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A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 10466

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


It never rains but it pours. She was called before the curtain after every act in Madame Angot and Les Cloches de Corneville, and Dick told her that she would cut out all the London prima donnas, giving them the go-by, and establish herself one of the great Metropolitan favourites if he could get a new work over from France.

'Why a new work?' she asked, and he told her that to draw the attention of the critics and the public upon her, she must appear in a new title role, and sitting in his armchair when they came home from the theatre at night, he brooded many projects, the principal one of which was to obtain a new work from France. But which of the three illustrious composers, Hervé, Offenbach and Lecocq, should he choose to write the music? The book of words would have to be written before the music was composed, and so far as he knew the only French composer who could set English words was Hervé.

It seemed to Kate that he never would cease to draw forth a cigarette case, or to cross and uncross his legs. Did this man never wish to go to bed? She hated stopping up after one o'clock in the morning. But, anxious to be a serviceable companion to him on all occasions, she strove against her sleepiness and listened to him whilst he considered whether her voice was heard to most advantage in Offenbach or in Hervé. She had not yet played the Grande Duchesse, and there were parts in that opera that would suit her very well. He would like to see her in La Belle Hélène and the Princess of Trebizond, but the last-named opera was never a success in England, and he was not certain about the power of La Périchole to draw audiences in the provinces.

It was pleasant to Kate to hear her talent discussed, analyzed, set forth in the works of great men, but her thought had now turned from her artistic career to her domestic. She wanted to be married.

It had always been vaguely understood that they were to be married, that is to say, it had been taken for granted that when a fitting occasion presented itself they would render their cohabitation legal. This understanding had satisfied her till now. In the first months, in the first year after the escape from Hanley, her happiness had been so great that she had not had a thought of pressing matters further. She had feared to do anything lest she might destroy her happiness by doing so, and Dick, who let everything slide until necessity forced him to take steps, had not troubled himself about his marriage, although quite convinced that he would end by marrying Kate. He had treated his marriage exactly as he did his theatrical speculations.

'There is no hurry,' he answered her, and proposed that they should be married in London.

'But why in London?'

He spoke of his relations and his friends. He would like Kate to know his old mother.

'But, Dick, dear, why not at once? We're living in a life of sin, and at times the thought of the sin makes me miserable.'

Out of his animal repose Dick smiled at the religious argument, and being on the watch always for a sneer, the blood rushed to her face instantly and she exclaimed:

'If you did seduce me, if you did drag me away from my peaceful home, if you did make a travelling actress of me, you might at least refrain from insulting my religion.'

Dick looked up, surprised. Kate had put down her knife and fork and was pouring herself out a large glass of sherry. She was evidently going to work herself up into one of her rages.

'I assure you, my dear, I never intended to insult your religion; and I wish you wouldn't drink all that wine, it only excites you.'

'Excites me! What does it matter to you if I excite myself or not?'

'My dear Kate, this is very foolish of you. I don't see why-if you'll only listen to reason--'

'Listen to reason!' she said, spilling the sherry over the table, 'ah! it would have been better if I'd never listened to you.'

'You really mustn't drink any more wine; I can't allow it,' said Dick, passing his arm across her and trying to take away the decanter.

This was the climax, and her pretty face curiously twisted, she screamed as she struggled away from him:

'Leave me go, will you! leave me go! Oh! I hate you!' Then clenching her teeth, and more savagely, 'No, I'll not be touched! No! no! no! I will not!'

Dick was so astonished at this burst of passion that he loosed for a moment the arms he was holding, and profiting by the opportunity Kate seized him by the frizzly hair with one hand and dragged the nails of the other down his face.

At this moment Montgomery entered; he stood aghast, and Kate, whose anger had now expended itself, burst into a violent fit of weeping.

'What does this mean?' Montgomery said, speaking very slowly.

Neither answered. The man sought for words; the woman walked about the room swinging herself; and as she passed before him Montgomery stopped her and begged for an explanation. She gave him a swift look of grief, and breaking away from him, shut herself in the bedroom.

'What does this mean?'

Dick looked round vaguely, astonished at the authoritative way the question was put, but without inquiring he answered:

'That's what I want to know. I never saw any

thing like it in my life. We were speaking of being married, when suddenly Kate accused me of insulting her religion, and then-well, I don't remember any more. She fell into such a passion-you saw it yourself.'

'Did you say you wouldn't marry her?'

'No, on the contrary. I can't make it out. For the last month her caprices, fancies, and jealousies have been something awful!'

Montgomery made a movement as if he were going to reply, but checking himself, he remained silent. His face then assumed the settled appearance of one who is inwardly examining the different sides of a complex question. At last he said:

'Let's come out for a walk, Dick, and we'll talk the matter over.'

'Do you think I can leave her?'

'It's the best thing you can do. Leave her to have her cry out,' and adopting the suggestion, Dick picked up his hat, and without further words the men went out of the house, walking slowly arm in arm.

'I cannot understand what is the matter with Kate. When I knew her first she hadn't a bad temper.'

To this Montgomery made no answer. He was thinking.

After a pause Dick continued, as if speaking to himself:

'And the way she does badger me with her confounded jealousies; I'm afraid now to tell a girl to move up higher on the stage. There are explanations about everything, and I can't think what it's all about. She has everything she requires. She hasn't been a year on the stage, and she's playing leading parts, and scoring successes too.'

'Perhaps she has reasons you don't know of.'

'Reasons I don't know of? What do you mean?'

'Well, you haven't told me yet what the row was about.'

'Tell you! That's just what I want to know myself.'

'What were you speaking about when it began?' asked Montgomery, who was still feeling his way.

'About our marriage.'

'Well, what did you say?'

'What did I say? I really don't remember; the row has put it all out of my head. Let me think. I was saying-I mean she was asking me when we should be married.'

'And what did you say to that? Did you fix a day?'

'Fix a day!' said Dick, looking in astonishment at his friend. 'How could I fix a day?'

'I think if I loved a woman and she loved me I could manage somehow to fix a day.'

These words were spoken with an earnestness that attracted Dick's attention, and he looked inquiringly at the young man.

'So you think I ought to marry her?'

'Think you ought to marry her?' exclaimed Montgomery indignantly; 'really,

Dick, I didn't think you were-Just remember what she's given up for you.

You owe it to her. Good heavens!'

'Well, you needn't get into a passion; I've had enough of passions for one day.'

The impetuousness of the youth had struck through the fat nonchalance of the man, and he said after a pause:

'Yes, I suppose I do owe it to her.'

The apologetic, easy-going air with which this phrase was spoken maddened Montgomery; he could have struck his friend full in the face, but for the sake of the woman he was obliged to keep his temper.

'Putting aside the question of what you owe and what you don't owe, I'd like to ask you where you could find a nicer wife? She's the prettiest woman in the company, she's making now five pounds a week, and she loves you as well as ever a woman loved a man. I should like to know what more you want.'

This was very agreeable to hear, and after a moment's reflection Dick said:

'That's quite true, my boy, and I like her better than any other woman. I don't think I could get anything better. If it weren't for that infernal jealousy of hers. Really, her temper is no joke.'

'Her temper is all right; she was as quiet as a mouse when you knew her first. Take my word for it, there are excellent reasons for her being a bit put out.'

'What do you mean?'

'Can't you guess?'

The two men stopped and looked each other full in the face, and then resuming his walk, Montgomery said:

'Yes, it's so; she told me in the train coming up from Leamington.'

Tears glittered in Dick's eyes, and he became in that moment all pity, kindness, and good-nature.

'Oh, the poor dear! Why didn't she tell me that before? And I'd scolded her for ill-temper.'

His humanity was as large as his fat, and although he had never thought of the joys of paternity, now, in the warmth of his sentiments, he melted into one feeling of rapture. After a pause, he said:

'I think I'd better go back and see her.'

'Yes, I think you'd better; fix a day for your marriage.'

'Of course.'

Nothing further was said; each absorbed in different thoughts the two men retraced their steps, and when they arrived at the door, Montgomery said:

'I think I'd better wish you good-bye.'

'No, come in, old man; she'd like to see you.'

And as if anxious to torture himself to the last, Montgomery entered. Kate was still locked in the bedroom, but there was such an unmistakable accent of trepidation and anxiety in Dick's fingers and voice that she opened immediately. Her beautiful black hair was undone, and fell in rich masses about her. Dick took her in his arms, and held her sobbing on his shoulder. All he could say was, 'Oh, my darling, I'm so sorry; you will forgive me, won't you?'

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