Orlando Day, a fourth-rate actor in London, was once called, in a sudden emergency, to supply the place of Allen Ainsworth at the Criterion Theatre for a single night.
The call filled him with joy. Here was a chance to show the public how great a histrionic genius had remained unknown for lack of an opportunity. But his joy was suddenly dampened by the dreadful thought that, as the play was already in the midst of its run, none of the dramatic critics might be there to watch his triumph.
A bright thought struck him. He would announce the event. Rushing to a telegraph office, he sent to one of the leading critics the following telegram: "Orlando Day presents Allen Ainsworth's part to-night at the Criterion."
Then it occurred to him, "Why not tell them all?" So he repeated the message to a dozen or more important persons.
At a late hour of the same day, in the Garrick Club, a lounging gentleman produced one of the telegrams, and read it to a group of friends. A chorus of exclamations followed the reading: "Why, I got precisely the same message!" "And so did I." "And I, too." "Who is Orlando Day?" "What beastly cheek!" "Did the ass fancy that one would pay any attention to his wire?"
J. M. Barrie, the famous author and playwright, who was present, was the only one who said nothing.
"Didn't he wire you too?" asked one of the group.
"But of course you didn't answer."
"Oh, but it was only polite to send an answer after he had taken the trouble to wire me. So, of course, I answered him."
"You did! What did you say?"
"Oh, I just telegraphed him: 'Thanks for timely warning.'"