“I tole Miss Eva she ought to put peroxide in the rinsin’ water for her hair like Florette useter, but it made her mad. I b’lieve in a woman fixin’ herself up all she can, don’t you?” asked Freddy earnestly.
“Indeed, I do! But tell me, who is Florette?”
So Freddy told her all about his mother, and about the good fortune that had come to her.
“Fifty-two weeks solid! Some ac’ to get that kinda bookin, huh?” he ended.
“Yes! Oh, yes, indeed!”
“There y’ah now! Look at youse’f! See if it’s a’right.”
Madame d’Avala turned to the mirror. Her gown fell in serene, lovely folds. It seemed incredible that it was the little demon of a few minutes before.
“Perfect! Freddy, you’re a wonder. How can I thank you?”
“Tha’s a’right. You’re welcome.”
He was regarding her with worshipful eyes.
“You’re awful pretty,” he breathed.
“Thank you,” said Madame d’Avala. “Are you coming to my concert?”
“No, they put us to bed!” cried Freddy in disgust. “Puttin’ me to bed at 8:30 every night! What-ta y’ know about that! Jus’ w’en the orchestra would be tunin’ up for the evenin’ p’formance.”
“What a shame! I’d like to have you see my act.”
“I bet it’s great. You got the looks, too. Tha’s what it takes in this p’fession. Make a quick change?”
“No, I wear the same dress all through.”
“Oh! Well,” he sighed deeply—“well, it’s been great to see you, anyway. Goo’-bye.”
The great lady bent down to him and kissed his forehead.
“Good-bye, Freddy,” she said. “You’ve helped me so much.”
Freddy drew in a long breath.
“M-m,” he sighed, “you know how I come to peek in your door like that?”
“Because you heard me screaming ’damn’?”
“No, before that. Comin’ all the way down the hall I could smell it. Smelled so nice. Don’t none of these ladies use perfume. I jus’ knew somebody I’d like was in here soon’s I got that smell.”
“Oh, Freddy, I like you, too! But I’ve got to hurry now. Good-bye. And thanks so much, dear.”
She started out the door.
“Oh, gee! I can’t go to bed!” Freddy wailed.
“Come along, then!” cried Madame d’Avala, impetuously seizing his hand. “I’ll make them let you go to the concert. They must!”
They ran down the hall together hand in hand, Freddy directing the way to the Misses Blair’s study. Miss Eva and Miss Nellie and Mary were there, and they looked at Freddy compassionately. And though Miss Eva said it was most unusual, Miss Nellie agreed to Madame d’Avala’s request.
“For,” said gentle Miss Nellie, drawing Madame d’Avala aside and lowering her voice—“for we are very sorry for Freddy now. His mother——”
“Oh, yes, she has gone to England.”
“Why, no! She—is dead!”
“Oh, mio povero bambino! And how he adores her!”