TERPY’S LAST DANCE AND WICKERSHAM’S FINAL THROW
Curiously enough, the interview between Mrs. Lancaster and Lois brought them closer together than before. The older woman seemed to find a new pleasure in the young girl’s society, and as often as she could she had the girl at her house. Sometimes, too, Keith was of the party. He held himself in leash, and hardly dared face the fact that he had once more entered on the lane which, beginning among flowers, had proved so thorny in the end. Yet more and more he let himself drift into that sweet atmosphere whose light was the presence of Lois Huntington.
One evening they all went together to see a vaudeville performance that was being much talked about.
Keith had secured a box next the stage. The theatre was crowded. Wickersham sat in another box with several women, and Keith was aware that he was covertly watching his party. He had never appeared gayer or been handsomer.
The last number but one was a dance by a new danseuse, who, it was stated in the playbills, had just come over from Russia. According to the reports, the Russian court was wild about her, and she had left Europe at the personal request of the Czar. However this might be, it appeared that she could dance. The theatre was packed nightly, and she was the drawing-card.
As the curtain rose, the danseuse made her way to the centre of the stage. She had raven-black hair and brows; but even as she stood, there was something in the pose that seemed familiar to Keith, and as she stepped forward and bowed with a little jerk of her head, and then, with a nod to the orchestra, began to dance, Keith recognized Terpy. That abandon was her own.
As she swept the boxes with her eyes, they fell on Keith, and she started, hesitated, then went on. Next moment she glanced at the box again, and as her eye caught Keith’s she gave him a glance of recognition. She was not to be disconcerted now, however. She had never danced so well. And she was greeted with raptures of applause. The crowd was wild with delight.
At that moment, from one of the wings, a thin curl of smoke rose and floated up alongside a painted tamarind-tree. It might at first have been only the smoke of a cigar. Next moment, however, a flick of flame stole out and moved up the tree, and a draught of air blew the smoke across the stage. There were a few excited whispers, a rush in the wings; some one in the gallery shouted “Fire!” and just then a shower of sparks from the flaming scenery fell on the stage.
In a second the whole audience was on its feet. In a second more there would have been a panic which must have cost many lives. Keith saw the danger. “Stay in this box,” he said. “The best way out is over the stage. I will come for you if necessary.” He sprang on the stage, and, with a wave of his arm to the audience, shouted: “Down in your seats! It is all right.”