+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error




The early morning, when Magdalen rose and
looked out, was cloudy and overcast. But as
time advanced to the breakfast-hour, the threatening
of rain passed away; and she was free to
provide, without hindrance from the weather, for
the first necessity of the daythe necessity of
securing the absence of her travelling companion
from the house.

Mrs. Wragge was dressed, armed at all points
with her collection of circulars, and eager to be
away by ten o'clock. At an earlier hour
Magdalen had provided for her being properly taken
care of by the landlady's eldest daughter,—a
quiet, well-conducted girl, whose interest in the
shopping expedition was readily secured by a
little present of money for the purchase, on
her own account, of a parasol and a muslin
dress. Shortly after ten o'clock, Magdalen
dismissed Mrs. Wragge and her attendant in a cab.
She then joined the landladywho was occupied
in setting the rooms in order up-stairswith the
object of ascertaining by a little well-timed gossip,
what the daily habits might be of the inmates
of the house.

She discovered that there were no other lodgers
but Mrs. Wragge and herself. The landlady's
husband was away all day, employed at a railway
station. Her second daughter was charged with
the care of the kitchen, in the elder sister's
absence. The younger children were at school,
and would be back at one o'clock to dinner. The
landlady herself "got up fine linen for ladies,"
and expected to be occupied over her work all
that morning, in a little room built out at the
back of the premises. Thus, there was every
facility for Magdalen's leaving the house in
disguise, and leaving it unobserved; provided she
went out before the children came back to dinner
at one o'clock.

By eleven o'clock the apartments were set in
order, and the landlady had retired to pursue her
own employments. Magdalen softly locked the
door of her room; drew the blind over the window;
and entered at once on her preparations for
the perilous experiment of the day.

The same quick perception of dangers to be
avoided, and difficulties to be overcome, which
had warned her to leave the extravagant part of
her character-costume in the box at Birmingham,
now kept her mind fully alive to the vast difference
between a disguise worn by gaslight, for the
amusement of an audience, and a disguise
assumed by daylight to deceive the searching eyes
of two strangers. The first article of dress which
she put on was an old gown of her own (made
of the material called "alpaca"), of a dark brown
colour, with a neat pattern of little star-shaped
spots in white. A double flounce running
round the bottom of this dress was the only
milliner's ornament which it presentedan
ornament not at all out of character with the
costume appropriate to an elderly lady. The
disguise of her head and face was the next object
of her attention. She fitted and arranged the grey
wig with the dexterity which constant practice
had given her; fixed the false eyebrows (made
rather large, and of hair darker than the wig)
carefully in their position, with the gum she had
with her for the purpose; and stained her face,
with the customary stage materials, so as to
change the transparent fairness of her
complexion, to the dull, faintly opaque colour of a
woman in ill health. The lines and markings of age
followed next; and here the first obstacles
presented themselves. The art which succeeded by
gaslight, failed by day: the difficulty of hiding
the plainly artificial nature of the marks was
almost insuperable. She turned to her trunk;
took from it two veils; and putting on her
old fashioned bonnet, tried the effect of them
in succession. One of the veils (of black lace)
was too thick to be worn over the face at
that summer season, without exciting remark.
The other, of plain net, allowed her features
to be seen through it, just indistinctly
enough to permit the safe introduction of certain
lines (many fewer than she was accustomed to
use in performing the character) on the forehead,
and at the sides of the mouth. But the obstacle
thus set aside, only opened the way to a new
difficultythe difficulty of keeping her veil down
while she was speaking to other persons, without
any obvious reason for doing so. An instant's
consideration, and a chance look at her little
china palette of stage colours, suggested to her
ready invention the production of a visible excuse
for wearing her veil. She deliberately disfigured