By just what mental processes Emeline Page had come to feel herself a dignified martyr in a world full of oppressed women, it would be difficult to say: Emeline herself would have been the last person from whom a reasonable explanation might have been expected. But it was a fact that she never missed an opportunity to belittle the male sex; she had never had much charm for men, she had none now, and consequently she associated chiefly with women: with widows and grass widows of her own type, and with the young actresses and would-be actresses of the curious social level upon which she lived. Emeline's lack of charm was the most valuable moral asset she had. Had she attracted men she would not long have remained virtuous, for she was violently opposed to any restriction upon her own desires, no matter how well established a restriction or how generally accepted it might be. For a little while after George's going, Emeline had indeed frequently used the term "if I marry again," but of late years she had rather softened to his memory, and enjoyed abusing other men while she revelled in a fond recollection of George's goodness.
"God knows I was only a foolish girl," Emeline would say, resting cold wet feet against the open oven door while Julia pressed a frill. "But your papa never was anything but a perfect ge'man, never! I'll never forget one night when he took me to Grant's Cafe for dinner! I was all dressed up to kill, and George looked elegant—"
A long reminiscence followed.
"I hope to God you get as good a man as your papa," said Emeline more than once, romantically.
Julia, thumping an iron, would answer with cool common sense:
"Well, if I do, I want to tell you right now, Mama, I'll treat him a good deal better than you did!"
"Oh, you'll be a wonder," Emeline would concede good-naturedly.
At very long intervals Emeline dressed herself and her daughter as elaborately as possible, and went out into the Mission to see her parents. With the singular readiness to change the known discomfort for the unknown, characteristic of their class, the various young members of the family had all gone away now, and lonely old Mrs. Cox, a shrivelled little shell of a woman at sixty-five, always had a warm welcome for her oldest daughter and her beautiful grandchild. She would limp about her bare, uninviting little rooms, complaining of her husband's increasing meanness and of her own physical ills, while with gnarled, twisted old hands she filled a "Rebecca" teapot of cheap brown glaze, or cut into a fresh loaf of "milk bread."
"D'ye see George at all now, Emeline?"
"Not to speak to, Mom. But"—and Emeline would lay down the little mirror in which she was studying her face—"but the Rosenthal children say that there's a man who's always hanging about the lower doorway, and that once he gave Hannah——"
And so on and on. Mrs. Cox was readily convinced that George, repentant, was unable to keep away from the neighbourhood of his one and only love. Julia, dreaming over her thick cup of strong tea, granted only a polite, faintly weary smile to her mother's romances. She knew how glad Emeline would be to really believe even one tenth of these flattering suspicions.
A few weeks after Julia's long day of events with Artheris, with Carter Hazzard, and young Rosenthal, she chanced to awaken one Saturday morning to a pleasant, undefined sensation that life was sweet. She thought of Mr. Hazzard, whom she had seen twice since their first meeting, but not alone again. And she reflected with satisfaction that she knew her part of "The Amazons" perfectly, and so was ready for the first rehearsal to-day. This led to a little dream of the leading lady failing to appear on the great night, and of Julia herself in Lady Noel's part; of Julia subsequently adored and envied by the entire cast; of Carter Hazzard——
Julia had made an engagement with Mark for to-day, but the rehearsal plan must interfere. She wondered how she could send him word, and finally decided to see him herself for a moment early in the afternoon. Mark, originally employed as office boy, pure and simple, had now made himself a general handy man, reference and filing clerk, in the big piano house of Pomeroy and Parke. He had all the good traits of his race, and some of the traits that, without being wholly admirable, help a man toward success. No slur at himself or his religion was keen enough to pierce Mark's smiling armour of philosophy, no hours were too hard for him, no work too menial for him to do cheerfully, nor too important for him to undertake confidently. A wisdom far older than his years was his. Poverty had been his teacher, exile and deprivation. When other children were in school, repeating mechanically that many a little made a mickle, that genius was an infinite capacity for taking pains, and that a man has no handicaps but those of his own making, Mark knew these things, he knew that the great forces of life were no stronger than his own two hands, and that any work of any sort must bring him to his goal—the goal of wealth and power and position.
He knew that his father was not so clever as he was, and why. He saw that his mother was worn out with housework and child-bearing. He did not idealize their home, where father, mother, and seven children were crowded into four rooms, and where of an evening the smell of cabbage soup and herrings, of soap-suds and hot irons on woollen, of inky school books and perspiring humanity, mingled with the hot, oily breath of the lamp.
Yet Mark saw beyond this, too. The food was good, if coarse, the bills were paid, the bank account grew. Some day the girls would be married, the boys in good positions; some day the mother should have a little country house and a garden, and the father come home early to smoke his pipe and prune his rose bushes. Not a very brilliant future—no. But how brilliant to them, who could remember Russia!
As for him, Mark, there was no limit to his personal dream at all. Some day, while yet as young as Mr. Parke, he would be as rich as Mr. Pomeroy, he would have five splendid children, like the Pomeroy children, he would have a wife as beautiful as young Mrs. Parke. To his beautiful Jackson Street palace the city's best people should come, and sometimes—for a favoured few—he would play his rippling etudes and nocturnes, his mazurkas and polonaises.
Julia Page, an unnoticed little neighbour for many years, had, just at present, somewhat ruffled the surface of his dream. Julia was not the ideal wife of his mind or heart; nor was she apt to grow to fill that ideal. Mrs. Mark Rosenthal must be a Jewess, a wise, ripened, poised, and low-voiced woman, a lover of music, babies, gardens, cooking, and managing.
Yet there had been a certain evening, not long before that spring evening upon which Julia's own awakening came, when Mark had been astonished to find a sudden charm in the little girl. She was only a little girl, of course, he said to himself later; just a kid, but she was a mighty cunning kid!
Julia often had dinner with the Rosenthals; she loved every separate member of the family and she knew they all loved her. She used to run upstairs and pop her pretty head into the Rosenthal kitchen perhaps twice a week, sure of a welcome and a good meal. On the occasion so significant to Mark she had been there when he got in from work, helping his sisters Sophy and Hannah with that careless disposition of iron knives, great china sugar bowl, oddly assorted plates, and thick cups that was known as "setting the table."
Mark had noticed then that Julia's figure was getting very pretty, and he watched her coming and going with a real pleasure. She sat next him at table, and, conscious as he was of her nearness and of himself, he found her unconsciousness very charming. Julia had burned her arm serving the fried hominy, and she held it up for Mark to see, the bare, sweet young arm close to his face.
And since then, poor Mark seemed to be bewitched. He could not think of anything but Julia. It made him angry and self-contemptuous, but he was no better off for that. He did not want to fall in love with Julia Page; he would not admit that what he felt for Julia was love; he raged with disappointment at the mere thought of bondage so soon, and especially this bondage. But the sweetness of her stole upon his senses nevertheless, tangling about him like a drifting bit of vaporous mist; he had no sooner detached one section of it than another blew across his eyes, set pulses to beating in his temples, and shook his whole body with a delicious weakness.
And then came the night when she had not kept her appointment, and he had followed her to the Alcazar Theatre, and later kissed her in the dark hallway. Then Mark knew. From the instant her fresh lips touched his, and he felt the soft yielding as he drew her to him, Mark knew that he was of the world's lovers. He wanted her with all the deep passion of first love—first love in an ardent and romantic and forceful nature. His dreams did not change; Julia changed to fit them. She was everything for which he had ever longed, she was perfection absolute. She became his music, his business, his life. Every little girl, every old woman that he passed in the street, made him think of Julia, and when he passed a young man and woman full of concern for, and of shy pride in, their lumpy baby in its embroidered coat, a wave of divine envy swept Mark from head to foot.
To-day he whistled over his work, thinking of Julia. They were to meet at three o'clock, "just to bum," as the girl said, laughing. Mark thought that, as the season was well forward, they might take a car to the park or the beach, but the plan had been left indefinite.
He ate his lunch, of butterless bread and sausage, and an entire five-cent pie, in a piano wareroom, taking great bites, with dreamy studying of the walls and long delays between. Then he wandered down through the empty offices—it was Saturday afternoon and Pomeroy and Parke closed promptly at twelve—had a brief chat with the Japanese janitor, and washed his hands and combed his hair very conscientiously in the president's own lavatory.
At half-past one he went into one of the glass showrooms, a prettily furnished apartment whose most notable article of furniture was a grand piano in exquisitely matched Circassian walnut. Absorbed and radiant, Mark put back the cover, twirled the stool, and carefully opened a green book marked "Chopin." Then he sat down, and, with the sigh of a happy child falling upon a feast, he struck an opening chord.
The big flexible fingers still needed training, but they showed the result of hours and hours of patient practice, too. Through his seven years in the music house, Mark had been faithful to his gift. He made no secret of it, his associates knew that he came back after dinner to the very rooms that they themselves left so eagerly at the end of the day. Mark had indeed once asked old Mr. Pomeroy to hear him play, an occasion to which the boy still looked back with hot shame. For when his obliging old employer had settled himself to listen after hours on an appointed afternoon, and Mark had opened the piano, the performer suddenly found his spine icy, his hands wet and clumsy. He felt as if he had never touched a piano before; the attempt was a failure from the first note, as Mark well knew. When he had finished he whisked open another book.
"That was rotten," he stammered. "I thought I could do it—I can't. But just let me play you this—"
But the great man was in a hurry, it appeared.
"No—no, my boy, not to-day—some other time! Perhaps a little bit too ambitious a choice, eh? We must all be ambitious, but we must know our limitations, too. Some other time!"
Then Mr. Pomeroy was gone and Mark left to bitterest reflection.
But he recovered very sensibly from his boyish chagrin, and very sensibly went at his practicing again. On this particular Saturday afternoon he attacked a certain phrase in the bass, and for almost an hour the big fingers of his left hand rippled over it steadily. Mark, twisted about halfway on the bench, watched the performance steadily, his right hand hanging loose.
"Damn!" he said presently, with a weary sigh, as a sharp and familiar little pain sprang into his left wrist.
"Mark!" breathed a reproachful voice behind him. He whirled about, to see Julia Page.
She had come noiselessly in at the glass doorway behind him, and was standing there, laughing, a picture of fresh and demure beauty, despite the varied colours in hat and waist and gown and gloves.
"I had to see you!" said Julia, in a rush. "And nobody answered your telephone—there's a rehearsal of that play at the theatre to-day, so I can't meet you—and the janitor let me in——"
Mark found her incoherence delicious; her being here, in his own familiar stamping-ground, one of the thrilling and exciting episodes of his life. He could have shouted—have danced for pure joy as he jumped up to welcome her. Julia declared that she had to "fly," but Mark insisted—and she found his insistence curiously pleasant—upon showing her about, leading her from office to office, beaming at her whenever their eyes met. And he must play her the little Schumann, he said, but no—for that Julia positively would not wait; she jerked him by one hand toward the door. Mark had his second kiss before they emerged laughing and radiant into the gaiety of Kearney Street on a Saturday afternoon.
And Julia was not late for her rehearsal, or, if late, she was at least earlier by a full quarter hour than the rest of the caste. She took an orchestra seat in the empty auditorium at the doorkeeper's suggestion, and yawned, and stared at the coatless back of a man who was tuning the orchestra piano.
Presently two distinguished looking girls, beautifully dressed, came in, and sat down near her in a rather uncertain way, and began to laugh and talk in low tones. Neither cast a glance at Julia, who promptly decided that they were hateful snobs, and began to regard them with burning resentment. They had been there only a few moments when two young men sauntered down the aisle, unmistakably gentlemen, and genuine enough to express their enjoyment of this glimpse of a theatre between performances. Two of them carried little paper copies of "The Amazons," so Julia knew them for fellow-performers.
Then a third young woman came in and walked down the aisle as the others had done. This was an extremely pretty girl of perhaps eighteen, with dark hair and dark bright eyes, and a very fresh bright colour. Her gown was plain but beautifully fitting, and her wide hat was crowned with a single long ostrich plume. She peered at the young men.
"Hello, Bobby—hello, Gray!" she said gayly, and then, catching sight of the two other girls across the aisle, she added: "Oh, hello, Helen—how do you do, Miss Carson? Come over here and meet Mr. Sumner and Mr. Babcock!"
Babel ensued. Three or four waiting young people said, "Oh, Barbara!" in tones of great delight, and the fourth no less eagerly substituted, "Oh, Miss Toland!"
"How long have you poor, long-suffering catfish been waiting here?" demanded Miss Barbara Toland, with a sort of easy sweetness that Julia found instantly enviable. "Why, we're all out in the foyer—Mother's here, chaperoning away like mad, and nearly all the others! And"—she whisked a little gold watch into sight—"my dears, it's twenty minutes to four!"
Every one exclaimed, as they rushed out. Julia, unaccountably nervous, wished she were well out of this affair, and wondered what she ought to do.
Presently some twenty-five or thirty well-dressed folk came streaming back down the main aisle in a wild confusion of laughter and talk. Somehow the principals were filtered out of this crowd, and somehow they got on the stage, and got a few lights turned on, and assembled for the advice of an agitated manager. Dowagers and sympathetic friends settled in orchestra seats to watch; the rehearsal began.
Julia had strolled up to the stage after the others; now she sat on a shabby wooden chair that had lost its back, leaned her back against a piece of scenery, and surveyed the scene with as haughty and indifferent an air as she could assume.
"And the Sergeant—who takes that?" demanded the manager, a young fellow of their own class, familiarly addressed as "Matty."
The caste, which had been churning senselessly about him, chorussed an explanation.
"A professional takes that, Mat, don't you remember?"
"Well, where is she?" Matty asked irritably.
Julia here sauntered superbly forward, serenely conscious of youth, beauty, and charm. Every one stared frankly at her, as she said languidly:
"Perhaps it's I you're looking for? Mr. Artheris—"
"Yes, that's right!" said Matty, relieved. He wiped his forehead. "Miss—Page, isn't it?" He paused, a little at a loss, eying the other ladies of the caste dubiously. The girl called Barbara Toland now came forward with her ready graciousness, and the two girls looked fairly into each other's eyes.
"Miss Page," said Barbara, and then impatiently to the manager, "Do go ahead and get started, Matty; we've got to get home some time to-night!"
Julia's introduction was thus waived, and business began at once. The wavering voices of the principals drifted uncertainly into the theatre. "Louder!" said the chaperons and friends. The men were facetious, interpolating their lines with jokes, good-humoured under criticism; the girls fluttered nervously over cues, could not repeat the simplest line without a half-giggling "Let's see—yes, I come in here," and were only fairly started before they must interrupt themselves with an earnest, "Mat, am I standing still when I say that, or do I walk toward her?"
Julia was the exception. She had been instructed a fortnight before that she must know her lines and business to-day, and she did know them. Almost scornfully she took her cues and walked through her part. "Matty" clapped his hands and overpraised her, and Julia felt with a great rush of triumph that she had "shown those girls!" She had an exhilarating afternoon, for the men buzzed about her on every possible occasion, and she knew that the other girls, for all their lofty indifference, were keenly conscious of it.
She went out through the theatre with the others, at an early six. The young people straggled along the aisle in great confusion, laughing and chattering. Mrs. Toland, a plump, merry, handsomely dressed woman, was anxious to carry off her tall daughter in time for some early boat.
"Do hurry, Barbara! Sally and Ted may be on that five-fifty, and if Dad went home earlier they'll have to make the trip alone!"
At the doorway they found that the street was almost dark, and foggy. Much discussion of cars and carriages marked the breaking-up. Enid Hazzard, a rather noisy girl, who played Noel Belturbet, elected to go home with the Babcocks. This freed from all responsibility her brother Carter, who had suddenly appeared to act as escort. Julia, slipping up the darkening street, after a few moments spent in watching this crowd of curious young people, found him at her side.
"No coat, Miss Page?" said the easy tones.
"I didn't know it would be so foggy!" said Julia, her heart beginning to thump.
"And where are you going?"
"Home to get a coat."
"I see. Where is it? I'll take you."
"Oh, it's just a few blocks," Julia said. She knew nothing of the reputation of San Francisco's neighbourhoods, but Carter gave her a surprised look. When Julia, quite unembarrassed, stopped at the door beside the saloon, he was the more confused of the two, although the accident of seeing him again had set the blood to racing in Julia's veins and made speech difficult. She had been longing for just this; she was trembling with eagerness and nervousness.
"Father and Mother live here?" asked Carter.
"Just Mama—she rents rooms."
"Oh, I see!" He had stepped into the deep doorway, and catching her by the shoulders he said now, inconsequently: "Do you know you're the prettiest girl that ever was?"
"Am I?" said Julia, in a whisper.
"You know you are—you—you little flirt!" Hazzard said, his eyes three inches from hers. For a tense second neither stirred, then the man straightened up suddenly: "Well!" he said loudly. "That'll be about all of that. Good-night, my dear!"
He turned abruptly away, and Julia, smiling her little inscrutable smile, went slowly upstairs. The bedroom was dark, unaired, and in disorder. Julia looked about it dreamily, picked her library book from the floor and read a few pages of "Aunt Johnnie," sitting meanwhile on the edge of the unmade bed, and chewing a piece of gum that had been pressed, a neat bead, upon the back of a chair. After a while she got up, powdered her nose, and rubbed her finger-nails with a buffer—a buffer lifeless and hard, and deeply stained with dirt and red grease. Emeline had left a note, "Gone up to Min's—come up there for supper," but Julia felt that there was no hurry; meals at Mrs. Tarbury's were usually late.
During the ensuing fortnight there were two or three more rehearsals of "The Amazons" at the Grand Opera House, which only confirmed Julia's first impression of her fellow-players. The men she liked, and flirted with; for the girls she had a supreme contempt. She found herself younger, prettier, and a better actress than the youngest, prettiest, and cleverest among them. While these pampered daughters of wealth went awkwardly through their parts, and chatted in subdued tones among themselves, Julia rattled her speeches off easily, laughed and talked with all the young men in turn, posed and pirouetted as one born to the footlights. If Julia fancied that any girl was betraying a preference for any particular man, against that man she directed the full battery of her charms. Carter Hazzard came to every rehearsal, and was quite openly her slave. He did not offer to walk home with her again, but Julia knew that he was conscious of her presence whenever she was near him, and spun a mad little dream about a future in which she queened it over all these girls as his wife.
It was all delightful and exciting. Life had never been dark to Julia; now she found the days all too short for her various occupations and pleasures. Mark was assuming more and more the attitude of a lover, and Julia was too much of a coquette to discourage him utterly. She really liked him, and loved the stolen hours in Pomeroy and Parke's big piano house, when Mark, flinging his hair out of his eyes, played like an angel, and Julia nibbled caramels and sat curled up on the davenport, watching him. And through the casual attentions of other men, the occasional flattering half-hours with Carter Hazzard, the evenings of gossip at Mrs. Tarbury's, and round the long table at Montiverte's, Julia liked to sometimes think of Mark; his admiration was a little warm, reassuring background for all the other thoughts of the day.
At the end of the fourth or fifth rehearsal Julia noticed that pretty Barbara Toland was trying to manage a moment's speech with her alone. She amused herself with an attempt to avoid Miss Toland just from pure mischief, but eventually the two came face to face, in a garishly lighted bit of passage, Barbara, for all her advantage in years and in position, seeming the younger of the two.
"Oh, Miss Page," said Barbara nervously, "I wanted to—but were you going somewhere?"
"Don't matter if I was!" said Julia, airily gracious, but watching shrewdly.
"Well, I—I hope you won't think this is funny, but, well, I'll tell you," stammered Barbara, very red. "I know you don't know us all very well, you know—it's different with us—we've all been brought up together—but I didn't know whether you knew—perhaps you did—that Carter Hazzard is married?"
Julia felt stunned, and a little sick. She got only the meaning of the words, their value would come later. But with a desperate effort she pulled herself together, and smiled with dry lips.
"Yes, I knew that," she said, pleasantly, not meeting Barbara's eye.
"Oh, well, then it's all right," Barbara said hastily, relieved. "But he—he has a teasing sort of way, you know. His wife is in San Diego now, with her own people."
"Yes, he told me that," Julia said, only longing to escape before a maddening impulse to cry overpowered her. Barbara saw the truth, and laid a friendly hand on Julia's arm.
"I just wanted you to know," she said in her kindliest tone.
Suddenly Julia burst out crying, childishly blubbering with her wrists in her eyes. Barbara, very much distressed, shielded her as well as she could from the eyes of possible passers-by, and patted her shoulder with a gloved hand.
"I don't know why—perfectly crazy—" gulped Julia, desperately fighting the sobs that shook her. "And I've had a dreadful headache all day," she broke out, pitifully, beginning to mop her eyes with a folded handkerchief, her face still turned away from Barbara.
"Oh, poor thing!" said Barbara. "And the rehearsal must have made it worse!"
"It's splitting," Julia said sombrely. She gave Barbara one grave, almost resentful, look, straightened her hat and fluffed up her hair, and went away. Barbara looked after her, and thought that Carter was a beast, and that there was something very pitiful about common little ignorant Miss Page, and that she wouldn't tell the girls about this, and give them one more cause to laugh at the little actress. For Barbara Toland was a conscientious girl, and very seriously impressed with the gravity of her own responsibility toward other people.
Meanwhile Julia walked toward the Mechanics' Library in a very fury of rage and resentment. She hated the entire caste of "The Amazons," and she hated Barbara Toland and Carter Hazzard more than the rest! He could play with her and flirt with her and deceive her, and while she, Julia, fancied herself envied and admired of the other girls, this delicately perfumed and exquisitely superior Barbara could be deciding in all sisterly kindness that she must inform Miss Page of her admirer's real position. Angry tears came to Julia's eyes, but she went into the Mechanics' Library and washed the evidences of them away, and made herself nice to meet Mark.
But a subtle change in the girl dated from that day; casual and foolish as the affair with Carter had been, it left its scar. Julia's heart winced away from the thought of him as she herself might have shrunk from fire. She never forgave him.
It was good to find Mark still enslaved, everything soothing and reassuring. When Julia left him, at her own door at six o'clock, she was her radiant, confident self again, and they kissed each other at parting like true lovers. To his eager demand for a promise Julia still returned a staid, "Mama'd be crazy, Mark. I ain't sixteen yet!" but on this enchanted afternoon she had consented to linger, on Kearney Street, before the trays of rings in jewellers' windows, and it was in the wildest spirits that Mark bounded on upstairs to his own apartment.
Julia had expected to find her mother at home. Instead the room was empty, but the gas was flaring high, and all about was more than the customary disorder; there were evidences that Emeline had left home in something of a hurry. The girl searched until she found the explanatory note, and read it with knitted brow.
"I'm going to Santa Rosa on important business, deary," Emeline had scribbled, "and you'd better go to Min's for a few days. I'll write and leave you know if there is anything in it, otherwise there's no use getting Min and the girls started talking. There's ten dollars in the hairpin box. With love, Mama."
"Well, I'd give a good deal to know what struck Em," said Mrs. Tarbury, for the hundredth time. It was late in the evening of the same day, and the lady and Julia were in the room shared by Miss Connie Girard and Miss Rose Ransome. Both the young actresses had previously appeared in a skit at a local vaudeville house, but had come home to prepare for a supper to be given by friends in their own profession, after the theatres had closed. Each girl had a bureau of her own, hopelessly cluttered and crowded, and over each bureau an unshielded gas jet flared.
"Well, I'm going to know!" Julia added, in a heavy, significant tone. She had come to feel herself very much abused by her mother's treatment, and was inclined to entertain ugly suspicions.
"Oh, come now!" Rose Ransome said, scowling at herself in a hand mirror as she carefully rouged her lips. "Don't you get any silly notions in your head!"
"No," Mrs. Tarbury added heavily, as she rocked comfortably to and fro, "no, that ain't Em. Em is a cut-up, all right, and she's a great one for a josh with the boys, but she's as straight as a string! You'll find that she's got some good reason for this!"
"Well, she'd better have!" Julia said sulkily. "I'm going out to see my grandmother to-morrow and see if she knows anything!"
But she really gave less thought to her mother than to the stinging memory of Barbara Toland's generosity and Carter Hazzard's deception. She settled down contentedly enough, sharing the room with Connie and Rose, and sharing their secrets, and her visit to old Mrs. Cox was indefinitely postponed. The girls drifted about together, in and out of theatres, in and out of restaurants and hotels, reading cheap theatrical magazines, talking of nothing but their profession. The days were long and dull, the evenings feverish; Julia liked it all. She had no very high ideal of home life; she did not mind the disorder of their room, the jumbled bureau drawers, the chairs and tables strewn with garments, the fly-specked photographs nailed against the walls. It was a comfortable, irresponsible, diverting existence, at its worst.
Emeline did not write her daughter for nearly two weeks, but Julia was not left in doubt of her mother's moral and physical safety for that time. Only two or three days after Emeline's disappearance Julia was called upon by a flashily dressed, coarse-featured man of perhaps forty who introduced himself—in a hoarse voice heavy with liquor—as Dick Palmer.
"I used to know your Pop when you's only a kid," said the caller, "and I know where your Mamma is now—she's gone down to Santa Rosa, see?"
"What'd she go there for?" Julia demanded clearly.
Mr. Palmer cast an agitated glance about Mrs. Tarbury's dreadful drawing-room, and lowered his voice confidentially:
"Well, d'ye see—here's how it is! Your Papa's down there in Santa Rosa. I run acrost him in a boarding-house a few days ago, and d'ye see—he's sick. That's right," added the speaker heavily, "he's sick."
"Dying?" said Julia dramatically.
"No, he ain't dying. It's like this," pursued the narrator, still with his air of secrecy, "there's a party there that runs the boarding-house—her name's Lottie Clute, she's had it for years, and she's got on to the fact that George is insured for nine thousand dollars, d'ye see? Well, she's got him to promise to make the policy over to her."
"Ha!" said Julia, interested at last.
"Well, d'ye see?" said Mr. Palmer triumphantly. "So I come up to town last week, and I thought I'd drop in on your Mamma! No good letting this other little lady have it all her own way, you know!"
"That's right, too, she's no more than a thief!" Julia commented simply. "I don't know what Mama can do, but I guess you can leave it to Mama!"
Mr. Palmer, agreeing eagerly to this, took his leave, after paying a hoarse tribute to the beauty of his old friend's daughter, and Julia dismissed the matter from her mind.
She told Connie that she meant, as soon as this amateur affair was over, to try the stage in real earnest, and Connie, whose own last venture had ended somewhat flatly, was nevertheless very sanguine about Julia's success. She took Julia to see various managers, who were invariably interested and urbane, and Julia, deciding bitterly that she would have no more to do with her fellow-performers in the caste of "The Amazon," had Connie accompany her to rehearsals, and went through her part with a sort of sullen hauteur.
She and Connie were down in the dressing-rooms one day after a rehearsal chatting with the woman star of a travelling stock company, who chanced to be there, when Barbara Toland suddenly came in upon them.
"Oh, Miss Page," said Barbara in relief, "I am so glad to find you! I don't know whether you heard Mr. Pope announce that we're to have our dress rehearsal on Saturday, at the yacht club in Sausalito? There is quite a large stage."
Julia shook her head.
"I don't know that I can come Saturday," she objected, only anxious to be disobliging.
"Oh, you must," said Barbara brightly. "Do try! You take the one-forty-five from the Sausalito ferry, and somebody'll meet you! And if we should be kept later than we expect, somebody'll bring you home!"
"I have a friend who would come for me," said Julia stiffly, thinking of Mark.
For just a second mirth threatened Barbara's dignity, but she said staidly:
"That's fine! And remember, we depend on you!"