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NO NAME.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "THE WOMAN IN WHITE," &c.
CHAPTER V.

Mr. Vanstone's inquiries into the proposed
theatrical entertainment at Evergreen Lodge
were answered by a narrative of dramatic
disasters; of which Miss Marrable impersonated
the innocent cause, and in which her father and
mother played the parts of chief victims.

Miss Marrable was that hardest of all born
tyrantsan only child. She had never granted
a constitutional privilege to her oppressed father
and mother, since the time when she cut her first
tooth. Her seventeenth birthday was now near
at hand; she had decided on celebrating it by
acting a play; had issued her orders accordingly;
and had been obeyed by her docile parents as
implicitly as usual. Mrs. Marrable gave up the
drawing-room to be laid waste for a stage and a
theatre. Mr. Marrable secured the services of a
respectable professional person to drill the young
ladies and gentlemen, and to accept all the other
responsibilities, incidental to creating a dramatic
world out of a domestic chaos. Having further
accustomed themselves to the breaking of
furniture and the staining of wallsto thumping,
tumbling, hammering, and screaming; to doors
always banging, and to footsteps perpetually
running up and down stairsthe nominal master
and mistress of the house fondly believed that
their chief troubles were over. Innocent and
fatal delusion! It is one thing, in private society,
to set up the stage and choose the playit is
another thing altogether, to find the actors.
Hitherto, only the small preliminary annoyances
proper to the occasion, had shown themselves
at Evergreen Lodge. The sound and serious
troubles were all to come.

"The Rivals" having been chosen as the
play, Miss Marrable, as a matter of course,
appropriated to herself the part of "Lydia
Languish." One of her favoured swains next secured
"Captain Absolute," and another laid violent
hands on " Sir Lucius O'Trigger." These two
were followed by an accommodating spinster-relative,
who accepted the heavy dramatic responsibility
of " Mrs. Malaprop"—and there, the
theatrical proceedings came to a pause. Nine
more speaking characters were left to be fitted
with representatives; and with that unavoidable
necessity the serious troubles began.

All the friends of the family suddenly became
unreliable people, for the first time in their lives.
After encouraging the idea of the play, they
declined the personal sacrifice of acting in itor,
they accepted characters, and then broke down in
the effort to study themor they volunteered to
take the parts which they knew were already
engaged, and declined the parts which were waiting
to be actedor they were afflicted with weak
constitutions, and mischievously fell ill when they
were wanted at rehearsalor they had Puritan
relatives in the background, and, after slipping into
their parts cheerfully at the week's beginning,
oozed out of them penitently, under serious
family pressure, at the week's end. Meanwhile,
the carpenters hammered and the scenes rose.
Miss Marrable, whose temperament was sensitive,
became hysterical under the strain of perpetual
anxiety; the family doctor declined to
answer for the nervous consequences if something
was not done. Renewed efforts were made in every
direction. Actors and actresses were sought,
with a desperate disregard of all considerations
of personal fitness. Necessity which knows no
law, either in the drama or out of it, accepted a
lad of eighteen as the representative of "Sir
Antony Absolute;" the stage-manager
undertaking to supply the necessary wrinkles from the
illimitable resources of theatrical art. A lady
whose age was unknown, and whose personal
appearance was stoutbut whose heart was in the
right placevolunteered to act the part of the
sentimental "Julia," and brought with her the
dramatic qualification of habitually wearing a
wig in private life. Thanks to these vigorous
measures, the play was at last supplied with
representativesalways excepting the two
unmanageable characters of "Lucy" the waiting-
maid, and " Falkland," Julia's jealous lover.
Gentlemen came; saw Julia at rehearsal;
observed her stoutness and her wig; omitted to
notice that her heart was in the right place;
quailed at the prospect, apologised, and retired.
Ladies read the part of " Lucy;" remarked that
she appeared to great advantage in the first half
of the play, and faded out of it altogether in the
latter half; objected to pass from the notice of
the audience in that manner, when all the rest had
a chance of distinguishing themselves to the
end; shut up the book, apologised, and retired.

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