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entering St. John's Wood chapel together. Those who know anything of the gossip of a theatre, can imagine the story which was constructed out of these slight materials.
It was Christmas Eve-or rather the morning preceding Christmas Day; and, as Cora was to be out of the bill' during the run of the forthcoming pantomime, she had no business to call her to the theatre, and had gone there→ fore to take a walk in the park adjoining. The season' was made the excuse by Captain Smoucher, and three or four other men of his kidney, to make morning calls at Cora's house, and, as she was from home, leaving sundry Christmas gifts for her accep
Grace, Cora's maid, smiled as she received these presents, and the silly compliments which accompanied them, and told her cousin, Sally-who had called to wish her a merry Christmas and have a glass of hot elder winewhat labour in vain the poor fellows were taking.
Come up into the drawing-room, and see what we've got this morning,' said Grace to her cousin. 'Here's presents enough to set up a stall in the Soho Bazaar, and yet I'll be bound missus will scarcely notice one of them. She's a strange whimsical creature; very hasty, but very kind-hearted; and I should be happy enough if I thought we were quite respectableMr. Charleston, for instance. It's an odd way of wooing, to accompany every note with an arm-chair, a sofa, a piano; yet that's the way with him, and mistress receives them as a matter of course. He is always about the theatre; walks or rides home with us; stays to supper lately I hardly know what to do.'
'It certainly does look odd,' observed Grace's cousin; but I don't see what you can do but give warning.'
'I'm not willing to do that,' replied Grace: mine's a good place, and I never see any harm going on. Here, look at this!' and she pointed to a Tonbridge-ware box, with a view of the Pavilion at Brighton painted on the top. I wonder why this rubbishy box is allowed a place upon the drawing-room table. A view of the Pavilion at Brighton-that's a novelty!'
A double knock at the door took Grace to the window.
'Here she is from her morning constitutional, as she calls it., Run up to my room, Sally.' And Sally made a hasty retreat.
Cora came in from her walk in the
fresh frosty air, her lovely cheeks all aglow from the exercise.
Such a delicious morning, Grace,' she said, throwing her small sable muff upon the sofa. I declare I could have walked for another hour. O, you've had callers, I see,' as Captain Smoucher's flowers and packet caught her eye: who has been?'
'Captain Smoucher, ma'am,' replied Grace, 'called, and left them flowers and parcel,' opening the latter, and displaying a pretty sandal-wood box, filled with Paris gloves.
'What an oaf the man is!' exclaimed Cora; and then muttered, 'O Henry! when am I to be rescued from these insults? Here, Grace, take away these gloves and this box.'
'Not this beautiful box?' asked Grace, in surprise: 'surely, madam, it might take the place of this old one.'
Cora, clasping the despised Tonbridgeware in both her hands, exclaimed,
"That was the first treasure of my girlhood, and now contains what I prize more than all the jewels I possess. Some day, Grace, you shall see its contents-and that soon, very soon, I hope.' She paused for a moment, and then added, Has Mr. Reynolds sent back the picture?'
The portrait of your mother?-no, madam,' replied Grace. He has had
it long enough, I'm sure; he walks in and out of this house
'Grace' interrupted her mistress, "Mr. Reynolds is a most dear friend -a true friend; not like Captain Smoucher and his tribe. One word for all, Grace, Mr. Reynolds is as dear to me as a brother, and I request you to treat him with proper respect.'
'I am sure, madam, I am polite to every one, even to the artists and authors who call to see you,' replied Grace. O, how I wish I was a great actress !'
'Indeed!-you envy me?' asked
Not with a bad envy,' replied Grace; 'but when you are kind enough to let me go in front, and I see you act, and hear the audience applaud, I could ery with-with admiration.'
'Yes,' said Cora, looking at herself in the glass, there are times when an actress is to be envied; when by her individual power she holds in thrall the minds of hundreds, and makes them for a time real partakers in her mimic joys or sorrows. It is a great reward to know that her art often cheats the sorrowing of their cares, and lightens the burthen of the heavy-laden.'
'O madam, pray go on ma'am !' said
Grace; it's quite like being at the theatre.'
Grace's observation reminded Cora that she was acting a little in private; and so, with a slight tinge of a blush on her cheek, she said,
Those are her triumphs, Grace; somewhat dearly purchased by the illconstruction which generally follows her from the stage-door. Take away my things.'
Cora went to the window and looked out. It was charming weather-cold and dry, the air quite exhilarating. That's right, old fellows,' she thought, as two men met in the street; 'shake each other again by the hand, as though you really meant the good wishes you are uttering. There's a bunch of holly and a bough of mistletoe! Well, if a kiss is had beneath it for every berry upon it, there will be a merry Christmas somewhere.'
But a private cab stopping at the door set Cora's heart beating wildly, and drove all other thoughts out of her head but one-and that was of Henry Charleston, who, seeing her at the window, could not refrain kissing his hand to her, despite the publicity of the street.
When he entered the drawing-room where she was, Cora ran to him and embraced him silently for a few moments before she could speak, and then she could only say, 'Dear Henry !'
A few earnest words-and perhaps something more-passed between them, and then they sat down beside each other on the sofa.
'Been shopping, I see,' said Charleston, pointing to the odds and ends on the table, which Grace had not removed.
'O dear, no; those are all from my admirers and your rivals,' replied Cora, laughing.
Like their impudence to admire you,' said Charleston, smiling gravely.
Who set them the bad example but you, Mr. Henry Charleston?-and who but you can free me from their intrusion?' answered Cora.
'Now! now! now!' said Charleston, holding up his finger.
There! there! I won't say another word on the subject,' replied Cora, imitating the action; so tell me all about the Bulls and the Bears and the Lame Ducks in that wonderful menagerie of yours in Capel Court; and, by-the-by, you have not said what you wish tomorrow for dinner.'
'To-morrow?-to-morrow is Christ
shall we have?-a turkey, of course? asked Cora.
My dear girl, to-morrow is Christmas Day; and it will be impossible for me to dine with you,' replied Charleston, 'What, Henry?
'My sister and my mother have never dined without me
'Your sister and your mother!—am I never to be considered?' said Cora, angrily, walking to the window.
'My sister is the kindest and dearest one man ever had; and you will say so some day,' replied Charleston.
'Some day! I have waited for its dawn some time, Henry,' said Cora, seating herself at the table.
'Have I not described my mother's character often to you, dearest? Reared with the narrow prejudices of a city wife of fifty years ago, she looks upon the stage and its professors with
'Contempt,' said Cora. Is it right that you-you encourage her in such a feeling?'
'I fear she is too old to change, Cora,' replied Charleston; 'I say, I fear, not that I despair of removing her prejudice. But she would possibly leave me a comparative beggar did she know-I mean, did she suspect'
That I had claims upon you equal to her own?' said Cora, quietly. I request that you recognize them by dining here to-morrow. Write at once.'
'Cora, you do not know my mother,' replied "Charleston. She is proud of her position; used to obedience; and I and my sister are to her the same little children who obeyed her commands twenty years ago. I must dine with her.'
No-I beg of you-pray to you not to refuse me,' said Cora, with a strange earnestness. 'You have professed to love me I have believed you-do be lieve so now. You will stay-I wish it -call it a caprice-what you will, but stay! You will? won't you?'
You cannot doubt my love,' replied Charleston; but you are unreason. able.'
'Unreasonable! Look here!" said Cora, pointing to the things upon the table; any man thinks he has a right to-believe me what he will-to intrude upon my privacy-to write any fulsome lies he pleases, because I have not concealed my love for you. Henry, I now insist on what I just now prayed for.' 'Insist!'
"Yes! If you pass that door without a promise to return to-morrow, I will never see you more!' exclaimed Cora.
'Are you mad?' asked Charleston.
'Will you come? say yes or no.' Cora, all I have is yours, but-my mother-I obey her.'
Then go go at once,' said Cora, stamping her pretty foot upon the ground.
Charleston regarded her for a moment, and then, covering his face with his hands, left the room.
Cora's anger was roused, and the spoiled beauty paced up and down the room for some minutes.
But for the promise which I have given him, I would present myself tomorrow and demand a seat at his mother's table,' said Cora, aloud.
Without having any definite object in doing so, she rung the bell, and Grace, after a second summons, appeared, partly dressed to go abroad.
What's this mean? Going out?' asked Cora, surprised.
Yes, madam!' answered Grace, 'as you were kind enough to give me permission to go home this afternoon and remain until the day after to-morrow.'
'You can't go!' said Cora.
'O madam! we always dine at home on Christmas Day."
Ah! you have a home! This with all its glitter is not a home-it is a prison! You shall visit your friends some other day; to-morrow, you stay with me.'
'O madam !'
What! refuse me-refuse what a hundred people covet?' asked Cora, red with anger.
'Not to-morrow-please, madam, I would not offend you,' said Grace.
'But you do you cannot go l' exclaimed Cora, more angrily.
Then I am very sorry, but I-you force me to say it-I must go ma'am,' said Grace, firmly.
"Then leave the room, go!' exclaimed Cora, as though the footlights burned before her.
'But I may return?' asked Grace, with tears in her eyes.
No! I dismiss you now-ungrateful woman, whom I took from charity,' said the angry Cora.
'O madam, consider one minute.' 'Must I ring for some one to show you from the room?'
Poor Grace left the room wondering what had come to her mistress, who, though petulant and whimsical at times, had never yet proved so utterly unkind and unreasonable.
It was some time before Cora's anger subsided, and then came the sweet relief of tears,' and she grew calm.
She had hardly recovered her usual equanimity when the door opened, and
her old friend Reynolds-as was his wont-came in unannounced, bringing with him the portrait of Mrs. Melville, which he had taken home to varnish, and repair some damage it had sustained.
'Good-day, Cora,' he said. I have brought home the portrait of your mother at last, restored by the pencil of friendship. - Halloo! you are crying!'
No, no!' answered Cora, but her eyes instantly filled again with tears. 'But I say-yes, yes. What is the matter?'
'Really nothing,' replied Cora.
'People rarely cry for nothing, and you especially,' said Reynolds. Come, let me know all. The mouse once saved the lion, and the poor painter may help the rich actress.'
I am not rich, Reuben, and I don't need help,' replied Cora, hardly knowing what she said.
Yes you do, and I have always had the honour of assisting you in difficulties. I must rub up your memory a little. Do you remember only a few years ago, when the poor little milliner, and poorer, perhaps, painter, used to club their little earnings together to enable them to keep house? You used to find fault with my noses and'eyes, and gorgeous waistcoats, and I found fault with your pothooks and hangers, and made you study hard, little thinking I was educating a great actress.'
'My dear old friend,' said Cora, taking both his hands, and he kissing her forehead.
'Now won't you tell me?' asked Reynolds.
I am almost ashamed-but I am miserable,' answered Cora.
'I knew you were !' said Reynolds. "To-day I have received all kinds of flattering notes, and gifts, and yet the only man I loved, or ever can love, refused
'I am ashamed to say-you'll laugh at me.'
'Well, perhaps that will do us both good,' said Reynolds.
'Then he allows me to dine alone tomorrow-there!'
'I don't laugh, my poor girl,' said, Reynolds, very kindly. I understand. You sha'n't dine alone-you shall dine with me. Mild dinner, but a hearty welcome. My father and mother have come to see me,' said Reynolds.
'But shall I not-shall I not embarrass them?' asked Cora.
'Not in the least,' replied Reynolds; 'we'll do a little acting. I will intro
duce you as the young woman who keeps my rooms in order. You can borrow a cotton dress of your maid, and the thing is done.'
'Capital!' said Cora. 'I shall so enjoy it, I assure you.'
Cora rang the bell, but as no one answered it after some minutes, Reynolds said,
'Your maid does not hurry herself.' 'Ah! I'd forgotten,' replied Cora, blushing; 'I have been out of temper this morning, and dismissed her.'
Then you were wrong, I'll be bound,' said Reynolds.
Grace had not left the house, however, and hearing 'the old familiar bell,' she dried her swollen eyes and came into the room. Cora went to her old servant, and took her hand.
'Grace, you must think no more of what I said just now. Go to your friends. I did not ring to tell you this. I have changed my mind; but go and spend a happy Christmas Day.'
'Why, you've not asked her for a dress,' said Reynolds. My old people, you know, are of what they call a "serious turn," and don't think very favourably of your craft, Cora. You must keep your profession to yourself-in fact, drop the shop, you know.'
And you really intend to call for me to-morrow?' asked Cora.
Of course I do.'
Thanks, dear old friend,' replied Cora, taking his hand again; have proved to me that I am not so forsaken as I thought myself to be. I am an actress, a stage-player, and the prejudices of your parents must be respected by me equally with those of the mother of Henry Charleston. Goodbye my friend-my brother.' It was her turn to kiss his forehead now.
'Cora, you are right. I only thought of your pleasure, you thought of my duty,' said Reynolds.
'Do not praise me, dear friend; I have been wrong more than once today. I have wronged one who loves me, and who had many reasons to regard the happiness of those from whom I would have estranged him. I shall dine alone:
When she had said this, she gave a sharp scream, and no wonder, for the arms of Mr. Henry Charleston were around her, and his warm lips upon her cheek.
'Not alone, dear Cora, not alone!' said that rude gentleman. My dear good sister has told the secret of our marriage to my mother, and her love
has overcome her prejudice, and we dine with her.'
'Hurrah!' cried Reynolds; that's a weight off my mind; for ever since I gave her away, I felt I had committed some enormity, though for the life of me I couldn't make out where was the sin.'
'La! ma'am !' said Grace; 'you married, and me not know on it!
"Yes, Grace, I have been so courageous,' replied Cora, blushing. Now give me that poor old box which you have so much despised. There's the key; open it, and look at the paper you'll find there.'
Grace did as she was ordered, and having opened a small slip of paper read what was thereon inscribed.
'Well I never!' exclaimed Grace. 'Why, if it isn't your marriage lines, ma'am !'
'I told you how precious were its contents to me,' said Cora, looking up fondly into her husband's face.
Mr. Henry Charleston, although there was company present, threw his arms around his beautiful wife, and kissed her three or four times very audibly.*
Old Mrs. Charleston received her daughter-in-law very stiffly at first, but after a time, when she had looked long at Cora's beautiful face, and listened to the music of Cora's voice, and seen her darling disobedient son Henry lay Cora's head upon his bosom as though he could not hold it close enough, the stout old lady burst into a flood of tears, and stretched out her arms to embrace Cora also.
When the manager called at St. John's Wood during the Christmas week to see Miss Melville, he was referred to Cadogan Place, and told to inquire for Mrs. Henry Charleston.
Cora's engagement had only a month to run, and as the pantomime had proved a great success, the manager consented to cancel her obligation to him, and relieve his treasury from the payment of Miss Melville's salary.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Charleston resolved not to be cheated out of their honeymoon, and so they and Mr. Reuben Reynolds went down to see the Morgans, and made them happier than they had been for years-not by the hampers and gifts left behind, but by the knowledge of the happiness which had come about the one-time angel of THE SMALL HOUSE OVER THE WATER.
The latter part of this story is a reminis cence of the French stage.-M. L.
SIR GUY'S GOBLET.
BY ANNIE THOMAS,
AUTHOR OF DENIS DONNE,' 'WALTER GORING,' 'PLAYEɔ OUT,' ETC.
was the second or third day of De
I long period of total abstinence from double-knocking at our door, fell away into moderation, and left us a couple of letters.
We were living alone together, my brother's widow and I, and our interests, and consequently our correspondents, were not numerous. She was my senior by-no matter how many years, but quite enough to render the arrangement a perfectly proper one, even according to the most severe conventional code, although I was unmarried, and still called a girl by verbally well-disposed friends.
My brother had been dead about eighteen months. He had died worn out, broken down, used up-these are several phrases descriptive of the same thing. In plain English, he had 'gone to his death' in the columns of a daily paper-gone to it as unflinchingly, as heroically, as cheerfully as any one of that gallant band who made the neverto-be-too-frequently-quoted charge at Balaclava. But he belonged to a noble army of martyrs whose deeds do not get recorded by laureates; so when he fell down in fighting the hard fight of the daily press, the ranks closed, and nobody missed him-nobody, at least, save his wife and his sister. Very few people seem to be missed when they fall out of their places, however it may be in reality.
It is a fact, and therefore, in the face of all precedent, I will state it, but there had never existed a grain of anything save the kindliest feeling between my sister-in-law and myself. She had never feared my interference.' I had never accused her even in my heart of attempting to alienate Guy's affections from me. The result of this abnegation of the time-honoured rights of sisters-inlaw was, that while Guy lived we all carried on the war merrily and happily; and when Guy died, we decided that it would be very hard for the two who were left to part. She was alone in the world, and I was virtually, though not nominally, alone too. There was an uncle of my mother's alive, to be sure; but he was like my father's crest to me, merely a badge of respectabilitynothing more, to be mentioned in a modulated voice even to myself-a baronet -Sir Guy Pomfret. My mother had
VOL. X.-CHRISTMAS NO.
felt that she was taking almost a liberty in naming her only son after the mighty head of her house. But she had done it, and even dared to apprize him of it -which act of fealty Sir Guy rewarded by sending my brother a little morocco box containing a small embossed silver mug-goblet he called it in his letter; but as it was not capable of containing half-a-pint of anything, we declined using the more pretentious appellation in familiar converse, and it came to be known in the household as 'Guy's Mug.'
Of course we were sitting at our breakfast-table when these two letters arrived. Everybody is sitting at breakfast when letters arrive, in fiction. We were discussing our probable chances of passing a remarkably dreary Christmas, when the girl who served us in our uncomfortable lodgings came in with our letters, which we seized with the eagerness people who have not received a written word for weeks only can feel.
Mine was the shorter, and so was read the sooner of the two; but, short as it was, it was very staggering. It was dated from The Towers, -shire,' and was to the following effect:
'MY DEAR MISS DUNBAR (I was the dear Miss Dunbar),-My father and I were speaking yesterday of a regret we often feel; that we did not see more of your dear mother while she was alive. This misfortune is, however, not to be remedied now' ('hardly,' I thought) but we at least may know each other. We expect a few friends down at Christmas: you must come to us then, as we very much wish to make your acquaintance. Come down on the 23rd, if you can conveniently, by the 11 A.M. train: you will be met at the Playford station. We were extremely sorry to hear of your brother's death. I send this under cover to his lawyer, who is most likely in possession of your address.
'My father desires his kind regards, and joins with me in hoping that we shall soon see you.
In the meantime believe me to be,
The reader will agree with me that this letter from my affectionate cousin, Rachael Pomfret,' an utter stranger even by name to me, must have been