« ZurückWeiter »
face made its appearance among the coryphées, or a fair dancer executed a pas with especial grace or agility, Mr. Wenham, Mr. Wagg, or some other aide-de-camp of the noble Marquis, would be commissioned to go behind the scenes and express the great man's approbation, or make the inquiries which were prompted by his Lordship’s curiosity, or his interest in the dramatic art. He could not be seen by the audience, for Lord Steyne sate modestly behind a curtain, and looked only towards the stage—but you could know he was in the house, by the glances which all the corps-de-ballet, and all the principal dancers, cast towards his box. I have seen many scores of pairs of eyes (as in the Palm Dance in the ballet of Cook at Otaheite, where no less than a hundred and twenty lovely female savages in palm leaves and feather aprons were made to dance round Floridar as Captain Cook), ogling that box as they performed before it, and have often wondered to remark the presence of mind of Mademoiselle Sauterelle, or Mademoiselle de Bondi (known as la petite Caoutchouc), who, when actually up in the air quivering like so many shuttlecocks, always kept their lovely eyes winking at that box in which the great Steyne sate. Now and then you would hear a harsh voice from behind the curtain cry“ Brava, Brava !” or a pair of white gloves wave from it, and begin to applaud. Bondi, or Sauterelle, when they came down to earth, curtsied and smiled, especially to those hands, before they walked up the stage again, panting and happy.
One night this great Prince surrounded by a few choice friends was in his box at the Museum, and they were making such a noise and laughter that the pit was scandalised, and many indignant voices were bawling out silence so loudly, that Wagg wondered the police did not interfere to take the rascals out. Wenham was amusing the party in the box with extracts from a private letter which he had received from Major Pendennis, whose absence in the country at the full London season had been remarked, and of course deplored by his friends.
“The secret is out,” said Mr. Wenham, “there's a woman in the case.”
“Why, d— it, Wenham, he's your age,” said the gentleman behind the curtain.
“Pour les âmes bien nées, l'amour ne compte pas le nombre des années," said Mr. Wenham, with a gallant air. “For my part, I hope to be a victim till I die, and to break my heart every year of my life.” The meaning of which sentence was, “My lord, you need not talk; I'm three years younger than you, and twice as well conservé."
“Wenham, you affect me," said the great man, with one of his usual oaths. “By — you do. I like to see a fellow preserving all the illusions of youth up to our time of lifeand keeping his heart warm as yours is. Hang it, sir,-it's a comfort to meet with such a generous, candid creature.— Who's that gal in the second row, with blue ribbons, third from the stage—fine gal. Yes, you and I are sentimentalists. Wagg I don't think so much cares—it's the stomach rather more than the heart with you, eh, Wagg, my boy?"
“I like everything that's good,” said Mr. Wagg, generously. “Beauty and Burgundy, Venus and Venison. I don't say that Venus's turtles are to be despised, because they don't cook them at the London Tavern: but—but tell us about old Pendennis, Mr. Wenham,” he abruptly concluded—for his joke flagged just then, as he saw that his patron was not listening. In fact, Steyne's glasses were up, and he was examining some object on the stage.
“Yes, I've heard that joke about Venus's turtle and the London Tavern before—you begin to fail, my poor Wagg. If you don't mind I shall be obliged to have a new Jester,” Lord Steyne said, laying down his glass. “Go on, Wenham, about old Pendennis."
“Dear Wenham,-he begins,” Mr. Wenham read," as you have had my character in your hands for the last three weeks, and no doubt have torn me to shreds, according to your custom, I think you can afford to be good-humoured by way of variety, and to do me a service. It is a delicate matter, entre nous, une affaire de cour. There is a young friend of mine who is gone wild about a certain Miss Fotheringay, an actress at the theatre here, and I must own to you, as handsome a woman, and, as it appears to me, as good an actress as ever put on rouge. She does Ophelia, Lady Teazle, Mrs. Haller—that sort of thing. Upon my word, she is as splendid as Georges in her best days, and, as far as I know, utterly superior to anything we have on our scene. I want a London engagement for her. Can't you get your friend Dolphin to come and see her—to engage her—to take her out of this place? A word from a noble friend of ours (you understand) would be invaluable, and if you could get the Gaunt House interest for me I will promise anything I can in return for your service, which I shall consider one of the greatest that can be done to me. Do, do this now as a good fellow, which I always said you were: and in return, command yours truly,
“It's a clear case,” said Mr. Wenham, having read this letter; “old Pendennis is in love."
“And wants to get the woman up to London-evidently," continued Mr. Wagg.
“I should like to see Pendennis on his knees, with the rheumatism,” said Mr. Wenham.
" Or accommodating the beloved object with a lock of his hair,” said Wagg.
“Stuff,” said the great man. “He has relations in the country, hasn't he? He said something about a nephew, whose interest could return a member. It is the nephew's affair, depend on it. The young one is in a scrape. I was myself - when I was in the fifth form at Eton-a market-gardener's daughter—and swore I'd marry her. I was mad about herpoor Polly!”—Here he made a pause, and perhaps the past rose up to Lord Steyne, and George Gaunt was a boy again not altogether lost. "But I say, she must be a fine woman from Pendennis's account. Have in Dolphin, and let us hear if he knows anything of her."
At this Wenham sprang out of the box, passed the servitor who waited at the door communicating with the stage, and who saluted Mr. Wenham with profound respect; and the latter emissary, pushing on and familiar with the place, had no difficulty in finding out the manager, who was employed, as he not unfrequently was, in swearing and cursing the ladies of the corps-de-ballet for not doing their duty.
The oaths died away on Mr. Dolphin's lips as soon as he
saw Mr. Wenham ; and he drew off the hand which was clenched in the face of one of the offending coryphées, to grasp that of the new comer.
“How do, Mr. Wenham ? How's his Lordship to-night? Looks uncommonly well,” said the manager smiling, as if he had never been out of temper in his life ; and he was only too
delighted to follow Lord Steyne's ambassador, and pay his personal respects to that great man.
The visit to Chatteris was the result of their conversation : and Mr. Dolphin wrote to his Lordship from that place, and did himself the honour to inform the Marquis of Steyne, that he had seen the lady about whom his Lordship had spoken, that he was as much struck by her talents as he was by her personal appearance, and that he had made an engagement with Miss Fotheringay, who would soon have the honour of appearing before a London audience, and his noble and enlightened patron the Marquis of Steyne.
Pen read the announcement of Miss Fotheringay's engagement in the Chatteris paper, where he had so often praised her charms. The Editor made very handsome mention of her talent and beauty, and prophesied her success in the metropolis. Bingley, the manager, began to advertise “The last night of Miss Fotheringay's engagement.” Poor Pen and Sir Derby Oaks were very constant at the play: Sir Derby in the stage-box, throwing bouquets and getting glances.—Pen in the almost deserted boxes, haggard, wretched, and lonely. Nobody cared whether Miss Fotheringay was going or staying except those two—and perhaps one more, which was Mr. Bows of the orchestra.
He came out of his place one night, and went into the house to the box where Pen was; and he held out his hand to him, and asked him to come and walk. They walked down the street together; and went and sate upon Chatteris bridge in the moonlight, and talked about Her. “We may sit on the same bridge,” said he: “we have been in the same boat for a long time. You are not the only man who has made a fool of himself about that woman. And I have less excuse than you, because I'm older and know her better. She has no more heart than the stone you are leaning on; and it or you or I might fall into the water, and never come up again, and she wouldn't care. Yes—she would care for me, because she wants me to teach her: and she won't be able to get on without me, and will be forced to send for me from London. But she wouldn't if she didn't want me. She has no heart and no head, and no sense, and no feelings, and no griefs or