THE GOLDEN TRIUMPH

In a bright colored dressing gown, her golden hair falling about her
shoulders, Petite Jeanne sat buried deep among cushions in her great
easy chair.

It was high noon of her great day. She had slept late. Now, as she sat
sipping tea and munching toast, she thought of the past and of the
future.

Behind her in the past lay disappointments, heartaches and many perils.
Were they gone forever? Did only a golden future lay before? She hoped
so.

And yet—she thought of the dark-faced gypsy whose one purpose in life
appeared to be to come into possession of her gypsy Fire God; she
thought, too, of the enemy of Maxwell Street. It was he, she felt sure,
who was hounding poor old Dan Baker for money.

“He’s a blackmailer! I hope we have heard the last of him!” she cried
passionately.

Soon she was to know that they had not!

Since the affair at the door of the opera stage and the theft of
Florence’s Boston bag, the ever thoughtful Solomon had secured a special
taxi driver, a man of skill and courage, to carry Florence and Petite
Jeanne wherever they must go. But until now nothing further had
happened.

“And to-night is _the_ night!” She poked her pink toes out from the
blanket in which they were wrapped and murmured: “And to-night, you
feet, you must do what Florence calls your durndest!” She laughed a
merry laugh.

At four their special cabman honked in the street below. They would go
to the theatre. There in her dressing room Petite Jeanne would rest,
partake of a belated tea, and await the zero hour.

She was thinking of this in a dreamy way as they sped toward the theatre
when, as they paused before a crossing signal, shocking things began to
happen.

“Make room!” a gruff voice demanded. A man in a huge overcoat attempted
to crowd in beside Florence. She resisted. All her splendid muscles went
into play. The taxi driver was not lagging in his part. Swinging the car
sharply about, he attempted to dislodge the intruder from the running
board. A car coming from the opposite direction struck his hind wheel.
His cab spun around, skidded sharply to the right and struck the curb
with a crash.

The shock threw the intruder from his place. He went sprawling, struck
his head on the street curb and lay there dazed.

In an instant Florence, filled with honest courage and righteous
indignation, leaped upon him.

But now a second man, springing from his car, dashed at her. She could
hardly cope with both of them. But reinforcements were coming. A crowd
was gathering. From this crowd sprang a stout, ruddy faced man. With one
deft blow he felled the oncoming assailant and, with apparent
satisfaction proceeded to pin him to the pavement.

Florence felt the man she held struggle to free himself. But just then
two burly policemen, arriving on the scene, relieved her of her task.

Trembling from head to toe, Petite Jeanne had left the wrecked cab and
was standing by the curb when the man who had come to their rescue
approached with lifted hat.

“I have a car here, a rather good one.” He half apologized for
intruding. “Your cab’s smashed. The driver tells me you are bound for
your theatre. It would be a pleasure—” Suddenly he stopped and stared
with dawning recognition at the little French girl.

“Why, upon my word!” he exclaimed. “It is you! Petite Jeanne! The very
person for whom I am looking!” He stripped off a glove to hold out his
hand.

Until that time, thinking him only a gallant stranger, Jeanne had taken
no notice of this man. Now, after one surprised look, she cried, with
the feeling native to her race:

“Preston Wamsley! My very dear friend!”

It was, indeed! Having returned, after a month of travel, to his hotel
in New York, and finding there Jeanne’s letter regarding his long lost
luggage, this friend of her sea journey had hastened immediately to this
city and to Angelo’s studio. There he had received the French girl’s
address and had been driving to her home when these strange happenings
had arrested his progress.

“Nothing,” he said, with a ring of genuine emotion in his voice, “could
give me greater pleasure than to drive you to your theatre. Your friend
may come with us. You have an unusual taxi driver. He appears to know
the ropes. He will make all necessary reports and see that those rascals
are put behind bars where they belong. It was a kidnaping plot beyond a
doubt.

“No,” he said a moment later, as Jeanne, after sinking into the cushions
of the great car he had employed, started shakily to explain, “you need
not tell me a thing to-night. To-morrow will do quite as well. Your
nerves have been shaken. And this, the driver assures me, is to be your
great night.”

“It is,” Petite Jeanne murmured. Then sitting up quite suddenly, she
produced a ticket from her purse. “This,” she said, “is the last one in
my private row. You must take it.”

“I could not well refuse.” He tucked it away in his billfold; then, as
Jeanne sat quite still with eyes closed, striving to still her madly
beating heart, they glided onward toward the theatre and her night of
nights.

As Petite Jeanne entered her dressing room she found a diminutive figure
hidden away in a corner. At sight of the little French girl this person
sprang to her feet with a cry of joy:

“Oh, Petite Jeanne! I have waited so long!” It was Merry.

“But see!” She pointed proudly at Jeanne’s dressing table. “I brought
him to you. He will bring you luck to-night, I am sure. For, only look!
He is still gazing toward the sky!” On Petite Jeanne’s dressing table
rested the marble falcon.

“My own Merry!” Jeanne clasped her in her arms. “You think only of
others.

“And you—” She clasped her friend at arm’s length. “Has the marble
falcon brought you good fortune?” Seeing how pinched was the face of the
little Irish girl, she realized with a pang that in all the rush and
excitement of the last two weeks Merry had been sadly neglected.

Merry hung her head for ten seconds. But her blue eyes were smiling as
she whispered hoarsely:

“Tad says good times are right round the corner. Our luck will change.”

“Yes, indeed!” exclaimed Jeanne. “It will. It must.” And she made a
solemn vow that in the future her success must bring success to her dear
little Irish friend.

Unknown to Jeanne, powerful influences had been at work. Her friend, the
famous prima donna, enjoyed a large following. More than one morning she
had seated herself at her telephone and had whispered words this way and
that. The house had been sold out four days before the opening night.
This had been glorious news.

“The best of the city will be here,” Solomon had said with a sober face.
“One must remember, however, that the best are the most critical, too,
and that their judgment is final. No curtain calls on the first night:
good-bye, dear little light opera!”

What wonder then that Petite Jeanne’s fingers trembled as she toyed with
a rose in her dressing room fifteen minutes before the lifting of the
curtain on that night of nights!

“But I must be calm!” she told herself. “So much depends upon it: the
success and happiness of all my Golden Circle! And with the success of
this circle we may expand it. Merry shall enter it, and Tad, and perhaps
others?

“I have only to be real, to be quite natural, to dance as I have danced
by the garden walls of France; to say to that audience of rich and wise
and beautiful people:

“‘See! I have for you something quite wonderful. It came from the past.
Only the gypsies have seen it. Now I show it to you. And not alone I
show it, but this sweet and good old dancer and all these, my chorus, so
fresh and fair and young. Have you ever seen anything quite so
enchanting? No. To be sure you have not!’”

Reassured by her own words, she rose to skip across the floor, then on
down the vestibule toward the stage.

When the curtain rose on a scene of matchless beauty, a gypsy camp
somewhere in France; when the beholders found themselves looking upon
the gorgeous costumes, colorful tents, and gaudily painted vans
clustered about a brightly glowing campfire; when the music, which might
well have been the whispering of wind among the trees, began stealing
through the house, a hush fell upon the place such as is seldom
experienced save in the depths of a great forest by night.

When the little French girl, a frail wisp of humanity all done in red
and gold, came spinning upon the stage to dance before the leering God
whose very eyes appeared to gleam with hidden fire, the silence seemed
to deepen.

All through that first act, not a sound was heard save those which came
from the stage. Not a programme rustled, not a whisper escaped.

When at last, having told his quaint story and been accepted as a dancer
in place of the bear, the old trouper with Jeanne as his partner danced
twice across the stage and disappeared into the shadows, the silence was
shattered by such a roar of applause as the beautiful little playhouse
had never before known.

Seven times the curtain rose. Seven times the little French girl dragged
her reluctant hero, Dan Baker, out to the footlights to bow to the still
applauding audience.

When at last the curtain fell for good, she whispered, “What a
beginning! But there is yet more.”

Who can describe in mere words of black on white the glories of that
night? The scenes, done by an artist who had lived long in France,
reproduced faithfully the gypsy camp by the roadside, the garden of the
Tuileries in Paris and the little private garden of a rich French home.

To many who saw them, these scenes brought back tender memories of the
past. Some had been soldiers there, and some had gone there to enjoy the
glory that is Paris.

And when Jeanne, a golden sprite, now leaping like a flame, now gliding
like some wild thing of the forest, now seeming to float on air like a
bird, poised herself against these marvelous settings, there came at
every turn fresh gasps of surprise and delight.

Nor did Jeanne seek all the glory. She appeared ever eager to bring
forward those who were about her. When Dan Baker did his fantastic
rustic dance and told his more fantastic yarns, she watched and listened
as no others could. And hers was the first shrill scream of delight.

When the chorus came weaving its way across the stage she joined them as
one who is not a leader, but a humble companion.

Indeed as the evening wore on, the delighted audience became more and
more conscious of the fact that the little French dancer was not, in
spirit, on that stage at all, but by some roadside in France and that,
while contributing her share to the joy of the occasion, she was
gleaning her full share from those who joined her in each act.

This was exactly what had happened. And Jeanne was not conscious of the
row on row of smiling, upturned faces. She saw only one row. And in that
row, by her request, sat the members of what she had playfully termed
her “Outer Golden Circle.”

And what a strange circle it was! First and most delighted of all, was
the great prima donna, Marjory Bryce. Beside her was Merry, and on round
the circle, Tad, Weston, Kay King, Big John and the ruddy faced
Englishman, Preston Wamsley. To this group Florence had added three
persons. These were dark mysterious beings with red handkerchiefs about
their necks. Jeanne had started at sight of two of them. They were the
gypsy mother and father who had once aided in kidnaping her. But the
third! She all but fell upon the stage at sight of him. It was Bihari,
her gypsy foster father who having learned, in the way these wanderers
have, that Jeanne was to appear on the stage this night, had come all
the way from France that he might be a guest of honor.

What a night for Jeanne! Little wonder that she outdanced her wildest
dream! Little wonder that when the last curtain fell thunderous applause
appeared to rock the great building. Little wonder that they called her
back again and yet again.

For all this, the night was not over. The keen mind of Abraham Solomon
had thought up a fitting climax for so great a triumph. As, on the final
curtain, they stood there in a group, Jeanne and her stage lover, Dan
Baker, Angelo, Swen and Solomon, Jeanne broke away to scream in her high
pitched voice:

“This is our Golden Circle.” At that, whipping out a long roll of golden
paper tape, she raced about the little group entwining them again and
again, at last including herself within the circle.

The audience went wild. They applauded; they whistled; they stamped
their feet.

More was to come. As the company of beautiful maidens, her chorus,
gathered close, she encircled them to cry once more:

“And this, too, is our Golden Circle.”

At this moment came the little dancer’s turn for surprise; for the
audience, rising as one man, shouted in unison: “This is our Golden
Circle!”

At this instant the entire auditorium seemed to burst into yellow flame.
The effect was startling in the extreme. Only ten seconds were required,
however, for those on the stage to realize that the wise old Solomon,
their manager, had put something over on them. The gold was the flash
and gleam of a thousand golden streamers thrown to every point of the
compass by delighted patrons. Solomon had provided the streamers with
their programmes. Each person had been told in advance that when the
time came for using these they would know. And few there were that did
not realize when the real moment arrived. Truly, this was an occasion
long to be remembered.

Petite Jeanne’s face loomed large next day on every page devoted to
dramatic art in the day’s papers. And beneath each were the words: “Girl
of the Golden Circle.”

* * * * * * * *

There is little left to tell; Petite Jeanne, the old trouper, Angelo,
Swen, and all the rest had scored a triumph that would not soon be
forgotten.

Jeanne’s success did not, however, rob her of her interest in others; on
the contrary, it served to increase it. On that very evening, as she was
ushered into a magnificent reception room where she was to meet a very
select company of patrons, the highly educated, the influential and the
rich, she began her missionary work by whispering in every ear a deep
secret of some tiny shop hidden away in a cellar where unusual objects
of art might be purchased at unheard of prices. On the very next day
Merry was astonished by the arrival of customers of such quality and
importance as her little shop had not before known. It was no time at
all before the little shop was humming merrily, Tad was busy at his
bench and Merry back at her place at auction sales buying shrewdly for
future needs.

One of the men captured by Florence and the friendly Englishman turned
state’s evidence. By his confession, a band of contemptible rogues, who
for a long time had been preying upon theatre folk, was apprehended and
brought to justice.

As for the dark-faced evil-minded gypsy who coveted the God of Fire,
good old Bihari made short work of him. He revealed to the immigration
authorities that this man had entered the country without a passport.
And since he was the very one who had stolen the treasured god in the
first place, when he set foot in France he was outlawed by the gypsies
themselves.

As Jeanne had known all the time, the wealthy Englishman, Preston
Wamsley, had prized the articles of great beauty in his traveling bags,
not because of their value in dollars, but because of his associations
with those who from time to time had presented them to him. He had been
broken-hearted upon learning that a blundering shipping clerk had billed
them to the wrong name and address and that he had probably lost them
forever.

Good fortune having knocked at his door, he was duly grateful. When
Petite Jeanne had told the story, he insisted upon driving her out to
Kay King’s tiny book shop, whereupon he rewarded the young man
handsomely for the generous spirit he had shown in sacrificing sure
financial gain in order to spare the feelings of a friend.

During all the long run of the highly successful light opera, the marble
falcon remained in its place on Petite Jeanne’s dressing table.

“To me,” she said to her friend, the prima donna, one day, “it will
always remain the symbol of one who, buffeted and broken by the storms
of life, keeps his eyes fixed upon the clouds until at last he has
achieved an abiding success.”

“Ah, yes, how beautifully you say it!” exclaimed the great one. “But
you, Petite Jeanne, you are the marble falcon of all time.”

“I?” Petite Jeanne laughed a merry laugh. “For me life has been
wonderful. There are always my many friends, you know.”

“Ah, yes, your Golden Circle. If it were not for these, our golden
circles, how could we be brave enough to live at all?”

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