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Jo's Boys

Chapter 14: Plays At Plumfield
As it is as impossible for the humble historian of the March family to write a story
without theatricals in it as for our dear Miss Yonge to get on with less than twelve
or fourteen children in her interesting tales, we will accept the fact, and at once
cheer ourselves after the last afflicting events, by proceeding to the Christmas
plays at Plumfield; for they influence the fate of several of our characters, and
cannot well be skipped.
When the college was built Mr Laurie added a charming little theatre which not
only served for plays, but declamations, lectures, and concerts. The drop-curtain
displayed Apollo with the Muses grouped about him; and as a compliment to the
donor of the hall the artist had given the god a decided resemblance to our
friend, which was considered a superb joke by everyone else. Home talent
furnished stars, stock company, orchestra, and scene painter; and astonishing
performances were given on this pretty little stage.
Mrs Jo had been trying for some time to produce a play which should be an
improvement upon the adaptations from the French then in vogue, curious
mixtures of fine toilettes, false sentiment, and feeble wit, with no touch of nature
to redeem them. It was easy to plan plays full of noble speeches and thrilling
situations, but very hard to write them; so she contented herself with a few
scenes of humble life in which the comic and pathetic were mingled; and as she
fitted her characters to her actors, she hoped the little venture would prove that
truth and simplicity had not entirely lost their power to charm. Mr Laurie helped
her, and they called themselves Beaumont and Fletcher, enjoying their joint
labour very much; for Beaumont's knowledge of dramatic art was of great use in
curbing Fletcher's too-aspiring pen, and they flattered themselves that they had
produced a neat and effective bit of work as an experiment.
All was ready now; and Christmas Day was much enlivened by last rehearsals,
the panics of timid actors, the scramble for forgotten properties, and the
decoration of the theatre. Evergreen and holly from the woods, blooming plants
from the hothouse on Parnassus, and flags of all nations made it very gay that
night in honour of the guests who were coming, chief among them, Miss
Cameron, who kept her promise faithfully. The orchestra tuned their instruments
with unusual care, the scene-shifters set their stage with lavish elegance, the
prompter heroically took his seat in the stifling nook provided for him, and the
actors dressed with trembling hands that dropped the pins, and perspiring brows
whereon the powder wouldn't stick. Beaumont and Fletcher were everywhere,
feeling that their literary reputation was at stake; for sundry friendly critics were
invited, and reporters, like mosquitoes, cannot be excluded from any earthly
scene, be it a great man's death-bed or a dime museum.
'Has she come?' was the question asked by every tongue behind the curtain; and
when Tom, who played an old man, endangered his respectable legs among the
footlights to peep, announced that he saw Miss Cameron's handsome head in
the place of honour, a thrill pervaded the entire company, and Josie declared