« PreviousContinue »
many young men in the boxes and pit-stalls, were turned towards a box in the dress-circle, in which sat Lady Augusta Welborne blooming in her pride of youth, beauty, and fashion. Her attractions were still further enhanced by the contrast of a companion—a tall, thin, and ill-favored Lady, evidently past her grand climacteric.
Lady Augusta was so accustomed to these marks of adulation, that she received them as her undoubted right, as a Queen receives the homage of her lieges.
The haughty young beauty recognised in every lorgnette turned towards her, a new tribute to the potency of of her charms. She had examined the house through her own glass, and now remained under the complacent delusion that she was the most beautiful and best-dressed woman present. She was consequently enjoying a fine lady's highest earthly bliss—in the gratification of her vanity—the triumph of being adored by the men, and hated by the women. But though Lady Augusta accepted with apparent sang froid the fealty of her slaves, she was by no means proof against feeling keenly any defection in their loyalty. Gradually the unpleasant fact had dawned upon her, that on this evening, she only divided the attention of the house. She had noticed with uneasiness, a diversion in the uniform direction of lorgnettes and eyes, which had begun to turn towards a box near the stage.
It was a private box, and for a considerable part of the evening, its occupants had sat so as to escape observation. Suddenly, however, a lady leant forward, and presented to the general gaze, a profile and bust which in the judgment of more than one connoisseur, fully demonstrated the truth of Byron's lines :
“ I've seen more lovely women ripe and real
So unexpected was the lovely apparition, that it elicited a low murmur or buzz of admiration from the male portion of the spectators, while the ladies testified their observation in a
variety of ways according to individual idiosyncrasy. Some looked straight forward with stony indifference-others bridled and tossed their heads-others wondered what people can see in the young person-but that is always the way with the men—they always follow one lead in their admiration,” while a few were magnanimous enough to admit that the incognita was extremely beautiful.
Her beauty however, was not the only attraction. Those nearest her were struck by her extremely naïve manner, which showed plainly that this was the first dramatic performance she had ever witnessed. So exceedingly unsophisticated and demonstrative was the young stranger, that a person by merely watching her play of countenance, and the emotions which followed in rapid succession, could have guessed (without regarding it) the business of the stage. She was evidently not only unconscious of the effect she produced, but appeared so rapt and car
ried away by the novel spectacle, as to have completely forgotten the existence of the audience. Her spirits rose and fell from laughter to tears true index of the power of the performers in comedy and tragedy; and it sometimes needed a gentle reminder from her companion (a remarkably handsome
.young man) to restrain these ebullitions of sentiment.
The performance had arrived at perhaps the most amusing scene of all that in which Miss Mannering is holding a hurried conversation with Brown or Bertram in presence of her maid, and the Dominie comes blundering into the apartment, mistaking it for his own. The lover hides himself behind a screen, puts on a Hindoo dress, and is introduced to the Dominie as a celebrated Indian doctor; whereupon the Dominie, who numbers Sanscrit and Arabic among his other acquirements, announces his determination of holding a conversation with the learned pundit. Colo
nel Mannering makes his appearance, and requests to know the reason of the Dominie's intrusion into his daughter's apartment at that hour. Miss Mannering and her maid invent some story of a volume of which the Dominie is in search, to prevent his speaking to Brown, who has taken refuge behind the screen ; and keep plying the Dominie with volume after volume, each of which he opens and remarks upon, occasionally recalling his wits and looking round the room.
“Truly a very learned volume—but where is the learned pundit ?"
The actor made the most of his admirable part, and when the Dominie actually staggers under the load of volumes, and, between his apologies to the Colonel, and his recollections of the learned pundit, drops them and picks them up one after the other, the delight of the young beauty reached an unusually demonstrative pitch. She laughed aloud and clapped her hands with childish glee.