“Of course it couldn’t be,” Jean decided as she and her father continued on their wonderful way.
“Couldn’t be what, my dear?”
“The same man, Daddy,” Jean said, and changed the subject.
The next time that Jean saw Him was at the theater. She and her father went to worship at the shrine of Maude Adams, and He was there.
It was Jean’s yearly treat. There were, of course, other plays. But since her very-small-girlhood, there had been always that red-letter night when “The Little Minister” or “Hop-o’-my-Thumb” or “Peter Pan” had transported her straight from the real world to that whimsical, tender, delightful realm where Barrie reigns.
Peter Pan had been the climax!
Do you believe in fairies?
Of course she did. And so did Miss Emily. And so did her father, except in certain backsliding moments. But Hilda didn’t.
Tonight it was “A Kiss for Cinderella”—! The very name had been enough to set Jean’s cheeks burning and her eyes shining.
“Do you remember, Daddy, that I was six when I first saw her, and she’s as young as ever?”
“Younger.” It was at such moments that the Doctor was at his best. The youth in him matched the youth in his daughter. They were boy and girl together.
And now the girl on the stage, whose undying youth made her the interpreter of dreams for those who would never grow up, wove her magic spells of tears and laughter.
It was not until the first satisfying act was over that Jean drew a long breath and looked about her.
The house was packed. The old theater with its painted curtain had nothing modern to recommend it. But to Jean’s mind it could not have been improved. She wanted not one thing changed. For years and years she had sat in her favorite seat in the seventh row of the parquet and had loved the golden proscenium arch, the painted goddesses, the red velvet hangings—she had thrilled to the voice and gesture of the artists who had played to please her. There had been “Wang” and “The Wizard of Oz”; “Robin Hood”; the tall comedian of “Casey at the Bat”; the short comedian who had danced to fame on his crooked legs; Mrs. Fiske, most incomparable Becky; Mansfield, Sothern—some of them, alas, already gods of yesterday!
At first there had been matinees with her mother—“The Little Princess,” over whose sorrows she had wept in the harrowing first act, having to be consoled with chocolates and the promise of brighter things as the play progressed.
Now and then she had come with Hilda. But never when she could help it. “I’d rather stay at home,” she had told her father.
“Because she laughs in the wrong places.”
Her father never laughed in the wrong places, and he squeezed her hand in those breathless moments where words would have been desecration, and wiped his eyes frankly when his feelings were stirred.