She dressed herself more than carefully that night and the mirror reflected her image as a handsome woman in startling raiment. She had not seen Higgins. She wondered if he were avoiding her. She hoped not, for after all, she liked John. He had been very, very kind to her and with him, friendship had blossomed into love. She smiled when she realized that if she had wished, she might be Mrs. John Higgins of Thompsonville, instead of Mary Jennings with the sure prospects of a glorious career before her.
As she stepped on to the stage that night, a chorus of "Oh's!" mingled with the thunder of applause. She checked it, almost imperiously, and played. First, there was a lilting waltz which showed all the fire of her art. Then, scarcely waiting for the silence, she played the ever-beloved Christmas lullaby, Silent Night, Holy Night. The hush of a great peace was over the house. A woman muffled a sob. Mary Jennings felt the spirit of her own music as if she were hearing another. It seemed to exalt her, to carry her above smallness and unrest. At their insistent demand she played the Christmas favorites they called for: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and Good King Wenceslas. A child in front started to sing familiar words. Mary Jennings nodded joyously to the little girl and called "Sing out, dear! Everyone sing!" And they did! "Come all Ye Faithful" someone called and the words were repeated from parquet and box and gallery. They sang the melody, quietly at first but in growing volume as the Christmas spirit that was in their hearts overwhelmed them.
"Come All Ye Faithful!" A thought filled the brain of the "Princess." How faithful they were, these "common people"--in their daily lives--in their love for her. She turned suddenly weary. After all, she had had but little sleep in the past ten days. It was hard to rest even when one traveled in luxury. She would play no more tonight.
She walked toward the side of the stage and bowed, as if to end her program.
To be continued...