Sir Joshua entered his house, and the others hastened northward to the Oxford road, where the Pantheon had scarcely been opened more than a year for the entertainment of the fashionable world—a more fashionable world, it was hoped, than was in the habit of appearing at Ranelagh and Vauxhall. From a hundred to a hundred and fifty years ago, rank and fashion sought their entertainment almost exclusively at the Assembly Rooms when the weather failed to allow of their meeting at the two great public gardens. But as the government of the majority of these places invariably became lax—there was only one Beau Nash who had the cleverness to perceive that an autocracy was the only possible form of government for such assemblies—the committee of the Pantheon determined to frame so strict a code of rules, bearing upon the admission of visitors, as should, they believed, prevent the place from falling to the low level of the gardens.

In addition to the charge of half-a-guinea for admission to the rotunda, there were rules which gave the committee the option of practically excluding any person whose presence they might regard as not tending to maintain the high character of the Pantheon; and it was announced in the most decisive way that upon no consideration would actresses be allowed to enter.

The announcements made to this effect were regarded in some directions as eminently salutary. They were applauded by all persons who were sufficiently strict to prevent their wives or daughters from going to those entertainments that possessed little or no supervision. Such persons understood the world and the period so indifferently as to be optimists in regard to the question of the possibility of combining Puritanism and promiscuous entertainments terminating long after midnight. They hailed the arrival of the time when innocent recreation would not be incompatible with the display of the richest dresses or the most sumptuous figures.

But there was another, and a more numerous set, who were very cynical on the subject of the regulation of beauty and fashion at the Pantheon. The best of this set shrugged their shoulders, and expressed the belief that the supervised entertainments would be vastly dull. The worst of them published verses full of cheap sarcasm, and proper names with asterisks artfully introduced in place of vowels, so as to evade the possibility of actions for libel when their allusions were more than usually scandalous.

While the ladies of the committee were applauding one another and declaring that neither threats nor sarcasms would prevail against their resolution, an informal meeting was held at White's of the persons who affirmed that they were more affected than any others by the carrying out of the new regulations; and at the meeting they resolved to make the management aware of the mistake into which they had fallen in endeavouring to discriminate between the classes of their patrons.

When Garrick and his friends reached the Oxford road, as the thoroughfare was then called, the result of this meeting was making itself felt. The road was crowded with people who seemed waiting for something unusual to occur, though of what form it was to assume no one seemed to be aware. The crowd were at any rate good-humoured. They cheered heartily every coach that rolled by bearing splendidly dressed ladies to the Pantheon and to other and less public entertainments. They waved their hats over the chairs which, similarly burdened, went swinging along between the bearers, footmen walking on each side and link-boys running in advance, the glare of their torches giving additional redness to the faces of the hot fellows who had the chair-straps over their shoulders. Every now and again an officer of the Guards would come in for the cheers of the people, and occasionally a jostling match took place between some supercilious young beau and the apprentices, through the midst of whom he attempted to force his way. More than once swords flashed beneath the sickly illumination of the lamps, but the drawers of the weapons regretted their impetuosity the next minute, for they were quickly disarmed, either by the crowd closing with them or jolting them into the kennel, which at no time was savoury. Once, however, a tall young fellow, who had been struck by a stick, drew his sword and stood against a lamp-post preparatory to charging the crowd. It looked as if those who interfered with him would suffer, and a space was soon cleared in front of him. At that instant, however, he was thrown to the ground by the assault of a previously unseen foe: a boy dropped upon him from the lamp-post and sent his sword flying, while the crowd cheered and jeered in turn.

At intervals a roar would arise, and the people would part before the frantic flight of a pickpocket, pursued and belaboured in his rush by a dozen apprentices, who carried sticks and straps, and were well able to use both.

But a few minutes after Garrick, Goldsmith and Burke reached the road, all the energies of the crowds seemed to be directed upon one object, and there was a cry of, “Here they come—here she comes—a cheer for Mrs. Baddeley!”

“O Lord,” cried Garrick, “they have gone so far as to choose Sophia Baddeley for their experiment!”

“Their notion clearly is not to do things by degrees,” said Goldsmith. “They might have begun with a less conspicuous person than Mrs. Baddeley. There are many gradations in colour between black and white.”

“But not between black and White's,” said Burke. “This notion is well worthy of the wit of White's.”

“Sophia is not among the gradations that Goldsmith speaks of,” said Garrick. “But whatever be the result of this jerk into prominence, it cannot fail to increase her popularity at the playhouse.”

“That's the standpoint from which a good manager regards such a scene as this,” said Burke. “Sophia will claim an extra twenty guineas a week after to-night.”

“By my soul!” cried Goldsmith, “she looks as if she would give double that sum to be safe at home in bed.”

The cheers of the crowd increased as the chair containing Mrs. Baddeley, the actress, was borne along, the lady smiling in a half-hearted way through her paint. On each side of the chair, but some short distance in front, were four link-boys in various liveries, shining with gold and silver lace. In place of footmen, however, there walked two rows of gentlemen on each side of the chair. They were all splendidly dressed, and they carried their swords drawn. At the head of the escort on one side was the well known young Lord Conway, and at the other side Mr. Hanger, equally well known as a leader of fashion. Lord Stanley was immediately behind his friend Conway, and almost every other member of the lady's escort was a young nobleman or the heir to a peerage.

The lines extended to a second chair, in which Mrs. Abington was seated, smiling——“Very much more naturally than Mrs. Baddeley,” Burke remarked.

“Oh, yes,” cried Goldsmith, “she was always the better actress. I am fortunate in having her in my new comedy.”

“The Duchesses have become jealous of the sway of Mrs. Abington,” said Garrick, alluding to the fact that the fashions in dress had been for several years controlled by that lovely and accomplished actress.

“And young Lord Conway and his friends have become tired of the sway of the Duchesses,” said Burke.

“My Lord Stanley looked as if he were pretty nigh weary of his Duchess's sway,” said Garrick. “I wonder if he fancies that his joining that band will emancipate him.”

“If so he is in error,” said Burke. “The Duchess of Argyll will never let him out of her clutches till he is safely married to the Lady Betty.”

“Till then, do you say?” said Goldsmith. “Faith, sir, if he fancies he will escape from her clutches by marrying her daughter he must have had a very limited experience of life. Still, I think the lovely young lady is most to be pitied. You heard the cold way he talked of her picture to Reynolds.”

The engagement of Lord Stanley, the heir to the earldom of Derby, to Lady Betty Hamilton, though not formally announced, was understood to be a fait accompli; but there were rumours that the young man had of late been making an effort to release himself—that it was only with difficulty the Duchess managed to secure his attendance in public upon her daughter, whose portrait was being painted by Reynolds.

The picturesque procession went slowly along amid the cheers of the crowds, and certainly not without many expressions of familiarity and friendliness toward the two ladies whose beauty of countenance and of dress was made apparent by the flambeaux of the link-boys, which also gleamed upon the thin blades of the ladies' escort. The actresses were plainly more popular than the committee of the Pantheon.

It was only when the crowds were closing in on the end of the procession that a voice cried—

“Woe unto them! Woe unto Aholah and Aholibah! Woe unto ye who follow them to your own destruction! Turn back ere it be too late!” The discordant note came from a Methodist preacher who considered the moment a seasonable one for an admonition against the frivolities of the town.

The people did not seem to agree with him in this matter. They sent up a shout of laughter, and half a dozen youths began a travesty of a Methodist service, introducing all the hysterical cries and moans with which the early followers of Wesley punctuated their prayers. In another direction a ribald parody of a Methodist hymn was sung by women as well as men; but above all the mockery the stern, strident voice of the preacher was heard.

“By my soul,” said Garrick, “that effect is strikingly dramatic. I should like to find some one who would give me a play with such a scene.”

A good-looking young officer in the uniform of the Guards, who was in the act of hurrying past where Garrick and his friends stood, turned suddenly round.

“I'll take your order, sir,” he cried. “Only you will have to pay me handsomely.”

“What, Captain Horneck? Is 't possible that you are a straggler from the escort of the two ladies who are being feted to-night?” said Garrick.

“Hush, man, for Heaven's sake,” cried Captain Horneck—Goldsmith's “Captain in lace.”

“If Mr. Burke had a suspicion that I was associated with such a rout he would, as the guardian of my purse if not of my person, give notice to my Lord Albemarle's trustees, and then the Lord only knows what would happen.” Then he turned to Goldsmith. “Come along, Nolly, my friend,” he cried, putting his arm through Oliver's; “if you want a scene for your new comedy you will find it in the Pantheon to-night. You are not wearing the peach-bloom coat, to be sure, but, Lord, sir! you are not to be resisted, whatever you wear.”

“You, at any rate, are not to be resisted, my gallant Captain,” said Goldsmith. “I have half a mind to see the sport when the ladies' chairs stop at the porch of the Pantheon.”

“As a matter of course you will come,” said young Horneck. “Let us hasten out of range of that howling. What a time for a fellow to begin to preach!”

He hurried Oliver away, taking charge of him through the crowd with his arm across his shoulder. Garrick and Burke followed as rapidly as they could, and Charles Horneck explained to them, as well as to his companion, that he would have been in the escort of the actress, but for the fact that he was about to marry the orphan daughter of Lord Albemarle, and that his mother had entreated him not to do anything that might jeopardise the match.

“You are more discreet than Lord Stanley,” said Garrick.

“Nay,” said Goldsmith. “'Tis not a question of discretion, but of the means to an end. Our Captain in lace fears that his joining the escort would offend his charming bride, but Lord Stanley is only afraid that his act in the same direction will not offend his Duchess.”

“You have hit the nail on the head, as usual, Nolly,” said the Captain. “Poor Stanley is anxious to fly from his charmer through any loop-hole. But he'll not succeed. Why, sir, I'll wager that if her daughter Betty and the Duke were to die, her Grace would marry him herself.”

“Ay, assuming that a third Duke was not forthcoming,” said Burke.

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