‘Vile earth, to earth resign; end motion here:
And thou, and Romeo’——
She did not finish the sentence, the whole theatre rose with a cry of horror. The flame from the exposed jet had caught the white gauze of Juliet’s dress and danced up her skirt.
The agitation was indescribable. Women shrieked, men shouted. The curtain fell, and a smell of fire pervaded the atmosphere lately impregnated with the odour of oranges.
Miss Rigsby looked round.
The Marquess had uttered a cry of agony, and had fallen against the partition, with his hand to his brow. In another moment he dashed from the box and ran behind the scenes.
‘For mercy’s sake,’ he cried, ‘how is she? Where is she?’
The stage-manager brushed past him. The roar of voices mingled with cries beyond the curtain drowned his voice. The actors were in agitation. The commotion in the house ceased instantly when the manager appeared before the curtain.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, a most unfortunate accident has happened. I believe and trust there is no occasion for alarm.’ A burst of cheers. ‘Mlle. Palma Kaminska is not as seriously hurt as might have been anticipated.’ Renewed cheers. ‘I have to ask your kind indulgence; the performance must cease.’ He was himself so excited that he could hardly speak. His face was white, and his voice shook.
‘Where is she?’ asked the Marquess as the stage-manager stepped back.
‘She has been conveyed to her lodgings.’
Palma was driven at once to the house in which she had secured lodgings; one of the ladies of the company attended her. She was in great pain. A couple of surgeons were promptly summoned. The rumour of what had occurred spread, and people collected in the streets and about the door. The medical men said the case was grave, and that a nurse must be in constant attendance.