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- Two Little Women on a Holiday - 10/37 -


"But that's his charm," declared Alicia, rolling her eyes in ecstasy. "Oh, he is ideal! He's fascinating!"

The curtain rose again, and the Lascar proved even more fascinating. He was a daredevil type, as Lascars have the reputation of being, but he was gentle and affectionate toward the Lass, who, for some inexplicable reason, scorned his advances.

"What a FOOL she is! WHAT a fool!" Alicia whispered, as the coquettish heroine laughed at the impassioned love songs of her suitor. "I should fall into his arms at once!"

"Then there wouldn't be any more opera," laughed Bernice. "That fall into his arms is always the last episode on the stage."

"That's so," agreed Alicia, "but how can she flout him so? Oh, girls, isn't he the grandest man? I never saw such a handsome chap! What a lovely name he has, too: Bayne Coriell! A beautiful name."

"Good gracious, Alicia! don't rave over him like that! Somebody will hear you!"

"I don't care. I never saw any one so wonderful! I'm going to get his picture when we go out. I suppose it's for sale in the lobby. They usually are."

"Are they?" asked Dolly. "Then I want to get one of the Lass. Marie Desmond, her name is. Can I, do you think?"

"Yes, of course, Dollykins. You get that and I'll get my hero, my idol, Bayne Coriell!"

As it chanced the photographs were not on sale at the theatre, but an usher told Alicia where they could be bought, and she directed Kirke to stop there on the way home.

She bought several different portraits of the man who had so infatuated her and Dolly bought two photographs of Miss Desmond. The other girls said they didn't care for any pictures, and laughed at the enthusiasm of Alicia and Dolly.

"I want this," Dolly defended herself, "because sometime I'm going to be an opera singer. I did mean to sing in Grand Opera, and maybe I will, but if I can't do that, I'll sing in light opera, and I like to have this picture to remind me how sweet Miss Desmond looks in this play."

"Pooh," said Alicia, "that's all very well. But I want these pictures of Bayne Coriell because he's such a glorious man! Why, he's as handsome as Apollo. And, girls, I don't believe he's hardly any older than we are."

"Oh, he must be," returned Dotty. "Why, he's twenty-two or more, I'm sure."

"Maybe he is twenty, but not more than that. Oh, how I wish I could meet him! Think of the joy of talking to a man like that!"

"Well, it's not likely you'll ever meet Bayne Coriell," said Bernice, laughing at the idea; "so you needn't hope for that!"

CHAPTER VI

A MATINEE IDOL

"Oh, Uncle Jeff," Alicia cried, as they gathered round the dinner- table that same night, "we went to the splendidest play! It was a light opera, 'The Lass and the Lascar.' Have you seen it?"

"No, my dear, I rarely go to the theatre; never to foolish pieces like that! But it's all right for you young people. So you enjoyed it, did you? How did you like--"

But Alicia's babble interrupted him. "Oh, Uncle, it was simply out of sight! And the hero! Ah-h-h!"

Alicia leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes as if the memory of the hero was overwhelming.

"Took your fancy, did he?" asked her uncle, with a twinkle in his eye. "Good-looking chap?"

"Good-looking faintly expresses it!" and Alicia returned to consciousness. "He was like a Greek god! And his CHARM! Oh, Uncle Jeff, he is just indescribable! I wish you could SEE him."

"Must be a paragon! What did the rest of you girls think! Were you hit so hard?"

Dotty laughed. "He was splendid, Uncle Forbes, "she said," but we didn't fall so head over heels in love with him as Alicia did. He has a stunning voice and he's a fine actor."

"Oh, more than that!" raved Alicia. "He's a DARLING! a man of a THOUSAND!"

"A young man?" asked Mr. Forbes.

"Yes," replied Bernice. "Alicia thinks he isn't twenty, but he can't be much more. He looked a mere boy."

"Wasn't that because he was made up as a young character in the play?"

"Partly," admitted Alicia. "But he's a very young man, anyway. Oh, Uncle Jeff, I'm just CRAZY over him! I think I shall go to see that play every chance I can possibly get. Could we go to an evening performance?"

"Speak for yourself, John!" cried Bernice. "I don't want to see that play again! I enjoyed it heaps, and I think Mr. Coriell was fine, but next time we go I'd rather see something else."

"So would I," said the two D's together.

"How can you say so!" and Alicia looked at the others in scorn. "You'll never find any actor who can hold a candle to Coriell! I have his picture, Uncle," and, excusing herself, she left the table to get them.

"H'm, yes, a good-looking man," agreed Mr. Forbes, as he scrutinised the photographs. "But, Alicia, you mustn't fall in love with every operatic tenor you see. I believe this Coriell is a 'matinee idol,' but don't allow him to engage your young affections."

"Too late with your advice, Uncle Jeff!" and Alicia gazed raptly at the pictures. "I ADORE him! and the fact that my adoration is hopeless makes it all the more interesting. Oh, isn't he a WONDER!"

Gaily she set the pictures up in front of her, propping them on glasses or salt cellars, and continued to make mock worship at his shrine.

"Don't be silly, Alicia," commented her uncle, but she only shook her head at him, and gave a mournful sigh.

The girls spent the evening much the same as they had done the night before. They all sat in the stately drawing-room, and endeavoured to make conversation. But Uncle Jeff was hard to talk to, for he rarely stuck to one subject for more than five minutes at a time, and abruptly interrupted the girls when they were trying their best to be entertaining.

Alicia continued to chatter about her new-found enthusiasm, until her uncle commanded her to desist.

"May I beg of you, Alicia," he said, sternly, "to cease raving over that man? He's doubtless old enough to be your father, and would be bored to death could he hear your nonsense about him!"

Alicia looked put out, but a glance at her uncle's face proved his seriousness, and she said no more about the actor.

The evening wore away, but it seemed to the girls as if it never would be ten o'clock. And it was greatly to their relief, when, at about half-past nine, Mr. Forbes bade them good-night and went off upstairs.

"It is all the queerest performance," said Bernice. "What in the world does Uncle Jeff want of us,--I can't make out. The outlook seems to be that we can have all the fun we want daytimes, and pay for it by these ghastly evening sessions."

"There's something back of it all," said Alicia, astutely. "This revered uncle of ours, Bernie, has something up his sleeve."

"I think so, too," said Dotty. "He scrutinises us all so closely, when he thinks we're not looking. But I, for one, am quite willing to put up with these evenings for the sake of the fun we have in the daytime."

"I should say so!" agreed Dolly. "We never can thank you enough, Bern, for bringing us."

"And I'm glad to have you here," said Mrs. Berry, entering the room. "You're like a ray of sunshine in this dull house,--like four rays of sunshine."

"But WHY are we here?" insisted Alicia. "You must know why, Mrs. Berry. Do tell us."

"You're here, my dears, because Mr. Forbes invited you. There is no other reason,--no other explanation. And now, tell me, did you like the play?"

"Did we LIKE it!" exclaimed the volatile Alicia, "we're just crazy over it. Why, the chief actor--"

"Now, 'Licia," protested Dolly, "if you're going to begin raving over that man again!"

"Well, I am!" declared Alicia. "I just can't help it!"

Nor did she seem able to curb her enthusiasm, for after the girls went to their rooms, she kept on extolling Mr. Coriell until the others were tired of the subject.


Two Little Women on a Holiday - 10/37

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