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The Hand of Ethelberta

16. A Large Public Hall
It was the second week in February, Parliament had just
met, and Ethelberta appeared for the first time before an
audience in London.
There was some novelty in the species of entertainment that
the active young woman had proposed to herself, and this
doubtless had due effect in collecting the body of strangers
that greeted her entry, over and above those friends who
came to listen to her as a matter of course. Men and women
who had become totally indifferent to new actresses, new
readers, and new singers, once more felt the freshness of
curiosity as they considered the promise of the
announcement. But the chief inducement to attend lay in the
fact that here was to be seen in the flesh a woman with
whom the tongue of rumour had been busy in many romantic
ways--a woman who, whatever else might be doubted, had
certainly produced a volume of verses which had been the
talk of the many who had read them, and of the many more
who had not, for several consecutive weeks.
What was her story to be? Persons interested in the inquiry--
a small proportion, it may be owned, of the whole London
public, and chiefly young men--answered this question for
themselves by assuming that it would take the form of some
pungent and gratifying revelation of the innermost events of
her own life, from which her gushing lines had sprung as an
inevitable consequence, and which being once known,
would cause such musical poesy to appear no longer
wonderful.
The front part of the room was well filled, rows of listeners
showing themselves like a drilled-in crop of which not a seed
has failed. They were listeners of the right sort, a majority
having noses of the prominent and dignified type, which
when viewed in oblique perspective ranged as regularly as
 
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