• a very common

     a very common

    Madeline did not go back to school. For some months she remained at home with the De Bernys; White, in his indolent way, postponing the question of where she was to go next.He was a good deal occupied at this time with the adaptation of a new play which was being acted with great success at the Porte St. Martin, and, as it was necessary to see the play represented by the French actors, he spent some weeks in Paris. He discovered that by carefully lopping the leading idea, making the chief female virtuous instead of vicious, altering the scenes, and turning the moral upside down, he could make the great drama pure enough for the sight of the British playgoer. His English manager approved, sent him a small cheque on account, and begged him ‘to do the trick’ as quickly as possible.

    At this period, therefore, Madeline was thrown more and more into the society of Mademoiselle Mathilde. That vision of loveliness found the child useful, sent her on endless errands, made of her a sort of companion in miniature, and extempore lady’s maid. Madeline was only too delighted to serve and worship, and great was her joy when any of the cast-off splendour fell to her share. One evening Madame de Berny took her to the theatre, on the occasion of her daughter’s ‘benefit.’ There was a serio-comedy in which Mathilde played the leading part, and a burlesque to follow, in which (for that occasion only, for she generally despised burlesque) she enacted a fairy prince. Madeline was entranced; the spell of the footlights came upon her once and for ever.

    That night, after they had returned home, and the Vision had supped well on oysters and bottled stout, Madeline proffered a request which had lately become one with her‘Oh, Mamzelle, let me brush your hair!’Mathilde took a sleepy sensuous pleasure in that part of her toilette, and would sit by the hour together under the soothing manipulation of the brush. So she let down her golden locks, and placed herself, with her eyes half closed, before the mirror, while Madeline began her task, prattling between whiles of the theatre, of all the wonders she had seen, and of the longing that would possess her until she saw them again.

    ‘I used to feel like you once,’ yawned Mathilde, ‘when I was a dear little thing, with my hair growing down to my waist, and little satin shoes on my feet, and Pa used to take me to the pantomimes. Ah, dear, that’s over and done. I hate the theatre.You hate it, Mamzelle?’‘Yes, and sometimes I hate Pa for ever letting me go nigh to it. I suppose it all comes of Ma marrying a Frenchman; for Pa used to teach me to say those long speeches in rhyme out of the French plays, and then I got a taste for recitation. But I hate French now, and I hate the theatre. It’s nothing but worry and vexation. There was only five pounds ten in the stalls to-night besides the tickets Pa and Ma sold, and the dress circle was not half full. Did you notice a dark fat man in a private box, who threw a bouquet to Miss Harlington?’

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