CH. II. -- Santillane makes his report to the minister, who commissions him to send for Lucretia. The first appearance of that actress before the court.

 

ON my return, I found my lord duke impatient to be informed of my success. Have you seen her? said he: is she worth transplanting? My lord, answered I, fame, which generally runs beyond all discretion in its report of beauty, has erred on the side of parsimony in its estimate of the matchless young Lucretia; she is all that youthful poets fancy when they feign, for personal attractions, and all that veteran managers seek when they sign articles, in scenic qualifications.

Is it possible? exclaimed the minister with a satisfaction which involuntarily peeped out at his eyes, and made me think he had some selfish hankerings after the article of my marketing at Toledo; is it possible? and is she really so charming a creature? When you see her, replied I, you will own that any verbal picture of her perfections must be altogether inadequate to their due description. His excellency then requiring a minute account of my journey, I gave him all the particulars, not excepting Laura's story, and Lucretia's parentage. His lordship was delighted at the latter circumstance, and enjoined me, with a cordial compliment on my skill in such delicate negotiations, to finish as auspiciously as I had begun my undertaking.

I went to look for Carnero, and told him that it was his excellency's pleasure he should make out an order for the admission of Estella and Lucretia, actresses from the Toledo theatre, into his majesty's company. Say you so, Signor de Santillane? answered Carnero with a sarcastic leer; you shall not be kept long in suspense, since you take so marked an interest in the fortunes of these two ladies. He expedited the order in my presence, and within a week the mother and daughter sent me notice of their arrival. I immediately hastened to their lodging near the theatre, and after an interchange of thanks on their part, and assurances of continued support on mine, left them with my best wishes for a bnlliant career of success.

Their names were announced in the bills as two new actresses, engaged by the special mandate of the court. They made their first appearance in a play, which they had been accustomed to perform in at Toledo with loud and unanimous applause.

Novelty is the very life and soul of theatrical entertainments. The house was uncommonly crowded, and I of course was among the audience. I was rather frightened before the curtain drew up. Prejudiced as I was in favour of the candidates, my alarm was in proportion to my interest. But when once they were fairly on the boards, the din of welcome quieted all my apprehensions. Estella was considered as a first-rate actress in comic parts, and Lucretia as a female Roscius in heroines and love-sick damsels. But the love which she feigned herself, she really kindled in the hearts of the spectators. Some admired the beauty of her eyes, others were touched with the plaintive sweetness of her voice, and all, bowing to the triumph of youth, vivacity, and elegance, went away in raptures with her person.

My lord duke, who took an uncommon interest in this theatrical event, was at the play that evening. I saw him leave his box at the end of the piece, with evident approbation of our new performers. Curious to know whether they equalled his expectations, I followed him home, and into his closet, saying: Well, my lord, is your excellency well pleased with little Marialva? My excellency, answered he with a sly smile, must be very difficult to be pleased, not to confirm the public voice: yes, indeed, my good friend, I am enraptured with your Lucretia, and firmly believe that the king will not see her without emotion.

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