Page:Our Philadelphia (Pennell, 1914).djvu/87

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67
A CHILD IN PHILADELPHIA

was reached, where the mysterious machinery of the Waterworks was as terrifying as the skeletons, and I thought it much pleasanter outside under the blue sky; visits to the theatre—the most wonderful visits of all, for they took me out into the night that I knew only from stolen vigils in the Convent dormitory, or glimpses from the Spruce Street windows. Romance was in the dimly-lit streets, in the stars above, in the town after dark, which I was warned I was never to brave alone until I can laugh now to think how terrified I was the first time I came home late by myself, in my terror jumping into a street-car and claiming the protection of a contemptuous young woman whom work had not allowed to draw a conventional line between day and night.

I have never got rid of that suggestion of romance, not so much in the theatre itself as in the going to it, and, to this day, a matinée in broad daylight will bring back a little of the old thrill. But nothing can bring back to any theatre the glitter, the brilliancy, the splendour of the old Chestnut, the old Walnut, the old Arch, then already dingy with age I have no doubt, but transfigured by my childhood's ecstasies in them. Nothing can persuade me that any plays have been, or could be, written to surpass in beauty, pathos and humour, Solon Shingle, and Arrah-na-Pogue, and Our American Cousin, and The Black Crook, and Ours, though I have forgotten all but their names; that in opera Clara Louise Kellogg ever had a rival; that