"Oh, you've got to play Home, Sweet Home! shouted a middle-aged man down in front and the whole house echoed him. "Yes! Home, Sweet Home! You've got to play that!" She smiled at them and touched the bow to the strings.
"Mid pleasure and palaces-" the simple strain of the music flowed from her violin, and then "Home! Home! Sweet, Sweet Home," and so on to the finish of the melody. Obeying a warm, inward impulse she repeated the refrain, the bow wandering in soft harmonies and variations. A sob rose in her heart. The old song was right! There was "no place on Earth" quite like home. And to her, this little theater, with the people who knew her best with John Higgins and his sister, was home to her. They loved her! There was not one of them that wore perfectly correct evening dress; they might not understand her more difficult musical themes. But they loved her! She was one of them. After the last high, sweet note died, she took no bows, she had to hide the free-running tears. She stumbled to the little dressing-room and dropped to a chair. They were real people, her own folk. And in the world beyond lay-what? Success? Money? Yes, but here were men and woman who had driven miles through frosty air to hear her. After all, hearts were more than money, friendship more than fame.
There was a knock at her door. It was John Higgins. She smiled at him through her tears.
"Crying? What's up! You were more wonderful than ever," he said. "I don't wonder the big world calls you. When you played that Holy Night piece, I almost cried--and--"
He stopped abruptly. "What's up--dear?"
"It's nothing," she smiled wanly. "I'm just tired."
"That's all? Sure?"
"They all love me so, John! It's been wonderful playing in the big cities but--'there is no place like home,'" and she sobbed outright.
He dropped to his knees beside her chair. He took her hands in his. "You don't have to be tired any more, Mary. You don't have to fiddle for city folks. You'll never have to work again, but just play when you will for the folks that love you best. Why--" he stopped.
She knew what he meant. That the big farm and the theater could keep them. That he wanted to marry her. That she never again need eat another lonely Christmas dinner. The thought was as the sweetest music that filled her soul. It soothed the ache in her heart.
"Holy Night!" she breathed softly, almost as if in prayer and leaned closer to him.
John Higgins understood. Through the silence of the little, barn-like room came to him the glorious message that Mary's heart had won home--she was giving him the best
Christmas gift in his life, a true woman's love.