Chapter 41 Open House, Open Hearts
Friday night at seven o'clock sharp, the door bell rang. On the front porch of the Page home stood three well dressed gentlemen, and Mrs. Page said so as she invited them in. Mr. Keith MacLeod, Mr. Harold Killman and Mr. James Day were made to feel welcome in the front parlor and were assured by her father, the Reverend Wesley Page, that Melody was indeed ready.
Presently she appeared in the doorway. The men stood. When Keith saw her he was reminded of that first meeting in the Day's parlor. He loved her for the appealing girl she was then and for the confident accomplished woman she had become. He loved her so much that it nearly brought tears to his eyes.
In a low voice he said “Good evening, Miss Page. You do look lovely this evening.” He took her hand, executed a half bow and kissed it.
She gave her best imitation of a southern belle; “Why you look perfec'ly duh-licious yourself, Mistah MacLeod.” She curtsied to the boys. “Jimmy. Harry. I am goin' to have all of the single women in Jacksonville, Flahda jealous of me with my three han'some bachelors. Mothah, Fathah, I shall see y'all at the thea-tah.” Taking him by the offered arm, she said to Keith, “Shall we depaht?” she giggled.
On the way to the theatre Melody declared that she was quite happy that she did not have to escort that Mr. Schattenborg around. She made it clear that, while she thought him to be an excellent organist, she did not like the man one iota, and Jimmy seconded the opinion.
For all the many months they had been working in the theatre Mr. Mac, Jimmy or Harry had never had occasion to enter through the front doors of the theatre and into the lobby.
“Why, I feel like we've just walked into a beautiful Mediterranean garden, with the grape vines on the walls and the twinkling stars overhead!” exclaimed Harry.
Jimmy agreed. “All those things that Mr. Randolph said to his employees at that meeting begins to make sense to me now.”
When Mr. Mac and the boys had found seats, Miss Mel excused herself to go make sure all was in order for the musical interlude that she and Mr. Schattenborg were to present. She went backstage to see if Mr. Schattenborg was situated in his dressing room. He was not. She had also been assigned a dressing room for the occasion so she went to see it. She opened the door to a dark room.
She began to feel the wall for a light switch. What she felt instead was a human body. Terrified, she struck out at what she was sure was an assailant. She made contact with a satisfying slapping sound. A split second later the lights came on and she stood face to face with Fritz Schattenborg. The left side of his face bore her hand print. He had grabbed, and was still tightly holding, her uplifted arm.
Furiously she spat at him; “Let me go!”
“Why you little hell cat, you intrude on my dressing room and slap me in the face and you have the temerity to be mad at me?” Schattenborg said in a venomous voice.
Sensing this was not a time for retreat she pressed on “I said let me GO! This MY dressing room, not yours, and if you don't let me go this instant I WILL scream the house down. I have three male friends with me and they will make short work of the likes of you!”
“What do you mean this is YOUR dressing room.” mocking her even as he let her arm go.
She pointed at the open door which clearly bore her name.
He did not look at it. Sarcastically he said;
“Well, pardon me.“ he turned as he stepped over the portal, “Please allow . . . ” which was as far as he got before she slammed the door in his face and locked it.
No sooner than she had regained her composure was there a knock on the door that made her jump. In a tense voice she asked who was there.
“It's Jimmy.” he answered, “Mr. Mac wanted me to come tell you that Mr. and Mrs. MacLeod have just arrived.
Quickly she opened the door. She clutched him in a tight hug and said; “Oh! Jimmy! I'm so glad it's you. I was so afraid. . .” She laughed at his puzzled expression. “Well, I'll just say that you are a welcome sight!” She hugged him again still trembling.
Jimmy, concerned, asked: “Afraid? Afraid of who, that Schattenborg jerk?”
“Yes! Uh, how did you know?” She replied.
He said: “I saw him scootin' like an alley cat in the direction of the stage door just now. He was rubbing his face like someone had hit him. Miss Mel, did you . . . ?” Jimmy left the question trailing in the air.
Miss Mel sat down, fists clinched. “Jimmy, I . . . He . . .” She grew angry again as she thought about what just happened.
“Did I hit him?” She stood stamping her foot, her eyes flashing. “You just bet I did!!”
She continued in a worried voice; “Jimmy, I don't ever want to be alone with him again, you hear? He's sick. I'm afraid of what he might do the next time!”
Jimmy escorted Miss Mel below stage to the orchestra pit entrance tunnel. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and reassured him she would be all right. Entering the theatre he could see the seats on the lower level of the house were filled with theatre employees and their families. The local dignitaries, and investors, including Jimmy's parents, his Uncle Marcus, and Harry's family, all had reserved seats on the front row.
Also there was Mr. Edwin escorting Madame Zeguenia Hildebrune, who was attending `incognito' by her request, along with Dr. and Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, as the boys' special guests all seated next to Harry, who was saving Jimmy a seat next to him. The Reverend and Mrs. Page were there as their daughter's special guests. Jimmy noticed that ever since Mr. and Mrs. Keith MacLeod, Sr. had arrived Keith and his parents had been in a hurried, serious looking conference which finished just as the house lights began to dim.
In the dark, the crowd became very still. Suddenly there was a thrilling trill over a throbbing bass note, pursued by a crescendo of running notes rising into a triumphant chord. Miss Melody Page rode the organ console into the spotlight, playing a glorious fanfare. The audience cheered and applauded encouragement. She modulated into a bouncing tempo and began her medley with 'The Best Things In Life Are Free' followed by her dad's sentimental favorite 'Roses of Picardy.' She ended the medley with the dramatic tango 'Jalousie.'
The audience was moved to grant Miss Page a standing ovation, for not only did Miss Page play quite well, she was the home-town girl whom everyone knew and loved. Seated once again Melody played a closing fanfare as the console retreated to the nether regions of the orchestra pit, and the house lights once again came up.
Mr. Randolph took the stage and, after welcoming everyone, asked Miss Melody Page to come from back stage and take yet another bow, again to thunderous applause. He then introduced all the dignitaries and investors, including the president of the motion picture chain which built the Floridian Theatre. He even acknowledged Mr. MacLeod along with Jimmy and Harry as the installers of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ.
After the acknowledgments, he introduced Mr. Schattenborg as . . . “one of the most brilliant minds in motion picture music. He is here tonight to play a selection of themes from his own score of the new motion picture 'The Sword and the Diamond' which we, of the Floridian Theatre right here in Jacksonville, have the privilege of premiering tomorrow at one o'clock. Here is Mr. Fritz Schattenborg!”
Once again the lights dimmed and the console rose into the spotlight. This time, instead of beautiful music issuing from the pipe chambers, there came a dreadful nightmarish cacophony. This cascaded into a funereal dirge that did not abate until the nightmare music began again. Finally, there was a release into a bittersweet love theme, ending the medley with a longing, sad chord. The applause, when it did begin, was thin compared to the ovation given Miss Page. Mr. Schattenborg took his bow and huffed off stage, sending the console into the pit on it's own.
Mr. Randolph once again took the stage. “I like surprises and I hope you do too, for we have two surprises this evening! After our presentations there will be a tour of our magnificent facility and a reception line for our special surprise guest. First, here is Mr. Keith MacLeod with a surprise for someone we all know and love.”
Keith made his way to the stage and faced the large audience. “There are those whom I must thank for this moment. First of all my wonderful parents who have just arrived from North Tonawanda, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Keith MacLeod Sr.” there was applause as Keith motioned for them to stand.
“I also want to thank Mr. Edwin, organist and choir master at the Willowbranch Baptist Church who has been a real friend, teacher, colleague -- and a good customer!” Laughter and applause.
Keith went on. “I must especially thank two gentlemen who were among the very first people I met in our fair city of Jacksonville. They have been my best friends and they are my very capable business associates. Mr. Jimmy Day and Mr. Harry Killman.” At this there was almost as much applause as there was for Melody, as Harry and Jimmy were well known to the theatre staff, and Jimmy's playing was particularly admired.
Keith continued: “But there is a special someone who is the reason this shy fellow is up here making a speech right now. Melody, will you join me here?” The audience seemed to know there was something special about to happen. They applauded her encouragingly.
“Melody, today is Friday, September fifth, 1924. It is a day I do not want to ever forget, not that you'll ever let me!” Keith paused as the crowd chuckled.
He took something out of his pocket and got down on one knee. He looked up at her lovely face and, slipping a ring on her finger, asked:
“Melody Heather Page, will you marry me?”
It was one of those lovely moments when no one said a word, not a sound was made. She looked at her mother and father. They nodded yes. She looked at Keith's parents. They nodded yes. Then, as tears of joy began to fall, she said in a whisper that echoed like a shout through the silent waiting theatre: “Yes! Oh my, yes!”
As Keith enfolded her in his embrace the crowd was on its feet wildly applauding. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. There was one, however, who was not happy at all. Fritz Schattenborg was more angry than he'd ever been in his life. He left his position by the lobby entrance, went out on the street and hailed a cab.
Taking the stage Mr. Randolph said, “I know everyone is anxious to get to the goodies in the lobby and to show off our beautiful theatre to your family, but here is one more grand surprise! We have a very special guest here tonight. None other than the beautiful motion picture star, Jacksonville's own Miss Etta EauKlaire!”
Once again the crowd was on it's feet, cheering wildly. Etta, dressed in a glittering floor length gown, entered the stage with a handkerchief in her hand. She, like the audience, had been crying, too.
She said “Jacksonville, its been just too long since I was last here in my home town. How nice of you to shed tears for this prodigal child!”
The crowd laughed along with her and they loved her for it.