They occupied a box and Eileen was glad they did. For instead of undergoing the illusion of the drama, she found it killingly comic as soon as she understood that it was serious. It was all she could do to hide her amusement from her entranced companion, and somehow this box at the theatre reminded her of the Convent room in which she used to sit listening to the pious readings anent infant prodigies. One afternoon it came upon her that here Mrs. Maper had learned her strange pump handle gestures. Here it was that ladies worked arms up and down and pointed denunciatory forefingers, albeit the direction had more reference to the sentiment.
It was not till a comic opera came along that Eileen was able to take the theatre seriously. Then she found some of the melodies of the drawing room scores wedded to life and diverting action, sometimes even to poetic dancing; the first gleam of poetry the stage gave her. When these airs were lively, Mrs. Maper’s feet beat time and Eileen lived in the fear that she would arise and prance in her box. It was an effervescence of joyous life—the factory girl recrudescent—and Eileen’s hand would lie lightly on Mrs. Maper’s shoulder, feeling like a lid over a kettle about to boil.
When they came home Eileen would gratify her mistress by imitations of comedians. Presently she ventured on the tragedians, without being seen through. She even raised her arm towards the ceiling or shot it towards the centre of the carpet pattern, and Mrs. Maper followed it spellbound.
But from all these monkey tricks she found relief in her real music. When she crooned the old Irish songs, the Black Hole was washed away as by the soft Irish rain, and the bogs stretched golden with furze-blossom and silver with fluffy fairy cotton, and at the doors of the straggling cabins overhung by the cloud-shadowed mountains, blue-cloaked women sat spinning, and her eyes filled with tears as though the peat smoke had got into them.
In such a mood she was playing one Saturday evening in the interval before dinner, when she became aware that somebody was listening, and turning her head, she saw through the Irish mist a man’s figure standing in the conservatory. The figure was vanishing when she cried out a whit huskily, “Oh, pray, don’t let me drive you away.”
He stood still. “If I am not interrupting your music,” he murmured.
“Not at all,” she said, breaking it off altogether.
As the mist cleared she had a vivid impression of a tall, fair young man against a background of palms. “Eyes burning under a white marble mantel-piece,” she summed up his face. Could this uncrippled, rather good-looking person be Bob?
“Won’t you come in, Mr. Robert?” she said riskily.
“I only wished to thank you,” he said, sliding a step or two into the room.
“There is nothing to thank me for,” she said, whirling her stool to face him. “It’s my way of amusing myself.” She was glad she was in her evening frock.