The Rainbow's End


"Well, I am discovered--and lost." Julie, lazily making the announcement after a long silence, shut her magazine with a sigh of sleepy content; and braced herself more comfortably against the old rowboat that was half buried in sand at her back. She turned as she spoke to smile at the woman near her, a frail, keen-faced little woman luxuriously settled in an invalid's wheeled chair.

"Ann--you know you're not interested in that book. Did you hear what I said? I'm discovered."

"Well, it was sure to happen, sooner or later, I suppose." Mrs. Arbuthnot, suddenly summoned from the pages of a novel brought her gaze promptly to the younger woman's face, with the pitifully alert interest of the invalid. "You were bound to be recognized by some one, Ju!"

"Don't worry, a cannon wouldn't wake him!" said Julia, in reference to Mrs. Arbuthnot's lowered voice, and the solicitous look the wife had given a great opened beach umbrella three feet away, under which Dr. Arbuthnot slumbered on the warm sands. "He's forty fathoms deep. No," continued the actress, returning aggrievedly to her own affairs, "I suppose there's no such thing as escaping recognition-- even as late in the season as this, and at such an out-of-the-way place. Of course, I knew," she continued crossly, "that various people here had placed me, but I did rather hope to escape actual introductions!"

"Who is it--some one you know?" Mrs. Arbuthnot adjusted the pillow at her back, and settled herself enjoyably for a talk.

"Indirectly; it's that little butterfly of a summer girl--the one Jim calls 'The Dancing Girl'--of all people in the world!" said Julie, locking her arms comfortably behind her head. "You know how she's been haunting me, Ann? She's been simply determined upon an introduction ever since she placed me as her adored Miss Ives of matinee fame. I imagine she's rather a nice child--every evidence of money--the ambitious type that longs to do something big--and is given to desperate hero worship. She's been under my feet for a week, with a Faithful Tray expression that drives me crazy. I've taken great pains not to see her."

"And now--?" prompted the other, as the actress fell silent, and sat staring dreamily at the brilliant sweep of beach and sea before them.

"Oh--now," Miss Ives took up her narrative briskly. "Well, a new young man arrived on the afternoon boat and, of course, the Dancing Girl instantly captivated him. She has one simple yet direct method with them all," she interrupted herself to digress a little. "She gets one of her earlier victims to introduce him; they all go down for a swim, she fascinates him with her daring and her bobbing red cap, she returns to white linen and leads him down to play tennis-- they have tea at the 'Casino,' and she promises him the second two- step and the first extra that evening. He is then hers to command," concluded Julie, bringing her amused eyes back to Mrs. Arbuthnot's face, "for the remainder of his stay!"

"That's exactly what she does do," said Mrs. Arbuthnot, laughing, "but I don't see yet--"

"Oh, I forgot to say," Miss Ives amended hastily, "that to-day's young man happens to be an acquaintance of mine; at least his uncle introduced him to me at a tea last winter. She led him by to the tennis courts an hour ago, and, to my disgust, I recognized him. That's all Miss Dancing Girl wants. Now--you'll see! They'll come up to our table in the dining-room to-night, and to-morrow she'll bring up a group of dear friends and he'll bring up another--to be introduced; and--there we'll be!"

"Oh, not so bad as that, Julie!"

"Oh, yes, indeed, Ann!" pursued Miss Ives with morose enjoyment. "You don't know how helpless one is. I'll be annoyed to death for the rest of the month, just so that the Dancing Girl can go back to the city this winter and say, 'Oh, girls, Julia Ives was staying where mamma and I were this summer, and she's just a dear! She doesn't make up one bit off the stage, and she dresses just as plain! I saw her every day and got some dandy snapshots. She's just a darling when you know her.'"

"Well! What an unspoiled modest little soul you are, Julie!" interrupted the doctor's admiring voice. He wheeled away the umbrella and, lying luxuriously on his elbows in the sun, beamed at them both through his glasses.

"Jim," said the actress, severely, "it's positively indecent--the habit you're getting of evesdropping on Ann and me!"

"It gives me sidelights on your characters," said the doctor, quite brazenly.

"Ann--don't you call that disgraceful?"

"I certainly do, Ju," his wife agreed warmly. "But Jim has no sense of honor." Ann Arbuthnot, in the fifteen years of her married life, had never been able to keep a thrill of adoration out of her voice when she spoke, however jestingly, of her husband. It trembled there now.

"Well, what's wrong, Julie? Some old admirer turn up?" asked the doctor, sleepily content to follow any conversational lead, in the idle pleasantness of the hour.

"No--no!" she corrected him, "just some silly social complications ahead--which I hate!"

"Be rude," suggested the doctor, pleasantly.

"Now, you know, I'd love that!" said Mrs. Arbuthnot, youthfully. "I'd simply love to be followed and envied and adored!"

"No, you wouldn't, Ann!" Miss Ives assured her promptly. "You'd like it, as I did, for a little while. And then the utter uselessness of it would strike you. Especially from such little complacent, fluffy whirlings as that Dancing Girl!"

"Yes, and that's the kind of a girl I like," persisted the other, smiling.

"That's the kind of a girl you were, Ann, I've no doubt," said the actress, vivaciously, "only sweeter. I know she wore white ruffles and a velvet band on her hair, didn't she, Jim? And roses in her belt?"

"She did," said the doctor, reminiscently. "I believe she flirted in her kindergarten days. She was always engaged to ride or dance or row on the river with the other men--and always splitting her dances, and forgetting her promises, and wearing the rings and pins of her adorers."

"And the fun was, Ju," said Mrs. Arbuthnot, girlishly, with bright color in her cheeks, "that when Jim came there to give two lectures, you know, all the older girls were crazy about him--and he was ten years older than I, you know, and I never dreamed--"

"Oh, you go to, Ann! You never dreamed!" said Miss Ives, lazily.

"Honestly, I didn't!" Mrs. Arbuthnot protested. "I remember my brother Billy saying, 'Babs, you don't think Dr. Arbuthnot is coming here to see me, do you?' and then it all came over me! Why, I was only eighteen."

"And engaged to Billy's chum," said the doctor.

"Well," said the wife, naively, "he knew all along it wasn't serious."

"You must have been a rose," said Miss Ives, "and I would have hated you! Now, when I went to dances," she pursued half seriously, "I sat in one place and smiled fixedly, and watched the other girls dance. Or I talked with great animation to the chaperons. Ann, I've felt sometimes that I would gladly die, to have the boys crowd around me just once, and grab my card and scribble their names all over it. I didn't dress very well, or dance very well--and I never could talk to boys." She began to trace a little watercourse in the sand with an exquisite finger tip. "I was the most unhappy girl on earth, I think! I felt every birthday was a separate insult--twenty, and twenty-two, and twenty-four! We were poor, and life was--oh, not dramatic or big!--but just petty and sordid. I used to rage because the dining-room was the only place for the sewing-machine, and rage because my bedroom was really a back parlor. Well!--I joined a theatrical company--came away. And many a night, tired out and discouraged, I've cried myself to sleep because I'd never have any girlhood again!"

She stopped with a half-apologetic laugh. The doctor was watching her with absorbed, bright eyes. Mrs. Arbuthnot, unable to imagine youth without joy and beauty, protested:

"Julie--I don't believe you--you're exaggerating! Do you mean you didn't go on the stage until you were twenty-four!"

"I was twenty-six. I was leading lady my second season, and starred my third," said the actress, without enthusiasm. "I was starred in 'The Jack of Clubs.' It ran a season in New York and gave me my start. Lud, how tired we all got of it!"

"And then I hope you went back home, Ju, and were lionized," said the other woman, vigorously.

"Oh, not then! No, I'd been meaning to go--and meaning to go--all those three years. The little sisters used to write me--such forlorn little letters!--and mother, too--but I couldn't manage it. And then--the very night 'Jack' played the three hundredth time, as it happened--I had this long wire from Sally and Beth. Mother was very ill, wanted me--they'd meet a certain train, they were counting the hours--"

Miss Ives demolished her watercourse with a single sweep of her palm. There was a short silence.

"Well!" she said, breaking it. "Mother got well, as it happened, and I went home two months later. I had the guest room, I remember. Sally was everything to mother then, and I tried to feel glad. Beth was engaged. Every one was very flattering and very kind in the intervals left by engagements and weddings and new babies and family gatherings. Then I came back to 'Jack,' and we went on the road. And then I broke down and a strange doctor in a strange hospital put me together again," she went on with a flashing smile and a sudden change of tone, "and his wholly adorable wife sent me double white violets! And they--the Arbuthnots, not the violets--were the nicest thing that ever happened to me!"

"So that was the way of it?" said the doctor.

"That was the way of it."

"And as the Duchess would say, the moral of that is--?"

"The moral is for me. Or else it's for little dancing girls, I don't know which." Miss Ives wiped her eyes openly and, restoring her handkerchief to its place, announced that she perceived she had been talking too much.

Presently the Dancing Girl came down from the tennis-court, with her devoted new captive in tow. The captive, a fat, amiable-looking youth, was warm and wilted, but the girl was fresh and buoyant as ever. They heard her allude to the "second two-step" and something was said of the "supper dance," but her laughing voice stopped as she and her escort came nearer the actress, and she gave Julie her usual look of mute adoration. The boy, flushing youthfully, lifted his hat, and Julie bowed briefly.

They were lingering over their coffee two hours later, when the newly arrived young man made the expected move. He threaded the tables between his own and the doctor's carefully, the eager Dancing Girl in his wake.

"I don't know whether you remember me, Miss Ives--?" he began, when he could extend a hand.

Julie turned her splendid, unsmiling eyes toward him.

"Mr. Polk. How do you do? Yes, indeed, I remember you," she said, unenthusiastically. "How is Mr. Gilbert?"

"Uncle John? Oh, he's fine!" said young Polk, rapturously. "I wonder why he didn't tell me you were spending the summer here I"

"I don't tell any one," said Julie, simply. "My winters are so crowded that I try to get away from people in the summer."

"Oh!" said the boy, a little blankly. There was an instant's pause before he added rather uncomfortably:

"Miss Ives--Miss Carter has been so anxious to meet you--"

"How do you do, Miss Carter?" said Julie, promptly, politely. She gave her young adorer a ready hand. The usually poised Dancing Girl could not recall at the moment one of the things she had planned to say when this great moment came. But she thought of them all as she lay in bed that night, and the conviction that she had bungled the long-wished-for interview made her burn from her heels to the lobes of her ears. What had she said? Something about having longed for this opportunity, which the actress hadn't answered, and something about her desperate admiration for Miss Ives, at which Miss Ives had merely smiled. Other things were said, or half said--the girl reviewed them mercilessly in the dark--and then the interview had terminated, rather flatly. Marian Carter writhed at the recollection.

But the morning brought courage. She passed Julie, who was fresh from a plunge in the ocean, and briskly attacking a late breakfast, on her way from the dining-room.

"Good morning, Miss Ives! Isn't it a lovely morning?"

"Oh, good morning, Miss Carter. I beg pardon--?"

"I said, 'Isn't it a lovely morning?'"

"Oh--? Yes, quite delightful."

"Miss Ives--but I'm interrupting you?"

Julie gave her book a glance and raised her eyes expectantly to Miss Carter's face, but did not speak.

"Miss Ives," said Miss Carter, a little confusedly, "mamma was wondering if you've taken the trip to Fletcher's Forest? We've our motor-car here, you know, and they serve a very good lunch at the Inn."

"Oh, thank you, no!" said Julie, positively. "Very good of you--but I'm with the Arbuthnots, you know. Thank you, no."

"I hoped you would," said Miss Carter, disappointed. "I know you use a motor in town," she answered daringly. "You see I know all about you!"

Miss Ives paid to this confession only the small tribute of raised eyebrows and an absent smile. She was quite at her ease, but in the little silence that followed Miss Carter had time to feel baffled-- in the way. "Here is Mrs. Arbuthnot," she said in relief, as Ann came slowly in on the doctor's arm. Before they reached the table the girl had slipped away.

That afternoon she asked Miss Ives, pausing beside the basking group on the sands to do so, if she would have tea informally with mamma and a few friends. Oh--thank you, Miss Ives couldn't, to-day. Thank you. The next day Miss Carter wondered if Miss Ives would like to spin out to the Point to see the sunset? No, thank you so much. Miss Ives was just going in. Another day brought a request for Miss Ives's company at dinner, with just mamma and Mr. Polk and the Dancing Girl herself. Declined. A fourth day found Miss Carter, camera in hand, smilingly confronting the actress as she came out on the porch.

"Will you be very cross if I ask you to stand still just a moment, Miss Ives?" asked the Dancing Girl.

"Oh, I'm afraid I will," said Julie, annoyed. "I don't like to be photographed!" But she was rather disarmed at the speed with which Miss Carter shut up her little camera.

"I know I bother you," said the girl, with a wistful sincerity that was most becoming and with a heightened color, "but--but I just can't seem to help it!" She walked down the steps beside Julie, laughing almost with vexation at her own weakness. "I've always admired so--the people who do things! I've always wanted to do something myself," said Miss Carter, awkwardly. "You don't know how unhappy it makes me. You don't know how I'd love to do something for you!"

"You can, you can let me off being photographed, like a sweet child!" said Julie, lightly. But twenty minutes later when, very trim and dainty in her blue bathing suit and scarlet cap, she came out of the bath-house to join Ann and the doctor on the beach, she reproached herself. She might have met the stammered little confidence with something warmer than a jesting word, she thought with a little shame.

"You're not going in again!" protested Ann. "Oh, chil-dren!"

"I am," said Miss Ives, buoyantly. "I don't know about Jim. At Jim's age every step counts, I suppose. These fashionable doctors habitually overeat and oversleep, I understand, and it makes them lazy."

"I am going in, Ann," said the doctor, with dignity, rising from the sand and pointedly addressing his wife. A few moments later he and Julie joyously breasted the sleepy roll of the low breakers, and pushed their way steadily through the smoother water beyond.

"Oh, that was glorious, Jim!" gasped the actress, as they gained the raft that was always their goal and pulling herself up to sit siren- wise upon it. She was breathless, radiant, bubbling with the joy of sun and air and green water. She took off her cap and let the sunlight beat on her loosened braids.

"How you love the water, Julie!"

"Yes--best of all. I'm never so satisfied as when I'm in it!"

"You never look so happy as when you are," he said.

"Oh, these are happy days!" said Julie. "I wish they could last forever. Just resting and playing--wouldn't you like a year of it, Jim?"

The doctor eyed her quietly.

"I don't know that I would," he said seriously, impersonally.

There was a little silence. Then the girl began to pin up her braids with fingers that trembled a little.

"Ann's waving!" she said presently, and the doctor caught up her scarlet cap to signal back to the far blur on the beach that was Ann. He watched the tiny distant groups a moment.

"Here comes your admirer!" said he.

"Where?" Julie was ready at once to slip into the water.

"Oh--finish your hair--take your time! She's just in the breakers. We'll be off long before she gets here."

"That reminds me, Jim," Miss Ives was quite herself again, "that when I was in the bath-house a few moments ago your Dancing Girl and that pretty little girl who is visiting her came into the next room. You know how flimsy the walls are? I could hear every word they said."

"If you'd been a character in a story, Ju, you'd have felt it your duty to cough!"

"Well, I didn't," grinned Miss Ives; "not that I wanted to hear what they were saying. I didn't even know who they were until I heard little Miss Carter say solemnly, 'Ethel, I used to want mamma to get that Forty-eighth Street house, and I used to want to do Europe, but I think if I had one wish now, it would be to do something that would make everybody know me--and everybody talk about me. I'd love to be pointed out wherever I went. I'd love to have people stare at me. I'd like to be just as popular and just as famous as Julia Ives!'"

"She has got it badly, Ju!" the doctor observed.

"She has. And it will be fuel on the flames to have me start to swim back to shore while she is swimming as hard as she can to the raft!" said the lady, tucking the last escaping lock under her cap and springing up for the plunge that started the home trip.

It was only a little after midnight that night when Julie, lying wakeful in the sultry summer darkness, was startled by a person in her room.

"It's Emma, Miss Ives," said Mrs. Arbuthnot's maid, stumbling about, "Mrs. Arbuthnot wants you."

"She's ill!" Julie felt rather than said the words, instantly alert and alarmed, and reaching for her wrapper and slippers.

"No, ma'am. But the doctor feels like he ought to go down to the fire, and she's nervous--"

"The fire?"

"Yes'm," said Emma, simply, "the windmill is afire!"

"And I sleeping through it all!" Miss Ives was still bewildered, fastening the sash of her cobwebby black Mandarin robe as she followed Emma through the passage that joined her suite to the Arbuthnots'.

"Ann, dear--Emma tells me the laundry's on fire?" said she, entering the big room. "I had no idea of it!"

"Nor had we," the doctor's wife rejoined eagerly. "The first we knew was from Emma. Jim says there's no danger. Do you think there is?"

"Certainly not, Ann!" Julie laughed. "I'll tell you what we can do," she added briskly. "We'll wheel you down the hall here to the window; you can get a splendid view of the whole thing."

The doctor approving, the ladies took up their station at a wide hall window that commanded the whole scene.

Outside the velvet blackness and silence of the night were shattered. The great mill, ugly tongues of flame bursting from the door and windows at its base, was the centre of a talking, shouting, shrill-voiced crowd that was momentarily, in the mysterious fashion of crowds, gathering size.

"Wonderful sight, isn't it, Ann?"

"Wonderful. Does this cut off our water supply, Emma?"

"No, Mrs. Arbuthnot. They're using the little mill for the engines now."

"What did they use the big mill for, Emma?"

"The laundry, Miss Ives. And there's a sort of flat on the second floor where the laundry woman and her husband--he's the man that drives the 'bus--live."

"Good heavens!" said Ann. "I hope they got out!"

"Oh, sure," said the maid, comfortably. "It was all of an hour ago the fire started. They had lots of time."

The three watched for a while in silence. Ann's eyes began to droop from the bright monotony of the flames.

"I believe I'll wait until the tank falls, Ju? and then go back to my comfortable bed--Julie, what is it--!"

Her voice rose, keen with terror. The actress, her hand on her heart, shook her head without turning her eyes from the mill.

For suddenly above the other clamor there had risen one horrible scream, and now, following it, there was almost a silence.

"Why--what on earth--" panted Miss Ives, looking to Mrs. Arbuthnot for explanation after an endless interval in which neither stirred. But again they were interrupted, this time by such an outbreak of shouting and cries from the watching crowd about the mill as made the night fairly ring.

A moment later the entire top of the mill collapsed, sending a gush of sparks far up into the night. Then at last the faithfully played hoses began to gain control.

"Do run down and find out what the shouting was, Emma," said Julie. Emma gladly obeyed.

"She'd come back, if anything had happened," said Julie, some ten minutes later.

"Who--Emma?" Mrs. Arbuthnot was not alarmed. "Oh, surely!" she yawned, and drew her wraps about her.

"It's all over now. But I suppose it will burn for hours. I think I'll turn in again," she said.

"I've had enough, too!" Julie said, not quite easy herself, but glad to find the other so. "Let's decamp."

She wheeled the invalid carefully back to her room, where both women were still talking when a bell-boy knocked, bringing a message from the doctor. A woman had been hurt; he would be busy with her for an hour.

"Who was it?" Julie asked him, but the boy, obviously frantic to return to the fascinations of the fire, didn't know.

It was more than an hour later that the doctor came in. Julie had been reading to Ann. She shut the book.

"Jim! What on earth has kept you so long?"

"Frighten you, dear?" The doctor was very pale; he looked, between the dirt and disorder of his clothes, and the anxiety of his face, like an old man.

"Some one was hurt?" flashed Julie, solicitous at once.

"Has no one told you about it?" he wondered. "Lord! I should think it would be all over the place by this time!"

He dropped into an easy chair, and sank his head wearily into his hands.

"Lord--Lord--Lord!" he muttered. Then he looked up at his wife with the smile that never failed her.

"Jim--no one was killed?"

"Oh, no, dear! No, I'll tell you." He came over and sat beside her on the bed, patting her hand. The two women watched him with tense, absorbed faces.

"When I got there," said the doctor, slowly, "there was quite a crowd--the lower story of the mill was all aflame--and the firemen were keeping the people back. They'd a ladder up at the second story and firemen were pitching things out of the windows as fast as they could--chairs, rugs, pillows, and so on. Finally the last man came out, smoke coming after him--it was quick work! Now, remember, dear, no one was killed--"he stopped to pat his wife's hand reassuringly. "Well, just then, at the third-story windows--it seems the laundress has children--"

"Children!" gasped Miss Ives. "Oh, no!"

"Yes, four of 'em--the oldest a little fellow of ten, had the baby in his arms--." The doctor stopped.

"Go on, Jim!"

"Well, they put the ladder back again, but the sill was aflame then. No use! Just then the mother and father--poor souls--arrived. They'd been at a dance in the village. The woman screamed--"

"We heard."

"Ah? The man had to be held, poor fellow! It was--it was--" Again the doctor stopped, unable to go on. But after a few seconds he began more briskly: "Well! The mill was connected with this house, you know, by a little bridge, from the tank floor of the mill to the roof. No one had thought of it, because every one supposed that there was no one in the mill. Before the crowd had fairly seen that there were children caged up there, they left the window, and not a minute later we saw them come up the trap-door by the tank. Lord, how every one yelled."

"They'd thought of it, the darlings!" half sobbed Mrs. Arbuthnot.

"No, they'd never have thought of it--too terrified, poor little things. No. We all saw that there was some one--a woman--with them hurrying them along. I was helping hold the mother or I might have thought it was the mother. They scampered across that bridge like little squirrels, the woman with the baby last. By that time the mill was roaring like a furnace behind them, and the bridge itself burst into flames at the mill end. She--the woman--must have felt it tottering, for she flung herself the last few feet--but she couldn't make it. She threw the baby, by some lucky accident, for she couldn't have known what she was doing, safe to the others, and caught at the rail, but the whole thing gave way and came down.... I got there about the first--she'd only fallen some dozen feet, you know, on the flat roof of the kitchen, but she was all smashed up, poor little girl. We carried her into the housekeeper's room--and then I saw that it was little Miss Carter--your Dancing Girl, Ju!"

"Jim! Dead?"

"Oh, no! I don't think she'll die. She's badly burned, of course-- face and hands especially--but it's the spine I'm afraid for. We can tell better to-morrow. We made her as comfortable as we could. I gave her something that'll make her sleep. Her mother's with her. But I'm afraid her dancing days are over."

"Think of it--little Miss Carter!" Julie's voice sounded dazed.

"But, Jim," Ann said, "what was she doing in the mill?"

"Why, that's the point," he said. "She wasn't there when the fire started. She was simply one of the crowd. But when she heard that the children were there, she ran to the back of the mill, where there was a straight up-and-down ladder built against the wall outside, so that the tank could be reached that way. She went up it like a flash--says she never thought of asking any one else to go. She broke a window and climbed in--she says the floor was hot to her feet then--and she and the kids ran up the inside flight to the trap-door. They obeyed her like little soldiers! But the bridge side of the mill was the side the fire was on, and the wood was rotten, you know--almost explosive. Half a minute later and they couldn't have made it at all."

"How do you account for such courage in a girl like that?" marvelled Julie.

"I don't know," he said. "Take it all in all, it was the most extraordinary thing I ever saw. Apparently she never for one second thought of herself. She simply ran straight into that hideous danger--while the rest of us could do nothing but put our hands over our eyes and pray."

"But she'll live, Jim?" the actress asked, and as he nodded a thoughtful affirmative, she added: "That's something to be thankful for, at least!"

"Don't be too sure it is," said Ann.

Ten days later Miss Ives came cheerfully into the sunny, big room where Marian Carter lay. Bandaged, and strapped, and bound, it was a sorry little Dancing Girl who turned her serious eyes to the actress's face. But Julie could be irresistible when she chose, and she chose to be her most fascinating self to-day. Almost reluctantly at first, later with something of her old gayety, the Dancing Girl's laugh rang out. It stirred Julie's heart curiously to hear it, and made the little patient's mother, listening in the next room, break silently into tears.

"But this is what I really came to bring you," said the actress, presently, laying a score or more of newspaper clippings on the bed. "You see you are famous! I had my press-agent watch for these, and they're coming in at a great rate every mail. You see, here's a nattering likeness of you in a New York daily, and here you are again, in a Chicago paper!"

"Those aren't of me," said Marian, smiling.

"It says they are," Julie said. "One says you are petite and dark, and the other that you are a blond Gibson type. You wouldn't have believed that your wish could come true so quickly, would you, just the other day?"

"My wish?" stammered the girl.

"Yes. Don't you remember saying that you wished you could do something big?" pursued Julie. "You've done a thing that makes the rest of us feel pretty small, you know. Why, while there was any question of your getting better, there wasn't a dance given at any of the hotels between here and Surf Point, and all sorts of people came here with inquiries every day. This place was absolutely hushed. The maids used to fight for the privilege of carrying your trays up. None of us thought of anything but 'How is Miss Carter?' And you'll be 'The young lady who saved those children from the fire' for the rest of your life wherever you go!"

Miss Carter was watching her gravely.

"You say I got my wish," she said now, her blue eyes brimming with slow tears, and her lips trembling. "But--but--you see how I am, Miss Ives! Dr. Arbuthnot says I may be able to walk in a month or two, but no swimming or riding or dancing for years--perhaps never. And my face--it'll always be scarred."

Julie laid a gentle hand on the little helpless fingers.

"But that's part of the process, you know, little girl," said the actress after a little silence. "I pay one way, perhaps, and you pay another, but we both pay. Don't you suppose," a smile broke through the seriousness of her face, "don't you suppose I have my scars, too?"

Marian dried her eyes. "Scars?"

"When you are pointed out--as you will be, wherever you go--" said Julie, "you'll think to yourself, 'Ah, yes, this is very lovely and very flattering, but I'll never dance again--I'll never rush into the waves again, I'll never spend a whole morning on the tennis court,' won't you?"

The Dancing Girl nodded, her eyes filling again, her lips trembling.

"And when people stare after me and follow me," said Julie, "I think to myself--'Oh, this is very flattering, very delightful--but the young years are gone--the mother who missed me and longed for me is gone--the little sisters are married, and deep in happy family cares--they don't need me any more.' I have what I wanted, but I've paid the price! In a life like mine there's no room for the normal, wonderful ties of a home and children. Never--" she put her head back against her chair and shut her eyes--"never that happiness for me!" She finished, her voice lowered and carefully controlled.

They were both silent awhile. Then Marian stirred her helpless fingers just enough to deepen their light pressure on Julie's own.

"Thank you," she said shyly. "I see now. I think I begin to understand."


facebook share button twitter share button reddit share button share on pinterest pinterest

Add The Rainbow's End to your library.

Return to the Kathleen Norris library , or . . . Read the next short story; The Tide-Marsh

© 2022