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Chapter 13
The Honourable John Yates, this new friend, had not much to recommend him
beyond habits of fashion and expense, and being the younger son of a lord with
a tolerable independence; and Sir Thomas would probably have thought his
introduction at Mansfield by no means desirable. Mr. Bertram's acquaintance with
him had begun at Weymouth, where they had spent ten days together in the
same society, and the friendship, if friendship it might be called, had been proved
and perfected by Mr. Yates's being invited to take Mansfield in his way, whenever
he could, and by his promising to come; and he did come rather earlier than had
been expected, in consequence of the sudden breaking-up of a large party
assembled for gaiety at the house of another friend, which he had left Weymouth
to join. He came on the wings of disappointment, and with his head full of acting,
for it had been a theatrical party; and the play in which he had borne a part was
within two days of representation, when the sudden death of one of the nearest
connections of the family had destroyed the scheme and dispersed the
performers. To be so near happiness, so near fame, so near the long paragraph
in praise of the private theatricals at Ecclesford, the seat of the Right Hon. Lord
Ravenshaw, in Cornwall, which would of course have immortalized the whole
party for at least a twelvemonth! and being so near, to lose it all, was an injury to
be keenly felt, and Mr. Yates could talk of nothing else. Ecclesford and its
theatre, with its arrangements and dresses, rehearsals and jokes, was his never-
failing subject, and to boast of the past his only consolation.
Happily for him, a love of the theatre is so general, an itch for acting so strong
among young people, that he could hardly out-talk the interest of his hearers.
From the first casting of the parts to the epilogue it was all bewitching, and there
were few who did not wish to have been a party concerned, or would have
hesitated to try their skill. The play had been Lovers' Vows, and Mr. Yates was to
have been Count Cassel. "A trifling part," said he, "and not at all to my taste, and
such a one as I certainly would not accept again; but I was determined to make
no difficulties. Lord Ravenshaw and the duke had appropriated the only two
characters worth playing before I reached Ecclesford; and though Lord
Ravenshaw offered to resign his to me, it was impossible to take it, you know. I
was sorry for him that he should have so mistaken his powers, for he was no
more equal to the Baron--a little man with a weak voice, always hoarse after the
first ten minutes. It must have injured the piece materially; but I was resolved to
make no difficulties. Sir Henry thought the duke not equal to Frederick, but that
was because Sir Henry wanted the part himself; whereas it was certainly in the
best hands of the two. I was surprised to see Sir Henry such a stick. Luckily the
strength of the piece did not depend upon him. Our Agatha was inimitable, and
the duke was thought very great by many. And upon the whole, it would certainly
have gone off wonderfully."
"It was a hard case, upon my word"; and, "I do think you were very much to be
pitied," were the kind responses of listening sympathy.