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" And Grunter ? that's a new name to me.”
“ Grunter! the Grunters are coeval with the tower of Babel, madam. The Grunters are a very numerous family, indeed."
“ Live and learn, sir,” said Grizzy, who piqued herself on being a genealogist. “I never heard of them before."
Here dinner was announced. Miss Grizzy, who did not approve either of Mr. Grunter or Mr. Fitzcribb as an escort, proposed to Miss Tibby that they should repair as soon as possible to the opera. Miss Tibby, decked in the “ wee bit muslin ornament of her ain devising,” agreed; Miss Babie was in high spirits, and was frequently reminded by Grizzy of what was, and what was na becoming to a lassie o' the Douglas family; and the elegant equipage of Mr. Lindsay deposited at the entrance of the Opera House the most outré party that ever crossed that threshold. But let Beauty hang her head abashed—that box had never been the mark of so many opera-glasses, the object of so much attention before. Miss
Grizzy's turban, Miss Babie's crop and snood, and Miss Tibby's bunch o'curls and “muslin ornament o her ain devising,” riveted more attention than the beau monde had ever bestowed on “ the three graces," as the brilliant Augusta, the lovely Ellen, and the blooming Annie, had been called by the Court Journal.
The overture was completed before the Lindsays arrived.
The proud Douglases did not attempt to yield their places, but Tibby, who was very kind, offered hers to Augusta. At first, she declined; but, recollecting that the contrast of her elegance and beauty with the frumpishness of her neighbours would shew her to advantage, she accepted, and sat with a beating heart, expecting the curtain to rise, and nervously glancing at Julian, who was one of the party in the next box, to learn from his face what he felt towards the débutante.
“ Music, oh! how faint, how weak
Language fades before thy spell !
When thou canst paint each thought so well?"
That dense and brilliant crowd was breathless with expectation. Beauties for a moment forgot the studied attitude and acquired grace, and beaux their own white hands and jewelled rings; and all this excitement was about a young girl with a reputed talent few, very few, in England really care for, except because it is the fashion to do so. And yet the excitement, superinduced as it was, was sincere, and hearts whose existence was almost forgotten by their blasé possessors actually beat high.
There was a considerable delay after the completion of the overture, and impatience began to manifest itself in a variety of ways. At length, the manager came forward, and announced that the débutante, when about to appear, awed by the brilliant crowd she caught a glimpse of, had fainted, but was recovered, and would only tax their patience for a moment. This avowal of the importance of the audience, and the natural timidity of the woman, had its effect--for the honour of human nature, be it observed, the impulse of the many is generally noble and kindly. The manager retired amid tumults of applause, and while the feeling of sympathy was at its highest, the curtain rose, and the opera of Norma commenced.
At first, overcome by the novelty of her situation, the young priestess of that savage worship stood, her face drooping, her hands crossed on her breast; for a moment, she seemed about to sink on the ground, and one of the priests came forward to support her, when, suddenly inspired by the clamours of
applause, and the music, which rose above it, she motioned away the priest's hand, as if disdaining assistance, raised her hands to her brow to throw back her long black hair, came suddenly to the front of the stage, in full view of the whole house, and, forgetting every thing but her genius and its language, she poured forth the richest and most triumphant strain that had been heard since the palmy days of Catalani.
Her tall, slight form was well suited to the white robes of the priestess, and her beautiful head had no ornament but the wreath of oakleaves and acorns; yet the dress suited the inspiration of her face and manner; there was nothing of the actress about her; she looked -she was for the time the Pythoness. One felt transported to the depths of green forests now no more; the simplicity of the old time came back upon the heart; the very air-the heated air, which thousands were breathing, seemed to grow fresh, as La Zelie sang; and when she paused, the enthusiasm amounted almost to insanity. For a brief space, the