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

third-rate players. There was a certain poetry,
and an escape from the hard actualities, in the
very fact of having to utter such words as those
of Shakespeare's tragedy of Macbeth, and in the
attempt to body forth, however inadequately,
those wondrous creatures of the poet's imagination.
And let it be remembered that, inferior
as were most of the performers to the height of
the task assigned to them, there were probably
few, if any, persons even among the better
portion of the audience, capable of reading and
expounding three consecutive lines of the play
as intelligently as the great majority of those
provincial players. The very quaintness of the
phraseology which would have rendered many
passages obscure to the general reader, was, by
habit and tradition, clear and familiar to the
actors, and acquired force and meaning to
many ears for the first time, being interpreted
by their lips.

"Overture, ladies! Overture, gentlemen!"
bawled the call-boywho was a son of Nix,
the versatile property-man, and was himself
attired in a kilt and a tartan scarf, ready to
personate Fleance. Presently, with a crashing
preliminary chord, the orchestra struck up a
medley of national airs. Not Scotch tunes,
but Irish melodies. And the selection
terminated with an air of local celebrity, called
Jerry the Buck, to whose marked rhythm
the stamping feet of the "gods" kept accurate

"Couldn't get on in Kilclare without Jerry
the Buck," said Mr. Moffatt. "The gallery boys
expect it to be played at least once every evening
throughout the season."

Mabel had already seen little Corda Trescott.
Mrs. Walton had asked the child to spend Sunday
with them, and had taken her to church,
and for a long country walk in the evening, and
had sent her home full of delight and gratitude.
Her joy at meeting Mabel again, knew no

The little creature was to personate that one
of the apparitions which "wears upon his baby
brow the round and top of sovereignty," and she
came into the green-room with her gold-brown
curls waving round her delicate face, and crept up
close to Mabel's side in shy silence. Cordelia
Trescott was one of those beings, the natural
refinement of whose aspect it is impossible to
vulgarise by any outward circumstances. Dress
her as you would, surround her with what
coarse or absurd setting you might, she shone
out pure and delicate as a lily, and could no
more be made to look vulgar than the flower
itself can.

"Well, Corda, are you going to sing in the
choruses? I have never yet heard your voice,
you know," said Mabel.

"Yes, Miss Mabel. I know all the music
quite correctly, papa says."

Presently, a violent shaking administered by
the prompter to the sheet of iron hanging over
his head announced the thunder with which the
awful tragedy begins; and Nix, the indispensable,
lightened from a tin tray at the wing,
with weird effect. The house was full, and
the audience in high good humour. All the
old well-known favouritesamong whom Miss
Lydia St. Aubert was perhaps the chiefwere
received with enthusiastic applause, and the
new comers were greeted encouragingly. When
Nix put his head inside the green-room door,
and said: "All the witches, please. Everybody-y-y!"
Mabel trembled with excitement.
She took Corda's hand and followed Mrs.
Walton on to the stage, to the quaint strains
of old Matthew Locke's musicmusic more
appropriate, perhaps, to the notion of a
witch entertained by his Majesty King James
the First, than to those wild grim conceptions
of the poet's brain, who met Macbeth
upon the blasted heath, and subtly tempted
him with spoken suggestions of his own
unuttered desires.

The gas was turned down very low (according
to immemorial usage in the witches' scenes),
and when Mabel fairly found herself first on the
stage, the front of the house seemed to her
unaccustomed eyes like some cave or gulf seen in
a dream, and peopled with shadowy pale faces
surging out of the darkness. After a second
or two, she was able to make out the shape of
the theatre, the divisions of the boxes, and the
sloping crowd of heads that filled the gallery to
the ceiling. Then how thankful did she feel
to be one of an undistinguished throng, and to
know herself an insignificant and irresponsible
member of it! "No one will look at me!"
thought Mabel, with a sigh of relief. And yet
she was mistaken in so thinking. The theatrical
public of Kilclare was limited in numbers, and
strongly interested in each individual member
of Mr. Moffatt's company. They partook,
indeed, very much of the sort of spirit that any
one who has conversed with actors of the old
school may have heard attributed to the playgoers
of Bath and York some forty years ago.
Centralisationthat modern offspring of steam
and the electric telegraphhas affected, not
only kings and kaisers, potentates and princelings,
but the mimic monarchs of the stage. The
days are over when it was possible to achieve
and retain a high professional reputation as
an actor, without having appeared on the
metropolitan boards. Still, here and there,
in out-of-the-way nooks and corners of the
kingdom, somewhat of the old local feeling
remains; and it was so in the good town of

Teddy Molloy, seated in the centre of the pit,
had been dispensing to his immediate neighbours
such scraps of information with regard
to his step-mother's lodgers, as he thought fit
to impart; and consequently it was very soon
known to a large number of the audience that
"the purty girl with the thick dark hair, and
the nate little fut and ankle," was a niece of
their old and respected favourite, Mrs. Walton.
Rumours presently began to circulate that she
had been a great heiress, had lost all her
property, and was obliged to take to the stage to
support herself and her family: which rumours