“I can’t,” she said, withdrawing her hand. “But you are a good fellow. Good-by.” She moved towards the garden steps. He was incredulous of the utter end. “I shall write to you,” he said.
“This is a short cut,” she murmured, descending. As her feet touched the grass she smiled. How they had both tried to stop her, mother and son! She hurried through the shrubbery, and by a side gate was out on the old wagon road. More slowly, but still at a good pace, she descended towards the Black Hole, now beginning to twinkle and glimmer with lights, and far less grimy and prosaic than in the crude day.
While packing her big box, she had decided to try to lodge that night with a programme-girl she had got to know at the Theatre Royal, and the motive that set her pace was the desire to find her before she had started for the theatre.
The girl usually hovered about Mrs. Maper’s box. Once Eileen had asked her why she wasn’t in evidence the week before. “Lord, miss,” she said, “didn’t you recognise me on the stage?”
Eileen thus discovered that the girl sometimes figured as a super, when travelling companies came with sensational pieces, relying upon local talent, hastily drilled, for the crowds. Mary became a Greek slave, or a Billingsgate fishwife, with amusing unexpectedness.
Eileen’s next discovery about the girl was that she supported a paralysed mother, though the bed-ridden creature on inspection proved to be more cheerful than the visitors she depressed. Mr. Maper had sent her grapes from his hothouse only a few days before, and in taking them to the little house Eileen had noticed a “Bedroom to Let.”
To her relief, when she reached the bleak street, she could see that though the blind was down, the bill was still in the window. Her spirits bubbled up again. Ere she could knock at the door, the programme-girl bounced through it, hatted and cloaked for the theatre.
“Miss O’Keeffe!” She almost staggered backward. Eileen’s face worked tragically in the gloom.
“There are villains after me!” Eileen gasped. “Take this bag, it contains the family jewels. That bedroom of yours, it is still to let?”
“I take it for to-night, perhaps for ever. The avenger is on my footsteps. The law may follow me, but I shall defy its myrmidons in my trackless eyrie.”
“Oh, Miss O’Keeffe! You frighten me. I shouldn’t like to have all these jewels in my house, and with my mother tied to her bed.”
Eileen burst into a laugh. “Oh, miss!” she said, mimicking the programme-girl. “Didn’t you recognise me on the stage?”
“Mary Murchison!” gasped the programme-girl. “Oh, Miss O’Keeffe, how wonderful! You nearly made my heart stop—”
“I am sorry, but I do want to take your bedroom. I’ve left Mrs. Maper, and you are not to ask any questions.”