MoboReader> Literature > Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls

   Chapter 27 HER BIG NIGHT

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 10545

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was the crew of smiling blacks who carried Florence and Jeanne back to shore. A stout little tug came out for the Polar ship, but that was too slow for them.

With oars flashing in the moonlight, with their crew chanting a weird song, they went sweeping back to Jeanne's "Big Night."

All their friends, the movie company, Tom Tobin and even Erik Nord were waiting.

"I have it," Florence whispered to Erik. "The three-bladed knife." She slipped it into his hand.

"Wonderful!" He gripped her hand. "But the bell? The banners?"

"There's something strange about them."

"Tell me what happened."

She told him briefly as they hurried along with the others to the little theatre.

"You'll never see him again," Erik said with conviction. "The emigration officers are on his trail. They'll get him. He'll go back to China."

"Do you know," Florence spoke in a low, serious tone, "I feel rather sorry for him."

"Yes, one does. But that is often so in China. The old is losing out, the new is coming. That is always sad. But it must be."

They were at the theatre entrance.

* * * * * * * *

Once, while Jeanne, still quite a young girl, was traveling with the gypsies a man had asked permission to take her picture as she danced with the bear. Proudly she had posed for the camera man. That had been spring.

"In the autumn when you return this way you shall see your picture," the kindly white-haired photographer had said to her.

She recalled all that now as she sat in the little theatre waiting for the preview of her picture to begin.

"Ah, yes," she thought, "How thrilled I was when at last we returned to that village and I was permitted to see that picture! But this! How much more wonderful! But, perhaps-how terrible!"

And indeed, what an occasion was this! Never before had she seen herself in motion. Never had she heard her own voice after the sound had been allowed to grow cold. And now, now she was to see and hear a feature never before shown on the screen. And in this feature she was the star. Each act, each movement, every little habit of gesture, yes, almost of thought, was recorded here. Her very book of life was to be opened up before her, or so she believed. And not before herself alone was she to appear, but to an assembled group of notable people. There were rich men and their wives, friends of the producer. There were reporters and critics. By the judgment of these last the picture must stand or fall. Little wonder then that she actually shuddered and leaned hard on Florence's arm as Ted Hunter, the director, stepped into the spotlight to make the accustomed announcement.

It seemed that there were to be still some moments of suspense. They had made, Ted Hunter announced, a very short mystery reel which they would now run as a curtain-raiser to the main event.

Too much overcome by thoughts of the immediate future to focus her attention on this mystery, Jeanne watched with half closed eyes until with a sudden start she sat straight up, to grip Jensie's arm and whisper shrilly:

"Jensie! Only look!"

There was no need for this. Jensie had seen and was staring hard, for upon the screen there walked with solemn tread two black horses. They were hitched to an ancient, dilapidated hearse, and on that hearse there rested a coffin.

That this was a part of the mystery Jeanne knew, but what that part was she could not guess. She had not followed the plot. One thing was plain and this she whispered to Jensie.

"That's the old hearse. It belongs back of the Tavern in the Lincoln Group. They-they must have borrowed it for this picture. They took it in the night. That was the time I saw the black horses and the coffin."

"Yes. And you know that organ?" the mountain girl whispered back. "I found out about that. It was a colored girl who washes dishes at the Tavern. She loves music, so she hid in the closet and slipped out to play the organ at night. I-I caught her."

"Sh-sh!"

The mystery was over. Once again Ted Hunter was in the spotlight's glare. The great moment was at hand.

Never will Jeanne forget the hour that followed. From a distance she heard the motor hum. Next instant she saw herself upon the screen. One good look, ten seconds, she saw herself. Then she, Petite Jeanne, vanished. In her place, standing among the rhododendrons at the side of Big Black Mountain was Zola the child of that mountain.

All that hour she looked upon the screen, listened and lived with Zola. She laughed when it was time to laugh, wept when others wept and shouted as they shouted.

And when the camera gave its last click, when the screen went white and the lights flashed on, she said to herself, "It was not I."

Yet, even as she sat there they crowded about her, the members of the cast of that picture, the reporters, the critics. They lifted her to their shoulders, carried her to the platform, set her on her feet, and shouted.

"Speech! Speech!"

Speech? Her head was in a wild whirl.

Then her eyes fell upon the clock. "Listen!" She held up a hand for silence.

"Listen!" Her voice rose like a captain's shouting a command. A hush, the hush that can come only at two in the morning, fell over the group. But into that hush there came no unusu

al sound, only the distant chimes heralding the hour of two in the morning.

"My hour of enchantment!" Jeanne sighed blissfully.

"And now you listen!" It was Florence who spoke. "I have heard you say that many times. What do you mean-your hour of enchantment?"

"All right, I'll tell you." The little French girl's face beamed. "Long ago a gypsy woman, a very old and very wise fortune teller, said to me, 'Your hour of enchantment is two o'clock in the morning.'

"You too," she hurried on, "each one of you has an enchanted hour-an hour when wonderful things will come to you; good fortune, riches, a proposal, marriage, all these will come to you on that enchanted hour.

"It is true!" She was deeply in earnest, this little French girl, so sincerely in earnest that she did not realize that she was about to betray a secret.

"You think it strange that my enchanted hour is two in the morning when most good people are in their beds.

"But you are forgetting that I am at heart a gypsy, that indeed I once was a gypsy, a French gypsy, a very good gypsy." She smiled. "But a gypsy all the same." At this instant the lips of Mr. Soloman parted in a low exclamation of excitement.

"So that is who you are!" he exclaimed. "You are the little French girl, Petite Jeanne! For days I have wracked my brain saying to myself, 'She is not Lorena LeMar. Who is she?' And now look! You are Petite Jeanne, the star of my most wonderful picture."

"Oh, Mr. Soloman!" Jeanne's arms came perilously near encircling his fat neck. "You knew I was a fraud, and yet you let me go on! How-how so very wonderful!"

"A fraud!" he thundered. "No! I did not know you were a fraud. I knew you were a very great star.

"And now, Miss Jeanne," his voice became confidential, "your name will go on that picture and in the lights of every Broadway of the land, for it was you who made that picture, not Lorena LeMar."

"Oh!" Jeanne caught her breath. "Do you think that would be right?"

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" came in screams from the crowd.

"And what a story that will make!"

"Boys," the producer turned to a group of reporters, "those pictures you took, they must go with the greatest story of all time, the story of a double who in two short weeks became a star."

"Yes! Yes! You bet! Rah, rah, for Jeanne!" came from the reporters.

"And now, Miss Jeanne." Soloman drew a paper from his pocket. "Here is a contract for you. We have made you-no, no, you have made yourself-a star; and of course you will make another picture; many, many more."

"Please," Jeanne pressed the paper back into his hand, "not to-night. My head is in a whirl. Perhaps never at all, but surely not to-night."

"To-morrow then. I can wait." The great little man folded his paper neatly and thrust it deep in his pocket.

"This moving picture," said Jeanne, still feeling that she must make a speech. "It is beautiful. I have seen. You have seen. It is truly beautiful. But it is not I who have made it. It is you, my friends, Mr. Soloman, Pietro, Anthony, Scott Ramsey and all the rest. It is the spirit of those so beautiful mountains. It is the soul of that so great American, Mr. Lincoln. It is every one. It is everything. It is not I.

"And now," she murmured after the applause had died away, "I am very tired. Will you please take me home, not to that so grand hotel but to the little rooms where my good Florence and I have lived so happily. No longer am I Lorena LeMar. I am only Petite Jeanne, the gypsy."

Once more they bore her in triumph on their shoulders, and tucked her away at last in the taxi between Florence and Jensie, while Erik Nord and Tom Tobin took their places on the drop seats before her.

There was little left to be told. It was told in the shabby third floor rooms that were the private castle of Florence and Jeanne. With Tom as her bodyguard Jeanne hurried to the little hotel where she presented her check and received in exchange her well filled laundry bag.

When Tom had carried this to the top floor room, she bade him pour its contents on the floor.

"Behold the bell, the banners!" she exclaimed. "I have had them hidden away all the time. Do not ask me why. I am a gypsy. A gypsy needs no reason.

"And now, Mr. Nord, with my good friend's permission, I return them to you. Florence has told me of the cute Chinese children. May they all get well speedily."

"And the reward?" Erik Nord looked from Florence to Jeanne.

"Florence may have the reward," Jeanne responded quickly.

"And you will visit China?" He smiled at Florence.

"Perhaps. Some time." She looked away quickly.

Jensie went to college. Jeanne was called back to France. The great Fair closed, as all fairs do. So ended another year.

Did Jeanne return to America? Did she renew her rightful claim of stardom in the movie world? Did Florence indeed visit that "mysterious land, China"? You may find the answer in the next book, The Phantom Violin.

Transcriber's Notes

Copyright notice provided as in the original printed text-this e-text is public domain in the country of publication.

Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and dialect unchanged.

In the text versions, italic text is delimited by _underscores_.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares