyer.
“Show’s about to start,” pronounced a short man in a uniform covered in braid and tassels.
“Well, I better get down to the pit then,” said John.
“Hmm, it’s you is it. Wondered when you would turn up again. Alright, you know where to go.”
John turned to Ruth, “Arthur will see you settled.” And with that, he dashed off with his violin case under his arm.
Dumped. Just like that. This is getting to be a bad habit, thought Ruth. I’ll have to knock out of him.
Arthur; the little man in the braided uniform, took Ruth by the arm.
“So, you’re John’s new girlfriend that I’ve heard so much about,” he said.
“Wife,” snapped Ruth and held up the wedding ring she’d stolen from the pawnbrokers.
“Of course,” apologised Arthur. “Come this way, and we’ll get you in one of the comfortable seats.”
“What about sweets,” said Ruth?
“Yes, what would you like, some Allsorts?”
“Russian Caramels,” said Ruth. She wasn’t going to be fobbed off with Allsorts.
Arthur measured out a small paper bag of Russian Caramels and then led Ruth in to sit in on the boxes.
“I’ll leave you here,” he said, and then pushed his way back through the curtain and back to the foyer.
Once he was gone, Ruth popped one of the caramels into her mouth. This isn’t so bad, she thought and leaned back into her chair. The show was about to start, and all the lights had gone dim. Suddenly she could hear a single violin playing plaintively, and then the curtain rose, and the cinema lantern shone on to big screen.
Ruth had been to the cinema before. There was no cinema in Godalming, but if she went to Guildford, there has been a projection house there. It was quite a way, and it cost quite a bit of money, but she’d gone there once or twice on her day off with William, or with Lottie, usually with Lottie. William mostly wanted to go to the village pub on his day off.
The first feature was a comedy with Charlie Chaplin. That was alright, thought Ruth. But it wasn’t really very funny. The best thing about the picture had been John’s violin playing. Next up on the double bill was Rudolf Valentino dressed up as an Arabian Sheik.
Ruth thought it was very romantic. Valentino is so handsome. John looks a bit like Rudolph Valentino. Except for his ears; they stick out too much. Maybe John should get an Arab headdress to cover them. Ruth laughed when she thought of that, and stuck another caramel in her mouth.
Ruth took a few moments to look around. Down below in the stalls, the theatre was very full. These were the cheap seats, and the slightly common people in there had been guffawing loudly while Charlie Chaplin had been on screen. Now they were sighing and ohh-ahhing whenever Rudolf made an appearance. I do wish they would be quiet, thought Ruth.
The boxes were mostly empty; rich people don’t usually come to matinees. That’s why Arthur had been able to put her in a box so easily. But across the way, she could see a group of men in one of the boxes. It may have been because it was dark, but it looked for all the world as if they were wearing robes like a monk. I must be imagining it, Ruth told herself. Sure enough, when she looked back, the box was empty. See, gone, no one there. But Ruth felt a bit uneasy. She might have imagined them wearing monk’s habits, but not imagined them completely. There had definitely been two men in that box, at least two men. Perhaps they got bored and left.
But the uneasy feeling would not go away, and then Ruth imagined something else; a strange smell. It was like the smell of ripe tomatoes, or like the cheap rum that William had been so fond of drinking. Ruth began to feel very uncomfortable. And then worse, she imagined that she could see a hand, a hairy hand with a serpent ring on it reaching out from behind the curtains.
Ruth’s first thought was that someone was trying to steal one of her Russian Caramels, and slapped the hand hard.
“Get your own,” she hissed.
There was a sharp yelp from behind the curtains; there was the sound of a bottle falling and smashing on the ground. There came loud cursing from behind the curtain.
The smell of cheap rum got stronger, but it wasn’t rum. Behind her, Ruth could see someone fumbling with the curtain trying to get through into her box. Down below John was playing sharp discordant notes on his violin as Valentino struggled with a gang of desert thieves to protect his lady love.
Up in the box, things were equally dramatic. Ruth grabbed her bag of Russian Caramels, took hold of a tasselled cord and swung over to the next box and ducked down out of sight.
A tall brutish looking man came pushing through the curtains and looked around  Ruth’s old box. Ruth nipped back out into the corridor. Her first thought was to run. But were would she run to; the man would almost certainly catch her. Well, I’m not afraid, she said.
She slipped in behind the man. He was wearing a monk’s habit. How odd, thought Ruth and then she pushed the man from behind with all her might.  The man stumbled forward and turned round to face Ruth. His face was a bestial mask of fury and hate. Ruth did not hesitate. One more push while the man was off balance sent him over the edge of the box and tumbling into the stalls.
The audience screamed. But the man landed on an obese gentleman that fortunately broke his fall. He rose up and looked back at the box, but Ruth was long gone.
“Get off,” said the large gentleman. Remarkably little fuss was made over the incident. It seemed that the audience was used to drunken toffs falling over the balcony.  At least that’s what Arthur said when Ruth asked him about the accident. Not that she told Arthur the whole story.
“Happens all the time,” he said.
Ruth found that hard to believe.
“Come with me,” said Arthur. “The show’s nearly finished.”
Arthur gave Ruth directions, and she nipped down the service stair and waited at the entrance to the pit.
Soon the performance was over, and the musicians started to come up the stairway.
“There you are,” said John, as he came out with his violin back in his case. “You’re shaking, what’s wrong. Did you get a fright when that drunk fell over the balcony?”
Ruth nodded.

“No one stolen you away then?”
“I’d like to see them try,” said Ruth, reaching up to give John a kiss.

THE END

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