Caroline Hart.

Lil, the dancing girl online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryCaroline HartLil, the dancing girl → online text (page 9 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


want anything to eat?"

He looked at her for a moment as if he scarcely
comprehended the question she had put, then answered
huskily :

"I don't want nothin'. It 'ud choke me!"

In spite of the plainness of her attire, she led him
toward a cab that had been previously engaged, and
hurried him into it. He obeyed her as if he were act-
ing under the influence of hypnotism, and after she
had spoken a few words to the driver she took her seat
beside him.

When the door had closed he turned to her almost
pleadingly :

"For God's sake!" he cried, "tell me wfat all this
means? Where is my daughter?"

"I am going to take you to her," answered the wo-
man, resolutely. "You would never take my word if
I were to tell you the sort of life that your daughter
s leading. Yon wou!d tell me again that I had lied *



136 L1L, THE DANCING-GIRL

but for the respect I bear you and your poor wife, in
order that I may save you the disgrace that will fall
upon you when your neighbors discover the truth, I
am going to prove my words even before they arc
spoken, If I do not succeed, you may then call me the
liar that you try to believe me and can not !"

Jonathan Esmonde did not reply. It seemed to him
that the power had left him. He leaned back among
the cushions as the cab rattled over the rough cobble-
stones, and looked out at the lights with eyes that saw;
nothing. He seemed to be suddenly drawn up and
withered, but it inspired no pity in the heart of the
woman beside him.

It was in front of a theater, one of the largest and
most imposing in the metropolis, that the cab stopped.
The blaze of lights in front almost dazzled the old
countryman. He saw a board in front of him, as he
descended from the cab, with great black letters upon
it, announcing:

BENEFIT

FOR THE

SICK BABIES' FUND.

But that told Jonathan Esmonde nothing. He glanced
about him in a puzzled, bewildered sort of way, then
stopped still upon the sidewalk.

"What's this?" he demanded of the woman beside
him.

"A theater," she answered, laconically.

"What have I got to do with theaters?" he de^
manded, "I ain't a-goin' in there/'

"If you want to see your daughter Lillian, yot*
Will/' she replied, resolutely.



LIL, THE DANCING-GIRL

! My daughter Lillian in there in a theater ? What
you a-talkin' about? Why, she's a respectable
men ber o' the Methodist church an' wus never in a
theat >r in her life."

Thu woman laid her hand upon his arm.

"Aro you going to make your trip to New York
useless ?" she questioned in a hard tone.

And cgain he listened to the voice of the devil.

Reluctantly he allowed her to lead him inside the
theater. The buzz of the fans, the hum of conversa-
tion, the Leat of the atmosphere sickened him, but she
ted him ovi relentlessly. Because of the lateness of
the hour at which the announcement of Lil's appear-
ance had been made, she had been unable to obtain
as good j/eats as she desired, but she knew that the
stage was well seen from any part of the auditorium*
and therefore seated herself beside the old countryman
with a feeling of relief.

She observed the grayish color of his face as he
looked around upon that assemblage, but there was
nothing particularly objectionable in it so far as he
could see. There were girls in beautiful gowns, sell*
ing flowers and programmes. One even attempted to
fasten a white carnation in his button-hole, but when
she saw him shrink away she let him alone. But the
very thought of being in a theater, that palace of the
devil, was horrible to him. He was trembling in every;
limb, and as he seated himself in the luxurious orches-
tra chair, he tried to shrink as far back as possible,
vainly imagining that he could hide himself from him-
self.

And then the overture was rung in.

The clin of the orchestra, with the hum of the voices



138 LIL, THE DANCING-GIRL

and the heat of the atmosphere, made his head ache
more than ever, and more than once he would have
escaped, but that woman was sitting there beside him,
bolt upright, and he shrunk back as if he were held
by a force that he had no power on earth to combat.

After what seemed to him an age, the curtain went
tip and a woman with a disgustingly low corsage came
upon the stage to sing. It was awful to the old Meth-
odist, who had never seen anything beyond Burton
in his life, and a groan left his lips. He would not
look again, but sat there with his head bowed upon his
hands, hating himself as he had never hated any living
being before.

Once or twice he lifted his head as some thunderous
reception told him that a new favorite had come be
fore the audience ; but each time it was dropped again,
until at last when a girl made an appearance in tight*
to do a contortion act, then he staggered to his feet.

"I can't stand it!" he cried hoarsely, disgust and
horror mingling in his vocie. "I can't stand it! It's
a burnin' shame to let them undressed women come
before decent people, and I shan't never look Miranda
in the face again. I am a-goin' !"

"Wait!" she whispered in his ear. "Wait. You?
'daughter is next upon the programme. You must not
fail to see her?"

And once more, but this time with his chin fallen,
his eyes wide in awful horror, Jonathan Esmonde
fell back in his chair and waited



LIL, THE DANCING-GIRL 139

CHAPTER XXII.

The orchestra had completed a prelude that ended

in a wild, fantastic melody, and the audience had burst

into an enthusiastic applause that shook the play-house

jfrom pit to dome. It seemed that it would never end,

and there, standing before them, bowing and smiling

in her flimsiest of gauze draperies, stood Lil Lil the

dancfng-girl, Lil the favorite of all New York.

The costume she wore of the Persian type, with pale
gauze covering the fleshings upon her limbs, the part
of her body over the stomach covered with flesh-col-
ored silk drawn so tight as to resemble nature's mold,
a spangled jacket relieving her of absolute immodesty,
a jacket that revealed the exquisite neck and shoulders
in all their dazzling bodily splendor.

To the New Yorker, accustomed to the stage, there
.was nothing in the attire beyond the ordinary undress
of the premiere danseuse, but to old Jonathan Es-
moncle it was something beyond all compare in the line
of brazen shamelessness.

He half staggered to his feet, but a hand was placed
Upon his arm, which drew him back into his seat.

He sat there, leaning forward breathlessly, watch-
ing the changing smile upon her face that beautiful
face which he had never seen before under the paint
and powder that adorned it now never speaking, but
white to the lips, white and haggard as death itself.

He was like one under the influence of some hide-
ous nightmare, a horror that holds one enthralled
Under its ghastly spell, and from which one has not



LIL, THE DANCING-GIRL'

the power to free one's self, even though the soul iu
choked and sickened by the influence.

Stonily, dully, stupidly he gazed, only half conscious
that she was dancing, only half conscious of the shouti
of "bravo" that rent the air when some exceedingly
difficult step was rendered with a facility that bespoke
the consummate artiste, only half conscious of the
thunders of applause and wild calls as the orchestra
ceased ; but his breath came at last and he panted wild*
ly, chokingly, when she had disappeared behind the
.wings.'

He arose suddenly, blindly, and put out his hand
gropingly.

"Let me out!" he cried, hoarsely. "For God's sake,
let me out !"

With a smile of gratified revenge. upon her heart-
less face, the woman arose. She even put her hand
upon the man's arm and led him from the building;
steadying his tottering footsteps as he reached the wel-
come street, and stood there staring helplessly about
him.

There was an expression upon the usually hard face
like that of a lost child, a piteous, tremulous look about 1
the mouth, a frightened bewilderment in the eyes, a
trembling of the lips and hands that would have ap-
pealed to one less hard of heart, but not to that wo-
man!

She had never learned the meaning of pity. There,
was one word that formed the nucleus of her heart '
and the central portion of every thought that took
shape in her brain. It was "Self!" For self alone
she cared, for self alone she waited and watched and
worked.



t-JL. THE DANCING-GIRC

She smiled at him half bitterly, half sneeringly as
.hey reached the corner of the street. It was her in-
tention to abandon him then and there in the city,
where he was as much a stranger and as much at sea
as the veriest toddler would have been, but she could
not refrain from asking one question first.

"Are you convinced now? Does it require further
evidence to make you understand the sort of life your
daughter is leading ? Do you still doubt ?"

He shrunk from her as he might have done from
some poisonous reptile, and covered his poor old face
.with his hands.

She laughed outright.

"It is a charming school that your beautiful Lillian
teaches, is it not ?" she sneered.

But there was more loyalty in the old farmer than
she had counted upon. He threw down his hands
and turned upon her, his lips quivering between an un-
controllable shame and a defiance that was even more
piteous. His eyes were blood-shot, his face ghastly
and twitching, as if with physical anguish.

"It ain't true!' 1 he cried, hoarsely. "That wa'n't
my girl! I won't believe it! That couldVt never be
my Lily, my sweet little modest flower! You've trick-
ed me fur some evil purpose uv yer own, an' it's a lie!
I tell you, it's a lie ! It wus only some ? un that looked
like her, and you brung me kere an' made me believe
this foul lie fur seme reason uv yer own. God knows
1 don't know what! I'm a-past knowin' the motives
uv mean, selfish women, but that's what you air!
IWhat's my daughter Lily to you., that you should try
to disgrace her with her own old father?"
The fierce defiance of the tone seemed for a moment



143 LI L, THE DANCING-GIRL

to stun the creature who bore the name ot woman
She stood there sullenly staring at him, then the old
sneer returned to her mouth.

"Oh, you still doubt?" she said, with emotion "I
thought the evidence of your own eyes would con-
vince you; but as it seems you do not wish to be con-
vinced, I will show you further."

She had suddenly recalled what Maitland had said
F the beautiful flat in the Belleami, and, v
bohcal intent, again laid her hand upon the man 1 , arm
and directed his steps toward the cab, which
in waiting.

Already great numbers of people were hurrvin-

rom the theater-people who had gone merelv f Df th*

I-il dance, and who immc .

y aftcr-so that the confusion upon the street

r than it had been in the the.
In spue of his horror of the woman, i; to

J nal! : e that there was s- out

that ,mr, , to do her Nvi] , ]k . f .,

her meekly and entered the cab again.

ng, the im
sionthatheh; ^

111 that Shajw 'hat multitude of people

passed from him as if it had be. ,.ff ec * of a

<I to realize that it could have been :

' :u he had had some aw fu! dream
that it wa> passing.

The night breeze cooled his hot cheeks. The woman
sat back m her own corner of the cab in silence. He
looked around, after a time, to see if she were reallv

re, and shuddered as he saw her, under the street-
light



LtL, THE DANCI.VG-GIRL' 143

en then it was a dream to him. The woman
upon the stage had ceased to bear any resemblance
whatever to Lillian. She, the dancer, was one of those
painted creatures of the people whom he had heani
great cities one of those depraved, wanton
things whose name no man speaks without a blu^h
not 1

' aloud a hoar? lant laugh, it is

true, and one that he hushed because it frightened
him; then he cried alond:

;ht to make me believe that creature to
be n i'-.it I ain't sich a fool as that I ain't

a foe :ft no more like my Lily than Beelze-

bub is like a pure white angel! An* you almost made
e looked like my girl! you almost made
me '

The woman did not reply to him. She had not

tions to drive at once to the

'ed to give Lillian time to arrive

there leforc her father's entrance to the flat, and it

lie time of their : the

theater r. s to the man then,

.iftcr Jonathan Ksmorulc had exclaimed:
"Lemmc out o' this thing! I tell you I won't go no
I think you air nt o' the devil, an* I

am a-gittin' my deserts fur a-comin' down here on this
unlil-gorue chase. Lemme out, I sa

'" she had exclaimed, authoritatively.
1 then she had given the cab-driver instructions
to go at once to the Belleami.

She placed her hand again upon the arm of the old
countryman, and almost forced him to the door of the
She spoke for a moment aside (o the elevator



(144 LIL > THE DANCENG-GIRt;

boy who had charge of the door ; then, with the gritty
smile still upon her lips, she motioned Jonathan Es-
monde to follow her.

All unconscious of what he was doing, the boy took
them to the floor upon which Lil's flat was situated
and pointed out the door. j

; With a hand that trembled somewhat from expec-
tancy, the woman rang the bell. Almost instantly the
door was thrown open. There were never any ques-
tions asked at these informal Bohemian gatherings.
s The woman pushed Jonathan Esmonde inside, and
'followed him. Intuitively she lifted the portiere lead*
inig to the salon, in which she heard the merry hum of
laughing voices. !

I In the center of the room stood Li!, her superb
throat 'wound with a string of magnificent diamonds,
her arms and decollete corsage ablaze with precious
gems, her eyes brighter than any that shone upon her.
; Jonathan Esmonde's companion ground her teeth
for one moment, then she took the old man by the
shoulders and pushed him into the room. |

He stood there for one moment, dazed, then Lil's
eyes were directed toward him. i

The color vanished from her lovely cheeks, a light ( -
of horror took the place of the pleasure in her eyes,
and one word left her lips :
I "Father!"

There was a ghastly cry from Jonathan Esmonds
He flung up his hands, as if to shut out the awfu!
sight, and stood there for one moment in stony silence
then, lifting up bis voice, he cried out:

"Good God ! what have I done that such" a disgrace



LIU THE DANCING-GIRL' 145

should be reserved fur me? What have I done that
I should be the father uv a thing like that?"



i



CHAPTER XXIII.

The silence that fell upon what had been but a mo*
ment before a merry party, seemed almost tangible
in its terrible tensity. Lil stood there like a statue,
the horror frozen into her face. The wild blood-shot
eyes of her father were fixed upon her in shrinking
loathing.

And then a sense of cringing shame came upon her.
She would have covered herself from that awful gaze
if that had been possible, but as she glanced swiftly
about her she saw nothing at hand with which she
could conceal the indecency of fashionable undress.
fcfc She crossed her hands upon her bosom, her chin
fcwed upon them, and took a dramatic step in his
direction, but he waved her back with a dignity that
was tragic.

"You do well to cover yer shameless nakedness!"
he cried out, bitterly; "but it does not lessen the dis-
grace upon that poor old trusting woman who bore
you, nor the man who gave you life. I went there
to-night, to that den of infamy, but I could not believe
the evidence of my old eyes when I saw you there in
your wanton shame. I called the woman a liar that
told me it was my girl, the one uv whom her father
wus so proud. I never could a-dreamed that it was
you who lied that it wus you who had posed as ths
brave saint while she lived a life of crime!*' .



' [144 LIL, THE DANCING-GIRC

boy who had charge of the door ; then, with the gritty
smile still upon her lips, she motioned Jonathan Es-
jnonde to follow her.

All unconscious of what he was doing, the boy toolc
them to the floor upon which Lil's flat was situated,
and pointed out the door. i

; With a hand that trembled somewhat from expec-
tancy, the woman rang the bell. Almost instantly the
door was thrown open. There were never any ques-
tions asked at these informal Bohemian gatherings.
* The woman pushed Jonathan Esmonde inside, and
'followed him. Intuitively she lifted the portiere lead-
inig to the salon, in which she heard the merry hum of
laughing voices.

; In the center of the room stood Li!, her superb
throat wound with a string of magnificent diamonds,
her arms and decollete corsage ablaze with precious
gems, her eyes brighter than any that shone upon her.
f Jonathan Esmonde's companion ground her teeth
lor one moment, then she took the old man by the
shoulders and pushed him into the room.

He stood there for one moment, dazed, then Lil's
eyes were directed toward him.

The color vanished from her lovely cheeks, a light;
of horror took the place of the pleasure in her eyes, '
and one word left her lips :

"Father!"

There was a ghastly cry from Jonathan Esmonde
He flung up his hands, as if to shut out the awfu!
sight, and stood there for one moment in stony silence ;,
then, lifting up Ins voice, he cried out:

"Good God! what have I done that such a disgrace



LIL. THE DANCING-GIRL' 145

should be reserved fur me? What have I done that
I should be the father uv a thing like that?"



CHAPTER XXIII.

The silence that fell upon what had been but a mo-
ment before a merry party, seemed almost tangible
in its terrible tensity. Lil stood there like a statue,
the horror frozen into her face. The wild blood-shot
eyes of her father were fixed upon her in shrinking
loathing.

And then a sense of cringing shame came upon her.
She would have covered herself from that awful gaze
if that had been possible, but as she glanced swiftly
about her she saw nothing at hand with which she
could conceal the indecency of fashionable undress.
& She crossed her hands upon her bosom, her chin
fcrvved upon them, and took a dramatic step in his
direction, but he waved her back with a dignity that
.roas tragic.

''You do well to cover yer shameless nakedness!*'
he cried out, bitterly; "but it does not lessen the dis-
grace upon that poor old trusting woman who bore
you, nor the man who gave you life. I went there
to-night, to that den of infamy, but I could not believe
the evidence of my old eyes when I saw you there in
tour wanton shame. I called the woman a liar that
told me it was my girl, the one uv whom her father
wus so proud. I never could a-dreamed that it wits
you who lied that it wus yon who had posed as ths
brave saint while she lived a. life of crime!''



LIE, THE DANCING-GIRL

"Father!"

"Never ag'inP he cried, hoarsely, throwing up hfa
to ward her from him. "Never ag'in ! I own n<*
daughter but the little deformed thing that you stolf
f rum me with yer treachery and lies. Never dare to
breathe the word. You have no father, no sister, na
mother. You stand alone in the world side by side
wSth the fallen things of earth that possess no being,
330 soul. Ye stand accursed among women, too de-
praved to touch the skirt even uv yer own mother, the
woman who bore you. You wa'n't satisfied wi 7 yer
life o' shame an' infamy, but you must bring it beneath
my reef; and disgrace me in the eyes of the people
!WJK> have known an ? respected me all the days uv;
my life. You've separated yourself frum the sister
that worshiped ye, fur the sake o j them diamonds that
cover you, and that air the brand o' shame upon yoa.
lYotrve shet yourself out from that mother that cradled
ye in the very holler uv her soul, an' you've broke
yer ole father's heart !"

His voice trembled, but as Li! would have ap-
proadied him, he again waved her back,

"No!" he cried, his voice rolling like thunder under
his excitement. "Not a step- not a step! I've got
nothin' but curses fur ye. Nothin 7 but curses fur the
child that has been bought with gold ! Nothin' but
curses fur the creature that deserts a life uv upright
honesty an* godliness for the pollution that surrounds
you now the golden hell in which you live!"

And then for the first time a crimson streak of in-
dignation flashed across LiPs beautiful face. She
fining out her arms with a magnificent breadth of ges-
ture.



LIL, THE DANCING-GIRL 147}

' "It is false i" she cried, in a tone that matched his
own. "You are insulting your own flesh and blood
with a lie that should scorch your lips with flame!''

He pointed his finger at her relentlessly, quivering
iwith scorn and disgust.

"Cover yourself ag'in !" he thundered, passionate^
"If it is only with a hand that can not conceal your
shame. Don't stand there, forgetful that your father
as beneath your sin-stained roof. Hide yourself from
the eyes of decency. And the curses uv yer own
father be upon you. The curses uv the man that gave
you life. The curses uv the God you wus brought up
to fear an' love, You'll face the shame you've brung
upon yourself an' the family that loved you, May
your life wither an' perish, and drop frum ye, leaf by
leaf, leaving ye to realize the thing you air, leaving
ye to see the terrible sin you have committed, eaten
to the heart with bitter repentance that can bring no
expiation. May they all desert ye, these creatures that
you've sold yer soul fur, and may poverty an' beggary
end the life that you colored black wi' iniquity, May;
ye craw! frum door to door scourged with the shame
you've brung upon yourself and a God-fearing family,
finding no relief frum God nor man, afflicted, homeless,
alone. A father's curse upon ye furever an' furever!"

For some time those gathered there had listened m
a sort of horrified silence, but as the old man con-
tinued, a low hum had begun that gradually increased,
until, as he had finished, there was a loud exclamation
of terror from the women and bitter indignation from
the men.

More than one took a threatening step in the direc-
tion of the almost crazed man ; but before they could



, THE DANCING-GIRL

reach him, he had turned, with his hand uplifted, and
tiad almost run from the room.

The woman who had brought him there disappeared,
Jjut he seemed to have forgotten her. Swiftly, totter-
ftigly, blindly, he rushed toward the stairs, forgetful
oi the elevator in which he had come up, and scarcely
knowing what he did, he fled down the stairs and out
Into the night.

Meantime, the greatest confusion prevailed in the
room that he had deserted.

As the last word of his curse left his lips, Lil had
isunk into a heavy swoon, from which it seemed they
could never arouse her. A different suggestion was
made by every one present ; voices of women and men
jblended in calling down imprecations upon the head
iof the cruel father.

Had that scene occurred in the halls of fashion in
the Knickerbocker world, there would have been a
stampede of horrified women. They would have turn*
bled over each other in their efforts to reach the
street, anxious that no one should know of their pres^
,ence beneath that roof, and would have told you on
the following day that they had never known the per-
son to whom it had occurred, But not so in the homes
of Bohemia.

There was no one present who was not more than
anxious to do all that lay in their power for the un-
happy girl, and Chetwynd was finally forced to wave
them back from their kindly interference.

"I am sure she would be better if you would only
go!" he exclaimed in an inhospitable way that nobody
misunderstood. "If you will remain, Mag, and get



f-JL, THE DANCING-GIRL I4QJ

the others out of the house as quickly as possible, she



come around all right."

Aim then the men rallied to Chetwynd's assistance,
getting the women from the house as quickly as was
possible.

Philip Sumner knelt for a moment beside the un-
conscious form, and with ghastly lips and haggard
face said in an undertone to Chetwynd :

"At least you will let me remain!" ,

Chetwynd placed a hand upon his shoulder not un-
kindly.

"Better not," he said, quietly.

'Tut "

"I know ! I know !" the dancing-master interrupted.
"But it is neither just to yourself nor to her."

"There is no justice in the world," answered Phil,
sullenly, rising to his feet. "Her life, her happiness
is more than all the world to me."

"You do not want to make those cruel words her
father spoke true. You are the betrothed husband of
another woman. And the whole world knows it."

Phil's head was bowed. There was crimson shame
in his countenance. He did not reply directly, but
said huskily as he reached the door :

"I shall send a doctor. For God's sake, let me
know if anything should should happen, will you,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCaroline HartLil, the dancing girl → online text (page 9 of 15)