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applause, and, as the curtain went down, came round her and congratulated and hated Miss Fotheringay.
Now Mr. Dolphin’s appearance in the remote little Chatteris theatre may be accounted for in this manner. In spite of all his exertions, and the perpetual blazes ‘of triumph, coruscations of talent, victories of good old English comedy, which his play-bills advertised, his theatre (which, if you please, and to injure no present susceptibilities and vested interests, we shall call the Museum Theatre) by no means prospered, and the famous Impresario found himself on the verge of ruin. The great Hubbard had acted legitimate drama for twenty nights, and failed to remunerate anybody but himself: the celebrated Mr. and Mrs. Cawdor had come out in Mr. Rawhead’s tragedy, and in their favourite round of pieces, and had not attracted the public. Herr Garbage’s lions and tigers had drawn for a little time, until one of the animals had bitten a piece out of the Herr’s shoulder, when the Lord Chamberlain interfered, and put a stop to this species of performance ; and the grand Lyrical Drama, though brought out with unexampled splendour and success, with Monsieur Poumons as first tenor, and an enormous orchestra, had almost crushed poor Dolphin in its triumphant progress : so that great as his genius and resources were, they seemed to be at an end. He was dragging on his season wretchedly with half salaries, small operas, feeble old comedies, and his ballet company; and everybody was looking out for the day when he should appear in the Gazette.
One of the illustrious patrons of the Museum Theatre, and occupant of the great proscenium-box, was a gentleman whose name has been mentioned in a previous history : that refined patron of the arts, and ‘enlightened lover of music and the drama, the Most Noble the Marquis of Steyne. His Lordship’s avocations as a statesman prevented him from attending the playhouse very often, or coming very early. But he occasionally appeared at the theatre in time ‘for the ballet, and was always received‘wlith the greatest respect by the Manager, from whom he sometimes condescended to receive a visit in his box. It communicated with the stage, and when anything occurred there which particularly pleased him, when a new 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 ames 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 life—and 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 afiord to be good-humoured by way of variety, and to do me a service. It is a delicate matter, entre mus, mu: afi‘aire de caeur. 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, A. PENDENNIs.”
“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.
I “ 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 afiair, 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 her— poor Polly! ”—Here he made a pause, and perhaps the pastrose 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 corpssde-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 ofi the hand which was clenched in the face of one of the offending coryphées, to grasp that of the new comer.