FEELING that she had all the world before her where to choose, and
that her next step ought to take her up at least one round higher on
the ladder she was climbing, Christie decided not to try going out
to service again. She knew very well that she would never live with
Irish mates, and could not expect to find another Hepsey. So she
tried to get a place as companion to an invalid, but failed to
secure the only situation of the sort that was offered her, because
she mildly objected to waiting on a nervous cripple all day, and
reading aloud half the night. The old lady called har an
"impertinent baggage," and Christie retired in great disgust,
resolving not to be a slave to anybody.
Things seldom turn out as we plan them, and after much waiting and
hoping for other work Christie at last accepted about the only
employment which had not entered her mind.
Among the boarders at Mrs. Flint’s were an old lady and her pretty
daughter, both actresses at a respectable theatre. Not stars by any
means, but good second-rate players, doing their work creditably and
earning an honest living. The mother had been kind to Christie in
offering advice, and sympathizing with her disappointments. The
daughter, a gay little lass, had taken Christie to the theatre
several times, there to behold her in all the gauzy glories that
surround the nymphs of spectacular romance.
To Christie this was a great delight, for, though she had pored over
her father’s Shakespeare till she knew many scenes by heart, she had
never seen a play till Lucy led her into what seemed an enchanted
world. Her interest and admiration pleased the little actress, and
sundry lifts when she was hurried with her dresses made her grateful
The girl’s despondent face, as she came in day after day from her
unsuccessful quest, told its own story, though she uttered no
complaint, and these friendly souls laid their heads together, eager
to help her in their own dramatic fashion.
"I’ve got it! I’ve got it! All hail to the queen!" was the cry that
one day startled Christie as she sat thinking anxiously, while
sewing mock-pearls on a crown for Mrs. Black.
Looking up she saw Lucy just home from rehearsal, going through a
series of pantomimic evolutions suggestive of a warrior doing battle
with incredible valor, and a very limited knowledge of the noble art
"What have you got? Who is the queen?" she asked, laughing, as the
breathless hero lowered her umbrella, and laid her bonnet at
"You are to be the Queen of the Amazons in our new spectacle, at
half a dollar a night for six or eight weeks, if the piece goes
"No!" cried Christie, with a gasp.
"Yes!" cried Lucy, clapping her hands; and then she proceeded to
tell her news with theatrical volubility. "Mr. Sharp, the manager,
wants a lot of tallish girls, and I told him I knew of a perfect
dear. He said: ‘Bring her on, then,’ and I flew home to tell you.
Now, don’t look wild, and say no. You’ve only got to sing in one
chorus, march in the grand procession, and lead your band in the
terrific battle-scene. The dress is splendid! Red tunic, tiger-skin
over shoulder, helmet, shield, lance, fleshings, sandals, hair down,
and as much cork to your eyebrows as you like."
Christie certainly did look wild, for Lucy had burst into the room
like a small hurricane, and her rapid words rattled about the
listeners’ ears as if a hail-storm had followed the gust. While
Christie still sat with her mouth open, too bewildered to reply,
Mrs. Black said in her cosey voice:
"Try it, me dear, it’s just what you’ll enjoy, and a capital
beginning I assure ye; for if you do well old Sharp will want you
again, and then, when some one slips out of the company, you can
slip in, and there you are quite comfortable. Try it, me dear, and
if you don’t like it drop it when the piece is over, and there’s no
"It’s much easier and jollier than any of the things you are after.
We’ll stand by you like bricks, and in a week you’ll say it’s the
best lark you ever had in your life. Don’t be prim, now, but say
yes, like a trump, as you are," added Lucy, waving a pink satin
train temptingly before her friend.
"I will try it!" said Christie, with sudden decision, feeling that
something entirely new and absorbing was what she needed to expend
the vigor, romance, and enthusiasm of her youth upon.
With a shriek of delight Lucy swept her off her chair, and twirled
her about the room as excitable young ladies are fond of doing when
their joyful emotions need a vent. When both were giddy they
subsided into a corner and a breathless discussion of the important
Though she had consented, Christie had endless doubts and fears, but
Lucy removed many of the former, and her own desire for pleasant
employment conquered many of the latter. In her most despairing
moods she had never thought of trying this. Uncle Enos considered
"play-actin’" as the sum of all iniquity. What would he say if she
went calmly to destruction by that road? Sad to relate, this
recollection rather strengthened her purpose, for a delicious sense
of freedom pervaded her soul, and the old defiant spirit seemed to
rise up within her at the memory of her Uncle’s grim prophecies and
"Lucy is happy, virtuous, and independent, why can’t I be so too if
I have any talent? It isn’t exactly what I should choose, but any
thing honest is better than idleness. I’ll try it any way, and get a
little fun, even if I don’t make much money or glory out of it."
So Christie held to her resolution in spite of many secret
misgivings, and followed Mrs. Black’s advice on all points with a
docility which caused that sanguine lady to predict that she would
be a star before she knew where she was.
"Is this the stage? How dusty and dull it is by daylight!" said
Christie next day, as she stood by Lucy on the very spot where she
had seen Hamlet die in great anguish two nights before.
"Bless you, child, it’s in curl-papers now, as I am of a morning.
Mr. Sharp, here’s an Amazon for you."
As she spoke, Lucy hurried across the stage, followed by Christie,
wearing any thing but an Amazonian expression just then.
"Ever on before?" abruptly asked, a keen-faced, little man, glancing
with an experienced eye at the young person who stood before him
bathed in blushes.
"Do you sing?"
"A little, sir."
"Dance, of course?"
"Just take a turn across the stage, will you? Must walk well to lead
As she went, Christie heard Mr. Sharp taking notes audibly:
"Good tread; capital figure; fine eye. She’ll make up well, and
behave herself, I fancy."
A strong desire to make off seized the girl; but, remembering that
she had presented herself for inspection, she controlled the
impulse, and returned to him with no demonstration of displeasure,
but a little more fire in "the fine eye," and a more erect carriage
of the "capital figure."
"All right, my dear. Give your name to Mr. Tripp, and your mind to
the business, and consider yourself engaged," – with which
satisfactory remark the little man vanished like a ghost.
"Lucy, did you hear that impertinent ‘my dear’?" asked Christie,
whose sense of propriety had received its first shock.
"Lord, child, all managers do it. They don’t mean any thing; so be
resigned, and thank your stars he didn’t say ‘love’ and ‘darling,’
and kiss you, as old Vining used to," was all the sympathy she got.
Having obeyed orders, Lucy initiated her into the mysteries of the
place, and then put her in a corner to look over the scenes in which
she was to appear. Christie soon caught the idea of her part, – not a
difficult matter, as there were but few ideas in the whole piece,
after which she sat watching the arrival of the troop she was to
lead. A most forlorn band of warriors they seemed, huddled together,
and looking as if afraid to speak, lest they should infringe some
rule; or to move, lest they be swallowed up by some unsuspected
Presently the ballet-master appeared, the orchestra struck up, and
Christie found herself marching and counter-marching at word of
command. At first, a most uncomfortable sense of the absurdity of
her position oppressed and confused her; then the ludicrous contrast
between the solemn anxiety of the troop and the fantastic evolutions
they were performing amused her till the novelty wore off; the
martial music excited her; the desire to please sharpened her wits;
and natural grace made it easy for her to catch and copy the steps
and poses given her to imitate. Soon she forgot herself, entered
into the spirit of the thing, and exerted every sense to please, so
successfully that Mr. Tripp praised her quickness at comprehension,
Lucy applauded heartily from a fairy car, and Mr. Sharp popped his
head out of a palace window to watch the Amazon’s descent from the
Mountains of the Moon.
When the regular company arrived, the troop was dismissed till the
progress of the play demanded their reappearance. Much interested in
the piece, Christie stood aside under a palm-tree, the foliage of
which was strongly suggestive of a dilapidated green umbrella,
enjoying the novel sights and sounds about her.
Yellow-faced gentlemen and sleepy-eyed ladies roamed languidly about
with much incoherent jabbering of parts, and frequent explosions of
laughter. Princes, with varnished boots and suppressed cigars,
fought, bled, and died, without a change of countenance. Damsels of
unparalleled beauty, according to the text, gaped in the faces of
adoring lovers, and crocheted serenely on the brink of annihilation.
Fairies, in rubber-boots and woollen head-gear, disported themselves
on flowery barks of canvas, or were suspended aloft with hooks in
their backs like young Hindoo devotees. Demons, guiltless of hoof or
horn, clutched their victims with the inevitable "Ha! ha!" and
vanished darkly, eating pea-nuts. The ubiquitous Mr. Sharp seemed to
pervade the whole theatre; for his voice came shrilly from above or
spectrally from below, and his active little figure darted to and
fro like a critical will-o-the-wisp.
The grand march and chorus in the closing scene were easily
accomplished; for, as Lucy bade her, Christie "sung with all her
might," and kept step as she led her band with the dignity of a
Boadicea. No one spoke to her; few observed her; all were intent on
their own affairs; and when the final shriek and bang died away
without lifting the roof by its din, she could hardly believe that
the dreaded first rehearsal was safely over.
A visit to the wardrobe-room to see her dress came next; and here
Christie had a slight skirmish with the mistress of that department
relative to the length of her classical garments. As studies from
the nude had not yet become one of the amusements of the elite of
Little Babel, Christie was not required to appear in the severe
simplicity of a costume consisting of a necklace, sandals, and a bit
of gold fringe about the waist, but was allowed an extra inch or two
on her tunic, and departed, much comforted by the assurance that her
dress would not be "a shock to modesty," as Lucy expressed it.
"Now, look at yourself, and, for my sake, prove an honor to your
country and a terror to the foe," said Lucy, as she led her protégée
before the green-room mirror on the first night of "The Demon’s
Daughter, or The Castle of the Sun!! The most Magnificent Spectacle
ever produced upon the American Stage!!!"
Christie looked, and saw a warlike figure with glittering helmet,
shield and lance, streaming hair and savage cloak. She liked the
picture, for there was much of the heroic spirit in the girl, and
even this poor counterfeit pleased her eye and filled her fancy with
martial memories of Joan of Arc, Zenobia, and Britomarte.
"Go to!" cried Lucy, who affected theatrical modes of speech. "Don’t
admire yourself any longer, but tie up your sandals and come on. Be
sure you rush down the instant I cry, ‘Demon, I defy thee!’ Don’t
break your neck, or pick your way like a cat in wet weather, but
come with effect, for I want that scene to make a hit."
CHRISTIE AS QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS.
Princess Caremfil swept away, and the Amazonian queen climbed to her
perch among the painted mountains, where her troop already sat like
a flock of pigeons shining in the sun. The gilded breast-plate rose
and fell with the quick beating of her heart, the spear shook with
the trembling of her hand, her lips were dry, her head dizzy, and
more than once, as she waited for her cue, she was sorely tempted to
run away and take the consequences.
But the thought of Lucy’s good-will and confidence kept her, and
when the cry came she answered with a ringing shout, rushed down the
ten-foot precipice, and charged upon the foe with an energy that
inspired her followers, and quite satisfied the princess struggling
in the demon’s grasp.
With clashing of arms and shrill war-cries the rescuers of innocence
assailed the sooty fiends who fell before their unscientific blows
with a rapidity which inspired in the minds of beholders a suspicion
that the goblins’ own voluminous tails tripped them up and gallantry
kept them prostrate. As the last groan expired, the last agonized
squirm subsided, the conquerors performed the intricate dance with
which it appears the Amazons were wont to celebrate their victories.
Then the scene closed with a glare of red light and a "grand
tableau" of the martial queen standing in a bower of lances, the
rescued princess gracefully fainting in her arms, and the vanquished
demon scowling fiercely under her foot, while four-and-twenty
dishevelled damsels sang a song of exultation, to the barbaric music
of a tattoo on their shields.
All went well that night, and when at last the girls doffed crown
and helmet, they confided to one another the firm opinion that the
success of the piece was in a great measure owing to their talent,
their exertions, and went gaily home predicting for themselves
careers as brilliant as those of Siddons and Rachel.
It would be a pleasant task to paint the vicissitudes and victories
of a successful actress; but Christie was no dramatic genius born to
shine before the world and leave a name behind her. She had no
talent except that which may be developed in any girl possessing the
lively fancy, sympathetic nature, and ambitious spirit which make
such girls naturally dramatic. This was to be only one of many
experiences which were to show her her own weakness and strength,
and through effort, pain, and disappointment fit her to play a
nobler part on a wider stage.
For a few weeks Christie’s illusions lasted; then she discovered
that the new life was nearly as humdrum as the old, that her
companions were ordinary men and women, and her bright hopes were
growing as dim as her tarnished shield. She grew unutterably weary
of "The Castle of the Sun," and found the "Demon’s Daughter" an
unmitigated bore. She was not tired of the profession, only
dissatisfied with the place she held in it, and eager to attempt a
part that gave some scope for power and passion.
Mrs. Black wisely reminded her that she must learn to use her wings
before she tried to fly, and comforted her with stories of
celebrities who had begun as she was beginning, yet who had suddenly
burst from their grub-like obscurity to adorn the world as splendid
"We’ll stand by you, Kit; so keep up your courage, and do your best.
Be clever to every one in general, old Sharp in particular, and when
a chance comes, have your wits about you and grab it. That’s the way
to get on," said Lucy, as sagely as if she had been a star for
"If I had beauty I should stand a better chance," sighed Christie,
surveying herself with great disfavor, quite unconscious that to a
cultivated eye the soul of beauty was often visible in that face of
hers, with its intelligent eyes, sensitive mouth, and fine lines
about the forehead, making it a far more significant and attractive
countenance than that of her friend, possessing only piquant
"Never mind, child; you’ve got a lovely figure, and an actress’s
best feature, – fine eyes and eyebrows. I heard old Kent say so, and
he’s a judge. So make the best of what you’ve got, as I do,"
answered Lucy, glancing at her own comely little person with an air
of perfect resignation.
Christie laughed at the adviser, but wisely took the advice, and,
though she fretted in private, was cheerful and alert in public.
Always modest, attentive, and obliging, she soon became a favorite
with her mates, and, thanks to Lucy’s good offices with Mr. Sharp,
whose favorite she was, Christie got promoted sooner than she
otherwise would have been.
A great Christmas spectacle was brought out the next season, and
Christie had a good part in it. When that was over she thought there
was no hope for her, as the regular company was full and a different
sort of performance was to begin. But just then her chance came, and
she "grabbed it." The first soubrette died suddenly, and in the
emergency Mr. Sharp offered the place to Christie till he could fill
it to his mind. Lucy was second soubrette, and had hoped for this
promotion; but Lucy did not sing well. Christie had a good voice,
had taken lessons and much improved of late, so she had the
preference and resolved to stand the test so well that this
temporary elevation should become permanent.
She did her best, and though many of the parts were distasteful to
her she got through them successfully, while now and then she had
one which she thoroughly enjoyed. Her Tilly Slowboy was a hit, and a
proud girl was Christie when Kent, the comedian, congratulated her
on it, and told her he had seldom seen it better done.
To find favor in Kent’s eyes was an honor indeed, for he belonged to
the old school, and rarely condescended to praise modern actors. His
own style was so admirable that he was justly considered the first
comedian in the country, and was the pride and mainstay of the old
theatre where he had played for years. Of course he possessed much
influence in that little world, and being a kindly man used it
generously to help up any young aspirant who seemed to him
He had observed Christie, attracted by her intelligent face and
modest manners, for in spite of her youth there was a native
refinement about her that made it impossible for her to romp and
flirt as some of her mates did. But till she played Tilly he had not
thought she possessed any talent. That pleased him, and seeing how
much she valued his praise, and was flattered by his notice, he gave
her the wise but unpalatable advice always offered young actors.
Finding that she accepted it, was willing to study hard, work
faithfully, and wait patiently, he predicted that in time she would
make a clever actress, never a great one.
Of course Christie thought he was mistaken, and secretly resolved to
prove him a false prophet by the triumphs of her career. But she
meekly bowed to his opinion; this docility pleased him, and he took
a paternal sort of interest in her, which, coming from the powerful
favorite, did her good service with the higher powers, and helped
her on more rapidly than years of meritorious effort.
Toward the end of that second season several of Dickens’s dramatized
novels were played, and Christie earned fresh laurels. She loved
those books, and seemed by instinct to understand and personate the
humor and pathos of many of those grotesque creations. Believing she
had little beauty to sacrifice, she dressed such parts to the life,
and played them with a spirit and ease that surprised those who had
considered her a dignified and rather dull young person.
"I’ll tell you what it is, Sharp, that girl is going to make a
capital character actress. When her parts suit, she forgets herself
entirely and does admirably well. Her Miggs was nearly the death of
me to-night. She’s got that one gift, and it’s a good one. You ‘d
better give her a chance, for I think she’ll be a credit to the old
Kent said that, – Christie heard it, and flew to Lucy, waving Miggs’s
cap for joy as she told the news.
"What did Mr. Sharp say?" asked Lucy, turning round with her face
half "made up."
"He merely said ‘Hum,’ and smiled. Wasn’t that a good sign?" said
"Can’t say," and Lucy touched up her eyebrows as if she took no
interest in the affair.
Christie’s face fell, and her heart sunk at the thought of failure;
but she kept up her spirits by working harder than ever, and soon
had her reward. Mr. Sharp’s "Hum" did mean yes, and the next season
she was regularly engaged, with a salary of thirty dollars a week.
It was a grand step, and knowing that she owed it to Kent, Christie
did her utmost to show that she deserved his good opinion. New
trials and temptations beset her now, but hard work and an innocent
nature kept her safe and busy. Obstacles only spurred her on to
redoubled exertion, and whether she did well or ill, was praised or
blamed, she found a never-failing excitement in her attempts to
reach the standard of perfection she had set up for herself. Kent
did not regret his patronage. Mr. Sharp was satisfied with the
success of the experiment, and Christie soon became a favorite in a
small way, because behind the actress the public always saw a woman
who never "forgot the modesty of nature."
But as she grew prosperous in outward things, Christie found herself
burdened with a private cross that tried her very much. Lucy was no
longer her friend; something had come between them, and a steadily
increasing coldness took the place of the confidence and affection
which had once existed. Lucy was jealous for Christie had passed her
in the race. She knew she could not fill the place Christie had
gained by favor, and now held by her own exertions, still she was
bitterly envious, though ashamed to own it.
Christie tried to be just and gentle, to prove her gratitude to her
first friend, and to show that her heart was unchanged. But she
failed to win Lucy back and felt herself injured by such unjust
resentment. Mrs. Black took her daughter’s part, and though they
preserved the peace outwardly the old friendliness was quite gone.
Hoping to forget this trouble in excitement Christie gave herself
entirely to her profession, finding in it a satisfaction which for a
time consoled her.
But gradually she underwent the sorrowful change which comes to
strong natures when they wrong themselves through ignorance or
Pride and native integrity kept her from the worst temptations of
such a life, but to the lesser ones she yielded, growing selfish,
frivolous, and vain, – intent on her own advancement, and careless by
what means she reached it. She had no thought now beyond her art, no
desire beyond the commendation of those whose opinion was
serviceable, no care for any one but herself.
Her love of admiration grew by what it fed on, till the sound of
applause became the sweetest music to her ear. She rose with this
hope, lay down with this satisfaction, and month after month passed
in this feverish life, with no wish to change it, but a growing
appetite for its unsatisfactory delights, an ever-increasing
forgetfulness of any higher aspiration than dramatic fame.
"Give me joy, Lucy, I’m to have a benefit next week! Everybody else
has had one, and I’ve played for them all, so no one seemed to
begrudge me my turn when dear old Kent proposed it," said Christie,
coming in one night still flushed and excited with the good news.
"What shall you have?" asked Lucy, trying to look pleased, and
"’Masks and Faces.’ I’ve always wanted to play Peg. and it has good
parts for you and Kent, and St. George I chose it for that reason,
for I shall need all the help I can get to pull me through, I dare
The smile vanished entirely at this speech, and Christie was
suddenly seized with a suspicion that Lucy was not only jealous of
her as an actress, but as a woman. St. George was a comely young
actor who usually played lovers’ parts with Christie, and played
them very well, too, being possessed of much talent, and a
gentleman. They had never thought of falling in love with each
other, though St. George wooed and won Christie night after night in
vaudeville and farce. But it was very easy to imagine that so much
mock passion had a basis of truth, and Lucy evidently tormented
herself with this belief.
"Why didn’t you choose Juliet: St. George would do Romeo so well?"
said Lucy, with a sneer.
"No, that is beyond me. Kent says Shakespeare will never be my line,
and I believe him. I should think you’d be satisfied with ‘Masks and
Faces,’ for you know Mabel gets her husband safely back in the end,"
answered Christie, watching the effect of her words.
"As if I wanted the man! No, thank you, other people’s leavings
won’t suit me," cried Lucy, tossing her head, though her face belied
"Not even though he has ‘heavenly eyes,’ ‘distracting legs,’ and ‘a
melting voice?’" asked Christie maliciously, quoting Lucy’s own
rapturous speeches when the new actor came.
"Come, come, girls, don’t quarrel. I won’t ‘ave it in me room.
Lucy’s tired to death, and it’s not nice of you, Kitty, to come and
crow over her this way," said Mamma Black, coming to the rescue, for
Lucy was in tears, and Christie looking dangerous.
"It’s impossible to please you, so I’ll say good-night," and
Christie went to her room with resentment burning hotly in her
As she crossed the chamber her eye fell on her own figure reflected
in the long glass, and with a sudden impulse she tinned up the gas,
wiped the rouge from her cheeks, pushed back her hair, and studied
her own face intently for several moments. It was pale and jaded
now, and all its freshness seemed gone; hard lines had come about
the mouth, a feverish disquiet filled the eyes, and on the forehead
seemed to lie the shadow of a discontent that saddened the whole
face. If one could believe the testimony of that countenance things
were not going well with Christie, and she owned it with a regretful
sigh, as she asked herself, "Am I what I hoped I should be? No, and
it is my fault. If three years of this life have made me this, what
shall I be in ten? A fine actress perhaps, but how good a woman?"
With gloomy eyes fixed on her altered face she stood a moment
struggling with herself. Then the hard look returned, and she spoke
out defiantly, as if in answer to some warning voice within herself.
"No one cares what I am, so why care myself? Why not go on and get
as much fame as I can? Success gives me power if it cannot give me
happiness, and I must have some reward for my hard work. Yes! a gay
life and a short one, then out with the lights and down with the
But in spite of her reckless words Christie sobbed herself to sleep
that night like a child who knows it is astray, yet cannot see the
right path or hear its mother’s voice calling it home.
On the night of the benefit, Lucy was in a most exasperating mood,
Christie in a very indignant one, and as they entered their
dressing-room they looked as if they might have played the Rival
Queens with great effect. Lucy offered no help and Christie asked
none, but putting her vexation resolutely out of sight fixed her
mind on the task before her.
As the pleasant stir began all about her, actress-like, she felt her
spirits rise, her courage increase with every curl she fastened up,
every gay garment she put on, and soon smiled approvingly at
herself, for excitement lent her cheeks a better color than rouge,
her eyes shone with satisfaction, and her heart beat high with the
resolve to make a hit or die.
Christie needed encouragement that night, and found it in the hearty
welcome that greeted her, and the full house, which proved how kind
a regard was entertained for her by many who knew her only by a
fictitious name. She felt this deeply, and it helped her much, for
she was vexed with many trials those before the footlights knew
The other players were full of kindly interest in her success, but
Lucy took a naughty satisfaction in harassing her by all the small
slights and unanswerable provocations which one actress has it in
her power to inflict upon another.
Christie was fretted almost beyond endurance, and retaliated by an
ominous frown when her position allowed, threatening asides when a
moment’s by-play favored their delivery, and angry protests whenever
she met Lucy off the stage.
But in spite of all annoyances she had never played better in her
life. She liked the part, and acted the warm-hearted, quick-witted,
sharp-tongued Peg with a spirit and grace that surprised even those
who knew her best. Especially good was she in the scenes with
Triplet, for Kent played the part admirably, and cheered her on with
many an encouraging look and word. Anxious to do honor to her patron
and friend she threw her whole heart into the work; in the scene
where she comes like a good angel to the home of the poor
play-wright, she brought tears to the eyes of her audience; and when
at her command Triplet strikes up a jig to amuse the children she
"covered the buckle" in gallant style, dancing with all the
frolicsome abandon of the Irish orange-girl who for a moment forgot
her grandeur and her grief.
That scene was her best, for it is full of those touches of nature
that need very little art to make them effective; and when a great
bouquet fell with a thump at Christie’s feet, as she paused to bow
her thanks for an encore, she felt that she had reached the height
of earthly bliss.
In the studio scene Lucy seemed suddenly gifted with unsuspected
skill; for when Mabel kneels to the picture, praying her rival to
give her back her husband’s heart, Christie was amazed to see real
tears roll down Lucy’s cheeks, and to hear real love and longing
thrill her trembling words with sudden power and passion.
"That is not acting. She does love St. George, and thinks I mean to
keep him from her. Poor dear! I’ll tell her all about it to-night,
and set her heart at rest," thought Christie; and when Peg left the
frame, her face expressed the genuine pity that she felt, and her
voice was beautifully tender as she promised to restore the stolen
Lucy felt comforted without knowing why, and the piece went smoothly
on to its last scene. Peg was just relinquishing the repentant
husband to his forgiving wife with those brave words of hers, when a
rending sound above their heads made all look up and start back; all
but Lucy, who stood bewildered. Christie’s quick eye saw the
impending danger, and with a sudden spring she caught her friend
from it. It was only a second’s work, but it cost her much; for in
the act, down crashed one of the mechanical contrivances used in a
late spectacle, and in its fall stretched Christie stunned and
senseless on the stage.
A swift uprising filled the house with tumult; a crowd of actors
hurried forward, and the panic-stricken audience caught glimpses of
poor Peg lying mute and pallid in Mabel’s arms, while Vane wrung his
hands, and Triplet audibly demanded, "Why the devil somebody didn’t
go for a doctor?"
Then a brilliant view of Mount Parnassus, with Apollo and the Nine
Muses in full blast, shut the scene from sight, and soon Mr. Sharp
appeared to ask their patience till the after-piece was ready, for
Miss Douglas was too much injured to appear again. And with an
unwonted expression of feeling, the little man alluded to "the
generous act which perhaps had changed the comedy to a tragedy and
robbed the beneficiary of her well-earned reward at their hands."
All had seen the impulsive spring toward, not from, the danger, and
this unpremeditated action won heartier applause than Christie ever
had received for her best rendering of more heroic deeds.
But she did not hear the cordial round they gave her. She had said
she would "make a hit or die;" and just then it seemed as if she had
done both, for she was deaf and blind to the admiration and the
sympathy bestowed upon her as the curtain fell on the first, last
benefit she ever was to have.