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Read Tales and Novels Volume VII Part 43

Tales and Novels is a Webnovel completed by Maria Edgeworth.
This lightnovel is presently completed.

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Read WebNovel Tales and Novels Volume VII Part 43

“Gently, pretty Pa.s.sionate, and trust to my judgment in future,” putting into her daughter’s hands Mrs. Percy’s note.

“Miss Caroline Percy–sorry–out of her power!–Oh! charming!–a fine escape!” cried Georgiana, delighted. “You may be sure it was for want of the dress, though, mamma.”

“No matter–but about yours, my dear?”

“Oh! yes, ma’am–my dress; that’s the only difficulty now.”

“I certainly wish you, my darling, to appear well, especially as all the world will be here: the two Clays–by-the-bye, here’s their letter–they come to-morrow–and in short the whole world; but, as to money, there’s but one way of putting your father into good-humour enough with you to touch upon that string.”

“One way–well, if there be one way–any way.”


“Oh! Petcalf is my abhorrence–“

“There is the thing! He was speaking to your father seriously about you, and your father sounded me: I said you would never agree, and he was quite displeased–that and Mrs. Sparkes’ bill completely overset him.

Now, if you had your wish, Georgiana–what would be your taste, child?”

“My wish! My taste!–Oh! that would be for a delicate, delicate, soft, sentimental blue satin, with silver fringe, looped with pearl, for my first act; and in my last–“

“Two dresses! Oh! you extravagant! out of all possibility.”

“I am only wishing, telling you my taste, dear mamma. You know there must be a change of dress, in the last act, for Zara’s nuptials–now for my wedding dress, mamma, my taste would be

‘Shine out, appear, be found, my lovely Zara,’

in bridal white and silver. You know, ma’am, I am only supposing.”

“Well then, supposition for supposition,” replied Mrs. Falconer: “supposing I let your father hope that you are not _so_ decided to abhor poor Petcalf–“

“Oh! dear mamma, I am so persecuted about that Petcalf! and compared with Count Altenberg, my father must be blind, or think me an idiot.”

“Oh! between him and the Count there is no comparison, to be sure; but I forgot to mention, that what your father builds upon is our poor old friend the general’s death–Clay here, in a postscript, you see, mentions the gout in his stomach–so I am afraid he is as good as gone, as your father says, and then _The Lodge_ in _Asia Minor_ is certainly a pretty place to sit down upon if one could do no better.”

“But, ma’am, the Count’s vast possessions and rank!”

“I grant you all that, my dear; but our present object is the play–Zara’s royal robes cannot be had for nothing, you know–you never listened to my infallible means of obtaining your wish: I think I can engage that the commissioner will not refuse us, if you will empower me to say to him, that by this time twelvemonth, if nothing better offers–mind my _if_–Petcalf shall be rewarded for his constancy.”

“If–Oh! dear me! But before this time twelvemonth the Count–“

“Or one of the Clays might offer, and in that case, my _if_ brings you off safe with your father.”

“Well, then, mamma, upon condition that you will promise me, upon your word, you will lay a marked emphasis upon your _if_–I believe, for Zara’s sake, I must–“

“I knew you would behave at last like a sensible girl,” said Mrs.

Falconer: “I’ll go and speak to your father directly.”

Mrs. Falconer thus fairly gained her point, by setting Georgiana’s pa.s.sion for dress against her pa.s.sion for Count Altenberg; and having, moreover, under false pretences, extorted from the young lady many promises to keep her temper prudently, and to be upon the best terms possible with her rival, the mother went away perfectly satisfied with her own address.

The father was brought to perform his part, not without difficulty–Carte blanche for Zara’s sentimental blue and bridal white robes was obtained, silver fringe and pearls inclusive: the triumphant Zara rang for the base confidante of her late distresses–Lydia Sharpe re-entered, with the four dresses upon sale; but she and her guineas, and the most honourable appraisers, all were treated with becoming scorn–and as Lydia obeyed her young lady’s orders to replace her clothes in her wardrobe, and never to think of them more, they suddenly rose in value in her estimation, and she repented that she had been quite so much of an extortioner. She knew the difference of her mistress’s tone when disappointed or successful, and guessed that supplies had been obtained by some means or other: “New dresses, I smell, are the order of the day,” said Lydia Sharpe to herself; “but I’ll engage she will want me presently to make them up: so I warrant I won’t come down off my high horse till I see why–Miss Georgiana Falconer, ma’am, I beg pardon–you are the mistress–I meant only to oblige and accommodate when called upon–but if I’m not wanted, I’m not wanted–and I hope ladies will find them that will be more abler and willinger to serve them.”

So saying, half flouncing, half pouting, she retired. Her young mistress, aware that Lydia’s talents and expeditious performance, as a mantua-maker and a milliner, were essential to the appearance of Zara, suppressed her own resentment, submitted to her maid’s insolence, and brought her into humour again that night, by a present of the famous white satin.

In due time, consequently, the Turkish dresses were in great forwardness. Lest we should never get to the play, we forbear to relate all the various frettings, jealousies, clashing vanities, and petty quarrels, which occurred between the actresses and their friends, during the getting up of this piece and its rehearsals. We need mention, only that the seeds of irreconcileable dislike were sown at this time, between the Miss Falconers and their dear friends, the Lady Arlingtons: there was some difficulty made by Lady Anne about lending her diamond crescent for Zara’s turban–Miss Georgiana could never forgive this; and Lady Frances, on her part, was provoked, beyond measure, by an order from the duke, her uncle, forbidding her to appear on the stage. She had some reason to suspect that this order came in consequence of a treacherous hint in a letter of Georgiana’s to Lady Trant, which went round, through Lady Jane Granville to the duke, who otherwise, as Lady Frances observed, “in the midst of his politics, might never have heard a word of the matter.”

Mrs. Falconer had need of all her power over the muscles of her face, and all her address, in these delicate and difficult circ.u.mstances. Her daughter Arabella, too, was sullen–the young lady was subject to her brother John’s fits of obstinacy. For some time she could not be brought to undertake the part of Selima; and no other Selima was to be had.

She did not see why she should condescend to play the confidante for Georgiana’s Zara–why she was to be sacrificed to her sister; and Sir Robert Percy, her admirer, not even to be invited, because the other Percys were to come.

Mrs. Falconer plied her well with flattery, through Colonel Spandrill; and at last Arabella was pacified by a promise that the following week “Love in a Village,” or “The Lord of the Manor,” should be acted, in which she should choose her part, and in which her voice and musical talents would be brought forward–and Sir Robert Percy and his friends should be the auditors.

Recovered, or partly recovered, from her fit of the sullens, she was prevailed upon to say she would try what she could do in Selima.

The parts were learnt by heart; the dresses, after innumerable alterations, finished to the satisfaction of the heroes and heroines of the drama.

Their quarrels, and the quarrels of their friends and of their servants, male and female, were at last hushed to temporary repose, and–the great, the important day arrived.

The preceding evening, Mrs. Falconer, as she sat quite exhausted in the green-room, was heard to declare, she was so tired, that she would not go through the same thing again, for one month, to be Queen of England.


The theatre at Falconer-court was not very s.p.a.cious, but it was elegantly fitted up, extremely well lighted, and had a good effect.

There was a brilliant audience, an excellent band of music, and the whole had a gay and festive appearance.

The Percy family, as they came from a great distance, were late. The house was crowded. Mrs. Falconer was obliged to seat Mrs. Percy and her daughters with the Lady Arlingtons on a bench upon the stage: a conspicuous situation, which had been reserved for their ladyships.

Every eye instantly turned upon the beautiful Caroline. She bore the gaze of public admiration with a blushing dignity, which interested every body in her favour. Count Altenberg, who had anxiously expected the moment of her arrival, was, however, upon his guard. Knowing that he was watched by Mrs. Falconer’s friends, he was determined that his secret thoughts should not be seen. One involuntary glance he gave, but immediately withdrew his eye, and continued his conversation with the gentleman next to him. After a few moments had elapsed, he could indulge himself in looking at Caroline un.o.bserved, for the gaze of public admiration is as transient as it is eager. It is surprising how short a time any face, however beautiful, engages numbers who meet together to be seen.

The audience were now happily full of themselves, arranging their seats, and doing civilities to those of their friends who were worthy of notice.

“Lady Trant! won’t your ladyship sit in the front row?”

“I’m vastly well, thank you.”

“Lady Kew, I am afraid you won’t see over my head.”

“Oh! I a.s.sure you–perfectly–perfectly.”

“Colonel Spandrill, I’ll trouble you–my shawl.”

“Clay, lend me your opera-gla.s.s.–How did you leave all at Bath?”

“I’m so glad that General Petcalf’s gout in his stomach did not carry him off–for young Petcalf could not have acted, you know, to-night.–Mrs. Harcourt is trying to catch your eye, Lady Kew.”

All those who were new to the theatre at Falconer-court, or who were not intimate with the family, were in great anxiety to inform themselves on one important point, before the prologue should begin. Stretching to those who were, or had the reputation of being, good authorities, they asked in whispers, “Do you know if there is to be any clapping of hands?–Can you tell me whether it is allowable to say any thing?”


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