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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter II. CINDERELLA
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter II. CINDERELLA Post by :yahni Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :708

Click below to download : The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter II. CINDERELLA (Format : PDF)

The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter II. CINDERELLA

BOOK ONE ON THE SHELF - CHAPTER II. CINDERELLA

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.

"But--why--?"

"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.

"There is no one like you, Daddy," she had told him, "to enjoy things." And so it had come about that he had pushed away his work on certain nights and, sitting beside her, had forgotten the sordid and suffering world which he knew so well, and which she knew not at all.

As her eyes swept the house, they rested at last with a rather puzzled look on a stout old gentleman with a wide shirt-front, who sat in the right-hand box. He had white hair and a red face.

Where had she seen him?

There were women in the box, a sparkling company in white and silver, and black and diamonds, and green and gold. There was a big bald-headed man, and quite in the shadow back of them all, a slender youth.

It was when the slender youth leaned forward to speak to the vision in white and silver that Jean stared and stared again.

She knew now where she had seen the old gentleman with the wide shirt front. He was the shabby old gentleman of the Toy Shop! And the youth was the shabby son!

Yet here they were in state and elegance! As if a fairy godmother had waved a wand--!

The curtain went up on a feverish little slavey with her mind set on going to the ball, on Our Policeman wanting a shave, on the orphans in boxes, on baked potato offered as hospitality by a half-starved hostess, on a waiting Cinderella asleep on a frozen doorstep.

And then the ball--and Mona Lisa, and the Duchess of Devonshire, and The Girl with the Pitcher and the Girl with the Muff--and Cinderella in azure tulle and cloth-of-gold, dancing with the Prince at the end like mad--.

Then the bell boomed--the lights went out--and after a little moment, one saw Cinderella, stripped of her finery, staggering up the stairs.

Jean cried and laughed, and cried again. Yet even in the midst of her emotion, she found her eyes pulled away from that appealing figure on the stage to those faintly illumined figures in the box.

When the curtain went down, her father, most surprisingly, bowed to the old gentleman and received in return a genial nod.

"Oh, do you know him?" she demanded.

"Yes. It is General Drake."

"Who are the others?"

"I am not sure about the women. The boy in the back of the box is his son, DeRhymer Drake."

Derry!

"Oh,"--she had a feeling that she was not being quite candid with her father--"he's rather swank, isn't he, Daddy?"

"Heavens, what slang! I don't see where you get it. He is rich, if that's what you mean, and it's a wonder he isn't spoiled to death. His mother is dead, and the General is his own worst enemy; eats and drinks too much, and thinks he can get away with it."

"Are they very rich--?"

"Millions, with only Derry to leave it to. He's the child of a second wife."

Oh, lovely, lovely, lovely Cinderella, could your godmother do more than this? To endow two rained-on and shabby gentlemen with pomp and circumstance!

Jean tucked her hand into her father's, as if to anchor herself against this amazing tide of revelation. Then, as the auditorium darkened, and the curtain went up, she was swept along on a wave of emotions in which the play world and the real world were inextricably mixed.

And now Our Policeman discovers that he is "romantical." Cinderella finds her Prince, who isn't in the least the Prince of the fairy tale, but much nicer under the circumstance--and the curtain goes down on a glass slipper stuck on the toes of two tiny feet and a cockney Cinderella, quite content.

"Well," Jean drew a long breath. "It was the loveliest ever, Daddy," she said, as he helped her with her cloak.

And it was while she stood there in that cloak of heavenly blue that the young man in the box looked down and saw her.

He batted his eyes.

Of course she wasn't real.

But when he opened them, there she was, smiling up into the face of the man who had helped her into that heavenly garment.

It came to him, quite suddenly, that his father had bowed to the man--the big man with the classic head and the air of being at ease with himself and the world.

He did things to the velvet and ermine wrap that he was holding, which seemed to satisfy its owner, then he gripped his father's arm. "Dad, who is that big man down there--with the red head--the one who bowed to you?"

"Dr. McKenzie, Bruce McKenzie, the nerve specialist--"

Of course it was something to know that, but one didn't get very far.

"Let's go somewhere and eat," said the General, and that was the end of it. Out of the tail of his eye, Derry Drake saw the two figures with the copper-colored heads move down the aisle, to be finally merged into the indistinguishable stream of humanity which surged towards the door.

Jean and her father did not go to supper at the big hotel around the corner as was their custom.

"I've got to get to the hospital before twelve," the Doctor said. "I am sorry, dear--"

"It doesn't make a bit of difference. I don't want to eat," she settled herself comfortably beside him in the car. "Oh, it is snowing, Daddy, how splendid--"

He laughed. "You little bundle of--ecstasy--what am I going to do with you?"

"Love me. And isn't the snow--wonderful?"

"Yes. But everybody doesn't see it that way."

"I am glad that I do. I should hate to see nothing in all this miracle, but--slush tomorrow--"

"Yet a lot of life is just--slush tomorrow--. I wish you need never find that out--."

When Jean went into the house, and her father drove on, she found Hilda waiting up for her.

"Father had to go to the hospital."

"Did you have anything to eat?"

"No."

"I thought I might cook some oysters."

"I am really not hungry." Then feeling that her tone was ungracious, she tried to make amends. "It was nice of you to think of it--"

"Your father may like them. I'll have them hot for him."

Jean lingered uncertainly. She didn't want the food, but she hated to leave the field to Hilda. She unfastened her cloak, and sat down. "How are you going to cook them?"

"Panned--with celery."

"It sounds good--I think I'll stay down, Hilda."

"As you wish."

The Doctor, coming in with his coat powdered with snow, found his daughter in a big chair in front of the library fire.

"I thought you'd be in bed."

"Hilda has some oysters for us."

"Fine--I'm starved."

She looked at him, meditatively, "I don't see how you can be."

"Why not?"

"Oh, on such a night as this, Daddy? Food seems superfluous."

He sat down, smiling. "Don't ever expect to feed any man over forty on star-dust. Hilda knows better, don't you, Hilda?"

Hilda was bringing in the tray. There was a copper chafing-dish and a percolator. She wore her nurse's outfit of white linen. She looked well in it, and she was apt to put it on after dinner, when she was in charge of the office.

"You know better than to feed a man on stardust, don't you?" the Doctor persisted.

Hilda lifted the cover of the chafing-dish and stirred the contents. "Well, yes," she smiled at him, "you see, I have lived longer than Jean. She'll learn."

"I don't want to learn," Jean told her hotly. "I want to believe that--that--" Words failed her.

"That men can live on star-dust?" her father asked gently. "Well, so be it. We won't quarrel with her, will we, Hilda?"

The oysters were very good. Jean ate several with healthy appetite. Her father, twinkling, teased her, "You see--?"

She shrugged, "All the same, I didn't need them."

Hilda, putting things back on the tray, remarked: "There was a message from Mrs. Witherspoon. Her son is on leave for the week end. She wants you for dinner on Saturday night--both of you."

Doctor McKenzie tapped a finger on the table thoughtfully, "Oh, does she? Do you want to go, Jeanie?"

"Yes. Don't you?"

"I am not sure. I should like to build a fence about you, my dear, and never let a man look over. Ralph Witherspoon wants to marry her, Hilda, what do you think of that?"

"Well, why not?" Hilda laid her long hands flat on the table, leaning on them.

Jean felt little prickles of irritability. "Because I don't want to get married, Hilda."

Hilda gave her a sidelong glance, "Of course you do. But you don't know it."

She went out with her tray. Jean turned, white-faced, to her father, "I wish she wouldn't say such things--"

"My dear, I am afraid you don't quite do her justice."

"Oh, well, we won't talk about her. I've got to go to bed, Daddy."

She kissed him wistfully. "Sometimes I think there are two of you, the one that likes me, and the one that likes Hilda."

With his hands on her shoulders, he gave an easy laugh. "Who knows? But you mustn't have it on your mind. It isn't good for you."

"I shall always have you on my mind--."

"But not to worry about, baby. I'm not worth it--."

Hilda came in with the evening paper. "Have you read it, Doctor?"

"No." He glanced at the headlines and his face grew hard. "More frightfulness," he said, stormily. "If I had my way, it should be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. For every man they have tortured, there should be one of their men--tortured. For every child mutilated, one of theirs--mutilated. For every woman--."

He stopped. Jean had caught hold of his arm. "Don't, Daddy," she said thickly, "it makes me afraid of you." She covered her face with her hands.

He drew her to him and smoothed her hair in silence. Over her head he glanced at Hilda. She was smiling inscrutably into the fire.

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