With the cordial greeting and firm handclasp, Randy realized that the sweet face bending over her, belonged to a woman as lovely in character, as in person, and she gathered courage to speak the words which were nearest her heart.
“I did not know that any living being could sing as you sang this afternoon,” she said, “it made me think of the birds in the trees at home, of the brook in the woods, of the white rose in my hand, and I longed to give it to you, but when I saw all these lovely flowers, I felt that you would not care for my one blossom, you would not understand,—” with a queer little break in her voice, Randy ceased speaking and looking up into the brilliant face was surprised to see two bright tears upon her cheek.
“Not care for your flower? I want it more than all of these,” she said, gently taking the rose from the slender hand which held it, and placing it in the folds of lace upon her breast.
“With all the honors which I have won, with all the praise for my work which I have received, no compliment ever offered me was more genuine, or sincere, and this rose I shall keep in memory of the girl who gave it.
“Let me give some of my flowers to you, in return for your words which have moved me more than you think.
“O! Helen,” she continued. “I received my first inspiration from the birds and the brook at home, when as a little country girl I listened to their voices, and longed to make my tones as pure as theirs. This young girl has brought it all back to me so clearly, that I see myself, a little barefoot child, wading in the brook and mocking the birds which sang in the branches above me.”
A maid approached, and laid a long fur wrap about Madam Valena’s shoulders, at the same time announcing that her carriage was waiting.
Clasping the great cluster of brilliant blossoms closely, Randy said as they parted,
“I shall never forget you,” and looking from her carriage window the singer smiled as she said,
“I shall keep your rose in memory of you.”
As they rode homeward Helen told Randy much of Madam Valena’s life as her mother had known her, of her close application to study, and of her success, and when at home they found Aunt Marcia seated before the fire place, placidly watching the dancing flames, Randy rushed in, and sitting upon a low hassock, she related all the wonders of the afternoon, ending with,
“And oh, I wish that you had been there to see and hear it all.”
“Why, Randy, child!” exclaimed Aunt Marcia laughing, “I thought it rather cold this afternoon, and stayed cosily at home instead of accompanying you and Helen, but now your eyes shine like stars, and I begin to believe that I missed much by not attending the concert. I knew the program was a fine one, and Madam Valena is truly a most charming person.”
“Indeed she is,” assented Randy, “and she looked so queenly, I never thought she would really talk to me, but oh, do you know that she was once a little country girl? When I looked at her I could not imagine it.”