In spite of the light whirl of snow which everyone said was seasonable, considering that Christmas was only three weeks off, there were a score of people waiting before the ticket window of the Thompsonville motion picture house. John Higgins, the proprietor, saw the crowd and smiled. He knew why they were there twenty minutes before show time, and with the air of a man regarding a great possession, glanced proudly at the showy billboard.
MARY JENNINGS---PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN
He read the sign a second and a third time. Then he went quickly into the box office and opening the window, began to sell tickets.
It was half-past seven when Mary Jennings made her first appearance that night, sandwiched between a comedy picture and the big feature of the evening. She was a small woman with dark hair and eyes, no longer really young, and in appearance, foreign to the stage. In her simply cut dress, she could hardly be called good-looking but she had a radiant smile that was all-enveloping. When the spotlight caught her as she entered from one side of the stage, there was a heavy roar of applause which the lifting of her violin checked abruptly. Those out front did not wish to miss a single note.
Mary Jennings had played the violin since childhood and she could make the instrument laugh and sigh, weep and sing and dream. As she swayed the bow over the vibrating strings, so she swayed the hearts of those who listened. She was not a great artist. She played with divine temperament.
Tonight she played three semi-classical melodies and then, with a friendly smile and words, asked her audience to tell her what they would like. The first two "request" pieces came quickly and then with a joyous clamor they called for Home, Sweet Home--old-fashioned, forever beloved, Home Sweet Home. Just as a certain great singer had always sung that ballad best, so it was the choicest number in Mary Jennings' repertoire.
After she had bowed acknowledgement to their sincere applause, they settled back for the feature picture and Mary Jennings' work was over until it was time for the second performance.
Tonight, as she entered the small, scrupulously clean dressing-room to await the second call, she found John Higgins there, and with him a stranger whom he introduced as Mr. Helm.
To be continued...