In just three years they had become one of the most renowned variety acts in London; Marvellous Maurice and Hugo, the Wonder Dog. They had entertained the crowned heads of Europe and the de-bagged dons of Oxford.
But tonight’s performance was nowhere near as auspicious. A booking at O’Reilly’s Theatre and Music Hall (better known locally as Irish Johnny’s Gin Palace) was merely bread-and-butter to the renowned duo. But they acted like professionals nonetheless.
Maurice strode onto the stage to the usual chorus of cat-calls and jeers from the ill-bred audience. To be followed moments later by Hugo, complete with a pair of miniature wings strapped to his broad bulldog back.
Hugo snuffed onto the far end of the see-saw while Maurice ascended the set of steps opposite, all the while cajoling the racuous audience with his eloquence.
Infuriated by the braying of the jeering ingrates, Maurice leapt from the platform with particular ferocity. Yelping loudly Hugo shot into the air, soaring straight up, as his master’s considerable weight landed on the see-saw.
Maurice peered anxiously up into the darkness behind the stage. Hugo did not come down. “‘E’s gorn up to ‘eaven, bless ‘im,” wailed a woman in the front row.
Despite an intensive search of the theatre flats, there was no sign of Hugo. He had disappeared completely.
Two weeks later, the district ratter was laying traps in the theatre’s attic when he spied canine hind quarters hanging from the ceiling. A pair of crumpled paper wings lay beneath them.
He clambered out on to the roof through a nearby skylight. There was Hugo, his head poking out through some shattered tiles, blackened tongue jutting from his mouth to lick the air, tasting the path to paradise; the ugliest angel in heaven.