AUTHOR OF "A PRINCESS OF THULE" "MACLEOD OF DARE" "IN FAR LOCHABER" ETC.
NEW YORK HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE 1905
I. A REHEARSAL 5
II. THE GREAT GOD PAN 21
III. NINA 37
IV. COUNTRY AND TOWN 55
V. WARS AND RUMORS 78
VI. A DEPARTURE 90
VII. IN STRATHAIVRON 106
VIII. THE TWELFTH 123
IX. VENATOR IMMEMOR 142
X. AIVRON AND GEINIG 159
XI. THE PHANTOM STAG 174
XII. A GLOBE OF GOLD-FISH 192
XIII. A NEW EXPERIENCE 207
XIV. A MAGNANIMOUS RIVAL 225
XV. "LET THE STRUCKEN DEER GO WEEP" 243
XVI. AN AWAKENING 259
XVII. A CRISIS 276
XVIII. AN INVOCATION 294
XIX. ENTRAPPED 310
XX. IN DIRER STRAITS 326
XXI. IN A DEN OF LIONS, AND THEREAFTER 342
XXII. PRIUS DEMENTAT 359
XXIII. A MEMORABLE DAY 376
XXIV. FRIENDS IN NEED 393
XXV. CHANGES 410
XXVI. TOWARDS THE DAWN 425
XXVII. A REUNION 430
"SHE DRAGGED OFF THE ENGAGEMENT-RING, AND DASHED IT ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HIS FEET" Frontispiece.
"'YOU SAY AT YOUR FEET THAT I WEPT IN DESPAIR'" Facing p. 18
"WHEN THEY HAD FINISHED SUPPER, LIONEL MOORE LIT A CIGARETTE, AND HIS FRIEND A BRIAR-ROOT PIPE" " 34
"THEY PASSED IN THROUGH THE GATE, AND FOUND THE DOOR LEFT OPEN FOR THEM" " 64
"AND YET HERE WAS THIS GIRL WATCHING COOLLY AND CRITICALLY THE MOTION OF THE LINE" " 116
"CAUTIOUSLY OLD ROBERT CREPT DOWN. WHEN HE WAS CLOSE TO THE WATER, HE BARED HIS RIGHT ARM AND GRASPED THE GAFF BY THE HANDLE" " 170
"ROBERT GOT THE SMALL PARCELS AND THE DRINKING-CUPS OUT OF THE BAG, AND ARRANGED THEM ON THE WARM TURF" " 198
"AND NINA, HANGING SOME WAY BACK, COULD SEE THEM BEING PRESENTED TO MISS BURGOYNE" " 252
"'WHY, YOU SEEM TO KNOW EVERYBODY, MR. MOORE!' SHE SAID TO HIM, WITH A SMILE" " 264
"HE THREW HIS ARMS ON THE TABLE BEFORE HIM, AND HID HIS FACE" " 310
"AND AGAIN SHE FILLED UP HIS GLASS, WHICH HE HAD NOT EMPTIED" " 322
"THERE WAS A SLIGHT TOUCH OF COLOR VISIBLE ON THE GRACIOUS FOREHEAD WHEN SHE OFFERED HIM HER HAND" " 346
"HE UTTERED A LOUD SHRIEK, AND STRUGGLED WILDLY TO RAISE HIMSELF" " 394
"SHE THREW HERSELF ON HER KNEES BY THE BEDSIDE AND SEIZED HIS HAND" " 400
"MAURICE WALKED BACK UNTIL HE FOUND A GATE, ENTERED, AND WENT FORWARD AND OVERTOOK HER" " 420
"I HAVE AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT LETTER TO SEND OFF" " 430
When the curtain fell on the last act of "The Squire's Daughter," the comedy-opera that had taken all musical London by storm, a tall and elegant young English matron and her still taller brother rose from their places in the private box they had been occupying, and made ready to depart; and he had just assisted her to put on her long-skirted coat of rose-red plush when an attendant made his appearance.
"Mr. Moore's compliments, your ladyship, and will you please to step this way?"
The box was close to the stage. Lady Adela Cunyngham and her brother, Lord Rockminster, followed their guide through a narrow little door, and almost at once found themselves in the wings, amid the usual motley crowd of gas-men, scene-shifters, dressers, and the like. But the company were still fronting the footlights; for there had been a general recall, and the curtain had gone up again; and probably, during this brief second of scrutiny, it may have seemed odd to these two strangers to find themselves looking, not at rows of smiling faces on the stage, but at the backs of the heads of the performers. However, the curtain once more came down; the great wedding-party in the squire's hall grew suddenly quite business-like and went their several ways as if they had no longer any concern with one another; and then it was that the squire's daughter herself—a piquant little person she was, in a magnificent costume of richly flowered white satin, and with a portentous head-gear of powdered hair and brilliants and strings of pearls—was brought forward by a handsome young gentleman who wore a tied wig, a laced coat and ruffles, satin knee-breeches, shining silken stockings, and silver-buckled shoes.
"Lady Adela," said he, "let me introduce you to Miss Burgoyne. Miss Burgoyne has been kind enough to say she will take you into her room for a little while, until I get off my war-paint. I sha'n't keep you more than a few minutes."
"It is very good of you," said the tall young matron in the crimson coat to this gorgeous little white bride, whose lips were brilliant with cherry-paste, and whose bright and frank eyes were surrounded by such a mighty mass of make-up.
"Not at all," she answered, pleasantly enough, and therewith she led the way down some steps into a long, white-tiled corridor, from which branched the various dressing-rooms. "I'm afraid I can't give you any tea now; but there's some lemonade, of my own making—it has become very popular in the theatre—you would hardly believe the number of callers I have of an evening."
By this time Lionel Moore, who was responsible for these strangers being in the theatre, had gone quickly off to his own dressing-room to change his attire, so that when the two ladies reached a certain half-open door where the prima-donna's maid was waiting for her, Lord Rockminster naturally hung back and would have remained without. Miss Burgoyne instantly turned to him.
"Oh, but you may come in too!" she said, with great complaisance.
Somewhat timorously he followed these two into a prettily furnished little sitting-room, where he was bidden to take a seat and regale himself with lemonade, if he was so minded; and then Miss Burgoyne drew aside the curtain of an inner apartment, and said to her other guest:
"You may come in here, if you like. Mr. Moore said you wished to know about stage make-up and that kind of thing—I will show you all the dreadful secrets—Jane!" Thereupon these three disappeared behind the curtain, and Lord Rockminster was left alone.
But Lord Rockminster liked being left alone. He was a great thinker, who rarely revealed his thoughts, but who was quite happy in possessing them. He could sit for an hour at a club-window, calmly gazing out into the street, and be perfectly content. It is true that the pale tobacco-tinge that overspread the young man's fair complexion seemed to speak of an out-of-door life; but he had long ago emancipated himself from the tyranny of field-sports. That thraldom had begun early with him, as with most of his class. He had hardly been out of his Eton jacket when gillies and water-bailiffs got hold of him, and made him thrash salmon-pools with a seventeen-foot rod until his back was breaking; and then keepers and foresters had taken possession of him, and compelled him to crawl for miles up wet gullies and across peat-hags, and then put a rifle in his hand, expecting him to hit a bewildering object on the other side of a corrie when, as a matter of fact, his heart was like to burst with excitement and fear. But the young man had some strength of character. He rebelled; he refused to be driven like a slave any longer; he struck for freedom and won it. There was still much travelling to be encountered; but when he had got that over, when he had seen everything and done everything, and there was nothing more to do or to see, then he became master of himself and conducted himself accordingly. Contemplation, accompanied by a cigarette, was now his chief good. What his meditations were no one knew, but they sufficed unto himself. He had attained Nirvana. He lived in a region of perpetual thought.
But there was one active quality that Lord Rockminster certainly did possess: he was a most devoted brother, as all the town knew. He was never tired of going about with his three beautiful sisters, or with any one of them; he would fetch and carry for them with the most amiable assiduity; "Rock" they called him, as if he were a retriever. Then the fact that they followed very different pursuits made all the greater demand on his consideration. His youngest sister, Lady Rosamund Bourne, painted indefatigably in both water and oils, and had more than once exhibited in Suffolk Street; Lady Sybil devoted herself to music, and was a well-known figure at charitable concerts; while the eldest sister, Lady Adela, considered literature and the drama as more particularly under her protection, nor had she ceased to interest herself in these graceful arts when she married Sir Hugh Cunyngham, of the Braes, that famous breeder of polled cattle. The natural consequence of all this was that Lord Rockminster found himself called to a never-ending series of concerts, theatres, private views, and the like, and always with one or other of his beautiful, tall sisters as his companion; while on a certain occasion (for it was whispered that Lady Adela Cunyngham was engaged in the composition of a novel, and her brother was the soul of good-nature) he had even gone the length of asking a publisher to dine at his club. And here he was seated in an actress's room, alone, while his sister was inspecting powder-puffs, washes, patches, and paste jewelry; and not only that, but they were about to take an actor home to supper with them. What he thought about it all he never said. He sat and stroked his small yellow moustache; his eyes was absent; and on his handsome, almost Greek, features there dwelt a perfect and continuous calm.
Presently the door was opened, and the smart-looking young baritone who had stolen away the hearts of half the women in London made his appearance. He was a young fellow of about eight-and-twenty, pleasant-featured, his complexion almost colorless, his eyes gray with dark lashes, his eyebrows also dark. In figure he was slight and wiry rather than muscular; but where he gave evidence of strength was in his magnificent throat and in the set of his head and shoulders. It may be added that he possessed, what few stage-singers appear to possess, a remarkably well-formed leg—a firm-knit calf tapering to a small ankle and a shapely foot; but, as he had now doffed his professional silken stockings and silver-buckled shoes for ordinary evening wear, his merits in this respect were mostly concealed.
No sooner had he begun to talk to Lord Rockminster than the sound of his voice summoned forth from the inner apartment Lady Adela, who, with many expressions of thanks, bade good-night to the prima-donna, and put herself under charge of the young baritone.
"My sisters are at the Mellords' to-night," said she, as she accompanied him along the corridor and up the steps and through the now almost deserted wings. "They were dining there, and we left them as we came to the theatre, and promised to pick them up on our way home. There will be a bit of a crush, I suppose; you won't mind coming in for a few minutes, will you, Mr. Moore?"
"I don't know Mrs. Mellord," said he, with becoming modesty.
"But everybody knows you—that is the great point," said this tall young Englishwoman, who looked very gracious and charming, and who, when she turned to talk to her companion, had a quick, responsive smile ever ready in her clear, intelligent, gray-blue eyes. "Oh, yes, you must come. It is one of the prettiest houses in London; and Mrs. Mellord is one of the nicest women. We will get Sybil and Rose away as soon as we can; and I shouldn't at all wonder if we found Georgie Lestrange and her brother there too. Oh, almost certain, I should say. Then we could carry them off to supper, and after that Pastora might try over her duet with Damon. But as regards the Mellords, Mr. Moore," said she, with a pleasant smile, as he handed her into her brougham, which had been brought round to the stage-door, "I shall consider you to be under my protection, and I will take care no one shall ask you to sing."
"But you know, Lady Adela, I am always delighted to sing for any friend of yours," said he, promptly enough; and then, when he and Lord Rockminster had entered the carriage, and the footman had shut the door and got on the box, away they drove through the busy midnight world of London.
It did not take them long to get from the New Theatre to the house of the famous Academician; and here, late as it was, they found plenty of people still arriving, a small crowd of onlookers scanning the various groups as they crossed the pavement. On this hot night in May, it seemed pleasantly cool to get into the great hall of white and black marble, where the miniature lake, on which floated an alabaster swan, was all banked round with flowers; and when Lady Adela had dispossessed herself of her long plush coat, it was evident she had dressed for the reception before going to the theatre, for now she appeared in a costume of silver-gray satin with a very considerable train, while there were diamond stars in her light brown hair, and at her bosom a bunch of deep crimson roses. At the head of the stairs they encountered Mrs. Mellord, who received the famous young baritone with the most marked kindness. Indeed, he seemed to be known to a considerable number of the people who were assembled in these spacious rooms of white and gold; while those who were not personally acquainted with him easily recognized him, for were not his photographs in every stationer's window in London? The Ladies Sybil and Rosamund Bourne they found in the studio, talking to the great Academician himself. These two young ladies were even taller, as they likewise were fairer in complexion, than their married sister; moreover, they were much more dignified in demeanor than she was, though that may have merely arisen from maidenly reserve. But when Mr. Mellord exhibited at the Royal Academy his much-talked-of picture of the three sisters, most people seemed to think that though the two younger ladies might have carried off the palm for their handsome, pale, regularly cut features and their calm, observant eyes, there was something in the bright, vivacious look of the eldest that outweighed these advantages; while in society, and especially as a hostess in her own house, the charm of Lady Adela's manner, and her quick, sympathetic, engaging ways made her a universal favorite. And one was tempted, in amazement, to ask how it came about that a woman so alert and intelligent, so conversant with the world, so ready to note the ridiculous side of things, could not understand what a poor and lamentable figure she made as an amateur authoress? But had the Lady Sybil any less confidence in her musical attainments, when she would undertake to play a duet with one of the most distinguished of professional musicians, she on the violin, he at the piano? And here, at this very moment, was Lady Rosamund talking to by far and away the greatest painter in England, and there was a picture before them on an easel, and she was saying to him, with perfect coolness,
"Why, I see you use cadmium yellow, Mr. Mellord! I never do."
Somehow an impression got abroad through these brilliant rooms that Mr. Moore was going to sing; and at length Mrs. Mellord came to the young man and frankly preferred her request.
"Oh, yes," said he, most good-naturedly.
"The serenade?" she ventured to hint.
"Oh, not the serenade!" said he, with a laugh. "Every butcher's boy in the streets whistles it."
"All England is singing it—and a good thing, too," she made answer; and then she said, with some emphasis: "I am sure no one rejoices more than myself at the great popularity of 'The Squire's Daughter.' I am very glad to see that a comedy-opera may be based on the best traditions of English music; and I hope we shall have a great deal less of the Offenbach tinkle-tankle."
"The serenade, if you like, then," said he, with, careless good-humor; what did it matter to him?
"And whom shall I get to play an accompaniment for you?"
"Oh, you needn't trouble; I can do that for myself—"
"But you must make one young lady supremely happy," said she, with insidious flattery.
He glanced round the studio.
"I see Miss Lestrange over there—she has played it for me before—without the music, I mean."
"Then I'll go and fetch her," said the indefatigable hostess; and now everybody seemed to know that Mr. Lionel Moore was about to sing "The Starry Night."
Miss Georgie Lestrange was no sooner appealed to than she came through the crowd, smiling and laughing. She was an exceedingly pretty lass, with fresh-complexioned cheeks, a pert and attractive nose, a winsome mouth, and merry blue eyes that were hardly made grave by the pince-nez that she habitually wore. She was very prettily dressed, too—in blue-and-silver brocade, with a high Medici collar of silver lace, puffed sleeves with twisted cords of silver, and silver fillets binding the abundant masses of her ruddy-golden hair. She sat down at the piano, and the first notes of the accompaniment deepened the silence that now prevailed, not only in this big studio, but throughout the communicating rooms.
Probably there was not a human being in the place who had not heard this serenade sung a dozen times over, for it was the most popular air of the most popular piece then being played in London; but there was some kind of novelty in listening to the same notes that had thrilled through the theatre (rather, that had sent their passionate appeal up to a certain mysterious balcony, in the dim moonlight of the stage) now pulsating through the hushed silence of these modern rooms. Lionel Moore was not a baritone of altogether rare and exceptional gifts, otherwise he might hardly have been content with even the popularity and the substantial rewards of comic opera; but he had a very excellent voice for all that, of high range, and with a resonant and finely sympathetic timbre that seemed easily to find its way (according to all accounts) to the feminine heart. And the music of this serenade was really admirable, of subtle and delicate quality, and yet full of the simplest melody, and perhaps none the less to be appreciated that it seemed to suggest a careful study of the best English composers. The words were conventional enough, of course; but then the whole story of "The Squire's Daughter" was as artificial as the wigs and powder and patches of the performers; and even now, when Harry Thornhill, bereft of all his gay silk and lace and ruffles, and become plain Mr. Lionel Moore, in ordinary evening dress, sang to Miss Georgie Lestrange's accompaniment, the crowd did not think of the words—they were entranced by the music. "The starry night"—this is how Harry Thornhill, in the opera, addresses Grace Mainwaring, he standing in the moonlit garden and looking up to her window—
"The starry night brings me no rest; My ardent love now stands confessed; Appear, my sweet, and shame the skies, That have no splendor, That have no splendor like thine eyes!"
The serenade was followed by a general murmur of approbation, rather than by any loud applause; but the pretty Mrs. Mellord came up to the singer and was most profuse of thanks. Prudently, however, he moved away from the piano, being accompanied by Miss Georgie Lestrange, who seemed rather pleased with the prominence this position gave her; and very soon a surreptitious message reached them both that they were wanted below. When they went down into the hall they found that Lady Adela had got her party collected, including Miss Lestrange's brother Percy; thereupon the four ladies got into the brougham and drove off, while the three gentlemen proposed to follow on foot, and have a cigarette the while. It was a pleasantly warm night, and they had no farther to go than Sir Hugh Cunyngham's house, which is one of the large garden-surrounded mansions on the summit of Campden Hill.
When at length they arrived there and had entered by the wooden gate, the semicircular carriage-drive, lit by two solitary lamps, and the front of the house itself, half-hidden among the black trees, seemed somewhat sombre and repellent at this silent hour of the morning; but they found a more cheerful radiance streaming out from the hall-door, which had been left open for them; and when they went into the large dining-room, where the ladies had already assembled, there was no lack of either light or color there, for all the candles were ablaze, and the long table was brilliant with silver and Venetian glass and flowers. And, indeed, this proved to be a very merry and talkative supper-party; for, as soon as supper was served, the servants were sent off to bed; Lord Rockminster constituted himself butler, and Percy Lestrange handed round the pheasants' eggs and asparagus and such things; so that there was no alien ear in the room. Lionel Moore, being less familiar with the house, was exempted from these duties; in truth, it was rather the women-folk who waited upon him—and petted him as he was used to be petted, wherever that fortunate young man happened to go.
However, it was not supper that was chiefly occupying the attention of this band of eager chatterers (from whom the silent Lord Rockminster, walking gravely round the table with a large jug of champagne-cup in his hand, must honorably be distinguished), it was the contemplated production of a little musical entertainment called "The Chaplet," by Dr. Boyce, which they were about to attempt, out-of-doors, on some afternoon still to be fixed, and before a select concourse of friends. And the most vivacious of the talkers was the red-headed and merry-eyed young maiden in blue silver and brocade, who seemed incapable of keeping her rosebud of a mouth closed for more than a minute at a time.
"I do think it's awfully hard on me," she was protesting. "Look how I'm handicapped! Everybody knows that Pastora was played by Kitty Olive; and everybody will say, 'That Lestrange girl has cheek, hasn't she? thinks she can play Kitty Olive's parts!' And you know Pastora is always calling attention to her fascinating appearance."
"Georgie, you're fishing for compliments!" the young matron said, severely.
"No, I'm not, Adela," said Miss Lestrange, who, indeed, looked as charming as any Kitty Olive could ever have done. "Then there's another thing: fancy my having to sing a duet with Mr. Moore! It's all very well for you to sing a song off your own bat—"
"That would be difficult, Georgie," Lady Adela observed.
"Oh, you know what I mean. But when you come to sing in conjunction with an artist like Mr. Moore, what then? They will say it is mere presumption, when my little squeak of a voice gets drowned altogether."
"If you give any weight to a professional opinion, Miss Lestrange," the young baritone said, "I can assure you you sing your part in that duet—or in anything else I've heard you sing—very well indeed. Very well indeed."
"Ah, now Georgie's happy," said Lady Adela, with a laugh, as the blushing damsel cast down her eyes. "Well, I propose that we all go into the drawing-room, and we'll hear for ourselves how Pastora and Damon sing together. You may make as much noise as ever you like; the children are in Hampshire; Hugh is in Scotland; the servants are out of hearing; and our neighbors are a long way off."
This suggestion, coming from the lady of the house, was of the nature of a command, and so they leisurely trooped into the great drawing-room, where the candles were still burning. But there was something else than these artificial lights that attracted the sharp eyes of Miss Georgie Lestrange the moment she entered this new apartment. There was a curious, wan kind of color about the curtains and the French windows that did not seem natural to the room. She walked quickly forward, drew the lace hangings aside, and then, suddenly, she exclaimed,
"Why, it's almost daylight! Look here, Adela, why shouldn't we have a rehearsal of the whole piece, from end to end—a real rehearsal, this time, on the lawn? and Rose can tell us all how we are to stand, and Mr. Moore will show us what we should do besides merely speaking the lines."
This bold proposal was greeted with general acclaim, and instantly there was a bustle of preparation. Lady Sybil began to tune her violin by the side of the open piano; Lady Rosamund, who was at once scene-painter and stage-manager, as it were, got out some sheets of drawing-paper, on which she had sketched the various groups; and Lady Adela brought forth the MS. books of the play, which had been prepared under the careful (and necessary) supervision of Lionel Moore.
"Rockminster will have to figure as the audience," his eldest sister said, as she was looping up her long train of silver-gray satin preparatory to going out.
"That is a part I could play to perfection," put in Miss Lestrange's brother.
"Oh, no," Lady Adela remonstrated. "You may be wanted for Palaemon. You see, this is how it stands. The young shepherd was originally played at Drury Lane by a boy—and in Dublin by an actress; it is a boy's part, indeed. Well, you know, we thought Cis Yorke would snap at it; and she was eager enough at first; but"—and here Lady Adela smiled demurely—"I think her courage gave way. The boy's dress looked charming as Rose sketched it for her—and the long cloak made it quite proper, you know—and very picturesque, too—but—but I think she's frightened. We can't count on her. So we may have to call on you for Palaemon, Mr. Lestrange."
"And I have taken the liberty of cutting out the song, for it's rather stupid," said Lionel Moore, "so you've only got a few lines to repeat."
"The fewer the better," replied Mr. Percy Lestrange, who was possibly right in considering that, with his far-from-regular features and his red hair and moustache, his appearance as a handsome young swain should not have too much prominence given it.
Notwithstanding that it had been Miss Lestrange's audacious proposal that they should go masquerading in the open air, she was a wise young virgin, and she took care before going out to thrust a soft silk handkerchief into the square opening of her dress; the Ladies Sybil and Rosamund followed her example by drawing lace scarfs round their necks and shoulders; it was the young matron who was reprehensibly careless, and who, when the French windows were thrown open, went forth boldly, and without any wrap at all, into the cool air of the dawn. But for a second, as they stood on the little stone balcony above the steps leading down to the garden, this group of revellers were struck silent. The world looked so strange around them. In the mysterious gray light, that had no sort of kindly warmth in it, the grass of the lawn and the surrounding trees seemed coldly and intensely green; and cold and intense, with no richness of hue at all, were the colors of the flowers in the various plots and beds. Not a bird chirped as yet. Not a leaf stirred. But in this ghostly twilight the solitary gas lamps were beginning to show pale; and in the southern heavens the silver sickle of the moon, stealing over to the west, seemed to be taking the night with it, and leaving these faintly lilac skies to welcome the uprising of the new day.
At first, indeed, there was something curiously uncanny—something unearthly and phantasmal almost—in the spectacle of these figures, the women in white, the men in black, moving through this wan light; and their voices sounded strangely in the dead silence; but ere long a soft saffron tinge began to show itself in the east; one or two scraps of cloud in the violet skies caught a faint touch of the coming dawn; there was a more generous tone on the masses of foliage, on the flower-beds, and on the grass; and now the cheerful chirping of the birds had begun among the leaves. And what more beautiful surroundings could have been imagined for the production of any pastoral entertainment? The wide lawn was bounded on one side by a dense thicket of elms and limes and chestnuts, and on the other by a tall, dark hedge of holly; while here and there was a weeping-willow, round the stem of which a circular seat had been constructed, the pendulous branches enclosing a sort of rustic bower. As this fantastic performance went forward, the skies overhead slowly became more luminous; there was a sense of warmth and clear daylight beginning to tell; the birds were singing and chattering and calling everywhere; and the sweet, pure air of the morning, as it stirred, and no more than stirred, the trembling leaves, brought with it a scent of mignonette that seemed to speak of the coming of June.
Laura, in the person of Lady Adela Cunyngham, had reproached the faithless Damon (who was no other than Mr. Lionel Moore)—
"Ungrateful Damon, is it come to this? Are these the happy scenes of promis'd bliss? Ne'er hope, vain Laura, future peace to prove; Content ne'er harbors with neglected love."
—and Damon had replied (not mumbling his lines, as a privileged actor sometimes does at rehearsal, but addressing them properly to the hapless Laura)—
"Consider, fair, the ever-restless pow'r, Shifts with the breeze, and changes with the hour: Above restraint, he scorns a fixt abode, And on his silken plumes flies forth the rambling god."
Then Lady Sybil took out her violin from its case and drew the bow across the strings.
"We'll let you off the song, if you like, Mr. Moore," Lady Adela said to the young baritone, but in a very half-hearted kind of way.
"Oh, no," said he, pleasantly, "perhaps this may be my only rehearsal."
"The audience," observed Lord Rockminster, who, at a little distance, was lying back in a garden-chair, smoking a cigarette—"the audience would distinctly prefer to have the song sung."
Lady Sybil again gave him the key-note from the violin; and, without further accompaniment, he thus addressed his forsaken sweetheart:
"You say at your feet that I wept in despair, And vow'd that no angel was ever so fair? How could you believe all the nonsense I spoke? What know we of angels? I meant it in joke, I meant it in joke; What know we of angels? I meant it in joke."
When, in his rich, vibrating notes, he had sung the two verses, all the ladies rewarded him by clapping their hands, which was an exceedingly wrong thing to do, considering that they formed no part of the audience. Then Damon says,
"To-day Demaetus gives a rural treat, And I once more my chosen friends must meet: Farewell, sweet damsel, and remember this, Dull repetition deadens all our bliss."
And Laura sadly answers,
"Where baleful cypress forms a gloomy shade, And yelling spectres haunt the dreary glade, Unknown to all, my lonesome steps I'll bend, There weep my suff'rings, and my fate attend."
Here Laura ought to sing the song "Vain is every fond endeavor;" but Lady Adela said to the violinist,
"No, never mind, Syb; no one wants to hear me sing, until the necessity of the case arises. Let's get on to the feast; I think that will be very popular; for we must have lots of shepherds and shepherdesses; and the people will be delighted to recognize their friends. Where's your sketch, Rose? I would have groups round each of the willows, and occasional figures coming backwards and forwards through those rhododendrons."
"You must leave the principal performers plenty of stage," Lionel Moore interposed, laughing. "You mustn't hem us in with supers, however picturesque their dress may be."
And so they went on discussing their arrangements, while the refulgent day was everywhere declaring itself, though as yet no sound of the far-off world could reach this isolated garden. Nor was there any direct sunshine falling into it; but a beautiful warmth of color now shone on the young green of the elms and chestnuts and hawthorns, and on one or two tall-branching, trembling poplars just coming into leaf; while the tulip-beds—the stars, the crescents, the ovals, and squares—were each a mass of brilliant vermilion, of rose, of pale lemon, of crimson and orange, or clearest gold. This new-found dawn seemed wholly to belong to the birds. Perhaps it was their universal chirping and carolling that concealed the distant echo of the highways; for surely the heavily-laden wains were now making in for Covent Garden? At all events there was nothing here but this continuous bird-clamor and the voices of these modern nymphs and swains as they went this way and that over the velvet-smooth lawn.
And now the bewitching Pastora appears upon the scene (but would Mrs. Clive have worn a gold pince-nez at rehearsal?) and she has just quarrelled with her lover Palaemon—
"Insulting boy! I'll tear him from my mind; Ah! would my fortune could a husband find! And just in time, young Damon comes this way, A handsome youth he is, and rich, they say."
The butterfly-hearted Damon responds at once:
"Vouchsafe, sweet maid, to hear a wretched swain, Who, lost in wonder, hugs the pleasing chain: For you in sighs I hail the rising day, To you at eve I sing the lovesick lay; Then take my love, my homage as your due— The Devil's in her, if all this won't do." [Aside.
It must be confessed that the pretty and smiling and blushing Miss Georgie Lestrange looked just a little self-conscious as she had to listen to this extremely frank declaration; but she had the part of the coquettish Pastora to play; and Pastora, as soon as she discovers that Damon has no thought of marriage, naturally declines to have anything to do with him. And here came in the duet which had first suggested this escapade:
"DAMON. From flow'r to flow'r, his joy to change, Flits yonder wanton bee; From fair to fair thus will I range, And I'll be ever free. From fair to fair thus will I range, And I'll be ever free.
"PASTORA. You little birds attentive view, That hop from tree to tree; I'll copy them, I'll copy you, For I'll be ever free.
"DUETTO. Then let's divide to east and west Since we shall ne'er agree; And try who keeps their promise best And who's the longest free. Let's try who keeps their promise best And who's the longest free."
And again the audience made bold to clap their hands; for Miss Georgie Lestrange, despite her self-depreciation, sang very well indeed; and of course Lionel Moore knew how to moderate his voice, so that the combination was entirely pleasing. The further progress of the little comedy needs not to be described here; it has only to be said that the injured Laura is in the end restored to her repentant lover; and that a final duet between her and Damon closes the piece with the most praiseworthy sentiments:
"For their honor and faith be our virgins renown'd, Nor false to his vows one young shepherd he found; Be their moments all guided by virtue and truth, To preserve in their age what they gain'd in their youth, To preserve in their age what they gain'd in their youth."
Lord Rockminster rose from his chair, stretched his long legs, and threw away his cigarette.
"Very well done," said he, slowly. "Congratulate all of you."
"This is the first time I ever saw Rockminster sit out a morning performance," observed Percy Lestrange, with a playful grin.
"As for you young things," the mistress of the house said to her girl-guests, as they were all trooping in by the French windows again, "you must hurry home and get in-doors before the servants are up. I don't want this frolic to be talked about all over the town."
"A frolic, indeed!" Miss Georgie protested, as her brother was putting her cloak round her shoulders. "I don't call it a frolic at all. I call it very serious business; and I'm looking forward to winning the deepest gratitude of the English public—or at least as much of the English public as you can cram into your garden, my dear."
Then, as soon as the light wraps and dust-coats had been distributed and donned, the members of the gay little party said good-bye to Lady Adela in the front hall, and went down the carriage sweep to the gate. Here there was a division; for the Lestranges were going north by Holland Lane to Notting Hill; while Lord Rockminster and his two sisters, making for Palace Gardens Terrace, walked with Lionel Moore only as far as Campden Hill Road; thereafter he pursued his journey to Piccadilly alone.
And even now London was not fully awake, though the sun was touching the topmost branches of the trees, and here and there a high window, struck by the level rays, flashed back a gleam of gold. In this neighborhood the thoroughfares were quite deserted; silence reigned over those sleeping houses; the air was sweet and cool; now and again a stirring of wind brought a scent of summer—blossom from within the garden-enclosures. It is true that when he got down into Kensington Road he found a long procession of wagons slowly making their way into the great city; but this dull, drowsy noise was not ungrateful; in much content and idly he walked away eastward, looking in from time to time at the beautiful greensward of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. He was in no hurry. He liked the stillness, the gracious coolness and quietude of the morning, after the hot and feverish nights at the theatre. When at length he reached his lodging in Piccadilly, let himself in with his latch-key, and went up-stairs to his rooms, he did not go to bed at once. He drew an easy-chair to the front window, threw himself into it, lit a cigarette, and stared absently across to the branching elms and grassy undulations of the Green Park. Perhaps he was thinking of the pretty, fantastic little comedy that had just been performed up in that garden at Campden Hill—like some dream-picture out of Boccaccio. And if he chanced to recall the fact that the actor who originally played the part of Damon, at Drury Lane, some hundred and forty years ago, married in real life an earl's daughter, that was but a passing fancy. Of Lord Fareborough's three daughters, it was neither Lady Sybil nor Lady Rosamund, it was the married sister, Lady Adela Cunyngham, who had constituted herself his particular friend.
THE GREAT GOD PAN.
Late as he went to bed, sleep did not long detain him, for, in his own happy-go-lucky, troubadour sort of life, he was one of the most occupied of men even in this great, hurrying, bustling capital of the world. As soon as he had donned his dressing-gown and come into the sitting-room, he swallowed a cup of coffee that was waiting for him, and then, to make sure that unholy hours and cigarettes had not hurt his voice, he dabbed a note on the piano, and began to practise, in the open-throated Italian fashion, those vocalises which sound so strangely to the uninstructed ear. He rang for breakfast. He glanced in a despairing way at the pile of letters and parcels awaiting him, the former, no doubt, mostly invitations, the latter, as he could guess, proofs of his latest sittings to the photographers, albums and birth-day books sent for his autograph, music beseeching commendation, even manuscript plays accompanied by pathetic appeals from unknown authors. Then there was a long row of potted scarlet geraniums and large white daisies which the house-porter had ranged by the window; and when he opened the note that had been forwarded with these he found that the wife of a famous statesman had observed as she drove along Piccadilly that the flowers in his balcony wanted renewal and begged his acceptance of this graceful little tribute. He took up a pair of dumb-bells, and had some exercise with them, to keep his arms and chest in good condition. He looked at himself in the mirror: no, he did not seem to have smoked inordinately; nevertheless, he made sundry solemn vows about those insidious cigarettes. Then he began to open the envelopes. Here was an imposing card, "To have the honor of meeting their royal highnesses the king and queen of ——;" here was a more modest bit of pasteboard with "R.S.V.P. to mess president" at the lower corner; here were invitations to breakfasts, to luncheons, to afternoon squawks, to Sunday dinners, to dances and crushes, in short, to every possible kind of diversion and frivolity that the gay world of London could devise. He went steadily on with his letters. More photographers wanted him to sit to them. Would he accept the dedication of "The Squire's Daughter Fantasia"? The composer of "The Starry Night Valses" would like a lithographic portrait of Mr. Lionel Moore to appear on the cover. A humble admirer of Mr. Lionel Moore's great impersonation of Harry Thornhill begged to forward the enclosed acrostic, and might he be allowed to print it in the Mudborough Young Men's Mutual Improvement Magazine? Messrs. Smith & Smith would be extremely obliged if Mr. Lionel Moore would honor them with his opinion of the accompanying pair of their patent silver-mounted automatic self-adjusting braces.
"If I don't get a secretary," he muttered to himself, "I shall soon be in a mad-house."
Nor did he pay much attention to his breakfast when it was put on the table, for there were newspapers to be opened and glanced through—country journals, most of them, with marked paragraphs conveying the most unexpected, and even startling, intelligence regarding himself, his occupations, and forthcoming engagements. Then there were the book packets and the rolls of music to be examined; but by this time he had lit an after-breakfast cigarette, and was proceeding with something of indifference. Occasionally he strolled about the room, or went to the window and looked down into the roaring highway of Piccadilly, or across to the sunny foliage and pale-blue mists of the Green Park. And then, in the midst of his vague meditations, the following note was brought to him; it had been delivered by hand:
"MY DEAR MR. MOORE,—I do so awfully want to see you, about a matter of urgent importance. Do be good-natured and come and lunch with us—any time before half-past two, if possible. It will be so kind of you. I hope the morning performance has done you no harm.
Yours, sincerely, ADELA CUNYNGHAM."
Well, luncheon was not much in his way, for he usually dined at five; nevertheless, Lady Adela was an especial friend of his and had been very kind to him, and here was some serious business. So he hurried through what correspondence was absolutely necessary; he sent word to Green's stables that he should not ride that morning; he walked round to a certain gymnasium and had three quarters of an hour with the fencing-master (this was an appointment which he invariably held sacred); on his way back to his rooms he called in at Solomon's for a buttonhole; and then, having got home and made certain alterations in his toilet, he went out again, jumped into a hansom, and was driven up to the top of Campden Hill, arriving there shortly after one o'clock.
He found Lady Adela and Miss Georgie Lestrange in the drawing-room, or rather just outside, on the little balcony overlooking the garden, and neither of them seemed any the worse for that masquerading in the early dawn; indeed, Miss Georgie's naturally fresh and bright complexion flushed a little more than usual when she saw who this new-comer was, for perhaps she was thinking of the very frank manner in which Damon had expressed his admiration for Pastora but a few short hours ago.
"I have been telling Georgie all about the dresses at the drawing-room," said the tall young matron, as she gave him her hand and regarded him with a friendly look; "but that won't interest you, Mr. Moore. We shall have to talk about the new beauties, rather, to interest you."
He was a little puzzled.
"I thought, Lady Adela, you said there was something—something of importance—"
"That depends," said she, with a pleasant smile in her clear, gray-blue eyes. "I think it of importance; but it remains to be seen whether the world is of the same opinion. Well, I won't keep you in suspense."
She went to the piano, and brought back three volumes plainly bound in green cloth.
He took them from her, and glanced at the title-page: "Kathleen's Sweethearts, a Novel, by Lady Arthur Castletown," was what he found there.
"So it is out at last," said he, for he had more than once heard of this great work while it was still in progress.
"Yes," said she, eagerly, "though it isn't issued to the public yet. The fact is, Mr. Moore, I want you to help me. You know all about professional people, and the newspapers, and so on—who better?—and, of course, I'm very anxious about my first book—my first big book, that is—and I don't want it to get just thrown aside without ever being glanced at. Now, what am I to do? You may speak quite freely before Georgie—she's just as anxious as I am, every bit, I believe—only what to do we can't tell."
"All that I can think of," said the ruddy-haired young damsel, with a laugh, "is to have little advertisements printed, and I will leave them behind me wherever I go—in the stalls of a theatre, or at a concert, or anywhere. You know, Adela, you can not expect me to turn myself into a sandwich-man, and go about the streets between boards."
"Georgie, you're frivolous," said Lady Adela, and she again turned to Lionel Moore, who was still holding the three green volumes in his hands in a helpless sort of fashion. "You know, Mr. Moore, there are such a lot of books published nowadays—crowds!—shoals!—and, unless there is a little attention drawn beforehand, what chance have you? I want a friend in court—I want several friends in court—and that's the truth; now, how am I to get them?"
This was plain speaking; but he was none the less bewildered.
"You see, Lady Adela, the theatre is so different from the world of letters. I've met one or two newspaper men now and again, but they were dramatic critics—I never heard that they reviewed books."
"But they were connected with newspapers?—then they must know the men who do," said this alert and intelligent lady. "Oh, I don't ask for anything unfair! I only ask for a chance. I don't want to be thrown into a corner unread or sold to the second-hand bookseller uncut. Now, Mr. Moore, think. You must know lots of newspaper men if you would only think: why, they're always coming about theatres. And they would do anything for you, for you are such a popular favorite; and a word from you would be of such value to a beginner like me. Now, Mr. Moore, be good-natured, and consider. But first of all come away and have some lunch, and then we'll talk it over."
When they had gone into the dining-room and sat down at table, he said,
"Well, if it comes to that, I certainly know one newspaper man; in fact, I have known him all my life; he is my oldest friend. But then he is merely the head of the Parliamentary reporting staff of the Morning Mirror—he's in the gallery of the House of Commons, you know, every night—and I'm afraid he couldn't do much about a book."
"Couldn't he do a little, Mr. Moore?" said Lady Adela, insidiously. "Couldn't he get it hinted in the papers that 'Lady Arthur Castletown' is only a nom de plume?"
"Then you don't object to your own name being mentioned?" asked this simple young man.
"No, no, not at all," said she, frankly. "People are sure to get to know. There are some sketches of character in the book that I think will make a little stir—I mean people will be asking questions; and then you know how a pseudonym whets curiosity—they will certainly find out—and they will talk all the more then. That ought to do the book some good. And then you understand, Mr. Moore," continued this remarkably naive person, "if your friend happened to know any of the reviewers, and could suggest how some little polite attention might be paid them, there would be nothing wrong in that, would there? I am told that they are quite gentlemen nowadays—they go everywhere—and—and indeed I should like to make their acquaintance, since I've come into the writing fraternity myself."
Lionel Moore was silent; he was considering how he should approach the fastidious, whimsical, sardonic Maurice Mangan on this extremely difficult subject.
"Let me see," he said, presently. "This is Wednesday; my friend Mangan won't be at the House; I will send a message to his rooms, and ask him to come down to the theatre: then we can have a consultation about it. May I take this copy of the book with me, Lady Adela?"
"Certainly, certainly!" said she, with promptitude. "And if you know of any one to whom I should send a copy, with the author's name in it—my own name, I mean—it would be extremely kind of you to let me know. It's so awfully hard for us poor outsiders to get a hearing. You professional folk are in a very different position—the public just worship you—you have it all your own way—you don't need to care what the critics say—but look at me! I may knock and knock at the door of the Temple of Fame until my knuckles are sore, and who will take any notice—unless, perhaps, some friendly ear begins to listen? Do you think Mr. Mangan—did you say Mangan?—do you think he would come and dine with us some evening?"
The artless ingenuousness of her speech was almost embarrassing.
"He is a very busy man," he said, doubtfully, "very busy. He has his gallery work to do, of course; and then I believe he is engaged on some important philosophical treatise—he has been at it for years, indeed—"
"Oh, he writes books too?" Lady Adela cried. "Then certainly you must bring him to dinner. Shall I write a note now, Mr. Moore—a Sunday evening, of course, so that we may secure you as well—"
"I think I would wait a little, Lady Adela," he said, "until I see how the land lies. He's a most curious fellow, Mangan: difficult to please and capricious. I fancy he is rather disappointed with himself; he ought to have done something great, for he knows everything—at least he knows what is fine in everything, in painting, in poetry, in music; and yet, with all his sympathy, he seems to be forever grumbling—and mostly at himself. He is a difficult fellow to deal with—"
"I suppose he eats his dinner like anybody else," said Lady Adela, somewhat sharply: she was not used to having her invitations scorned.
"Yes, but I think he would prefer to eat it in a village ale-house," Lionel said, with a smile, "where he could make 'the violet of a legend blow, among the chops and steaks.' However, I will take him your book, Lady Adela; and I have no doubt he will be able to give you some good advice."
It was late that evening when, in obedience to the summons of a sixpenny telegram, Maurice Mangan called at the stage-door of the New Theatre and was passed in. Lionel Moore was on the stage, as any one could tell, for the resonant baritone voice was ringing clear above the multitudinous music of the orchestra; but Mangan, not wishing to be in the way, did not linger in the wings—he made straight for his friend's room, which he knew. And in the dusk of the long corridor he was fortunate enough to behold a beautiful apparition, in the person of a young French officer in the gayest of uniforms, who, apparently to maintain the character he bore in the piece (it was that of a young prisoner of war liberated on parole, who played sad havoc with the hearts of the village maidens by reason of his fascinating ways and pretty broken English), had just facetiously chucked two of the women dressers under the chin; and these damsels were simpering at this mark of condescension, and evidently much impressed by the swagger and braggadocio of the miniature warrior. However, Mlle. Girond (the boy-officer in question) no sooner caught sight of the new-comer than she instantly and demurely altered her demeanor; and as she passed him in the corridor she favored him with a grave and courteous little bow, for she had met him more than once in Miss Burgoyne's sitting-room. Mangan returned the salutation most respectfully; and then he went on and entered the apartment in which Lionel Moore dressed.
It was empty; so this tall, thin man with the slightly stooping shoulders threw himself into a wicker-work easy-chair, and let his eyes—which were much keener than was properly compatible with the half-affected expression of indolence that had become habitual to him—roam over the heterogeneous collection of articles around. These were abundantly familiar to him—the long dressing-table, with all its appliances for making-up, the mirrors, the wigs on blocks, the gay-colored garments, the fencing-foils and swords, the framed series of portraits from "Vanity Fair," the innumerable photographs stuck everywhere about. Indeed, it was something not immediately connected with these paraphernalia of an actor's existence that seemed to be occupying his mind, even as he idly regarded the various pastes and colors, the powder-puffs and pencils, the pots of vaseline. His eyes grew absent as he sat there. Was he thinking of the Linn Moore of years and years ago who used to reveal to the companion of his boyhood all his high aims and strenuous ambitions—how he was resolved to become a Mendelssohn, a Mozart, a Beethoven? Whither had fled all those wistful dreams and ardent aspirations? What was Linn Moore now?—why, a singer in comic opera, his face beplastered almost out of recognition; a pet of the frivolous-fashionable side of London society; the chief adornment of photographers' windows.
"'Half a beast is the great god Pan,'" this tall, languid-looking man murmured to himself, as he was vacuously staring at those paints and brushes and cosmetics; and then he got up and began to walk indeterminately about the room, his hands behind his back.
Presently the door was opened, and in came Lionel Moore, followed by his dresser.
"Hallo, Maurice!—you're late," said Harry Thornhill, as he surrendered himself to his factotum, who forthwith began to strip him of his travelling costume of cocked hat, frogged coat, white leather breeches, and shining black boots in order to make way for the more brilliant attire of the last act.
"Now that I am here, what are your highness's commands?" Mangan asked.
"There's a book there—written by a friend of mine," Lionel said, as he was helping his dresser to get off the glittering top-boots. "She wants me to do what I can for her with the press. What do I know about that? Still, she is a very particular friend—and you must advise me."
Mangan rose and went to the mantelpiece and took down Volume I.
"Lady Arthur Castletown—" said he.
"But that is not her real name," the other interposed. "Her real name is Lady Adela Cunyngham—of course you know who she is."
"I have been permitted to hear the echo of her name from those rare altitudes in which you dwell now," the other said, lazily. "So she is one of your fashionable acquaintances; and she wants to secure the puff preliminary, and a number of favorable reviews, I suppose; and then you send for me. But what can I do for you except ask one or two of the gallery men to mention the book in their London Correspondent's letter?"
"But that's the very thing, my dear fellow!" Lionel Moore cried, as he was getting on his white silk stockings. "The very thing! She wants attention drawn to the book. She doesn't want to be passed over. She wants to have the name of the book and the name of the author brought before the public—"
"Her real name?"
"Yes, certainly, if that is advisable."
"Oh, well, there's not much trouble about that. You can always minister to a mind diseased by a morbid craving for notoriety if a paragraph in a country newspaper will suffice. So this is part of what your fashionable friends expect from you, Linn, in return for their patronage?"
"It's nothing of the kind; she would do as much for me, if she knew how, or if there were any occasion."
"Oh, well, it is no great thing," said Mangan, who was really a very good-natured sort of person, despite his supercilious talk. "In fact, you might do her ladyship a more substantial service than that."
"I thought you knew Quirk—Octavius Quirk?"
"But you have always spoken so disparagingly of him!" the other exclaimed.
"What has that to do with it?" Mangan asked; and then he continued, in his indolent fashion: "Why, I thought you knew all about Quirk. Quirk belongs to a band of literary weaklings, not any one of whom can do anything worth speaking of; but they try their best to write up one another; and sometimes they take it into their heads to help an acquaintance—and then their cry is like that of a pack of beagles? you would think the press of London, or a considerable section of it, had but one voice. Why don't you take Lady Arthur's—Lady Constance's—what's her name?—why don't you take her book to the noble association of log-rollers? I presume the novel is trash; they'll welcome it all the more. She is a woman—she is not to be feared; she hasn't as yet committed the crime of being successful—she isn't to be envied and anonymously attacked. That's the ticket for you, Linn. They mayn't convince the public that Lady What's-her-name is a wonderful person; but they will convince her that she is; and what more does she want?"
"I don't understand you, Maurice!" the young baritone cried, almost angrily. "Again and again you've spoken of Octavius Quirk as if he were beneath contempt."
"What has that to do with it?" the other repeated, placidly. "As an independent writer, Quirk is quite beneath contempt—quite. There is no backbone in his writing at all, and he knows his own weakness; and he thinks he can conceal it by the use of furious adjectives. He is always in a frantic rush and flurry, that produces no impression on anybody. A whirlwind of feathers, that's about it. He goes out into the highway and brandishes a double-handed sword—in order to sweep off the head of a buttercup. And I suppose he expects the public to believe that his wild language, all about nothing, means strength; just as he hopes that they will take his noisy horse-laugh for humor. That's Octavius Quirk as a writer—a nobody, a nothing, a wisp of straw in convulsions; but as a puffer—ah, there you have him!—as a puffer, magnificent, glorious, a Greek hero, invincible, invulnerable. My good man, it's Octavius Quirk you should go to! Get him to call on his pack of beagles to give tongue; and then, my goodness, you'll hear a cry—for a while at least. Is there anything at all in the book?"
"I don't know," said Harry Thornhill, who had changed quickly, and was now regaling himself with a little of Miss Burgoyne's lemonade, with which the prima-donna was so kind as to keep him supplied. "Well, now, I shall be on the stage some time; what do you say to looking over Lady Adela's novel?"
There was a tapping at the door; it was the call-boy.
But Lionel Moore did not immediately answer the summons.
"Look here, Maurice; if you should find anything in the book—anything you could say a word in favor of—I wish you'd come round to the Garden Club with me, after the performance, and have a bit of supper. Octavius Quirk is almost sure to be there."
"What, Quirk? I thought the Garden was given over to dukes and comic actors?"
"There's a sprinkling of everybody in it," the young baritone said; "and Quirk likes it because it is an all-night club—he never seems to go to bed at all. Will you do that?"
"Oh, yes," Maurice Mangan said; and forthwith, as his friend left the dressing-room, he plunged into Lady Adela's novel.
The last act of "The Squire's Daughter" is longer than its predecessors; so that Mangan had plenty of time to acquire some general knowledge of the character and contents of these three volumes. Indeed, he had more than time for all the brief scrutiny he deemed necessary; when Lionel Moore reappeared, to get finally quit of his theatrical trappings for the night, his friend was standing at the fireplace, looking at a sketch in brown chalk of Miss Burgoyne, which that amiable young lady had herself presented to Harry Thornhill.
"Well, what's the verdict?"
Mangan turned round, rather bewildered; and then he recollected that he had been glancing at the novel.
"Oh, that!" he said, regarding the three volumes with no very favorable air, "Mighty poor stuff, I should say; just about as weak as they make it. But harmless. Some of the conversation—between the women—is natural; trivial, but natural. The plain truth is, my dear Linn, it is a very foolish, stupid book, which should never have been printed at all; but I suppose your fashionable friend could afford to pay for having it printed."
"But, look here, Maurice," Lionel said, in considerable surprise, "I don't see how it can be so very stupid, when Lady Adela herself is one of the brightest, cleverest, shrewdest, most intelligent women you could meet with anywhere—quite unusually so."
"That may be; but she is not the first clever woman who has made the mistake of imagining that because she is socially popular she must therefore be able to write a book."
"And what am I to say to Octavius Quirk?"
"What are you to say to the log-rollers? Don't say anything. Get Lady Adela to ask one or two of them to dinner. You'll fetch Quirk that way easily; they say Gargantua was a fool compared to him."
"I've seen him do pretty well at the Garden, especially about two in the morning," was the young baritone's comment; and then, as he began to get into his ordinary attire, he said, "To tell you the truth, Maurice, Lady Adela rather hinted that she would be pleased to make the acquaintance of any—of any literary man—"
"Who could do her book a good turn?"
"No, you needn't put it as rudely as that. She rather feels that, in becoming an authoress, she has allied herself with literary people—and would naturally like to make acquaintances; so, if it came to that, I should consider myself empowered to ask Quirk whether he would accept an invitation to dinner—I mean, at Cunyngham Lodge. It's no use asking you, Maurice?" he added, with a little hesitation.
Maurice Mangan laughed.
"No, no, Linn, my boy; thank you all the same, I say," he continued, as he took up his hat and stick, seeing that Lionel was about ready to go, "do you ever hear from Miss Francie Wright, or have you forgotten her among all your fine friends?"
"Oh, I hear from Francie sometimes," he answered, carelessly, "or about her, anyway, whenever I get a letter from home. She's very well. Boarding out pauper sick children is her new fad; and I believe she's very busy and very happy over it. Come along, Maurice; we'll walk up to the Garden, and get something of an appetite for supper."
When they arrived at the Garden Club (so named from its proximity to Covent Garden) they went forthwith into the spacious apartment on the ground floor which served at once as dining-room, newspaper-room, and smoking-room. There was hardly anybody in it. Four young men in evening dress were playing cards at a side-table; at another table a solitary member was writing; but at the long supper-table—which was prettily lit up with crimson-shaded lamps, and the appointments of which seemed very trim and clean and neat—all the chairs were empty, and the only other occupants of the place were the servants, who wore a simple livery of white linen.
"What for supper, Maurice?" the younger of the two friends asked.
"Anything—with salad," Mangan answered; he was examining a series of old engravings that hung around the walls.
"On a warm night like this what do you say to cold lamb, salad, and some hock and iced soda-water?"
Supper was speedily forthcoming, and, as they took their places, Mangan said,
"You don't often go down to see the old people, Linn?"
"I'm so frightfully busy!"
"Has Miss Francie ever been up to the theatre—to see 'The Squire's Daughter,' I mean?"—this question he seemed to put rather diffidently.
"No. I've asked her often enough; but she always laughs and puts it off. She seems to be as busy down there as I am up here."
"What does she think of the great name and fame you have made for yourself?"
"How should I know?"
Then there was silence for a second or two.
"I wish you'd run down to see them some Sunday, Linn; I'd go down with you."
"Why not go down by yourself?—they'd be tremendously glad to see you."
"I should be more welcome if I took you with me. You know your cousin likes you to pay a little attention to the old people. Come! Say Sunday week."
"My dear fellow, Sunday is my busiest day. Sunday night is the only night I have out of the seven. And I fancy that it is for that very Sunday evening that Lord Rockminster has engaged the Lansdowne Gallery; he gives a little dinner-party, and his sisters have a big concert afterwards—we've all got to sing the chorus of the new marching-song Lady Sybil has composed for the army."
"Who is Lady Sybil?"
"The sister of the authoress whose novel you were reading."
"My gracious! is there another genius in the family?"
"There's a third," said Lionel, with a bit of a smile. "What would you say if Lady Rosamund Bourne were to paint a portrait of me as Harry Thornhill for the Royal Academy?"
"I should say the betting was fifty to one against its getting in."
"Ah, you're unjust, Maurice; you don't know them. I dare say you judged that novel by some high literary standard that it doesn't pretend to reach. I am sure of this, that if it's half as clever as Lady Adela Cunyngham herself, it will do very well."
"It will do very well for the kind of people who will read it," said the other, indifferently.
This was a free-and-easy place; when they had finished supper, Lionel Moore lit a cigarette, and his friend a briar-root pipe, without moving from the table; and Mangan's prayer was still that his companion should fix Sunday week for a visit to the little Surrey village where they had been boys together, and where Lionel's father and mother (to say nothing of a certain Miss Francie Wright, whose name cropped up more than once in Mangan's talk) were still living. But during this entreaty Lionel's attention happened to be attracted to the glass door communicating with the hall; and instantly he said, in an undertone:
"Here's a stroke of luck, Maurice; Quirk has just come in. How am I to sound him? What should I do?"
"Haven't I told you?" said Mangan, curtly. "Get your swell friends to feed him."
Nevertheless, this short, fat man, who now strode into the room and nodded briefly to these two acquaintances, speedily showed that on occasion he knew how to feed himself. He called a waiter, and ordered an underdone beefsteak with Spanish onions, toasted cheese to follow, and a large bottle of stout to begin with; then he took the chair at the head of the table, thus placing himself next to Lionel Moore.
"A very empty den to-night," observed this new-comer, whose heavy face, watery blue eyes, lank hair plentifully streaked with gray, and unwholesome complexion would not have produced a too-favorable impression on any one unacquainted with his literary gifts and graces.
Lionel agreed; and then followed a desultory conversation about nothing in particular, though Mr. Octavius Quirk was doing his best to say clever things and show off his boisterous humor. Indeed, it was not until that gentleman's very substantial supper was being brought in that Lionel got an opportunity of artfully asking him whether he had heard anything of Lady Adela Cunyngham's forthcoming novel. He was about to proceed to explain that "Lady Arthur Castletown" was only a pseudonym, when he was interrupted by Octavius Quirk bursting into a roar—a somewhat affected roar—of scornful laughter.
"Well, of all the phenomena of the day, that is the most ludicrous," he cried, "—the so-called aristocracy thinking that they can produce anything in the shape of art or literature. The aristocracy—the most exhausted of all our exhausted social strata—what can be expected from it? Why, we haven't anywhere nowadays either art or literature or drama that is worthy of the name—not anywhere—it is all a ghastly, spurious make-believe—a mechanical manufactory of paintings and books and plays without a spark of life in them—"
Lionel Moore resentfully thought to himself that if Mr. Quirk had been able to do anything in any one of these directions he might have held less despairing views; but, of course, he did not interrupt this feebly tempestuous monologue.
"—We are all played out, that is the fact—the soil is exhausted—we want a great national upheaval—a new condition of things—a social revolution, in short. And we're going to get it" he continued, in a sort of triumphant way; "there's no mistake about that; the social revolution is in the air, it is under our feet, it is pressing in upon us from every side; and yet at the very moment that the aristocracy have got notice to quit their deer-forests and their salmon-rivers and grouse-moors, they so far mistake the signs of the times that they think they should be devoting themselves to art and going on the stage! Was there ever such incomprehensible madness?"
"I hope they won't sweep away deer-forests and grouse-moors just all at once," the young baritone said, modestly, "for I am asked to go to the Highlands at the beginning of next August."
"Make haste, then, and see the last of these doomed institutions" observed Mr. Quirk, with dark significance, as he looked up from his steak and onions. "I tell you deer-forests are doomed; grouse-moors are doomed; salmon-rivers are doomed. They are a survival of feudal rights and privileges which the new democracy—the new ruling power—will make short work of. The time has gone by for all these absurd restrictions and reservations! There is no defence for them; there never was; they were conceived in an iniquity of logic which modern common-sense will no longer suffer. Bona vacantia can't belong to anybody—therefore they belong to the king; that's a pretty piece of reasoning, isn't it? And if the crofter or the laborer says, 'Bona vacantia can't belong to anybody—therefore they belong to me'—isn't the reasoning as good? But it is not merely game-laws that must be abolished, it is game itself."
"If you abolish the one, you'll soon get rid of the other," Maurice Mangan said, with a kind of half-contemptuous indifference; he was examining this person in a curious way, as he might have looked through the wires of a cage in the Zoological Gardens.
"Both must be abolished," Mr. Octavius Quirk continued, with windy vehemence. "The very distinction that takes any animal ferae naturae and constitutes it game is a relic of class privilege and must go—"
"Then Irish landlords will no longer be considered ferae naturae?" Mangan asked, incidentally.
"We must be free from these feudal tyrannies, these mediaeval chains and manacles that the Norman kings imposed on a conquered people. We must be as free as the United States of America—"
"America!" Mangan said; and he was rude enough to laugh. "The State of New York has more stringent game-laws than any European country that I know of; and why not? They wanted to preserve certain wild animals, for the general good; and they took the only possible way."
Quirk was disconcerted only for a moment; presently he had resumed, in his reckless, mouton-enrage fashion,
"That may be; but the Democracy of Great Britain has pronounced against game; and game must go; there is no disputing the fact. Hunting in any civilized community is a relic of barbarism; it is worse in this country—it is an infringement of the natural rights of the tiller of the soil. What is the use of talking about it?—the whole thing is doomed; if you're going to Scotland this autumn, Mr. Moore, if you are to be shown all those exclusive pastimes of the rich and privileged classes, well, I'd advise you to keep your eyes open, and write as clear an account of what you see as you can; and, by Jove, twenty years hence your book will be read with amazement by the new generation!"
Here the pot of foaming stout claimed his attention; he buried his head in it; and thereafter, sitting back in his chair, sighed forth his satisfaction. The time was come for a large cigar.
And how, in the face of this fierce denunciation of the wealthy classes and all their ways, could Lionel Moore put in a word for Lady Adela's poor little literary infant? It would be shrivelled into nothing by a blast of this simulated simoom. It would be trodden under foot by the log-roller's elephantine jocosity. In a sort of despair he turned to Maurice Mangan, and would have entered into conversation with him but that Mangan now rose and said he must be going, nor could he be prevailed on to stay. Lionel accompanied him into the hall.
"That Jabberwock makes me sick; he's such an ugly devil," Mangan said, as he put on his hat; and surely that was strange language coming from a grave philosopher who was about to publish a volume on the "Fundamental Fallacies of M. Comte."
"But what am I to do, Maurice?" Lionel said, as his friend was leaving. "It's no use asking for his intervention at present; he's simply running amuck."
"If your friend—Lady What's-her-name—is as clever as you say, she'll just twist that fellow round her finger," the other observed, briefly. "Good-night, Linn."
And indeed it was not of Octavius Little, nor yet of Lady Adela's novel, that Maurice Mangan was thinking as he carelessly walked away through the dark London thoroughfares, towards his rooms in Victoria Street. He was thinking of that quiet little Surrey village; and of two boys there who had a great belief in each other—and in themselves, too, for the matter of that; and of all the beautiful and wonderful dreams they dreamed while as yet the far-reaching future was veiled from them. And then he thought of Linn Moore's dressing-room at the theatre; and of the paints and powder and vulgar tinsel that had to fit him out for exhibition before the footlights; and of the feverish whirl of life and the bedazzlement of popularity and fashionable petting; and somehow or other the closing lines of Mrs. Browning's poem would come ever and anon into his head as a sort of unceasing refrain:
"The true gods sigh for the cost and pain,— For the reed that grows nevermore again As a reed with the reeds in the river."
One morning Lionel was just about to go out (he had already been round to the gymnasium and got his fencing over) when the house-porter came up and said that a young lady wished to see him.
"What does she want?" he said, impatiently—for something had gone wrong with the clasp of his cigarette-case, and he could not get it right. "What's her name? Who is she?"
"She gave me her name, sir; but I did not quite catch it," said the factotum of the house.
"Oh, well, send her up," said he; no doubt this was some trembling debutante, accompanied by an ancient duenna and a roll of music. And then he went to the window, to try to get the impenitent clasp to shut.
But perhaps he would not have been so wholly engrossed with that trifling difficulty had he known who this was who had come softly up the stair and was now standing, irresolute, smiling, wondering, at the open door. She was a remarkably pretty, even handsome young lady, whose pale, clear, olive complexion and coal-black hair bespoke her Southern birth; while there was an eager and yet timid look in her lustrous, soft black eyes, and something about the mobile, half-parted mouth that seemed to say she hardly knew whether to cry or laugh over this meeting with an old friend. A very charming picture she presented there; for, besides her attractive personal appearance, she was very neatly, not to say coquettishly, dressed, her costume, which had a distinctly foreign air, being all of black, save for the smart little French-looking hat of deep crimson straw and velvet.
At last she said,
He turned instantly, and had nearly dropped the cigarette-case in his amazement. And for a second he seemed paralyzed of speech—he was wholly bewildered—perhaps overcome by some swift sense of responsibility at finding Antonia Rossi in London, and alone.
"Che, Nina mia," he cried; "tu stai cca a Londra!—chesta mo, chi su credeva!—e senza manca scriverme nu viers' e lettere—Nina!—mi pare nu suonno!—"
She interrupted him; she came forward, smiling—and the parting of the pretty lips showed a sunny gleam of teeth; she held up her two hands, palm outwards, as if she would shut away from herself that old, familiar Neapolitanese.
"No, no, no, Leo," she said, rapidly, "I speak English now—I study, study, study, morning, day, night; and always I say, 'When I see Leo, he have much surprise that I speak English'—always I say, 'Some day I go to England, and when I see Leo'—"
The happy, eager smile suddenly died away from her face. She looked at him. A strange kind of trouble—of doubt and wonderment and pain—came into those soft, dark, expressive eyes.
"You—you not wish to see me, Leo?" she said, rather breathlessly—and as if she could hardly believe this thing. "I come to London—and you not glad to see me—"
Quick tears of wounded pride sprang to the long black lashes; but, with a dignified, even haughty inclination of the head, she turned from him and put her hand on the handle of the door. At the same instant he caught her arm.
"Why, Nina, you're just the spoiled child you always were! Ah, your English doesn't go so far as that; you don't know what a spoiled child is?—e la cianciosella, you Neapolitan girl! Why, of course I'm glad to see you—I am delighted to see you—but you frightened me, Nina—your coming like this, alone—"
"I frighten you, Leo?" she said, and a quick laugh shone brightly through her tears. "Ah, I see—it is that I have no chaperon? But I had no time—I wished to see you, Leo—I said, 'Leo will understand, and afterwards I get a chaperon all correctly.' Oh, yes, yes, I know—but where is the time?—yesterday I go through the streets—it is Leo, Leo everywhere in the windows—I see you in this costume, in the other costume—and your name so large, so very large, in the—in the—"
"The theatre-bills? Well, sit down, Nina, and tell me how you come to be in London."
She had by this time quite forgiven or forgotten his first dismay on finding her there; and now she took a chair with much quiet complaisance, and sat down, and put her black silk sunshade across her knees.
"It is simple," she said, and from time to time she regarded him in a very frank and pleased and even affectionate way, as if the old comradeship of the time when they were both studying in Naples was not to be interfered with by the natural timidity of a young and extremely pretty woman coming as a stranger into a strange town. "You remember Carmela, Leo? Carmela and her—her spouse—they have great good-fortune—they get a grand prize in the lottery—then he says, 'Carmeluccia, we will go to Paris—we will go to Paris, Carmeluccia—and why not Nina also?' Very kind, was it not?—but Andrea is always kind, so also Carmela, to me. Then I am in Paris. I say, 'It is not far to London; I go to London; I go to London and see Leo.' Perhaps I get an engagement—oh, no, no, no, you shall not laugh!" she broke in—though it was she herself who was laughing, and not he at all. "I am improved—oh, yes, a little—a little improved—you remember old Pandiani he always say my voice not bad, but that agilita was for me very difficult."
He remembered very well; but he also remembered that when he left Naples, Signorina Rossi was laboring away with the most pertinacious assiduity at cavatinas full of runs and scales and fiorituri generally; and he was quite willing to believe that such diligence had met with its due reward. But when the young lady modestly hinted that she had left her music in the hall below, and would like Leo to hear whether she had not acquired a good deal more of flexibility than her voice used to possess, and when he had fetched the music and taken it to the piano for her, he was not a little surprised to see her select Ambroise Thomas's "Io son Titania." And he was still more astonished when he found her singing this difficult piece of music with a brilliancy, an ease, a verve of execution that he had never dreamed of her being able to reach.
"Brava! Brava! Bravissima!—Well, you have improved, Nina!" he exclaimed. "And it isn't only in freedom of production, it is in quality, too, in timbre—my goodness, your voice has ever so much more volume and power! Come, now, try some big, dramatic thing—"
She shook her head.
"No, no, Leo, I know what I do," she said. "I shall never have the grand style—never—but you think I am improved? Yes. Well, now, I sing something else."
He forgot all about her lack of a chaperon; they were fellow-students again, as in the old days at Naples, when they worked hard (and also played a little), when they comforted each other, and strove to bear with equanimity the grumbling and querulousness of that always-dissatisfied old Pandiani. Signorina Rossi now sang the Shadow Song from "Dinorah;" then she sang the Jewel Song from "Faust;" she sang "Caro nome" from "Rigoletto," or anything else that he could suggest; and her runs and shakes and scale passages were delivered with a freedom and precision that again and again called forth his applause.
"And you have never sung in public, Nina?" he asked.
"At one concert, yes, in Naples," the young lady made answer. "And at two or three matinees" And then she turned to him, with a bright look. "You know this, Leo?—I am offered—no—I was offered—an engagement to sing in opera; oh, yes; it was the impresario from Malta—he comes to Naples—Pandiani makes us all sing to him—then will I go to Malta, to the opera there? No!"
"Why not, Nina? Surely that was a good opening," he said.
She turned away from him again, and her fingers wandered lightly over the keys of the piano.
"I always say to me, 'Some day I am in England; the English give much money at concerts; perhaps that is better.'"
"So you've come over to England to get a series of concert-room engagements; is that it, Nina?"
She shrugged her shoulders ever so slightly.
"Perhaps. One must wait and see. It is not my ambition. No. The light opera, that is—popular?—is it right?"
"It is very popular in England," said the young Italian lady, with her eyes coming back from the music-sheets to seek those of her friend." Well, Leo, if I take a small part to begin, have I voice sufficient? What do you think? No; be frank; say to yourself, 'I am Pandiani; here is Antonia Rossi troubling me once more; it is useless; go away, Antonia Rossi, and not trouble me!' Well, Maestro Pandiani, what you say?"
"So you want to go on the stage, Nina?" said he; and again the dread of finding himself responsible for this solitary young stranger sent a qualm to his heart. It was an embarrassing position altogether; but at the same time the thought of shaking her off—of getting free from this responsibility by telling a white lie or two and persuading her to go back to Naples—that thought never even occurred to him. To shake off his old comrade Nina? He certainly would have preferred, for many reasons, that she should have taken to concert-room business; but if she were relying on him for an introduction to the lyric stage, why, he was bound to help her in every possible way. "You know you've got an excellent voice," he continued. "And a very little stage training would fit you for a small part in comedy-opera, if that is what you're thinking of, as a beginning. But I don't know that you would like it, Nina. You see, you would have to become under-study for the lady who has the part at present; and they'd probably want you to sing in the chorus; and you'd get a very small salary—at first, you know, until you were qualified to take one of the more important parts—and then you might get into a travelling company—"
"A small part?" said she, with much cheerfulness. "Oh, yes; why not? I must learn."
"But I don't know that you would like it," he said, still ruefully. "You see, Nina, you might have to dress in the same room with two or three of the chorus-girls—"
"And then?" she said, with a little dramatic gesture, and an elevation of her beautifully formed black eyebrows. "Leo, you never saw my lodgings with the family Debernardi—you have only mount the stairs—"
"My goodness, Nina, I could guess what the inside of the rooms was like, if they were anything like those interminable and horrid stairs!" he exclaimed, with a laugh. "And you who were always so fond of pretty things, and flowers, and always so particular when we went to a restaurant—to live with the Debernardis!"
"Ah, Leo, you imagine not why?" she said, also laughing, and when she laughed her milk-white teeth shone merrily. "Old Pietro Debernardi he lives in England some years; he speaks English, perhaps not very well, but he speaks; then he teach me as he knows; and when it is possible I go on the Risposta and sail over to Capri, and all the way, and all the return, I listen, and listen, and listen to the English people; and I remember, and I practise alone in my own room, and I say, 'Leo, he must not ridicule me, when I go to England.'"
"Ridicule you!" said he, indignantly. "I wish I could speak Italian as freely as you speak English, Nina!"
"Oh, you speak Italian very well," said she. "But why you speak still the Neapolitan dialetto—dialect, is it right?—that you hear in the shops and the streets? Ah, I remember you are so proud of it, and when I try to teach you proper Italian, you laugh—you wish to speak like Sabetta Debernardi, and Giacomo, and the others. That is the fault to learn by ear, instead of the books correctly. And you have not forgotten yet!"
"Well, Nina," he resumed, "I don't seem to have frightened you with the possibility of your having to dress in the same room with two or three chorus-girls whom you don't know; and in fact, if I happened to be acquainted with the theatre, I dare say I could get the manager to make sure you were to dress along with some nice girl, who would show you how to make-up, and all that. But you would get a very small salary to begin with, Nina; perhaps only thirty shillings a week—and an extra pound a week when you had to take up your under-study duties—however, that need not trouble you, because we are old comrades, Nina, and while you are in England my purse is yours—"