Chapter XVII. Anna Royanna
 

Rod had no opportunity that evening of speaking to Parson Dan or Mrs. Royal about the wonderful singer. There were visitors at the rectory for tea, and he was in bed before they left. He thought very much about it, nevertheless, and in his sleep he dreamed that he was listening to Miss Royanna. He could see her quite plainly, just as Whyn had described her, and he was so disappointed when he awoke and found himself in his own little room, and not in the Opera House with the singer before him.

"I was reading in the paper last night," Parson Dan remarked, just after they had sat down to breakfast, "that a famous singer is coming to the city. Her name is Anna Royanna, and she will be at the Opera House Wednesday night. Wouldn't you like to go, dear?" and he looked across the table at his wife.

"I'm afraid not," was the reply. "The Ladies' Aid will meet here on that day, and so I could not possibly leave. Why don't you go, Daniel? You are fond of good singing, and it is so seldom that you get away from the parish."

"It is utterly out of the question, Martha," the clergyman sadly returned. "I have to bury old Mrs. Fisk at Stony Creek to-morrow afternoon."

"Oh, I had forgotten about that, Daniel. Isn't it always the way when anything of special importance comes to the city? You have never been able to attend."

"It seems so. But never mind, dear, we are going to take a long holiday next summer, and that will make up for much we have lost."

"May I go, grandad?" Rod suddenly asked.

"Go where, Rodney? With us next summer?"

"No, but to hear Miss Royanna."

"You!" and the parson straightened himself up. "Why, I didn't know that you would care to go."

"But I do, grandad. Phil Dexter is going with his father to the city to-morrow, and why couldn't I go along with them? Phil and I could go to hear Miss Royanna ourselves if Mr. Dexter doesn't want to go. Oh, may I?"

"Well, we shall think it over," the parson replied, "and let you know later."

That afternoon Mrs. Royal told Rod that he could go to the city. It might do him good, so she said, to hear such a famous singer. She knew that she could trust him to behave himself, no matter where he was.

Rod was delighted, and hurried over at once to inform the rest of the scouts, who were already gathered at Headquarters. In the paper which came that day from the city there was a long piece about Anna Royanna, and Parson Dan read it aloud that evening. It told how this wonderful singer had sprung suddenly into fame during the last year. She had been singing before but had attracted little attention until one night a noted foreign singer heard her voice at a party given in a private house. It was through him that such success had come to her.

Rod and Phil were fortunate in obtaining seats in the Opera House, the only two which were left. As they looked around upon the crowded place they were for a time somewhat bewildered. They were not accustomed to seeing so many people together, and they felt very small and insignificant. Several people watched with interest the two boys who stared at everything and everybody in such undisguised wonder. But Rod and Phil did not care. They wanted to see and hear Miss Royanna and it did not matter to them what people thought.

The curtain at last slowly rose, and a deep hush passed throughout the building. Then a woman moved quietly to the centre of the stage. Rod sat bolt upright when he saw her. He paid no attention to the storm of applause which greeted her appearance. He saw her bend her head slightly in acknowledgment of the reception she received. Never before had he seen such a beautiful woman, and his heart went out to her at once. What would Whyn say when she saw her? he asked himself. Then a doubt flashed into his mind. Would this marvellous woman listen to him? Would she be willing to go all the way to Hillcrest to sing to a helpless girl? He felt his courage slowly oozing away and he almost wished that he did not have to speak to her. Would she have anything to say to him? he wondered. He noted her dress; how beautiful it was! And her face, he could see it quite plainly, was sweet, and yet sad, just as Whyn had described it from her brother's letter.

Rod was presently aroused from his meditation by the sweetest sound he ever heard. He thought there must be a bird singing somewhere on the stage. He rubbed his eyes, thinking he was dreaming. But, no, it was only the woman standing before him, and she was singing. As he listened to her he could not help thinking of the fields in Hillcrest, of the birds and flowers, which he knew and loved. And thus his thoughts would wander every time she sang. It was so strange that he could not account for it, and he wondered if Phil felt the same way. Now he was tucked in his little bed at home, with the wind sobbing around the house, and the rain beating against the window. Then, he saw soldiers marching, and horses galloping, such as he had seen in pictures. Once he was sure that he was lying on the grass beneath the shade of an old tree with the bees humming around him, and the grasshoppers playing upon their funny musical saws. He felt angry whenever the people made a noise, and drove the pictures away. He didn't think of the singer now, of how she was dressed, or what she looked like, and he didn't remember even one word she had uttered. He hardly realised that he was in the big Opera House with the crowd of people about him.

But there was one piece, and the last, which he did remember. It was the way the woman sang it which had such an effect. He was sure that there were tears in her eyes. His own were misty, anyway. She said that she always closed with it, and it was called, "My Little Lad, God Bless Him." That appealed to Rod. So this woman, then, had a little boy, and he wanted to hear what she had to say about him. The very first words arrested his attention.

  "There's a little lad, God bless him!
  And he's all the world to me;
  Guide him, Lord, through life's long journey,
  Guard him, keep him safe to Thee.
  REFRAIN:
    "You're my only little laddie,
    Golden hair, and eyes of blue;
    God, who made the birds and flowers,
    Chose the best when He made you.
  "Streams may ripple, birds may carol,
  Twinkling-stars may dance and shine,
  But life's sweetest joy and rapture
  Is to know that you are mine.
  REFRAIN:
    "You're my only little laddie, etc.
  "Parted, though, by time and distance,
  Hearts can never sundered be.
  Love Divine, oh, still unite us,
  Strong to each, and strong in Thee.
  REFRAIN:
    "You're my only little laddie,
    Golden hair, and eyes of blue;
    God, who made the birds and flowers,
    Chose the best when He made you."

Rod paid little heed to the storm of applause which greeted this song, and when it was repeated he did not follow the words as closely as before. He was thinking about that boy, and wondering where he was. He was sure that the woman was almost crying when she got through. What made her feel so badly? Was her boy away from her somewhere, and if she wanted him so much, why didn't she go to see him?

At last the curtain dropped, and the concert was over. As the people began to go out, Rod overheard what those nearest to him were saying. They were loud in their praise of the singer.

"It was that last piece which caught me," he heard one man say. "It wasn't the words so much as the way she sang it."

"I was crying when she got through," his companion, a woman, replied. "I just couldn't help it. She's had trouble in her life, mark my word."

Rod and Phil now were uncertain what to do. They remained where they were until the people in front of them had all passed out. They felt very helpless and forlorn there in that big place. The curtain was down, and the singer had disappeared. But they must find her, and she was somewhere on the stage in the background. They knew nothing about the regular way of entrance, and, so, after a moment's consultation, they hurried forward down the long central aisle. Coming to the stage, they clambered upon this, made their way along the edge, and slipped quickly about the left-hand corner of the curtain. Behind this no one was to be seen, but observing a door to the right, they made straight toward it. They had scarcely reached it, when they were met by a pompous little man, who demanded what they were doing there.

"We want to see Miss Royanna," Rod replied, shrinking back somewhat from the man's fierce look.

"See Miss Royanna!" the man shouted in surprise. "If that isn't the limit! Well, she can't be seen, that's all there is about it."

"But we have come all the way to see her," Rod insisted.

"All the way from where?"

"From Hillcrest."

"Ho, ho! that's a good one. D'ye think she'd gee such bushies as you? Get out of this, or I'll chuck you."

"But we must see her," and Rod stepped boldly forward. "It's very important."

"Get out of this, I say," and the man caught him roughly by the shoulders, wheeled him around, and was about to send him headlong out upon the stage, when a stern voice arrested him.

"What's all this about, Ben?"

"I'm kicking these two bushies out, sir, for their impudence in coming here," the little man replied, letting go of his grip upon the boy.

As Rod turned, his heart gave a great leap, for there before him stood the very man with "the splendid eyes and grey hair," who had so won Miss Arabella's heart.

For a few seconds John Markham eyed the two boys. Rod's face looked familiar, but he could not recall where he had seen it before. He was always meeting so many people that it was hard for him to remember them all. Perhaps this was one of the newsboys, and that was the reason why he recognised his face.

"What do you want, my lad?" he kindly enquired.

"We want to see Miss Royanna," was the reply.

A smile passed over the manager's face at the idea of the famous singer entertaining such company.

"I am afraid that Miss Royanna is too tired to see you to-night," he replied. "She gave strict instructions that no one was to be admitted."

"But we have come all the way from Hillcrest to see her," and Rod lilted his blue eyes appealingly to the man's face. "It's very important, sir."

"From Hillcrest, did you say," and light now began to dawn upon Mr. Markham's mind. "And how is Miss Arabella?" he asked, while an amused twinkle shone in his eyes.

"Oh, she's well, I guess. But may we see Miss Royanna? It's so important, and we won't tire her very much."

John Markham remained silent for a while. He did not wish to turn these little lads away now, but he wondered whether the singer would mind if he should take them in. He had a great respect for Miss Royanna, for it was seldom that he was able to obtain such a notable person, and from the time that she had accepted his invitation to come he had been greatly puzzled. Why should she have been so willing to come to St. John, when cities four to five times the size were clamouring for her? But she had written, accepting at once, and had seemed really glad to come.

"Wait here," he at last ordered, as he turned on his heel, "and I shall see what I can do with Miss Royanna."