Recovering from the first shock of this fierce noise, Macleod began to look around this strange place, with its magical colors and its profusion of gilding; but nowhere in the half-empty stalls or behind the lace curtains of the boxes could he make out the visitor of whom he was in search. Perhaps she was not coming, then? Had he sacrificed the evening all for nothing? As regarded the theatre or the piece to be played, he had not the slightest interest in either. The building was very pretty, no doubt; but it was only, in effect, a superior sort of booth; and as for the trivial amusement of watching a number of people strut across a stage and declaim—or perhaps make fools of themselves to raise a laugh—that was not at all to his liking. It would have been different had he been able to talk to the girl who had shown such a strange interest in the gloomy stories of the Northern seas; perhaps, though he would scarcely have admitted this to himself, it might have been different if only he had been allowed to see her at some distance. But her being absent altogether? The more the seats in the stalls were filled—reducing the chances of her coming—the more empty the theatre seemed to become.
“At least we can go along to that house you mentioned,” said he to his companion.
“Oh, don’t be disappointed yet,” said Ogilvie; “I know she will be here.”
“With Mrs. Ross?”
“Mrs. Ross comes very often to this theatre. It is the correct thing to do. It is high art. All the people are raving about the chief actress; artists painting her portrait; poets writing sonnets about her different characters—no end of a fuss. And Mrs. Ross is very proud that so distinguished a person is her particular friend.”
“Do you mean the actress?”
“Yes; and makes her the big feature of her parties at present; and society is rather inclined to make a pet of her, too—patronizing high art, don’t you know. It’s wonderful what you can do in that way. If a duke wants a clown to make fellows laugh after a Derby dinner, he gets him to his house and makes him dance; and if the papers find it out, it is only raising the moral status of the pantomine. Of course it is different with Mrs. Ross’s friend: she is all right socially.”
The garrulous boy was stopped by the sudden cessation of the music; and then the Italian lake and the peacocks disappeared into unknown regions above; and behold! in their place a spacious hall was revealed—not the bare and simple hall at Castle Dare with which Macleod was familiar, but a grand apartment, filled with old armor, and pictures, and cabinets, and showing glimpses of a balcony and fair gardens beyond. There were two figures in this hall, and they spoke—in the high and curious falsetto of the stage. Macleod paid no more heed to them than if they had been marionettes. For one thing, he could not follow their speech very well; but, in any case, what interest could he have