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Alexander's Bridge

come up. Myself, I always knew she had it in her. If we had one real critic in
London--but what can one expect? Do you know, Alexander,"-- Mainhall looked
with perplexity up into the top of the hansom and rubbed his pink cheek with his
gloved finger,--"do you know, I sometimes think of taking to criticism seriously
myself. In a way, it would be a sacrifice; but, dear me, we do need some one."
Just then they drove up to the Duke of York's, so Alexander did not commit
himself, but followed Mainhall into the theatre. When they entered the stage-box
on the left the first act was well under way, the scene being the interior of a cabin
in the south of Ireland. As they sat down, a burst of applause drew Alexander's
attention to the stage. Miss Burgoyne and her donkey were thrusting their heads
in at the half door. "After all," he reflected, "there's small probability of her
recognizing me. She doubtless hasn't thought of me for years." He felt the
enthusiasm of the house at once, and in a few moments he was caught up by the
current of MacConnell's irresistible comedy. The audience had come forewarned,
evidently, and whenever the ragged slip of a donkey-girl ran upon the stage there
was a deep murmur of approbation, every one smiled and glowed, and Mainhall
hitched his heavy chair a little nearer the brass railing.
"You see," he murmured in Alexander's ear, as the curtain fell on the first act,
"one almost never sees a part like that done without smartness or mawkishness.
Of course, Hilda is Irish,--the Burgoynes have been stage people for
generations,--and she has the Irish voice. It's delightful to hear it in a London
theatre. That laugh, now, when she doubles over at the hips--who ever heard it
out of Galway? She saves her hand, too. She's at her best in the second act.
She's really MacConnell's poetic motif, you see; makes the whole thing a fairy
tale."
The second act opened before Philly Doyle's underground still, with Peggy and
her battered donkey come in to smuggle a load of potheen across the bog, and
to bring Philly word of what was doing in the world without, and of what was
happening along the roadsides and ditches with the first gleam of fine weather.
Alexander, annoyed by Mainhall's sighs and exclamations, watched her with
keen, half-skeptical interest. As Mainhall had said, she was the second act; the
plot and feeling alike depended upon her lightness of foot, her lightness of touch,
upon the shrewdness and deft fancifulness that played alternately, and
sometimes together, in her mirthful brown eyes. When she began to dance, by
way of showing the gossoons what she had seen in the fairy rings at night, the
house broke into a prolonged uproar. After her dance she withdrew from the
dialogue and retreated to the ditch wall back of Philly's burrow, where she sat
singing "The Rising of the Moon" and making a wreath of primroses for her
donkey.
When the act was over Alexander and Mainhall strolled out into the corridor.
They met a good many acquaintances; Mainhall, indeed, knew almost every one,
and he babbled on incontinently, screwing his small head about over his high
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