“You saw her!” I said.
“No; no. I heard her only. It was just as it was before. But I came up to town to—to see if all were well with you. And it is: or will be. Kiss me, Roger, before we go.”
I cannot think without horror, even now, of that play we saw on that night in the King’s Theatre. It was Mrs. Aphra Behn’s tragedy, called Abdelazar, or The Moor’s Revenge, and Mrs. Lee acted the principal part of Isabella, the Spanish Queen. We sat in a little box next the stage, which we had to ourselves; and in the box opposite was my Lord the Earl of Bath with a couple of his ladies. He was a pompous-looking fellow, and a hot Protestant, and he looked very disdainfully at the company. In the box over him was Mistress Gwyn herself, and the people cried at her good-humouredly when she came in, at which she bowed very merrily as if she were royal, this way and that, so that the whole play-house was full of laughter. It was turned very cold, with a frost, and before the play was half done the whole house was in a steam under the glass cupola. Folks were eating oranges everywhere in the higher seats, and throwing the peel down upon the heads of the people below. The stage was lighted, as always, with wax candles burning on cressets; and the orange girls were standing in the front row of the pit with their backs to the stage.
Dolly, who was a little quiet at first, got very merry and excited presently at all the good-humour, as well as at the actors. She had thrown her hood back, so that her head came out of it very sweet and pretty; and a spot of colour burned on each cheek. I saw her watching Mistress Nell once or twice with a look of amazement—for she knew who she was—for Nell, though she was not on the stage, bore herself as though she were, and never ceased for an instant, though full of merriment and good humour, to turn herself this way and that, and bow to her friends, some of whom relished it very little; and to applaud very heartily, and then, immediately to throw a great piece of orange peel at Mr. Harris, who played the King. She had her boy with her—whom His Majesty had made Duke of St. Albans—and two or three gentlemen whom I did not know.
Dolly whispered to me once, to know who the boy was.
“That is her boy,” I said.
Dolly said nothing; but I understood the kind of terror that she had to see them both there, so outrageous and bold; but she presently turned back again to the stage to observe the play.
* * * * *
I said just now that the play which we saw has very dreadful memories for me; but I do not know that more than once or twice at the time I had any such feeling. There were some pretty passages in the play that distracted me altogether, and a song or two, of which I remember very well one sung by a Nymph, and answered by her swain with his shepherds, of which the refrain was: