Suddenly she heard the warning tap of the conductor’s baton; the applause was hushed as though by a charm, and the orchestra broke into the overture to ‘Zampa.’ She could not understand, she could not think. As she tripped tragically to the artists’-room in her new yellow dress she said to herself that the conductor must have made some mistake, and that——
‘Very nice, my dear,’ said the Lopez kindly to her. ’You got quite a call—quite a call.’
She waited for Otto to come and talk to her.
At length the Lopez was summoned, and Clarice followed to listen to her. And when the Lopez had soared with strong practised flight through the brilliant intricacy of the Shadow Song, Clarice became aware what real applause sounded like from the stage. It shook the stage as the old favourite of two generations, wearing her set smile, waddled back to the debutante. Scores of voices hoarsely shouted ‘Encore!’ and ’Last Rose of Summer,’ and with a proud sigh the Lopez went on again, bowing.
Clarice saw nothing more of Otto, who doubtless had other birds to snare. The next day only three daily papers mentioned the concert at all. In fact, Otto expected press notices but once a week. All three papers praised the matchless Lopez in her Shadow Song. One referred to Clarice as talented; another called her well-intentioned; the third merely said that she had played. The short dream of artistic ascendancy lay in fragments around her. She was a sensible girl, and stamped those iridescent fragments into dust.
The Staffordshire Signal contained the following advertisement: ’Miss Clara Toft, solo pianist, of the Otto Autumn Concerts, London, will resume lessons on the 1st proximo at Liszt House, Turnhill. Terms on application.’ At thirty Clarice married James Sillitoe, the pianoforte dealer in Market Square, Turnhill, and captious old Mrs. Toft formed part of the new household. At thirty-four Clarice possessed a little girl and two little boys, twins. Sillitoe was a money-maker, and she no longer gave lessons.
Happy? Perhaps not unhappy.
* * * * *
 Written in 1893.
Rain was falling—it had fallen steadily through the night—but the sky showed promise of fairer weather. As the first streaks of dawn appeared, the wind died away, and the young leaves on the trees were almost silent. The birds were insistently clamorous, vociferating times without number that it was a healthy spring morning and good to be alive.