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CHAPTER III.

ence.

Light in which Mr. Belion regarded his Company and his Audi

A Conscientious Manager. An Inexplicable but very General Hallucination. Stella's Interview with Mr. Belton.

A Wished-for Result. Explanations and Stipulations. An Important Item forgotten by the Dramatic Candidate. Prosaic Business Arrangements. An Engagement. The Contract. - Ten Days before the Débût.-- Cabalistic Words of the First Call." --Stella's Irresistible Entreaties to her Tutor.

The Novice's First Rehearsal. --- Aspect behind the Scenes. - Illusions Dissolved. - Mr. Allsop, the Prompter. Fisk, the Call-Boy. - Fantasticalities of Fisk. Stella's Perturbation. - Formal Introductions. Virginius Rehearsed. Sena sations of the Novice. - The Manager's Command. - Dem rision of Actors. - Wavering. - The Alternative. Decision before it is too Late. --- A New and Convenient Style of Declamation. - Romance Dethroned. The Nimble-tongued Icilius.

Dentatus on Crutches. A High-spirited Girl Metamorphosed into a Conscious Automaton. -- Mrs. Fairfax.Heavenly Music of Sympathy. Theatrical Formalities at an End. --- Fisk's Oracular Decision. The Novice Disheartened. " Feathers of Lead."

MR. BELTON was not a manager of ordinary stamp. The mania of speculation, with which the larger numbers of his confrères were afflicted, had not lured him into becoming the autocrat of a theatre. A genuine passion for the profession, a desire to promote its interests, combined, perhaps, with a natural love of rule, rendered him a theatrical lessee. He looked upon the members of his company as an incongruous family circle, of which he was the allpotent head. He regarded his audiences as a bevy of captious friends, whom he condescended to amuse and instruct. He took pleasure in noticing the same well-known faces nightly scattered through his boxes. One cluster of venerable habitués, who congregated in the stage-box, he invariably watched. Through their approval of or dissent to a performance, his judgments were silently swayed. He comprehended and revered the social influence of the drama. He was conscientious, and never intentionally ministered to a meretricious or vitiated taste.

In his disbursements Mr. Belton was strictly economical, but as rigidly just. The salaries he allowed were not large, but they were always certain. His company was, perhaps, too limited, but its members labored amicably and indefatigably. Some of the subordinates rejoiced in two sets of cognomens on the bills, and were adepts in doubling characters; but it was the unanimous opinion that double duty, under Mr. Belton's management, was lighter than single duty in more pretentious establishments, where less system and justice reigned.

It was almost a misfortune for Mr. Belton that he was endowed with histrionic talent. In common with the generality of actors, he mistook his own forte As a comedian he would have shone preëminent. His rotund figure, jolly face, the merry twinkle of his eye, the bonhommie of his whole manner, peculiarly fitted him for humorous personations. But Mr. Belton detested comedy. High tragedy was his aspiration. He would rather have been hissed as Lear than applauded as Dogberry.

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As he was sole arbitrator in his theatre, no one could remonstrate against his assumption of the tragic heroes; that is to say, no one but the audience, and they now and then availed themselves of the privilege. When the sound of merriment greeted his ears, instead of an expected burst of applause, Mr. Belton gravely asked “what the people could be laughing at."

"Ah, well I” he would console himself by saying, "we must educate our audiences until they comprehend us; nothing like elevating an audience to one's own standard. Besides, they have been so much accustomed to laugh when I intended to be funny, that they never understand me when I show them how high tragedy ought to be acted."

The decease of Miss Talbot had left in the theatre a vacancy difficult to be filled. Mr. Belton was sitting in his office, searching the morning papers for favorable notices, when he was informed that several ladies had called in answer to his advertisement.

"Show them up, one at a time; first come first served, remember ;

a fair chance for all.” Then, as the messenger left the room, he added, “There 'll be no contenting the public, no matter whom I engage. They'll be sure to say she can't step into the shoes of poor Lydia.”

Three young dramatic aspirants, in turn, obtained an interview. All three passed out of the theatre with downcast countenances. Stella, accompanied as usual by her attendant, was now ushered into the presence of Mr. Belton. She was prepared to encounter a second edition of Mr. Grimshaw. Mr. Belton's courteous reception and gentlemanlike bear

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ing quickly placed her at ease. She briefly made known her wishes. Mr. Belton listened with an air of interest. He requested her to read. With prompt self-possession she delivered the animated dialogue which takes place from Juliet's moonlighted balcony, between the lovers of Verona.

Mr. Belton's countenance expressed more than he framed into language. Managerial policy is chary of praise. He allowed her to resume her seat in silence. His internal ejaculation was, “How fortunate! She has unquestionable talent - grace, freshness, beauty; she may perhaps replace our Lydia !"

“You have probably no idea, Miss Rosenvelt, of the arduous duties incumbent upon every member of this profession. Histrionic eminence is not compatible with a life of ease and pleasure.

I know something of the mode of life, sir; my brother is an actor."

" Still it is better that we should understand each other. My company say that they work harder than any other ; - perhaps they do. If you engage with me, I shall expect your energies to be at my command. You may be disheartened, at first, at the amount of study requisite. Then I cast all plays myself, and allow no dictation, though I endeavor to be just. I permit no refusing of parts, -no contention about the manner in which the names shall appear upon the bills. The interests of my company are my interests, and that must content them.

"I think there will be no difficulty, sir."

" Then I will make you the offer of a trial engagement. Mr. Tennent commences with me on Monday

next. Miss Talbot was to have supported him. You can occupy her place. But I warn you that the public will demand a great deal from any successor of hers. Your name shall appear second to Mr. Tennent's at the head of the bills. If you succeed, you can keep it there. If you make a great hit, and sustain it by after performances, your name,

in time, will be placed first. Your line of business will, of course, be juvenile tragedy and comedy. Occasionally you may be called upon to attempt heavy tragedy ; -- that depends upon the plays which Mr. Tennent selects. I will keep you out of afterpieces for a while ; but you must prepare yourself to appear in them when you are a little more familiar with the

stage.

Stella could with difficulty conceal a rush of tumultuous emotions as she asked, " In what character am I to make my débût ?"

Mr. Belton referred to Mr. Tennent's last letter. "First night, Virginius ; second night, Othello.' Good,--you will make your débût in Virginia, and the next night appear in Desdemona. That will do admirably. Your powers will not be too severely taxed. You will not be overweighted at the first start. You will gradually become accustomed to the footlights. Perhaps you are not aware of their terrifying effect upon novices ?"

"I scarcely think I shall feel alarmed," said Stella, confidently. "Could you favor me with a list of the other characters which I shall be required to study?"

"Mr. Tennent has only selected his plays for the two first nights. He acts with me for one fortnight.

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