After the Ball (Parker)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
After the Ball  (1922) 
by Gilbert Parker

From Scribner's Magazine, May 1922

The funeral took place two days after, and the undertaker, doctor, and others had to be paid, and the total bills for all the funeral expenses, etc., were some sixty-nine dollars. Meg had but three dollars and her home. There was naught to pawn and the undertaker pressed. What was there to do? ... Coming from a shop she passed a drill-hall, and then came to her mind that she could give a ball at fifty cents a head, and pay for the burial of Jean.

After the Ball


IT was one of the poorest districts of the city of Montreal. In its dirt and its grimness it was not surpassed by the slums of London or New York. In summer it had refuse in the streets, and its odor was bad; in winter it had bleak cold and grinding poverty. To the eyes of those who lived in better quarters, it was hell. The French Roman Catholic families were cared for somewhat by the priests and the sisters who had the district in charge, but the few English Protestant families were left in a state not easily described. No philanthropic Protestant ladies came to the district and the condition of the few Protestant families was deplorable.

In one home was Jean Roone and his family. Roone had been a worker in a great sawmill at a low wage, not sufficient to bring up his family of five and to care for his faithful wife, who had been an English girl in a cheap music-hall when he married her, at eight dollars a week. He was good-looking when they were married and she had been as happy with him as poverty and misery will permit. She had a quick temper and no religion, for her people had belonged to circuses and cheap shows, and she had gone to school only about four years of her life. She was very pretty in a tousled sort of way when she married, and buxom and taking, and had had no lovers—she was only seventeen. She was exceptionally virtuous for one of her class. One day in the winter she had slipped and fallen on an icy pavement after her performance at the music-hall, and Jean Roone, who had attended the performance, helped her up, and as he lifted her had a thrill he had never felt before in his life. She was magnetic in those days and the end came soon.

He went to the music-hall every night, took a twenty-five-cent seat, and then walked home with her. She was not very happy in her home, and when at the end of a week he proposed to her she accepted him. They went to a registrar's office and were married, for he, though French through his father, was a Protestant, and then followed months of wild happiness, for she was deeply in love with him and he adored her. After the first child was born things went well for a while, then she realized that another child was coming, and the second child was born a year after the first. Again a child was born at the end of the third year, and then troubles began. Times were hard and they became harder. Work was not steady and the expenses of the home did not grow less. In course of time—six years—two more children came, and now love, as it had once been, declined, and little remained of the old romance. Year by year the struggle to make both ends meet went on.

At last Jean said to her in English, for they talked in that language: "Things go not well, Meg. Wages are low and they'll be lower, and I not feel well—no, bagosh!"

She was in an irritated mood this day, and she replied: "If wages go lower we can as well peg out. It's too hard now. Five children and us two on ten dollars a week! It's starvation, that's sure. I'm sick of it all. I earned eight dollars a week myself before I married. You're getting little more."

He fired up. "P'r'aps you wish you'd not married me, hein?"


Then suddenly she relented, for the look in his face hurt her. She went over to him. "Jean, you're not well, you say. Lm sorry. If you get real sick, what are we going to do? ... But never mind, I'll go out, and earn ten dollars a week in the music-hall again!"

Poor creature, she did not realize that her day had passed forever at the music-hall, that she was no longer young and pretty and taking, and that there was no manager who would employ her. Jean knew this well, and he stared for a moment at her, then he said: "Them places ain't so easy to get now. You're not sixteen—no."

There was a mirror in the room on the wall. She went over to it and looked in, and then a queer change came over her. She swung round on him. "I ain't got any looks no more. Why, my face looks fifty, and I'm not twenty-seven. That's what marriage has done for me. My, what a fool I was!"

"Nom de diable, I thought we'd been happy, Meg, even when things was bad, but I made a meestak. Sapristi!"

Suddenly she repented. She caught his head to her breast. "You not well, my Jean—that worse than all. I'm not myself to-day. What's the matter now?"

He looked at her sadly. She had always been neat and clean even in their direst poverty and now she looked worn and tired and dejected, but wholesome and clean and patched. She had been a good wife to him. He said: "I not know what the matter is, but I not feel well this past three months. I not sleep well. I have no real strength any more—no. I not know what to do. If I must give up work, we starve, Meg!"

She drew back with sudden fear and looked at him. "You not so well as to work, Jean! That's bad. You have had meat, but the rest of us have not had meat for a month. You must not get so sick as to give up work—but yes, you shall give up work if you have to, Jean."

The haggard look in his shrunken face tortured her. She turned her head away, then went about her work, thinking hard. Jean was sick, and that would mean Heaven knew what. If Jean were taken from her, what could she do? Her heart was in her throat. She went and looked at the five children in one bed. As she stooped over the bed, the eldest child waked. It was a girl, who resembled her mother greatly in all ways. She had dark-blue eyes, pale but not scrawny cheeks, and a mind that thought quickly. She stared at her mother and the look in the face startled her. "What matter, mother—what makes you feel bad?"

The mother did not reply, but stooped down and kissed the child and tucked her in. It was early November and winter was near. Snow would soon come. She shook her head, no more, and the little girl, understanding, as only the children of the poor can understand, cuddled down, but lay long in the night thinking hard of the look in her mother's face and of the strange way her father had acted of late. She was very sensitive.

Next morning when Meg got up to light the fire and make breakfast—bread and porridge, no butter, and tea for herself and children, and the same with a little ham for her husband—she did not at first call Jean. But at last, seeing he did not move, she went over to the bed and spoke to him.

"Jean, get up; breakfus' will be ready ver' quick."

Still he did not rise. She touched him and he did not respond. She stooped and looked at his face. His eyes were open but there was no light in them. He was gone forever.

She did not cry or exclaim. She looked at him in horror. He was dead; he had been dead about an hour. He had waked with a sharp pain at his heart, had gasped, and was gone. He had died of a combination of heart and kidney disease.

She sent for the doctor and undertaker by the eldest girl, who, like her mother, had not exclaimed when she saw her father dead, but had comforted the other children, and helped to dress the youngest; then after a hasty cup of tea and plate of porridge had gone for the doctor and the undertaker. For one so young she knew her way about well. Her name was Denise.

The funeral took place two days after, and the undertaker, doctor, and others had to be paid, and the total bills for all the funeral expenses, etc., were some sixty-nine dollars. Meg had but three dollars and her home. There was naught to pawn and the undertaker pressed. He must be paid and she had promised him that he would be paid. What was there to do? She must keep her word and pay him. But how? She could not go on the music-hall stage. That was over forever. Yet her experience of the music-hall came to her aid. She would earn the money and pay the undertaker and the doctor. Coming from a shop she passed a drill-hall, and then came to her mind that she could give a ball at fifty cents a head, and pay for the burial of Jean. She went at once and secured the drill-hall for fifteen dollars. She had a gift for organization, and it became known in the district that Meg was trying to pay for her husband's funeral by a ball. It startled the Roman Catholics, it shocked the Protestants, yet when the night came there were four hundred who paid for admission to the drill-hall, and Meg took the money at the door. Refreshments had to be paid for inside, and they were paid for at fifteen cents a head, and the final result was that the funeral indebtedness was paid, and there were sixty dollars over. At the ball a violin and a concertina had provided the music, and neighbors who wished to be kind and who admired Meg's pluck, helped to make the affair a great success. She plainly showed by this one act that she was an unusual woman. Curiously enough, it was the influence of heredity and early association. Had she not been connected with the music-hall she would have been wholly at sea.

The next day a Protestant lady, who had lately come to Montreal, visited the district in a philanthropic way. She had heard nothing of the ball, and she came by accident to Meg's house first, as it was at the beginning of the street. She was admitted. Meg was not at home, but Denise was, and when the lady came in Denise talked to her.

"Where's your mother, little girl?" asked Mrs. Medley, looking round the orderly room which showed extreme poverty, yet taste and cleanness and ornamentation.

"She's settling up about the ball—sure," answered Denise.

"About the ball—what ball?" Mrs. Medley asked, looking at the black dresses of the children.

"The ball last night to pay for father's funeral."

"To pay for father's funeral!" Mrs. Medley exclaimed.

"Yes, at fifty cents per head, rather was buried six days ago, and the funeral had to be paid for, ma'am."

Mrs. Medley was horrified. A ball at fifty cents a head to pay for a funeral! It struck her as dreadful. A ball to be arranged by the mother of five children in a house like this—a common workman's cottage. It seemed almost phenomenal and improper.

"I don't understand," she said helplessly.

"Lots of things we can't understand, but they're true—yes," said Denise.

At that moment Meg entered, and saw Mrs. Medley with surprise. "It's my mother that made the ball," said Denise, and looked inquiringly.

"I've come to see if I can help you people in this district in some small ways. Things don't seem very bright here now," said Mrs. Medley.

"Things ain't never very bright down here—no. Wages are low, and we've little enough to eat and wear. And when there's death——"

"You give a ball to pay the funeral expenses," said Mrs. Medley severely.

For an instant Meg looked as though she could cut the lady's throat, then she lashed out.

"You come here—the first that ever come to see what we do and how we do it, and help us 'in small ways.' Then, when you find a poor honest woman gives a dance to pay for her man's funeral, you turn up your nose and are shocked—yes! Well, if you don't like it, you needn't. It would be better to let the undertaker not be paid, or the doctor, or other bills, would it? Is that the thing Christ taught? I'll face my judgment-day with no fear. My dead husband would bless me for letting people get pleasure out of his death, if it made his home happier, and paid what he couldn't pay. Christian religion—what is it if it ain't to pay debts honestly made? You are rich, mebbe, and you come down here to us poor, because you wish to do something good, and when you find an honest woman like me, who gives a dance six days after her man's death, you're startled. There's oceans between us. You don't—you can't understand— Haven't you stayed long enough—eh?"

Mrs. Merlley rose to go, startled by the attack made upon her. Tears were in her eyes. She was no hypocrite, she was only conventional, and she had not understood, but she was beginning to understand with difficulty.

"I can see a little of what you mean. I have never done this work before. My husband died six months ago, and I wanted to do something to help my fellow creatures. So I began this work here. I didn't realize that no one ever came here before like this. Few women like you have the gift of organization. You are not like other women, I see. How did you come to organize the ball? ... Don't send me away, please. I honestly want to know. I'd like to help you. Of course I was startled at so unusual a thing, as who wouldn't be? But you've explained it all. How were you able to do it?"

"I was on the music-hall stage before I was married at sixteen. I came of a family of circus people and cheap-show people. I've had a happy married life, though poor."

"That explains so much," said Mrs. Medley. "I have a brother in the music-hall business, and can now understand how you did what you did." She came close and looked into the clear, yet sad, blue eyes of Meg.

"You are a remarkable woman, and you ought to get on. What can I do to help you?"

She took a purse from her pocket, but Meg said: "No, put it back, madame, I've enough to go on with. I've sixty dollars over the cost of the funeral—but, yes, I can go on! In any case I couldn't have taken your money, except if my children were starving, and it'd have hurt me to do that, and I'd have paid it back! I know what the world will think about this ball. It's in the papers to-day, but I don't care. I've done what's put my conscience right, and my children will have food I've earned for them."

Mrs. Medley said: "You have forgiven me, and I'd like to help you. I'll try and think it out. You've got a mind of your own, an original mind, and you're young yet. You should only be at the beginning of your life-work."

"My life-work? It is to earn bread for my children, and I'll do it, and I'll not borrow, beg, nor steal. If I keep my health, I'll do it. I seem to have waked by the death of my Jean. I'll keep awake now. I know what some Roman Catholics think of what I've done, and the Protestants too, and yet they come to my dance. I'd do the same thing over a hundred times, yes, I would, bien sûr!" She smiled. "We'll see what God does for me now. I ain't ashamed of it."

Mrs. Medley said: "Of course you're not ashamed of it. It's a matter for your own conscience, and Heaven above, and you meant only to do good. I'm going now, but I'll try to help you—to find work for you to do. You want work, I suppose?"

"I want work to support my children, and I'll get it too if I can."

At that moment there was a great noise outside the house, and looking out of the window they saw a crowd of boisterous boys and men shouting at her house. They were chiefly from outside this district, and had come to challenge her on her giving the ball to pay for her husband's funeral. As they clamored there came a knock at the door, and when Meg opened it a young man stepped inside.

"I'm a reporter of the Comet," he said, "and it wants to know about the ball. There's a feeling it was sacrilegious, but what's your point of view? Why did you give the ball?"

His blond face had a sort of sneer on it; his manner was patronizing and familiar.

"Why I do this or that's my own business, and I won't tell the public why I did it. I'm my own mistress. I don't care what the public think. I'm not a bad woman, as all know."

"Well, the crowd out there seem to think otherwise." He pointed to the street, where men and boys were noisy and insulting in their remarks. They were evidently organized before they came.

Meg opened the door, and the reporter of the Comet stepped outside. He was greatly nonplussed by the will and fiery temper of the woman he had come to interview. She had qualities quite her own, and it was clear she meant what she said. Yet he now had a "story" apart from an interview, and this pleased him. It would be a sensation to the public to have a woman of the lower class refuse an interview so firmly and so bitterly. Here was the excited crowd outside. What would she do with it, this six-days-old widow and the heroine of the pay-for-the-funeral ball? He soon knew and he chortled with glee. Meg saw the crowd, and it roused her spirit. She looked at the noisy men and boys for a minute, then, in her plain black frock, she stepped forward to the middle of the doorway with Mrs. Medley behind her and the Comet man on the edge of the crowd. She had gifts of her own, got from her earlier life and inherited from her parents now dead, and her stage experience. By nature she was a good actress, but she was not acting now. She was in dead earnest, and her face showed what she felt. She looked at the crowd in mingled surprise and anger, but there was a touch of pride in her anger. Unconsciously she realized that she had an audience, and the spirit of the stage came out unknown to her. Her fuzzy hair was always well brushed. She was by habit neat and clean, and, though of medium height, she seemed to tower over the noisy crowd.

"What you folks doin' here? You don't belong. This ain't your district. No, you're out of your beat. You not belong here. What you want—eh?"

"We want to give you blazes for the ball when your husband was only dead six days. That ain't decent—no!" shouted a man.

"It ain't decent—no," she repeated. "It'd be more decent to owe for the funeral and burial, eh? Wot you givin' me? I loved my man." Her voice got thick and broken. "I loved him so I wanted his soul to be at rest. And could it have been w'en we were starvin' and his funeral expenses wasn't paid? Was it easy to crowd down my grief, and do that thing? It wasn't. It hurt me terrible, but I pulled myself together and I done it. But, yes, I'd do it again, no matter what the world thought. I have five children, and I had five quarters—that was all, and my man was gone from this world. I had to fight for them and for myself. There was the bill of the burialman and all, and I had to pay it. How? By takin' from some charity society? No, I ain't built that way. I couldn't—no. I told the undertaker I'd pay him and he believed me. He took the risk, he was white. And I went out and earned enough by the ball to pay for the funeral and to give me something besides. Eh, wasn't that right? Wasn't it right to pay honest debts by a ball?"

"Dancin' on a dead man's grave!" shouted a man in the crowd, which gasped at his boldness, for she had almost conquered them.

"Dancin' on a dead man's grave—to pay the dead man's funeral debt. Would he object? He knows that the dancin' was made by a woman that loved him, and wanted to see his home clear of debt and the children fed. Dancin'! He'd dance in heaven to think the woman that loved him was with a breakin' heart doin' this—but yes! Do you think it was no trial to me? All my neighbors know I loved him, and was straight with him while he lived. I love his memory now, and I'll stand my chance at the last day for what I've done. It was done all right, and my neighbors thought so or they'd not have come to the ball."

"It was a damned good ball too!" shouted one who had been at it. "It was no insult to the dead. It was an honor. She's a brick, that widow Roone. Three cheers for the widow Roone! She's all, all right."

The crowd laughed, then burst into a cheer. It had all come right, and the reporter of the Comet chuckled, for he had a splendid story for his paper. This low-class woman was a genius in her way, and he meant to say so. She had loved her husband, yet she had swallowed her grief, and with a dollar and a quarter as her only capital had brought off this magnificent coup. She had paid for his funeral and had a balance to go on with to keep her house. It was unusual, it was a stroke of genius. The clear thing was that she had a white heart and had initiative and courage and will-power and goodness. And now her neighbors had gathered and the vast majority of them were in her favor. Some were not, but that was envy and jealousy. There was naught to be said of her but what was good. He came forward to her and said: "You've given me a splendid interview, madame; I don't want anything better."

She frowned and stepped back into the house as the crowd cheered and presently dispersed. Mrs. Medley was alone with her. "That was an eloquent and convincing speech," she said. "You'll do well in life. I want my brother to know you. Perhaps he can give you work in his office, or even older parts on the music-hall stage."

"No, I've finished with acting. I'm too old, and I have no looks, but I'd like to work for the stage."

Mrs. Medley eyed her house and her dress. "You'd be good in the dress department."

"In the property-room and in the dress-making, eh? Well, p'r'aps I'd know it by instinct. My parents was on the stage. I'd like to go back to it. I would for sure—but yes!"

"I'll speak to my brother. He's hard, but if he takes a fancy he'll do all he can." She turned to Denise and the four smaller children. "There are five children and you did what was right. Dancing to pay an honest debt is no crime. Even David the king danced before the Lord. Dancing is moral if it's a good dance and your dance was a good dance." She put her hand on Meg's shoulders. "I like you, and I'll do what I can for you. You may go far yet."

Meg looked at her with sad, glad, startled eyes. "In these three rooms, and with these five children, I may go far—but!" She looked round helplessly. Then she sank into a chair, leaned forward, and put her head in her hands and her arms on her knees. Denise and the other children crowded round her, and Denise put a hand on her shoulder and with the other stroked her hair.

"Don't feel so bad, muvvie, we'll be all right."

Mrs. Medley admired Denise greatly. She saw in her the making of a fine woman. She had sensitiveness, feeling, temperament, and common sense above the ordinary. She was pretty and would be prettier still in good time.

Meg got to her feet with composure restored. Her children called out her best qualities, gave her courage and self-possession. She smiled, but rather sadly, and her hands stroked the heads of her bairns. "I've got a fair start, and I'll be all right. Sorry, but where should I be if it hadn't been for the ball? It saved us and did no one any harm at all. I got to keep my children from starving—bien sûr."

Mrs. Medley smiled. "You'll do far more than that. You'll have success and good luck. You have the true thing in you. Good-by. God bless you! You'll hear from me again."

With that she left the house, parting with Meg at the door, and made her way to her brother's office in the city. That night, however, she was knocked down by a motor-car and was badly injured, and, though the accident appeared in the papers, Meg did not see the account of it, and waited without hearing from her for four weeks. Meanwhile she kept her house in order and tried to lay plans for the future. What could she do? She could not go on the music-hall stage again, and, though she had been famous by the account, first of the ball and then of her defense of it by the sensational article in the Comet, it brought nothing but advertisement and cheap réclame. She was bitterly disappointed that Mrs. Medley had not kept her word, and yet, somehow, she continued to believe in her. One music-hall manager came to see her, but she did not suit the stage, and, though she said she could do other things, nothing came of it. The ball had developed her enormously. Imagination was alive. It had been the turning-point in her life. It opened up the way to a bigger scheme of things.

One day she stood in front of a dress-making shop and looked at the models in the windows. It interested her, yet she had never had dresses since she was married that meant either style or finish. Nevertheless she was better dressed than any of the women of her class or in her district, and she had always been neat and had a sense of decoration in her humble home and in her person. She had made picture-frames out of old cigar-boxes with ornamentations of putty, she had made a rag carpet for her floor and had pasted the walls with plain brown paper from the stores, which cost very little. A sense of style and decoration were in her. Leaving the dressmaking window, she passed a book-shop and in the window she saw a fashion-plate magazine. She went in, bought it, and took it home. Then she studied it and saw pages of fashion-plates. After studying them for two or three days she got some newspapers and began to cut out patterns. She was pleased to find that it came to her so easily. She saw her way. She would cut out patterns and sell them from house to house, not in this district but in a better district, and Denise was old enough to look after the younger children while she was going from door to door. Denise saw what her mother meant and her eyes brightened. It was curious how the touch of temperament made them feel such a difference in their lives. Denise helped her mother in cutting out the patterns.

With twenty different patterns cut out of brown wrapping-paper in a carpetbag Meg issued forth one morning, and going into a better part of town began her commercial travelling from door to door. At ten houses she had no success, but she set her teeth and went on. At last she began to sell; and she sold a pattern for a dollar; then she sold four more. It took her all day, but in the end she had five dollars, and the cost had only been the brown paper and her labor.

Her heart throbbed fast as she went home. She had found the way to make a living, not very distinguished, yet respectable, and she realized that her gift of talking had helped her with her sales. Next day she cut out more patterns and then she went forth again. All day she tramped and sold only three patterns—yet it was successful, she felt it in her bones.

That night, as she ate supper with her children, there came a knock at the door. It was a messenger with a brief letter from Mrs. Medley. From it she learned that Mrs. Medley had had an accident, that she had not forgotten her, but in her illness had waited until she could write her self. She assumed that Meg had seen the accident in the papers. There Mrs. Medley erred, for Meg's class seldom, if ever, read the papers. Now, would Meg come to her house and see her, and she would have news for her. Meg told the messenger that she would come next day at four o'clock, and when he had gone she drew her children toward her and thanked Providence for all that had come her way. A new and bigger horizon opened out before her.

The next day at four o'clock she entered Mrs. Medley's house. It was a fine residence in a respectable but not fashionable part of the town. She found Mrs. Medley in a rocking-chair, with bright eyes and a serene look. She reached out a friendly hand to Meg.

"You look well," she said. "Is all well with you?"

Meg told her of what she had been doing about the patterns and how well they had sold. For a moment Mrs. Medley sat without speaking, then, with a warm light in her eyes, she said: "I've got it now. My brother was willing to give you a chance, but he could not quite see how he could use you. I see it altogether. You can go into the dress department of his business, and show Fordyce how you can save him much money by planning and cutting dresses for his actresses. Will you do it, if he consents?"

Meg said: "I'd slave myself to death to do it. I think I could—I'm sure I could."

Mrs. Medley grew suddenly grave, "I don't know what the head, Madame Raoul, will say. She's a difficult woman and a snob, though capable. She may not like you, and if she doesn't it won't be quite possible, I fear. But keep up your spirits. You've begun so well you can't fail. My brother depends on Madame Raoul, and he would not go against her. Let us have good hopes. I'll arrange for you to go to his place to-morrow at noon, when all the workers will go to lunch, and you and he and Madame Raoul can meet. I wish I could go with you, but I'm tied here for another fortnight, I fear, and no time should be lost."

Meg nodded. "So—I will go at the time and see Madame Raoul—well, we'll see! I not believe in being frightened—no!"

The next day at noon Meg, in her good-fitting black dress, went to the office of Fordyce Glynn, the manager and proprietor of the One Star Music-Hall, and was shown to his office. It was empty, She sat down and waited, but he did not come. Suddenly she heard a cry of "Fire!" and she sprang up. The cry continued and she ran out. A porter told her that a fire had started in the dress department, and she ran toward it. She had just reached the dressmaking department when a woman rushed out of a burning room and slipped and fell, spraining her ankle. Meg was at once beside her, and lifted her up.

"Oh, my God, the dresses will all be burnt," she cried, "and it'll be long before the fire-engine comes!"

Meg always kept her head in times of crises. "No, they won't all be burnt." She rushed into the burning room, and Madame Raoul, with her sprained ankle, began to descend the stairs with difficulty.

Inside the burning room Meg saw in the corner a fire-extinguisher which Madame Raoul had forgotten, and she loosed it and gave its contents to the flames. They grew less and less. She persevered, and by the time the fire-brigade had come she had the fire in hand. By this time Fordyce Glynn was on the scene. The fire-brigade chief said to him: "This woman has saved your place. Without her it would have been lost."

"Who are you?" asked Fordyce Glynn of Meg.

"I'm Madame Jean Roone, and I came here to get work, sent by your sister, Mrs. Medley. I got work at once," she added, with a dry laugh. The chief of the fire-brigade had gone on directing his men.

"Your work has been temporary in one sense and permanent in another," said Glynn. "You have a head on your shoulders. First the ball, then your defense of it, and now this! I engage you as fire insurance—if nothing else." He laughed, for this woman had done him great service. He loved character and he saw she had it. He was a man of moods, difficult, and yet stanch and true when his mind was convinced.

"I wouldn't be very useful as fire insurance—no, m's'ieu," she said.

"Well, then, you can go into the dressmaking department under Madame Raoul." His face clouded. He knew that this was a difficult question. He did not know what had happened to Madame Raoul.

"I've met her, m's'ieu." Then she added: "She sprained her ankle and I helped her."

"Well, of all the splendid luck!" he said. "If you helped her and saved this dress-factory, you're right enough here, That's sure. You were born with a lucky spoon in your mouth, by George!"

An hour later they all three met in his office, Madame Raoul with her ankle bound up, and Meg with her hair singed by the fire.

Fordyce Glynn said: "I'm hiring Mrs. Roone to help you in your dress department, Madame Raoul. I hope all will go well."

"If she's as good with dresses as in putting out a fire, she'll do all right. She helped me when I fell. I don't object to her staying."

"That's good. With your approval, neither do I. What experience have you had, Madame Roone?"

Meg told them about the patterns, and Madame Raoul raised her eyebrows.

"That's the first time it's ever been done. You've got ideas, and you'll do all right. Bien sûr!"

"I hope, Madame. I'm green, but I can learn."

"That's the right spirit—come to-morrow. We can't begin too soon. There'll be new patterns to make."

Fordyce Glynn winked an eye at himself in a mirror. Madame Raoul was a splendid head of his dress department, and things were going well. "I'll give you fifty dollars a month to start with, Madame Roone."

Meg caught her breath. Fifty dollars a month! Madame Raoul shook her head at first in negation. Then she became tranquil. It was all right. She liked this independent-minded little woman, and her own place was secure. That night at home Meg celebrated the new course of life by having for supper buttermilk pop, fried sausages, baked potatoes, and a dried-fig pudding.

"It was good about the ball, mother," said Denise.

Madame Roone nodded. "I hope you don't ever have to do it," she said.

"I won't," said Denise, with a far-away look.

Did she have a premonition that she was in the end to marry the son of Fordyce Glynn when her mother became head of the dressmaking establishment after Madame Raoul's death?

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.

The author died in 1932, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.