The party found, on approaching the Pantheon, the advantage of being under the guidance of Captain Horneck. Without his aid they would have had considerable difficulty getting near the porch of the building, where the crowds were most dense. The young guardsman, however, pushed his way quite good-humouredly, but not the less effectively, through the people, and was followed by Goldsmith, Garrick and Burke being a little way behind. But as soon as the latter couple came within the light of the hundred lamps which hung around the porch, they were recognised and cheered by the crowd, who made a passage for them to the entrance just as Mrs. Baddeley's chair was set down.

The doors had been hastily closed and half-a-dozen constables stationed in front with their staves. The gentlemen of the escort formed in a line on each side of her chair to the doors, and when the lady stepped out—she could not be persuaded to do so for some time—and walked between the ranks of her admirers, they took off their hats and lowered the points of their swords, bowing to the ground with greater courtesy than they would have shown to either of the royal Duchesses, who just at that period were doing their best to obtain some recognition.

Mrs. Baddeley had rehearsed the “business” of the part which she had to play, but she was so nervous that she forgot her words on finding herself confronted by the constables. She caught sight of Garrick standing at one side of the door with his hat swept behind him as he bowed with exquisite irony as she stopped short, and the force of habit was too much for her. Forgetting that she was playing the part of a grande dame, she turned in an agony of fright to Garrick, raising her hands—one holding a lace handkerchief, the other a fan—crying—

“La! Mr. Garrick, I'm so fluttered that I've forgot my words. Where's the prompter, sir? Pray, what am I to say now?”

“Nay, madam, I am not responsible for this production,” said Garrick gravely, and there was a roar of laughter from the people around the porch.

The young gentlemen who had their swords drawn were, however, extremely serious. They began to perceive the possibility of their heroic plan collapsing into a merry burlesque, and so young Mr. Hanger sprang to the side of the lady.

“Madam,” he cried, “honour me by accepting my escort into the Pantheon. What do you mean, sirrah, by shutting that door in the face of a lady visitor?” he shouted to the liveried porter.

“Sir, we have orders from the management to permit no players to enter,” replied the man.

“Nevertheless, you will permit this lady to enter,” said the young gentleman. “Come, sir, open the doors without a moment's delay.”

“I cannot act contrary to my orders, sir,” replied the man.

“Nay, Mr. Hanger,” replied the frightened actress, “I wish not to be the cause of a disturbance. Pray, sir, let me return to my chair.”

“Gentlemen,” cried Mr. Hanger to his friends, “I know that it is not your will that we should come in active contest with the representatives of authority; but am I right in assuming that it is your desire that our honoured friend, Mrs. Baddeley, should enter the Pantheon?” When the cries of assent came to an end he continued, “Then, sirs, the responsibility for bloodshed rests with those who oppose us. Swords to the front! You will touch no man with a point unless he oppose you. Should a constable assault any of this company you will run him through without mercy. Now, gentlemen.”

In an instant thirty sword-blades were radiating from the lady, and in that fashion an advance was made upon the constables, who for a few moments stood irresolute, but then—the points of a dozen swords were within a yard of their breasts—lowered their staves and slipped quietly aside. The porter, finding himself thus deserted, made no attempt to withstand single-handed an attack converging upon the doors; he hastily went through the porch, leaving the doors wide apart.

To the sound of roars of laughter and shouts of congratulation from the thousands who blocked the road, Mrs. Baddeley and her escort walked through the porch and on to the rotunda beyond, the swords being sheathed at the entrance.

It seemed as if all the rank and fashion of the town had come to the rotunda this night. Peeresses were on the raised dais by the score, some of them laughing, others shaking their heads and doing their best to look scandalised. Only one matron, however, felt it imperative to leave the assembly and to take her daughters with her. She was a lady whose first husband had divorced her, and her daughters were excessively plain, in spite of their masks of paint and powder.

The Duchess of Argyll stood in the centre of the dais by the side of her daughter, Lady Betty Hamilton, her figure as graceful as it had been twenty years before, when she and her sister Maria, who became Countess of Coventry, could not walk down the Mall unless under the protection of a body of soldiers, so closely were they pressed by the fashionable mob anxious to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Miss Gunnings. She had no touch of carmine or powder to obscure the transparency of her complexion, and her wonderful long eyelashes needed no darkening to add to their silken effect. Her neck and shoulders were white, not with the cold whiteness of snow, but with the pearl-like charm of the white rose. The solid roundness of her arms, and the grace of every movement that she made with them, added to the delight of those who looked upon that lovely woman.

Her daughter had only a measure of her mother's charm. Her features were small, and though her figure was pleasing, she suggested nothing of the Duchess's elegance and distinction.

Both mother and daughter looked at first with scorn in their eyes at the lady who stood at one of the doors of the rotunda, surrounded by her body guard; but when they perceived that Lord Stanley was next to her, they exchanged a few words, and the scorn left their eyes. The Duchess even smiled at Lady Ancaster, who stood near her, and Lady Ancaster shrugged her shoulders almost as naturally as if she had been a Frenchwoman.

Cynical people who had been watching the Duchess's change of countenance also shrugged their shoulders (indifferently), saying—

“Her Grace will not be inexorable; the son-in-law upon whom she has set her heart, and tried to set her daughter's heart as well, must not be frightened away.”

Captain Horneck had gone up to his fiancee.

“You were not in that creature's train, I hope,” said the lady.

“I? Dear child, for what do you take me?” he said. “No, I certainly was not in her train. I was with my friend Dr. Goldsmith.”

“If you had been among that woman's escort, I should never have forgiven you the impropriety,” said she.

(She was inflexible as a girl, but before she had been married more than a year she had run away with her husband's friend, Mr. Scawen.)

By this time Lord Conway had had an interview with the management, and now returned with two of the gentlemen who comprised that body to where Mrs. Baddeley was standing simpering among her admirers.

“Madam,” said Lord Conway, “these gentlemen are anxious to offer you their sincere apologies for the conduct of their servants to-night, and to express the hope that you and your friends will frequently honour them by your patronage.”

And those were the very words uttered by the spokesman of the management, with many humble bows, in the presence of the smiling actress.

“And now you can send for Mrs. Abing-ton,” said Lord Stanley. “She agreed to wait in her chair until this matter was settled.”

“She can take very good care of herself,” said Mrs. Baddeley somewhat curtly. Her fright had now vanished, and she was not disposed to underrate the importance of her victory. She had no particular wish to divide the honours attached to her position with another woman, much less with one who was usually regarded as better-looking than herself. “Mrs. Abington is a little timid, my Lord,” she continued; “she may not find herself quite at home in this assembly.'Tis a monstrous fine place, to be sure; but for my part, I think Vauxhall is richer and in better taste.”

But in spite of the indifference of Mrs. Baddeley, a message was conveyed to Mrs. Abington, who had not left her chair, informing her of the honours which were being done to the lady who had entered the room, and when this news reached her she lost not a moment in hurrying through the porch to the side of her sister actress.

And then a remarkable incident occurred, for the Duchess of Argyll and Lady Ancaster stepped down from their dais and went to the two actresses, offering them hands, and expressing the desire to see them frequently at the assemblies in the rotunda.

The actresses made stage courtesies and returned thanks for the condescension of the great ladies. The cynical ones laughed and shrugged their shoulders once more.

Only Lord Stanley looked chagrined. He perceived that the Duchess was disposed to regard his freak in the most liberal spirit, and he knew that the point of view of the Duchess was the point of view of the Duchess's daughter. He felt rather sad as he reflected upon the laxity of mothers with daughters yet unmarried. Could it be that eligible suitors were growing scarce?

Garrick was highly amused at the little scene that was being played under his eyes; he considered himself a pretty fair judge of comedy, and he was compelled to acknowledge that he had never witnessed any more highly finished exhibition of this form of art.

His friend Goldsmith had not waited at the door for the arrival of Mrs. Abington. He was not wearing any of the gorgeous costumes in which he liked to appear at places of amusement, and so he did not intend to remain in the rotunda for longer than a few minutes; he was only curious to see what would be the result of the bold action of Lord Conway and his friends. But when he was watching the act of condescension on the part of the Duchess and the Countess, and had had his laugh with Burke, he heard a merry voice behind him saying—

“Is Dr. Goldsmith a modern Marius, weeping over the ruin of the Pantheon?”

“Nay,” cried another voice, “Dr. Goldsmith is contemplating the writing of a history of the attempted reformation of society in the eighteenth century, through the agency of a Greek temple known as the Pantheon on the Oxford road.”

He turned and stood face to face with two lovely laughing girls and a handsome elder lady, who was pretending to look scandalised.

“Ah, my dear Jessamy Bride—and my sweet Little Comedy!” he cried, as the girls caught each a hand of his. He had dropped his hat in the act of making his bow to Mrs. Horneck, the mother of the two girls, Mary and Katherine—the latter the wife of Mr. Bunbury. “Mrs. Horneck, madam, I am your servant—and don't I look your servant, too,” he added, remembering that he was not wearing his usual gala dress.

“You look always the same good friend,” said the lady.

“Nay,” laughed Mrs. Bunbury, “if he were your servant he would take care, for the honour of the house, that he was splendidly dressed; it is not that snuff-coloured suit we should have on him, but something gorgeous. What would you say to a peach-bloom coat, Dr. Goldsmith?”

(His coat of this tint had become a family joke among the Hornecks and Bun-burys.)

“Well, if the bloom remain on the peach it would be well enough in your company, madam,” said Goldsmith, with a face of humorous gravity. “But a peach with the bloom off would be more congenial to the Pantheon after to-night.” He gave a glance in the direction of the group of actresses and their admirers.

Mrs. Horneck looked serious, her two daughters looked demurely down.

“The air is tainted,” said Goldsmith, solemnly.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Bunbury, with a charming mock demureness. “'T is as you say: the Pantheon will soon become as amusing as Ranelagh.”

“I said not so, madam,” cried Goldsmith, shaking-his head. “As amusing—-amusing——”

“As Ranelagh. Those were your exact words, Doctor, I assure you,” protested Little Comedy. “Were they not, Mary?”

“Oh, undoubtedly those were his words—only he did not utter them,” replied the Jessamy Bride.

“There, now, you will not surely deny your words in the face of two such witnesses!” said Mrs. Bunbury.

“I could deny nothing to two such faces,” said Goldsmith, “even though one of the faces is that of a little dunce who could talk of Marius weeping over the Pantheon.”

“And why should not he weep over the Pantheon if he saw good cause for it?” she inquired, with her chin in the air.

“Ah, why not indeed? Only he was never within reach of it, my dear,” said Goldsmith.

“Psha! I daresay Marius was no better than he need be,” cried the young lady.

“Few men are even so good as it is necessary for them to be,” said Oliver.

“That depends upon their own views as to the need of being good,” remarked Mary.

“And so I say that Marius most likely made many excursions to the Pantheon without the knowledge of his biographer,” cried her sister, with an air of worldly wisdom of which a recent bride was so well qualified to be an exponent.

“'Twere vain to attempt to contend against such wisdom,” said Goldsmith.

“Nay, all things are possible, with a Professor of Ancient History to the Royal Academy of Arts,” said a lady who had come up with Burke at that moment—a small but very elegant lady with distinction in every movement, and withal having eyes sparkling with humour.

Goldsmith bowed low—again over his fallen hat, on the crown of which Little Comedy set a very dainty foot with an aspect of the sweetest unconsciousness. She was a tom-boy down to the sole of that dainty foot.

“In the presence of Mrs. Thrale,” Goldsmith began, but seeing the ill-treatment to which his hat was subjected, he became confused, and the compliment which he had been elaborating dwindled away in a murmur.

“Is it not the business of a professor to contend with wisdom, Dr. Goldsmith?” said Mrs. Thrale.

“Madam, if you say that it is so, I will prove that you are wrong by declining to argue out the matter with you,” said the Professor of Ancient History.

Miss Horneck's face shone with appreciation of her dear friend's quickness; but the lively Mrs. Thrale was, as usual, too much engrossed in her own efforts to be brilliant to be able to pay any attention to the words of so clumsy a person as Oliver Goldsmith, and one who, moreover, declined to join with so many other distinguished persons in accepting her patronage.

She found it to her advantage to launch into a series of sarcasms—most of which had been said at least once before—at the expense of the Duchess of Argyll and Lady Ancaster, and finding that Goldsmith was more busily, engaged in listening to Mrs. Bunbury's mock apologies for the injury she had done to his hat than in attending to her jeux d'esprit, she turned her back upon him, and gave Burke and Mrs. Horneck the benefit of her remarks.

Goldsmith continued taking part in the fun made by Little Comedy, pointing out to her the details of his hat's disfigurement, when, suddenly turning in the direction of Mary Horneck, who was standing behind her mother, the jocular remark died on his lips. He saw the expression of dismay—worse than dismay—which was on the girl's face as she gazed across the rotunda.

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