But she hesitated to consent.
“I can’t, Ray,” she said, at last. “Truly, I can’t. They’d—they’d turn me off—”
“Oh, Azalea, what nonsense! They’d do no such thing!”
“Yes, they would. You don’t know Bill. He’s good and generous and kind,—but he hates anything like deceit,—and almost worse, he hates the whole moving-picture racket. I don’t mean the pictures themselves, exactly,—but the idea of anybody of his being in them. And, oh, Ray,—it isn’t only myself,—but I took—I took—”
“I know,—you took the kiddy.”
“Yes, I did. It didn’t seem any harm, at first, and then, one day when I brought her home,—she was sleepy,—unusually so, I mean, and Nurse said she had been given soothing sirup,—and—I found out afterward she had! Mrs. Bixby had given her some, to keep her quiet in the picture, you know. Of course, I never dreamed of such a thing,—why, Ray, that little girl is as dear to me,—almost,—as she is to Patty! I wouldn’t harm a hair of her blessed little curly head! And I’d never have allowed a drop of that sirup, if I’d known it! But I just gave her to Mrs. Bixby to hold, while I changed my costume,—Mrs. Bixby seems a good woman—”
“Oh, come now, I don’t believe it hurt the child.”
“You don’t know anything about such things. I don’t know much, but I know they must never have a bit of that stuff! Anyway, Ray?—we must go in now,—don’t give my secret away until I give you permission, will you?”
“No; if you’ll promise to think it over and try to believe what I’ve told you,—that it’s best to tell all.”
“All right, I’ll promise that, and I may decide to tell. But I want to wait until after to-morrow, anyway.”
AT THE PICTURE PLAY
By a little adroit manoeuvring Van Reypen managed things so that he and Azalea did not go to New York in the motor with Patty and Mona, but went down by themselves in the train.
For Azalea was most anxious that Patty should not know she was going to the moving pictures, and especially that she was going to see “Star of the West.”
It had already become a popular picture and was drawing crowds. And though Azalea’s part in it was a small one, yet her work was so good that one or two reviews had mentioned it approvingly.
Azalea had hoped that it would be possible to let Van Reypen continue in his mistaken impression that the girl on the screen was not herself, but some one who looked marvellously like her.
But the first sight of herself in the play so thrilled Azalea that she was unable to repress an exclamation of surprised delight.
“It is you, Azalea!” whispered Phil, realising the truth. “How did you manage it? Oh, you wonderful girl!”
Azalea looked at him in astonishment. In the dim light of the theatre she could see his face glowing with pride and pleasure.