The first act was finished, and now, in the few moments before the curtain would rise, the buzz of voices whispered approval of the pretty play.
Arabella’s prim little aunt looked furtively toward her neighbor. He smiled encouragingly, and she ventured to speak.
She was a little old lady and he was tall and stalwart; his handsome face was youthful, and she wished him to know that she thought him a mere boy.
“Young man, do you approve of this play-acting?” she asked.
“Oh, surely,” he replied. “Who would care to see professionals, if he might, instead, see children trying to act?”
She eyed him sharply to learn if he were joking, but his manner was so dignified that she did not dream that he was amused.
“Well, I think if we had these exhibitions often the children would grow to be just too pert for anything. I have my views about play-acting, and as my niece is a pupil here, I’m just a little anxious about how this school is run. Have you any small sisters here?” she asked.
His eyes were dancing.
“I’ve no small sisters,” he said, “and as my little daughter is but nine months old, I’ve not yet sent her to school.”
“Your daughter? Well, I declare! Why, I thought you were an overgrown boy!” she said, bluntly.
“Alas! That’s what my wife frequently calls me,” he said, and from his manner one might have thought that he deeply regretted the fact.
“If your wife is here, young man, I should think she’d see you talking to that pretty girl beside you,” said the little woman, sharply.
“Oh, she rather likes it,” he said, with a soft laugh, “you see that pretty girl is my wife.” Aunt Matilda stared.
“Wouldn’t you like to meet her?” he asked; “this is such a very informal gathering that I might venture to present her, if only I knew your name.”
“I’m Arabella Corryville’s aunt,” she said, without realizing that that was not telling her name.
“Vera,” he said, “allow me to present you to Arabella’s aunt; madam, this is my wife!”
The ladies bowed, and the younger woman spoke very cordially, then the curtain went up and every eye turned toward the stage.
It was in the last act that Arabella entered from the right, and all were surprised when in a clear voice, and with appropriate gestures, she spoke her lines, making quite as good an impression as any of her schoolmates.
During the early part of the dialogue Arabella had not been on the little stage, and her doting aunt felt injured, because she believed that the other children had been given the most important parts. She had expressed her disapproval of “play-acting” to Uncle Harry.
Now all was different; Arabella had appeared, had spoken well, and the applause which she received completely changed Aunt Matilda’s mind.
“Granted our wishes,
Happy hearts have we;
True to our fairy queen
Ever we’ll be,”