I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Jennings," Helm said cordially. He was a large man and by his general appearance, a man of success.
"Yes, he's been waiting to see you--says that he has something very important to say." Higgins spoke almost eagerly. "Then--I guess you folks can get on without me. You played wonderfully tonight, Miss Mary, better than ever!"
"Thank you," Mary Jennings said, smiling, and the stranger, noting the light in her eyes, concluded that the violinist and the theatre proprietor must be more than mere business friends.
"I understand that there are always great houses when you play," Helm said as the door closed.
"Yes, they seem to like my playing." The woman motioned her visitor to a chair and seated herself on the top of her trunk. She was very curious and slightly awed.
"That's what I came about--your playing. One of my advance men heard you in Grafton City last week. He sent word to me and I followed you here. I heard you play this afternoon."
"Yes--?" she asked uneasily.
"And I'll hand it to you--you can play."
"Thank you," she smiled again. There was a long pause. Each was thinking.
"You don't know who I am, do you?" he asked presently. "You don't place me?"
No, she did not place him.
"I'm Carlos Helm, the concert manager. I'm getting ready a big world tour for one of the bands that I send out. We're looking for soloists. I think you'd do for one of them---"
"I? For a world tour?"
"Maybe. I'd like to try you out." He was abruptly business-like.
"I don't know---" she said softly.
"No, neither do I. But I could soon find out. Suppose you plan to come into Springfield next Sunday. We're having a big concert there in connection with a religious drive they are holding. I'm going to have four or five big musical numbers and they're providing the speakers. There's sure to be a crowd and if you get across with that crowd--well, you'll be able to go with any crowd."
The woman's eyes sparkled but she did not speak.
"Now about money. I'm not going to drag you before the public and then have some rival manager grab you up if you make a big hit. How much do you make playing around at these small town theaters? Not much, I'll wager."
"I average a hundred dollars a week, though, of course, I seldom get an engagement in the summer--that is July and August."
"A hundred a week, And you're paying your own expenses," the man smiled. He had an easy task before him.
I'll give you fifty dollars and expenses to play in Springfield. You'll only have to do four pieces. If you go over right, I'll give you a hundred and fifty a week and traveling expenses to begin with. Afterward you'll have more."
"I'll have to think about it," she said softly. "I--it sounds wonderful!"
"Yes, that's right--it sounds wonderful!" Show up at the Auditorium in Springfield about three o'clock on the twelfth. That will give you time for a rehearsal. I've got to run now for my train. Goodbye!"
To be continued...