Came back for our street number

The unexpected visitor was a short, stout man with a large hooked nose.
So completely engulfed was he in a great raccoon coat, that on first
sight not one of them recognized him. When, however, he had removed that
coat he was known at a glance. It was none other than the rather ugly,
fat Jew who had taken Angelo’s name and address on that dismal day when
they stood with their trunks before the old Blackmoore theatre.

“So, ho!” he exclaimed. Just as, Jeanne thought, a bear might should he
enter a cave filled with rabbits.

“Fine place here.” He advanced toward the fire. “All very cheerful.
Delightful company. May I sit down?”

Without waiting for an answer, he took a chair by the fire.

An awkward silence followed. Petite Jeanne wiggled her bare toes; she
had danced a little that evening. Swen pawed his blonde mane. Dan Baker
stared dreamily into the fire.

The stranger’s eyes wandered from one to the other of them. They rested
longest on Petite Jeanne. This made her uncomfortable.

“My name,” said the stranger, crashing the silence and indulging in a
broad grin that completely transformed his face, “is Abraham Solomon.
You’d say my parents left nothing to the imagination when they named me,
now wouldn’t you?” He laughed uproariously.

“Well, they didn’t. And neither do I. Never have. Never will. What I
want to know is, have you placed that light opera?” He turned an
enquiring eye on Angelo.

“No, er—” the Italian youth stammered, “we—we haven’t.”

“Then,” said Solomon, “suppose you show it to me now.” He nodded toward
the miniature stage at the back of the studio. “That is, as much of it
as you can—first act at least.”

“Gladly.

“On your toes!” Angelo smiled as his friends leaped from their places by
the fire. Not one of them could guess what it meant. But, like Petite
Jeanne, they believed more or less in fairies, goblins, and Santa Claus.

The performance they put on that night for the benefit of their audience
of one, who sat like a Sphinx with his back to the fire, would have done
credit to a broader stage.

When they had finished, the look on the stranger’s face had not changed.

Rising suddenly from his chair, he seemed about to depart without a
word.

Petite Jeanne could have wept. She had hoped—what had she not hoped? And
now—

But no. The man turned to Angelo. “Got a phone here?”

“Yonder.” Angelo pointed a trembling finger toward the corner. There was
a strange glow on his face. Perhaps he read character better than
Jeanne.

They heard Solomon call a number. Then:

“That you, Mister Mackenzie? Solomon speaking. Is the Junior Ballet
there?

“Spare ’em for an hour? In costume? Put on their fur coats and send ’em
over.”

“Where?”

“What’s this number?” He whirled about to ask Angelo.

“Six—six—eight.”

“Six—six—eight on the boulevard. Send ’em in taxis. I’ll meet ’em at the
sidewalk and pay the fares.

“Fifteen minutes? Great!”

Without a word he drew on his great coat and, slamming the door behind
him, went thumping down the stairs.

“What—what—” Jeanne was too astonished for speech.

Angelo seized her hand. He drew their friends into the circle and pulled
them into a wild roundo-rosa about the room.

“We’re made!” he exclaimed as, out of breath, he released them. “Abraham
Solomon is the greatest genius of a manager and producer the world has
ever known.

“And the Junior Ballet! Oh, la la! You never have seen so many natural
beauties before, and never will again. They are in training for Grand
Opera. So you see they must be most beautiful and good.

“And to think,” he cried, almost in dismay, “they will be here, here in
my studio in fifteen minutes! Every one of you give me a hand. Let’s put
it in order.”

As she assisted in the re-arranging of the studio, Petite Jeanne found
her head all awhirl. Half an hour before she had listened with a pain in
her heart to Dan Baker discussing dry bread or a full meal over a small
gold piece he had gained by begging in the snow. And now all this. How
could she stand it? She wanted to run away.

“But I must not,” she told herself stoutly. “I must not! For this is our
golden hour.”

Scarcely had she regained her composure when there came the sound of
many pairs of feet ascending the stairs.

“They come,” Angelo whispered.

“Oh, my good Father of Love!” Petite Jeanne murmured faintly. “Is it for
this that I have danced so long?”

“It is for this.”

“Then—” In the girl’s eyes was a prayer. “Then, good Father, give me
courage for one short hour.”

A moment later Angelo and Swen were assisting in the removal of fur
coats from visions of loveliness that surpassed the most gorgeous
butterflies. For this, you must know, was the Junior Ballet of the Grand
Opera. Selected for beauty and grace, they would have shone in any
ballroom of the land.

Some were slender, some plump. There were black eyes, brown and blue.
There were heads of black, brown and golden hue. The costumes, too, were
varied. All were of the filmiest of fabrics and all were gorgeous.

“See!” exclaimed the miracle-working Solomon, spreading his hands wide.
“I have brought these here that I may see you dancing with them. I wish
to know how you fit in; how you will appear before them all.”

“Ah, poor me!” The little French girl covered her face. “Who am I that I
should dance before these so beautiful ones?”

“Come!” said the fairy godfather who had suddenly arrived in their
midst. “It is for you only to do your dances as I have seen you here.
Yes, and I once did over in the old Blackmoore. Ah, yes, I was a spy. I
saw you dance, and how very well you did it, too.”

Jeanne wondered with a thrill whether he could have bribed some one to
admit him to the theatre on one of those nights when she danced to the
God of Fire alone.

“Let us see.” Solomon allowed his glance to fall upon the circle of
dancers. “Perhaps we can find something you all know. Then you can do it
together.”

He named one well known dance after another; this one from light opera
and that from grand opera, without success until he came to the polka
from _The Bartered Bride_.

At once all eyes shone. Even Dan Baker was prepared to do his part, and
Swen to have a try at the music.

Never was the beautiful dance performed in such unusual surroundings.
And seldom has it been done so well.

When the last graceful swing was executed, when whirling gowns were
still, and the company had gathered in a circle before the fire with the
girls reposing in colorful groups on his beloved rugs, and the men
standing about, Angelo caught a long breath, and murmured:

“Perfect!”

“This,” said Solomon in a voice that trembled slightly, “is a great
moment. The best, in a great profession, I have met. The result is
beauty beyond compare, and a light opera that will outshine the sun.”

“But the playhouse.” Angelo strove to bring him down to earth.

“The house? The most beautiful in the city. Where else? The Civic
Theatre. You know the place.”

“Know it?” How well he knew that place of beauty, that palace of gold
and old rose!

“But—but you forget,” he stammered. “It is only for occasional things;
recitals, Shakespeare, the very unusual affairs!”

“And this,” said Solomon, clapping him on the back, “This, my boy, will
be the most unusual of all! We may remain as long as we are good. And we
shall be good forever.

“But I promised to bring these ladies back promptly.” He sprang into
action. “Come! Coats on! And let’s be away.”

Though the ladies of the Junior Ballet were rushed into coats and fairly
pushed down the stairs to waiting taxis, not one of them failed to pause
and give Jeanne a hug and a smile or a whispered word of congratulation.

“How different!” she thought as a great lump came into her throat. “How
very different from Eve and her circle!”

“Here!” Solomon turned from hurrying the girls away. “This will act as a
binder. Be here to-morrow at nine.” He thrust something into Angelo’s
hand.

Angelo opened his hand after a time and spread out five fifty dollar
bills.

“One for you, and you, and you, and you,” he chanted as he dealt them
out, finally cramming one into his own pocket.

“Sit down,” he invited. “This is an hour for silent thanksgiving.”

“And prayer,” the devout French girl murmured softly.

They had been sitting thus in absolute silence for some time when, with
a rush that brought in a wave of cold air, Florence burst into the room.

“Oh, Florence! My own!” Jeanne cried, throwing herself into the big
girl’s arms. “To-night fairies and angels and godfathers have been here
and for you and me the world begins once more to roll round and round
just as it used to do!”

“Steady there!” said Angelo soberly. “We have another opportunity to
make good. That is all. We must all do our very best. We must guard our
steps well. Then, perhaps, all our dreams will come true.”

A few minutes later, a sober but joyous company, they parted for the
night.

As Jeanne left the room she allowed her eyes to stray to the corner
where rested the three traveling bags. She heaved a great sigh of relief
and crowded her life saving fifty dollar bill deeper into her small
purse. She had not been obliged to sell the treasures of a friend, and
for this she was more thankful than for her own good fortune.

But would this friend ever come for his property? She wondered.

As they made their way through the driving snow to the street car
Florence thought she caught a glimpse of a dark, bulky figure following
in the shadows. Seizing Petite Jeanne by the arm she hurried along.

A car came rolling up on the padded snow just as they arrived. Soon they
were stowed away in its warm depths. Not, however, until Florence had
noted that the bulky figure was a large man in a green overcoat.

“We lost him,” she thought with some satisfaction.

She was wrong. As they rose to leave the car she saw, seated at the
back, that same man. She knew in an instant who he was. For ten seconds
her brain whirled. She was obliged to grip the edge of a seat for
support.

Regaining control of herself she passed out without so much as glancing
in his direction.

To her surprise the man did not follow.

“May not have recognized us.” This was more a wish than a hope.

Hurrying across the street they mounted to their room.

“Um-m! How cozy!” she exclaimed. “Let’s not put the light on for
awhile.”

Stepping to the window, she saw the car stop at the next crossing. A man
got off.

Turning, he walked back in the direction in which he had come.

“He will ring our bell,” she told herself in a small panic. “And then?”

But he did not ring. After a tremulous ten minutes of waiting, she
whispered to herself:

“Came back for our street number. That’s bad. Angelo was right. The
fight of Maxwell Street is not our fight.”

The man in the green overcoat was the one who had started the riot on
Maxwell Street by nearly running Jeanne down in his big car, and who had
come to grief later.

“We’ll be long in knowing the last of that!” she told herself, and she
was right.

No fairy princess, waving magic wand, could have wrought a more perfect
change than came over Petite Jeanne and her beloved companions after
that hour which the rather ugly Jew with the soul of an Abraham, a Moses
and a David all wrapped in one, spent in their studio. It was by this
man that they were guided out of the wilderness of doubt and despair
into the land of joy and hope. By him, too, they were, on the very next
morning, ushered into the most magnificent little theatre Jeanne’s
glowing eyes had ever looked upon.

Unlike the Old Blackmoore, it was new. Its bright colors shone gayly
forth. Its seats of velvet, its curtains of heavy velour and all its
trimmings were perfect.

“How beautiful!” Jeanne exclaimed, as Solomon threw open the door
revealing it all.

“And yet,” she sighed after a time, “poor, shabby old Blackmoore! I did
so want to hear its walls ring once more with laughter and applause.”

“Nonsense!” exclaimed the good Solomon. “When a place is full of rats it
should be torn down. Why do people live in such places—work in them,
play in them? Is it not because they themselves are slow, stupid,
without the will to tear themselves away from it all?

“At any rate,” he added quickly, “here is your grand opportunity. Make
the most of it, my child.”

“Oh, yes. That I will. Yes! Yes! Yes! A thousand, million times, yes!”

And did she? Never had there been a time in her whole life when she
worked so hard as on the days that followed. No director with a gray
steel face was here; no brass rail where she must twist her toes in
agony; no Eve, lacking in imagination, endeavoring to teach where she
herself should be taught. Yet there were compelling forces driving her
on. Love, friendship, hope, the determination to win; these are the
great, beautiful masters that ever lead us on to nobler and stronger
lives.

Success was not assured. Far from that. The Junior Ballet was, after
all, little more than an advanced class in a great school. Chosen from
the best of young dancers, they were constantly in training so that in
some dim, distant time they might perhaps take their place by ones, twos
and threes in the ballet of some great opera company. Beautiful they
were, to be sure. Grace was theirs, too. But seasoned troupers they were
not. For this reason there would not be the snap and precision in their
dancing that could be found in a modern chorus. Would youth and natural
beauty replace this? Even Solomon wrinkled his brow when the question
was asked.

“They will!” Jeanne clenched her hands hard. “They must!”

This was her great opportunity. Still more important, it was Dan Baker’s
opportunity.

“I have youth. I have time to win success,” she assured herself. “But
for him it is now. Now, or not at all.”

Whenever she thought of this she threw herself with renewed zest into
her work.

The light opera, too, was found to be crude and unfinished in spots.
What opera is not? Solomon suggested changes. They were made.

Then one day, after they had been working for a week, a beautiful
creature entered from another world. She came sauntering down a narrow
corridor which Jeanne had seen leading away from the left side of the
stage but had never dared to follow.

This creature was a woman. Jeanne knew from her manner that she was no
longer in her twenties; yet her beautiful face did not show it. Like
Jeanne, she was fair with golden hair. She wore, draped over her
shoulders, a cape of royal purple trimmed with white fox. Beneath the
cape showed a curious costume. Made of some soft cloth, it appeared to
belong to another age, for it was neither the costume of man nor woman.
There was a suggestion of a dress that might, after all, be a long coat.
And there were trousers fitting like stockings, and curious, bright
colored shoes.

With no apology for her strange make-up, she shook hands with Solomon
and went to sit with him at the back of the theatre. As the rehearsal
progressed she turned from time to time and whispered in the producer’s
ear. He listened attentively, nodded, or shook his head and scribbled in
his note book.

When it was over the mysterious one made her way to the corridor whence
she had come.

“Who was she?” Jeanne asked in an awed whisper. Something in Solomon’s
manner suggested that he might have come from a visit with a queen. And
so he had—a queen of her own beautiful realm.

“That,” he said, his eyes twinkling merrily, “that was our
Marjory—Marjory Bryce.”

“Mar—Marjory Bryce!” Jeanne took a step backward. She knew that name. It
belonged to the queen of grand opera, known to the great city as Our
Marjory.

“But where did she come from?”

“Where but from the Opera House?” He waved a hand at the corridor where
the lady from musical fairyland had vanished.

“Is Grand Opera over there?” Jeanne looked her incredulity.

“Did you not know? Come!” He took her hand and led her down that
corridor to its end. There he opened a door into a world unknown, a
world that in the days to follow was to become a veritable fairyland of
beauty, romance and adventure. It was a vast auditorium, much the same
as the Civic Theatre, though many times larger.

“So this is the home of Grand Opera!” The place was deserted. Jeanne
went whirling away across its vast stage in a wild dance.

“Some day,” she cried, clasping her hands like a child asking for a
doll, “may I dance here before all the people?”

“Time alone will tell,” said Solomon soberly. “Art is long. First comes
the Civic Theatre. And that is task enough for the present.

“And by the way!” His eyes brightened. “Miss Bryce gave me many valuable
suggestions regarding our opera. She is one of the greatest living
authorities. No one can play such varied roles as she. With these
suggestions, faithfully worked out, we should succeed.”

He led the way back to the Civic Theatre. There Florence awaited Jeanne.

In her dreams that night the little French girl danced upon a stage as
long as a city street and strewn with flowers, while an audience of
millions screamed their approval.

“That,” she told herself as she sat up, rubbing her eyes, “was a strange
dream. Of course it will never come true. All the same, in our little
theatre, surrounded by my own beloved Golden Circle—ah, well, we shall
see!”

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