Jeanne Gordon Wins Her Laurels
DOROTHY G. BELL
This second article, in a series of three, is replete with dramatic—and operatic—thrills, as the young Wallaceburg, Ontario, girl approaches closer to the metropolitan “holy of holies."
JEANNE GORDON’S honeymoon was short. Ralph Trix and his bride went to live with his family until their own house was ready. Almost at once there were signs of incompatibility and, later, the court evidence of intimates proved that ten days after her marriage unhappy, disillusioned, unutterably miserable, Jeanne would have run away had she dared.
His friends were not her friends; his people did not understand her. All her life she had been free, outspoken, and it never occurred to her to suppress a single impulse. H she liked something she was enthusiastic; if she disliked it she was frank. They did not like, nor could they understand, her extravagant expressions, and to try to curb them, as they attempted, was like trying to hold down a bottle of “fizz” with the cork just out. She bubbled over and in the unhappiness that naturally followed she turned to her music.
In that again she was forced to face a family fear of her talent and its possibilities. For the purpose of discouraging her in the idea of a career, they invited a professional friend to talk to her of the cruelties of stage life. The woman heard her sing. Then she turned to the family.
“I cannot discourage this girl,” she said.
“She could have a career if she wanted it.
With that voice she could accomplish anything. I cannot tell her, conscientiously, that she cannot.”
Jeanne Gordon laughed at them all. It proved how little they understood her, for the thought of a career, at that time, held no lure for her. Her hope then was to make a successful home, to have children, to be happy, to make her husband happy.
According to her friends she was overanxious to make a success of married life.
Full of energy and enthusiasm, she cooked delicacies, canned fruit, did her own housework—not from anv lack of
means but because she thought she could do these things better than a servant. She put everything that was in her into the making of a home.
But happiness evaded her.
When Baby Jane was born she hoped that the child would help to close the breach between herself and Ralph. Again there was disappointment, Though her husband was fond of the child, it failed to bring him any closer to his wife.
When Happiness Fled
THEN in the blackest moment of her despair, Canada, her own country, went to war. Through the years of her marriage, she had had no word from the man who had gone away from her to seek solitude in the West. Hearing the call of his country, he wrote a farewell note to her, prompted, perhaps, by an intuition that he would never see her again. In her unhappiness, her loneliness, her longing for understanding, there arose in her breaking heart a desire to see her old friend again. She went to Toronto to wish him Godspeed. His astonishment at seeing her gave way to delight but almost at once his face clouded.
“ ‘Rube’,” he said, “you are not happy.”
Though her soul yearned to tell him of her trouble, as she had so often told him of other, lesser troubles, though she knew she would find understanding, perhaps help, she laughed into his eyes.
“Why, Jack,” she protested, “how silly of you. Of course, I’m happy.” But Jeanne
she knew that he did not believe her words.
There was only a short time for them to talk before the troop train pulled out and a moment later he pressed her hand to his lips and was gone.
A few months later word came back from Ypres that
had been killed in action. On the body was found an early photograph of “Rube” Gordon, spattered and smeared with the life blood of a brave soldier and “a very gallant gentleman.”
Life for the woman who had striven so hard for happiness became unbearable. The home that she yearned to love became a horror to her. There were thoughts of leaving, of running away, but with them came the thoughts of the three - year - old child and the sorrow at parting from h er— or, alternatively the dire responsibility of making a living for both of them. Hard upon these thoughts came the instincts of her early training, a dread of the disgrace she must necessarily bring upon the heads of her family, stern and disapproving of such an action, in their Scotch
upbringing and ideas. For days she hesitated.
Night after night, wakeful and worried, Jeanne battled with her problem. Sometimes in the depths of darkness or in the greyness of dawn, she got up, went out, and walked around the block again and again, while the rest of her household slept—walked because frayed nerves, stretched to the breaking point, could not stand the inaction of the long, quiet hours and the thoughts that gathered. The policeman on his beat, finding her walking swiftly, blindly, up and down, would talk to her sometimes and after a little of his burly, good-natured companionship, her tortured nerves would slacken and she would go to bed again to sleep, perhaps, through troubled dreams for an hour or
The Doctor's Prescription
THEN she broke. No human being could stand what Jeanne Gordon went through in those last months of her married life and not snap under the strain. Under the long suppression of her emotions, the continued sorrow of being cut off from her own people, the strain of living with a man whose temperament was at complete odds with her own, she went to pieces—mentally and physically.
Jeanne’s doctor was one who understood not only the ills of the body but of the spirit, too. He sent her to a sanatorium and prescribed for her singing, talking, acting and giving vent to her feelings in any way she chose.
“Have you sung to-day?” he would ask in his most professional manner and, if she replied that she had not, he would summon .other patients to her room and she would sing to them. It was not long, under this treatment, before she was again living a normal life.
But, upon leaving the sanatorium, Jeanne could see the old life looming dark before her again and she knew that she could not endure it for long. With her problem she turned to an aunt, Mrs. McKeough, of Chatham, Ontario, who had always done much to help and encourage her.
“Aunty Kitty,” she said, “I can’t stand it. I must run away.”
Aunt Kitty was silent for some moments. She, too, was of the old Scotch school that did not approve of such things as separations and divorces, and her answer came slowly.
“Yes,” she agreed, finally. “You must run away.”
That decision to leave her husband was the climax which was to end her married life and start her on that upward climb to professional success.
There were trials and terrors in those preparations for flight, but they were over presently and the homeless Jeanne, with her baby girl safe in the care of Mrs. Gordon, found refuge at the home of Ethel Meller, a Detroit friend.
When next she met her husband, it was on the street in Detroit.
“I am never coming back to you,” she said. “It means divorce.”
A few days later, she heard of the illness of his mother and in the greatness of her heart she went back to care for her, and agreed to suspend divorce proceedings until she could recover.
Ralph, enlisting in the government service, departed for the Great Lakes.
Jeanne, seeking livelihood, went to New York.
With no set plans, no definite ambitions, she stayed with Kathrine Ruth Heyman,now a celebrated composer and pianist, and under her guidance sought work. She sang to many managers and teachers who praised her extraordinary talent, exclaimed at the remarkable quality of her voice, but none could help her.
She was unknown. The risk of engaging a newcomer was too great.
Attacking the Citadel
FOR five weeks she battled against Manhattan’s commercial heartlessness. Then she went back to Detroit, but she returned only in an
endeavor to gather reinforcements for the fray into which she knew she must plunge. She searched there for financial assistance, but her quest was in vain. In Detroit she had been one of the foremost singers in a prominent choir; she had given freely of her time, her voice, to church benefits and concerts. At last, in desperation, she went to one of the choir directors, a wealthy and prominent man, who had professed great interest in a career for her.
“I have met with a little encouragement in New York,” she told him. “I have been told that I could go far with the proper backing. Will you back me?”
“No,” replied the great man without hesitation. “Why?”
“Because I don’t want Detroit to lose you.”
“Then I shall go without backing,” the young woman made answer, defiantly.
“Yes, but it will be hard for you and you will come back.”
He was right in part. It was hard for her, but he did not know Jeanne Gordon when he said she would come back.
With no other support than her ability, courage and physique, with what little money she could gather, her own family silver and linen, a living-room suite—the two yellow chairs and chesterfield—she left for New York. This time it was to stay.
There began at once the almost impossible task of finding a place to live—a place big enough to accommodate her belongings, and small enough to suit her pocketbook. After a long search she found a place by sub-letting a little apartment and sharing it with the woman who already occupied it.
But there were snags ahead.
Returning home one night she found her partner in the throes of delirium tremens after an uproarious party. When she began to climb the mantel to escape an imaginary skinned snake, Jeanne seized her. The terrified woman closed with her and together they rolled around the room, upsetting tables and chairs in their course. The strength “Rube” Gordon had developed in her early youth, the art of wrestling with her playfellow's, stood her in good stead now. She overpowered her struggling opponent and, picking, her up bodily, carried her to the bathroom, dropped her into the tub and turned on the cold shower. Then sha reported the incident to the manager of the apartment house and the next day found herself in full possession of the suite— and all the rent to pay. Busy w-ith the problem of finding wmrk, she had no time to seek further for a home. She accepted conditions as they were.
Again she made the round of theatre managers; again she sang for them, pleaded with them, to no avail. Her voice wras unusual—they admitted that; her personality impressed all with w'hom she came in contact. Had she wished to trade on that she could have done so with great profit, for she soon found that in New York a woman could have almost anything she w'anted, on terms to w'hich many acceded. But they were not for Jeanne Gordon.
One manager w'hom she approached
approved oí her voiee and beauty and, in telling her so, made the conversation so personal that the situation became embarrassing. Finally, there was no mistaking his intent. Miss Gordon eyed him coldly.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m afraid I have made an error. I didn't know you were managing a house of prostitution. I thought you were a theatrical manager,” and, turning from him, she left the theatre.
With struggle after struggle, setback after setback, discouragement after discouragement, Jeanne worked on, nothing daunted. If New York would not accept her as she was then she must study, work and learn so that anyone hearing her sing would make a place for her.
The Dark Clouds Gather
AT FIRST the height of her ambition was concert k work, but as her love of good music led her naturally to operatic scores she began to study them and, finally, she found that all her time, all her available funds, were being spent lavishly to perfect her chosen roles. Together with the heavy rent she was paying, her money did not last long. Every few days there were heartrending moments when she must part with some cherished posession. a bit of silver, a piece of linen, perhaps a ring. Jeanne loved these things, but she must live and, what seemed even more important to her then, she must go on with her training.
During this period there came no help from home. Word reached her that her father had had a stroke which left him with a clot on the brain. As a result his business affairs ran riot. He signed over his bonds and stocks—even his life insurance— to an agent who later, it is said, committed suicide rather than face the issue. So completely was the business involved that it left no income for his family. In order to save something of the estate, by reducing his power, Mr. Gordon’s lawyers wanted to declare him incompetent. This slur on her father’s ability turned Jeanne into an absolute fury.
Her "David” an incompetent—never! She dropped all her own affairs and flew to his defence. When she arrived in Canada she found that there was not even enough money to pay the grocery bill. Her father, convinced that he was right, would not listen to reason. He was disappointed. angered, hurt that she, like all the rest, would oppose him. She could do nothing with him. Then as Jeanne Gordon had risen to all emergencies she arose to this one. Ignoring her father's protests, she stepped in and. with the aid of her brothers, Don and Bill, took his affairs into her own hands. Usually careless in business affairs of her own, she rounded up the stocks and bonds, re-claimed for him what she could and put what was left of the estate into running order again.
It was her father then who was helpless against her. He was infuriated, maddened, called her ‘‘that woman from New York” and refused to speak to her. It was thus she left him to go back to New York to resume her own battle, weary and sick at heart.
She sang in the soldiers' camps for nothing; she sang in the churches for a pittance. Everywhere she was well received but in spite of this meagre success there seemed no place for her in anything which would accord a living.
Visiting Misery's ‘‘Uncle”
EVERY cent was exhausted. She was living now solely on what she could receive from the pawnbroker and soon after she returned from her distressing visit to Canada she took the last of her valued possessions to the pledge shop. Kathrine Ruth Heyman, struggling too, went with -Jeanne that
morning. As they awaited their turn. Miss Dayman to part with her coat, Jeanne to pawn the last of her silver wedding gifts, they listened to the piteous pleas of a frail little woman that the pawnbroker advance her money on a gold pin.
"Naw," said the broker harshly,
■faint even worth a quarter.”
The face pinched with the agony of hunger, the eyes wide with the frenzy of desperation, awoke compassion in the hearts of the two.
"Oh,” whispered Jeanne, as the bent form passed her, ‘‘we may be hard up, Kay, but we have a lot to be thankful for.”
When they emerged from the shop the woman was standing on the sidewalk, the same stricken look on her face.
‘‘What’s the matter?” asked Miss Dayman.
“He says it ain’t wuth a qua’ter,” she mumbled, fingering the pin.
“Are you hungry?”
“No—not hungry,” then in a sudden burst of grief. “But I must have fouh dollahs ... I must have fouh dollahs.”
The artists fingered the few scant bills they had just received —barely enough to supply their own immediate needs. Their hesitation was but momentary.
The smile that flashed across the wretched woman’s face, however, as they proffered four precious one dollar bills lightened the weight of their own dejection.
A few days later when the rest of the soiled bills had been spent, there was nothing in the house to eat and the rent was due. Jeanne, nevertheless, as she walked home after a hard day, considered that Fate was kind, for she had been invited that night to dine with a friend.
Even in those days of financial stress she was as careless, as unthinking of money, as she is now. She never
knew how much she had nor how long it would last her, but reality is a grim presenter of facte. Happy in the thought that this one day was provided for, Jeanne walked blithely from her apartment to the subway en route to her friend’s house. Stopping at the gate to pay her fare she opened her purse to find it empty. She had not a cent in the world. Her friend lived a long way downtown. To walk and arrive there on time was out of the question. Somewhat dazed and very hungry, .Jeanne retraced her steps homewards. In the doorway of the apartment house she met the janitor.
“What am I to do?” she questioned dejectedly “I haven’t a thing in the house to eat. I am invited out to a perfectly good dinner and haven’t a nickel to get there.”
The janitor put his hand in his
pocket and produced the necessary nickel.
“Oh, no—please—” began Miss Gordon, and the janitor without further argument returned the nickel to his trouser’s pocket. They stood there a moment, Jeanne woebegone, almost to the point of tears, the janitor jingling the rejected nickel against the other coins in his pocket. Suddenly his face cleared. “I have it,” he exclaimed. “Go in and use my ’phone and ask your friend to bring the dinner here.”
It was an ingenious plan!
Her friend readily agreed to the arrangement and a little later the “hostess” arrived with the dinner she had carefully prepared, nicely packed in paper bags.
The Sun Breaks Through
BREAKFASTLESS and with
an empty purse, Jeanne, still resolute, went next morning to the studio for practice. But, as she sang, although she was unaware of it, the tables were turning. One Arthur Spizzi entered the studio and, waiting there for a pupil, heard Jeanne’s voice. He stayed until she came out.
“Do you want a job?” he asked her point-blank.
“Why, yes,” she gasped in her astonishment. “In fact, it’s the one thing I’ve got to have.” “Then come with me to see Hugo Reisenfeld,” and he waved her through the door.
Mr. Reisenfeld was the manager of the Rivoli motion picture theatre and together they went to see him, the one glowing with hope, the other enthusiastic over his find.
The penniless singer presented her ideas to Mr. Reisenfeld before he could present his. She wanted to sing the operas she had been -sing them in costume with a full
studying, she told himstage setting.
He heard her sing and liked her voice. But opera for a motion picture audience was not to be considered. If she would sing ballads—
In sudden defiance, Jeanne Gordon flung up her head. Her dark eyes flashed. The courage born of her Scotch forbears seized her; the determination which had brought her grandfather successfully through the hardships and dangers of Canadian pioneer days took possession of her.
Reaching out, she took a scratch-pad from the desk, and scribbled her name and telephone number.
“If you change your mind, Mr. Reisenfeld, you can find me theres” she said, and, thanking him for the interview, she left.
Would she hear from him again? She had hoped so many times yet there had always been disappointment. There was no reason to believe that this interview would terminate differently. And if it didn’t—she dared think no further. She knew only that there was no money, no food, with which to face another day.
When Jeanne Gordon left the Rivoli Theatre, who shall say what were her thoughts? With privation, perhaps starvation before her, she had scorned the comforts, the security that would have been assured with Reisenfeld’s offer. Livelihood had been weighed against mere dreams—dreams more cherished and more dear to her, it seemed, than life itself.
Disappointed? Yes. Defeated? No. Her heart was too staunch for that. But that night, as on many other nights, alone in the hours of blackness, when she should have been resting, sleeping, gaining strength for the next day’s battle, there were tears—bitter tears, wrung from the very soul of her, tears for to-morrow’s fears, of which she knew not; tears for the relentless blows of a world unsympathetic; tears of loneliness for the baby arms she longed to feel again about her neck, tears of sadness for the illness and the anger of the father who was so dear to her. But she faced the next day as she faced them all—with a plucky smile. Never was there a day wdien her smile w-as more justified.
RETURNING home late ill the afterpoon, fagged in mind and body after the usual discouragements, she found the first glad message she had known since her arrival in New York—a note from Reisenfeld. With hope high in her heart she telephoned him at once. Continued on page 68
Continued from page 20
“Can you be ready to sing on Sunday evening?” he asked.
“Yes,” answered Jeanne, and it was not until she hung up the receiver that she realized it was already Friday. She had her roles well in hand, however, and it was without trepidation that she put her name to Reisenf eld’s contract, the following day.
“How shall I advertise you?” asked Mr. Rothaphel, now of Roxy fame, then in partnership with Mr. Reisenfeld.
“Why, I really don’t know,” Jeanne hesitated. For the first time she gave thought to a professional name.
Most certainly she did not want to be known by her married name and her own, “Rube” Gordon, did not exactly meet the demands of dignity The only girl in a big family of boys, Miss Gordon declares that she was given all the feminine names that would have been bestowed on the other children had they been girls. She passed the list of twelve through her mind, but there was none to suit. Hurriedly, with Mr. Rothaphel’s pencil tapping impatiently on his paper, she chose “Jeanne,” an old family name on her mother’s side. To this she added her father’s surname.
“It will do,” she said. “When I become famous I will change it and choose a really impressive one.”
She laughed. She did not know that fame was to catch her so suddenly that she would have no time in which to choose another.
When she appeared to sing her role at the Rivoli Theatre Sunday evening she found that Reisenfeld had done even more than he had promised. Her costume was flawless, the stage setting was gorgeous, and six picturesque gypsies waited in a woodland scene to complete the scene. Miss Gordon’s cup was full.
As the curtain rose and Jeanne stepped forward from the colorful campfire scene in “ UnBallo in Maschero,” there was one in the audience who gave her face keen scrutiny and then turned to his programme. “Jeanne Gordon,” he read—no, he must be mistaken. He did not recognize the name—and yet he believed that Gordon was her father’s name. Suddenly, with her first note, all doubt was gone. Under the grease paint and heavy makeup, the man from Detroit, who had refused to help her, might mistake the face of the woman who had sung in his choir, but not that voice. Never was there another voice like hers. He sent his card backstage and, following it later to her dressingroom, offered her all the financial aid she would require. But Jeanne, with her foot in the first crevice of her upward climb, refused his help.
At the close of the performance all
Reisenfeld’s fears were gone. Jeanne Gordon’s “first night”—her very first night—was a tremendous success.
There was another who visited the movie house that night and took special note of the operatic artist, one who was to point out the rocky way to that first plateau of her victory—Creatore. As she sang he watched and listened and an idea concerning her was born.
Unaware of this, Jeanne sought advice and help elsewhere. One day, before she was due at the theatre, she went with her friend, Kitty Heyman, to the home of Emilee Frances Bauer, one of the most scholarly and famous critics and composers, to sing for her a song composed by Miss Heyman. When she had finished the little critic snapped at her in her quick, excited way.
“You are wasting your time,” she said, almost angrily, pointing an accusing finger at the singer.
Disappointed, almost ready to burst into tears at i,he words, which filled her with dismay, Jeanne asked tremulously—
“Then you don’t think I’m any good? You don’t think I’ll ever amount to anything.”
“Any good? Amount to anything?” exclaimed Miss Bauer and she laughed. “I’ll wager you can walk onto the Metropolitan stage any time you feel like it. My dear! You have a voice such as I have never heard before—an opera voice. Work, gain all the experience that you can, and you will be one of the greatest singers on this continent.”
Hard Work the Talisman
FOR seven years Miss Bauer has watched her prophecy come true and during these years the little critic has been one of her staunchest friends, one of her greatest helps.
Lunching one day with Miss Bauer, our talk was naturally of the Metropolitan star.
“If Jeanne Gordon has told you that she has ‘worked like a dog,’ ” said Miss Bauer, “that means nothing. For years I have seen her work and I know, perhaps, better than any one else, how hard she has worked morning, noon and night. When there is work to be done, pleasure goes by the boards.
“And the indefinable thing about her is that she ‘gets you’ like that.” Emilee Frances Bauer snapped her finger's. “She got me like that, she got you like that, she got New York like that. She is one of the most wonderful women I know and the more you see of her, the more you learn of her, the more you work with her, the more you will find about her to love, to admire and to appreciate—andsowillNew York.” Miss Bauer was silent for a moment. “Jeanne Gordon has not reached the height of her success. She will go on. A prima donna cannot mark time. It must be backwards or forwards, and Jeanne can never, never go backwards.”
The little critic doubled her fist and brought it down on the tablecloth with such ah enthusiastic thump that the silver and glass clinked in applause.
“She will go on, right to the top. New York knows andloves her now. The whole world will know and love her before she is through.”
A FEW days after Miss Gordon’s first meetingwith Emilee Bauer, Creatore, who had been watching her through the whole of her eight weeks’ contract with Reisenfeld, and was satisfied beyond his greatest expectations, telephoned to ask her if she would join his company on its fall tour. That same day she signed his contract and there began for her a period of harder struggle, more racking anxiety, than any she had yet encountered. But, destined to become one of the greatest singers of her day, she was destined, too, to come through them all successfully.
The first disappointment was a long postponement of the tour on account of the “flu.” When finally their cast was whole again, they made their first appearance at Brooklyn. The performance was a success but not a riot.
“To me,” said Miss Gordon, “it was one long torture and I don’t see why it wasn’t a complete failure. My role was ‘Amnerus’ in ‘Aida’ and I was supposed to sing very close to a soprano but the smell of garlic on her breath was so strong that it nearly staggered me and I had to keep ten feet between us if I was to sing at all.
The tenor whose role it was to make love to her had to do so with his face turned from her.
Again, Jeanne found herself singing with a German, who was very much out of voice.
“He had flat feet and a weak stomach —poor fellow—and he was fat,” recalled Jeanne. “He would blow himself up as if he would burst and finally reach a sharp falsetto. After his first break in the opening phrases, he whispered to me while I was singing my part.
“ ‘Ach, Mein Gott, das was schrecklich, nicht wahr?'
“And between phrases, I whispered back:
“ ‘Oh, ghastly!’ ”
Then came more trouble. They had been out only a few days when Creatore called a meeting of the cast back-stage and announced that they must either disperse or accept half-pay. Not only was the “flu” epidemic keeping the houses poorly attended, but Shubert had reserved his string of theatres for his own productions, leaving free only small houses. The company accepted Creatore’s terms.
In Baltimore, their next important stop, they had three weeks of fair success. There the papers lauded Gordon’s voice, remarked on her personality, enthused about her stage presence, marvelled at her dramatic power. In fact, the critics found it hard to believe that she had appeared on the operatic stage only twice before.
Meeting Lillian Russell
FROM Baltimore they went on to Pittsburgh and it was there that the singer met Lillian Russell for the first time. Jeanne’s uncle had wired Miss Russell this brief message:
“Be kind to my niece by name of Gordon.”
Lillian Russell knew nothing of Jeanne Gordon and the stir she was making in musical circles. She telephoned all the hotels in a fruitless effort to find the niece of her friend. Having been pressed into service, her husband found Kitty Gordon, the actress, and gave her a cordial invitation to come to their home. The recipient of this message insisted that she was not the Miss Gordon for whom the other appeared to be searching. In desperation, Lillian Russell finally wired the uncle for details and a Christian name.
“I will never forget how good Lillian Russell and her sister, Dorothy, were to me during my stay in Pittsburgh. It was very cold when I was there and I remember that I was very grateful for the gorgeous fur wrap they lent me. Alex. Moore, Lillian Russell’s husband, was very kind to me, too, and did a great deal for the company through his paper, the Pittsburgh Leader."
It was while in Pittsburgh that Jeanne Gordon received her first summons to the Metropolitan Opera House. It came from Sapio, the teacher with whom she had been studying her roles. He asked her to come back to New York for an audition before Signor Guilio Gatti-Casazza, manager of the Opera. The same day there came a wire, too, from Shubert, asking her to consider a contract with him.
Singing a great deal, studying morning, noon and night, Jeanne Gordon was tired, almost tired out, but she went back to New York. There in a simple blue serge dress, on the deserted stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, she sang before Gatti and other “crowned heads of the S'Jded factory,” _ Scotti among them. When she had finished they asked her to sing again and because she was weary she sat down upon the director’s box and, beating time against it with her heels, sang to them from there. She walked into the anteroom and Gatti followed her.
“You have a magnificent voice,” he sam, if you work, you can accomplish anything.”
“Had I known Mr. Gatti then, as I know him now,” Jeanne Gordon declared, “I would have realized what that word of praise meant to me, coming from him, but at that particular time it meant nothing to me. Either I did not know enough to care, or I was too tired. Both, I expect.” Then she went to see Shubert to tell him she could not consider a contract with him.
“But why?” he asked her.
I don’t think I am a Winter Garden type and I want to sing opera.”
“There’s no place for you over there,” he said, and she knew that he referred to the place from which she had just come.
She left him without making an effort to correct his impression.
Singing For Her “David”
REJOINING Creatore’s company in time for her next performance, Jeanne zig-zagged with it to New Orleans where her father was sojourning for his health. News of her coming had been heralded in the papers and for days he had read glowing accounts of her talent. She had not seen him since his illness winch had taken her back to Canada. Still feeling hurt, and further annoyed that she should have at last come into a professional career after all his pleading, he would not go to hear her.
Their first performance in New Orleans was the greatest success yet scored by the Creatore company, but to Jeanne Gordon, now the star, it was a heart break. Her father—the one whom she had wanted most to be there, the one with whom she wanted to share her success—had refused to come.
The following afternoon there was a matinee. As the curtain rose, Jeanne’s heart leapt suddenly with a joy that it had never known before, one that she had begun to fear it would never know. Far beyond the sea of eager faces, at the back of the theatre, standing iAthe open doorway between the darkness and the light, was the silhouette of David.
In the dimness of the theatre, without the aid of artificial light to emphasize the shock of white hair, the regular hand -some features, no other could have recognized the figure of the man who stood there. But his daughter could not have mistaken it. That afternoon she sang, perhaps, better than ever before, for she was singing alone to David.
After the performance he came back stage, but no word of her success nor explanation of his presence there passed between them. They went together to her hotel. There in the little bedroom he congratulated her, admitted his pride and his joy in her achievement: there in a moment after the long years of separation, all the barriers were down.
The next day he took a box at the opera and attended each performance, glorying in the triumph of the one he loved more than anyone else in the world, the one he had never ceased to love though he had steeled his heart against her. To that one all the success, all the triumph, she might attain throughout the whole of her career could not give the happiness it afforded her to see David’s face light up at the sudden burst of applause for her or to note the joy her voice, in its difficult and perfect notes, gave him. All her smiles, her bows, her encores, were given to him.
Her joy was short-lived.
A week later he died.
Another Heart break
TEANNE GORDON had left New «J Orleans with her company a few days before. The wire telling her of her father’s death caught her at a little town many miles off the main line. Because it had missed her at intervening towns, it was twelve hours late. Absolutely crushed beneath the blow, frantic with grief, she sought Creatore to tell him that she must leave at once. The tour had just begun to pay, the cast was back on full salary, the company was beginning to flourish. If Jeanne Gordon left, it might mean failure. When the news of her bereavement reached the rest of the company, the members flocked into her tiny dressingroom, men and women weeping like children for her in her sorrow, imploring her, at the same time, not to leave them.
Jeanne found that there was no train out of the little town for another twelve hours. It would take her two days to reach Wallaceburg, Ontario, where her father’s body had been taken, and she knew that she could not get there for the funeral. She wired her mother, her brothers, that she could not come.
And then Jeanne Gordon proved her courage. She sang that night as she had always sung and, with a smile to hide her heartbreak, she continued to sing until the end of her contract, miming as did Harry Lauder and Mrs. “Pat” Campbell during the days after they received the news that each had lost a son in Flanders Fields.
Jeanne Gordon's story will be concluded in the next, December 15, issue. Unusual perils still beset her, but she faced them with the dauntless courage that makes Canadians so proud of her, as a Canadian girl and as a supreme Canadian artiste.