“I haven’t time, I’m late already. Fortunately, I only come on in the second act.”
“That’s nice; put my bag in and I’ll come to the theatre with you.” The thought was impromptu, an evening with a bed-ridden woman was not exhilarating at such a crisis.
“You ought to be an actress yourself,” the programme-girl remarked admiringly on the way.
Eileen shuddered. “No, thank you. Scream the same thing night after night—like a parrot with not even one’s own words—I should die of monotony.”
“Oh, it isn’t at all monotonous. It’s a different audience every night, and even the laughs come in different places. My parts have mostly been thinking parts—to-night I’m a prince without a word—but still it’s fun.”
“But how can you bear strange men staring at you?”
“One gets used to it. The first time they put me in tights I blushed all through the piece, but they had painted me so thick it wasn’t visible.”
“In short, you blushed unseen.”
Eileen wished to go to the pit, but her new friend would not hear of her not occupying her habitual box, since she knew that the management would be glad to have it occupied if it were empty. This proved to be the case, and put the seal upon Eileen’s enjoyment of the situation. To spend her evening in Mrs. Maper’s box was indeed a climax.
She borrowed theatre-paper and scribbled a note to her ex-employer, giving the address for her trunk. An orange and some biscuits sufficed for her dinner.
Not till she was in her little bedroom, surrounded by pious texts, did she break down in tears.
The next morning, as she sat answering advertisements, the programme-girl knocked at the door of the bedroom and announced that Mr. Maper had called.
Eileen turned red. It was too disconcerting. Would he never take “no” for an answer? “I won’t see him. I can’t see him,” she cried.
The girl departed and returned. “Oh, Miss O’Keeffe, he begs so for only one word.”
“The word is ‘no.’”
“After he’s been so kind as to bring your box down!”
“Oh, has he? Then the word is ‘thanks.’”
“Please, miss, would you mind giving it to him yourself?”
“Who’s Irish, you or I? I won’t speak to him at all, I tell you.”
“But I don’t like to send him away like that, when he’s been so kind to mother.”
“When has he been kind to your mother?”
“Those grapes you brought—”
“That was old Mr. Maper.”
“So is this.”
“Oh!” Eileen was quite taken aback, for once. “All right, I’ll go into the parlour.”
He was infinitely courteous and apologetic. He had been very anxious about her. Why had she been so unkind as to leave, and without ever a good-by to him?
“Oh, hasn’t your wife told you, then?”