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PROLOGUE.

That awful look of soul rending despair in Juliet's eyes, as, with her hand on his heart, she realized that her Romeo was dead in her arms, held me as a bird is held by the eyes of a snake. Even when I saw her plunge the dagger into her breaking heart and when she had fallen prone and lifeless over his body, those eyes, in that one dreadful moment of realization haunted me until the curtain, slowly descending, hid them from my view.

I sat as one stunned; and my aunt gently shook my arm, as she gathered up our wraps and said the play was over and we must prepare to leave the theatre. All about us, voices were buzzing common place phrases such as:

"Wasn't it good?" "Isn't she fine?" "She's all right." "Grand play.” “I always did like that Shakespeare.' But every new prosaic expression irritated more than the last, and I was glad to break from my lethargy and hurry with my people to the open air, where I breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally out of hearing and on the quiet road which led towards home. Aunt Julia and Uncle Neil, who always designated me as “that queer child,” now evidently felt I was in one of my silent moods and had the good grace to say no word during our homeward ride, and I sank back in the family carryall and communed joyously with my enthralled, enraptured senses.

For the first time since my good relatives had taken me, a poor orphan, to their peaceful, unpretentious home, a really great actress had visited our small city. We had heard so much about her for years, it seemed to me, that our town's people loyally turned out in a full house to do her homage. I had been something of a student of the old classics, but never had I had the opportunity of seeing one presented on the stage, and to-night, this great celebrity had given us immortal Shakespeare's Juliet. I had lived with this sweet Italian, lovelorn maiden, in my imagination, since childhood, and to-night, she stood before me in flesh and blood; palpitating with all the life and passion her great creator had bestowed upon her. I lived with her in Verona; I laughed, I danced, I loved, I suffered there; nay, I lived not with her, but as herself; her soul was mine, and all her wild emotions.

All night through I lived the scenes over again and again. The lights that dazzled the eye now danced before me; in a brilliant pageant those gorgeous costumes of the medieval period, worn with such picturesque grace by these lords and ladies great, moved again before my greedy eyes; the strange musical sound of the voices, as the rich blank verse came trippingly from their tongues, surged in my enchanted ears like the magic music of the sea.

And Verona's fairest daughter: how full of grace and beauty; how lovely even in her sorrow! how gaily she danced; how sweetly she loved; how nobly she died for love. It was as the breath of a new life to me, such a sensation as one might receive if he could be suddenly transported to another planet and find there all his youthful fancies of fairies and genii fully realized. I dreaded to have the morning break, lest the prosaic day would drive the dream pictures from my mind.

Then, slowly, I lost Juliet in the personality of the woman who had interpreted her, and vaguely I found myself wondering if she were really a human being like my everyday self. If so, what must be her bliss, her exaltation each night to live that beautiful heroine's life, feeling her joys and sorrows anew, and, above all, knowing a vast throng was listening with beating, throbbing hearts, pulsating in sympathy with her every word. Oh, what must not be the glory of such a calling! Here was not only the exquisite pleasure of expressing the character's emotions amid poetic environment, but also that of swaying a multitude, of making a great throng laugh, cry, feel, live with you; it must indeed be the ascending of all transcendental spheres.

To breakfast next morning was to wound my soaring spirit; so, putting on a soft white gown, after I had perfunctorily aided in the morning duties about the house and taking the Shakespeare from its shelf in the dark parlor, I slipped down to the meadow where stood a great, lone horse-chestnut tree just beginning to leaf, with a sweet little brook trickling roguishly at its feet. The brook should be my audience; the tree my scenery; and the soft green sward my stage; and I would be "Juliet" in all her lovely expression of life, and try the sensations of the artist.

I found I scarcely needed the book to prompt me, so often had I read the beautiful verse, and gathering a bunch of early wild flowers, I made my entrance into the great old raftered hall and sank at my mother's feet. The people of Verona were soon about me, their voices answering me in Shakespeare's lofty lines; and soon I was tripping the minuet, making up what steps I could not remember as they had been danced the night before, and profoundly bowing to my partner of air and imagination with every third or fourth beat as I hummed the stately Mozart Melody.

I met Romeo. Our eyes read each other's hearts, and I dropped my bouquet of cowslips. I was compelled to pick it up myself, as my airy partner failed to do his share, but imagination made my hands his; I gave him the gentle encouraging look that the lady of the performance had bestowed upon this cavalier, and he followed me to the balcony of our baronial hall. We spoke together the dialogue of the Pilgrim's kiss, and the good old nurse called me away. I next begged of her the names of our visitors, and she sounded the first note of sorrow to my heart when she brought me word that my stranger was of the house of my great enemy.

I mooned and sighed on the Capulet balcony, the elevation being indicated by standing upon a particularly inviting and well-knarled root which protruded from the ground at the foot of the tree.

At last I become lost in my impersonation. The brook, the sward, the tree, all vanish. I am in Capulet's house; my gown is long and clinging; the room I stand in, old and atmospheric. The soft glow from a massive fireplace falls half way across the heavily carpeted floor, and at the window a soft blue light, just tinged with amber, tells of the breaking day. My love is leaving me, banished from Verona by its cruel Prince, yet I cannot let him go. He must "write to me every day, every hour, for in a minute there are many days." Clinging to him, I feel him slip from my arms and descend the slender rope ladder, and then I lose even sight of him as he is hidden by the brush and flowers in the garden below. My mother is standing near me now and tells me of another marriage I must make. She knows not why I refuse, but my heart will not let me be untrue. My father storms and rails; I try to plead; but he is obdurate. I fly for comfort to my ghostly confessor, and he gives me the first ray of light my grief clouded senses have known since the awful sentence has been passed upon my Romeo. I hasten home to take the sleeping draught he has prepared, out of whose stupor I am to awake and find my true love near me; but

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