PERKINS, seated in his office, threw the morning paper aside. "It's no use," he said, turning to the office boy, "I don't believe they ever will find him, dead or alive. Whoever put up the job on Diotti was a past grand master at that sort of thing. The silent assassin that lurks in the shadow of the midnight moon is an explosion of dynamite compared to the party that made way with Diotti. You ask, why should they kill him? My boy, you don't know the world. They were jealous of his enormous hit, of our dazzling success. Jealousy did it."
The "they" of Perkins comprised rival managers, rival artists, newspaper critics and everybody at large who would not concede that the attractions managed by Perkins were the "greatest on earth."
"We'll never see his like again—come in!" this last in answer to a knock.
Diotti appeared at the open door. Perkins jumped like one shot from a catapult, and rushing toward the silent figure in the doorway exclaimed: "Bless my soul, are you a ghost?"
"A substantial one," said Diotti with a smile.
"Are you really here?" continued the astonished impresario, using Diotti's arm as a pump handle and pinching him at the same time.
When they were seated Perkins plied Diotti with all manner of questions: "How did it happen?" "How did you escape?" and the like, all of which Diotti parried with monosyllabic replies, finally saying: "I was dissatisfied with my playing and went away to study."
"Do you know that the failure to fulfill your contract has cost me at least ten thousand dollars?" said the shrewd manager, the commercial side of his nature asserting itself.
"All of which I will pay," quietly replied the artist. "Besides I am ready to play now, and you can announce a concert within a week if you like."
"If I like?" cried the hustling Perkins. "Here, James," calling his office boy, "run down to the printer's and give him this," making a note of the various sizes of "paper" he desired, "and tell Mr. Tompkins that Diotti is back and will give a concert next Tuesday. Tell Smith to prepare the newspaper ads and notices immediately."
In an hour Perkins had the entire machinery of his office in motion. Within twenty-four hours New York had several versions of the disappearance and return, all leading to one common point—that Diotti would give a concert the coming Tuesday evening.
The announcement of the reappearance of the Tuscan contained a line to the effect that the violinist would play for the first time his new suite—a meditation on the emotions.
He had not seen Mildred.
As he came upon the stage that night the lights were turned low, and naught but the shadowy outlines of player and violin were seen. His reception by the audience was not enthusiastic. They evidently remembered the disappointment caused by his unexpected disappearance, but this unfriendly attitude soon gave way to evidences of kindlier feelings.
Mildred was there, more beautiful than ever, and to gain her love Diotti would have bartered his soul that moment.
The first movement of the suite was entitled "Pity," and the music flowed like melodious tears. A subdued sob rose and fell with the sadness of the theme.
Mildred's eyes were moistened as she fixed them on the lone figure of the player.
Now the theme of pity changed to hope, and hearts grew brighter under the spell. The next movement depicted joy. As the virtuoso's fingers darted here and there, his music seemed the very laughter of fairy voices, the earth looked roses and sunshine, and Mildred, relaxing her position and leaning forward in the box, with lips slightly parted, was the picture of eager happiness.
The final movement came. Its subject was love. The introduction depicted the Arcadian beauty of the trysting place, love-lit eyes sought each other intuitively and a great peace brooded over the hearts of all. Then followed the song of the Passionate Pilgrim:
"If music and sweet poetry agree, As they must needs, the sister and the brother, Then must the love be great 'twixt thee and me Because thou lov'st the one, and I the other. ****** Thou lov'st to hear the sweet melodious sound That Phœbus' lute (the queen of music) makes; And I in deep delight, am chiefly drown'd When as himself to singing he betakes. One god is god of both, as poets feign, One knight loves both, and both in thee remain."
Grander and grander the melody rose, voicing love's triumph with wondrous sweetness and palpitating rhythm. Mildred, her face flushed with excitement, a heavenly fire in her eyes and in an attitude of supplication, reveled in the glory of a new found emotion.
As the violinist concluded his performance an oppressive silence pervaded the house, then the audience, wild with excitement, burst into thunders of applause. In his dressing-room Diotti was besieged by hosts of people, congratulating him in extravagant terms.
Mildred Wallace came, extending her hands. He took them almost reverently. She looked into his eyes, and he knew he had struck the chord responsive in her soul.