Page:Court Royal.djvu/224

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Saltcombe; his voice was loud and harsh, and Joanna could almost catch what he said. He was talking about an amateur dramatic performance got up by the officers at Colombo. Some delay ensued before the curtain rose. The orchestra performed a selection from ‘Il Trovatore.’ A smell of oranges pervaded the theatre. The gods were devouring them in great quantities in the gallery, and throwing the peel over into the pit. A bald-headed gentleman was the object they particularly aimed at, and when an urchin succeeded in casting an entire ingeniously removed peel so as to light in a ring on his glossy skull, like a cap, the feat was uproariously applauded.

The noise only ceased when the curtain rose on a public place, and attention was arrested by the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt: those in the gallery were greatly disappointed that the former died off the stage, and only reconciled when Tybalt was killed by Romeo under their eyes.

The scene that followed gave less promise of amusement. Juliet appeared in her room, invoking the approach of night:—

   ‘Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phœbus’ lodging.’

As she spoke her passionate monologue she came forward, and as she did so, the draught from her skirts made the jet of the broken footlight flare up.

‘There should be a wire net about eighteen inches off the lamps,’ said Mr. Rigsby. ‘I see none here, but in town it is so, is it not, Saltcombe?’

Lord Saltcombe bowed, he could not speak. Rachel’s eyes had met his at the exclamation, ‘Give me my Romeo.’ The nurse entered, bringing the rope-ladder and the news of the death of Tybalt, which she delivers so badly that Juliet for the moment supposes she is told of the loss of her lover. This is the first occasion on which an actress of any power can show passion. Palma rose to it. With a piercing cry that rang through the house she rushed forward, threw up her arms, and was convulsed with agony.

‘O break, my heart!—poor bankrupt, break at once!’

Then dashing her hands over her eyes,—

‘To prison, eyes! ne’er look on liberty.’

Stooping, gathering up the dust, then throwing it down, as into a grave at a funeral,—