Thompsonville! Suddenly she almost hated the name. For ten days she had traveled in luxury and lived at the best hotels. She had been playing before audiences who wore evening clothes, who applauded correctly, who understood her music. Of course, the small town folk had been fond of her, and John Higgins loved her. But everything was changed now and surely it was a right change.
She found that Helm had gone West but had left an order for her. As she feared, he had not been able to break the Thompsonville engagement. She was to keep it and then report back to Springfield. He would be back the day after Christmas and then the contract for the long tour could be signed.
She was disappointed, so much so that she considered playing sick and so cheating Higgins after all. She shivered at her smallness but argued with herself that she was right. For a whole day she moped about her hotel, one minute deciding that she might as well go, the next determining that she would never play in Tompsonville again.
In the end, however, duty won, duty plus a queer feeling of resentment. She would go down to Tompsonville! She would play as she had never played before! She would wear the gorgeous gown that she had bought with the thought of her Chicago engagement in mind. She would show Tompsonville what it would be missing in the years that were coming!
It was after noon when she arrived, and she went at once to the theater to find what part she was scheduled to play in Higgins' gala program. She found the lobby trimmed with evergreen and in a frame of holly has her name with the familiar Princess of the Violin heading. The stage, too, was gaily decorated. A piano was on the stage and the organist of the Methodist Church, the best local musician, was engaged especially to play her accompaniments. She found too to her surprise, that there was to be no afternoon performance, and only one that evening. Higgins, so the man at the box office told her, had gone to his sister's to eat Christmas dinner but would be back about seven. Her accompanist would meet her at four to practice.
There seemed to be nothing else to do but go back to her hotel room and the hotel proprietor asked her if he could serve her Christmas dinner, assuring her that there was plenty left.
It was a lonely meal! Other years she had been the guest of friends, and last year, she too, had dined at John Higgins' sister's. But now a change had come. She had begun that change herself.
At four she returned to the theater to rehearse, then back to the hotel, for another lonely meal and the dragging hours until the evening engagement.
To be continued...