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   Chapter 26 No.26

A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 46232

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The appointment was for five o'clock, and Kate would have liked to remain on the pier with Dick enjoying the summer evening, but he seemed so intent on returning to their lodging that she did not like to oppose his wishes, and she allowed herself to be led all the way up the dusty town to their close, hot rooms that she might try over Fredegonde's music. That he should wish to hear her voice again in this music flattered her, but she rose from the piano, her face aflame, when he began to mention an appointment.

'It's too bad of you, Dick, to bring me home and then remember an appointment.'

Dick overflowed with mellifluous excuses which did not seem to allay Kate's anger, and as he hurried down the street it occurred to him that he might have thought of a better reason than Fredegonde for bringing her home. However this might be, his thoughts were now with Montgomery and Mrs. Forest rather than with Kate, and it was not till he drew the latchkey from his pocket that Kate's singing of the waltz returned to him: he ascended the stairs singing it.

'I think it will work out all right.'

'What will work out all right? You're an hour later than you said you'd be.'

'Never mind about the hour,' he answered and began to weave a story about his meeting with a pal from London, as he was leaving the pier the other day: he hadn't spoken to her about it before, not caring to do so until something definite had happened.

'What has happened?' Kate asked, and Dick, his face aglow, related how the pal had spoken of a great revival of interest in comic opera, especially in French music, and that many city men with plenty of money were on the lookout for somebody who knew how to produce this class of work and was in sympathy with the Folies Dramatiques tradition.

Kate, who believed everything that Dick told her, listened with a heightened temperature. At Margate the admirer of Hervé's music became an American who wished to see Chilpéric, Tr?ne d'écosse, Le Petit Faust, L'Oeil Crevé, Marguerite de Navarre, reproduced as they had been produced under the composer's direction when Dick was stage-manager at that theatre. The American was interested in Hervé; for he not only wrote the music but also the words of his operas. Hervé was, therefore, the Wagner of light comic opera. And if the new venture received sufficient support from the public Dick would like to add other works by Hervé-La Belle Poule and Le Hussard Persecuté-and having puzzled Kate with many titles and an imaginary biography of this musical American he fell to telling her of Blanche D'Antigny, singing all the little tunes he could remember and branching off into an account of Le Canard à Trois Becs. This last opera was not by Hervé, but the American liked it and might be persuaded to produce it later on.

'It contained a part,' he said, 'in which Kate would succeed in establishing herself one of London's favourites;' but his praise of her singing and acting set her wondering if he were gulling her once more, or if he still believed in her. It might be that her continued sobriety had reawakened his old love for her, and she remembered suddenly that she had never really cared for drink, and never would have touched drink if Dick had not driven her mad with jealousy. And the fact that her voice had returned to her helped her to believe that Dick was sincere when he told her that she would be a better Fredegonde than Blanche D'Antigny, who created the part originally. Montgomery endorsed this view one evening; he refused to take 'no' for an answer: she must sing the score through with him, and several times he stopped playing; and looking up in her face told her he had never known a voice to improve so rapidly and so suddenly. Dick nodded his acquiescence in Montgomery's opinion and hoped there would be no more need to tell Kate lies once she was settled in a lodging behind the Cattle Market. But in this he was mistaken, for in London the need to keep up the fiction of Hervé's American admirer was more necessary than at Margate. Dick had to relate his different quests every evening. He had been after the Lyceum, but was unable to get an answer from the lessee; he hoped to get one next week; and when next week came he spoke about the Royalty and the Adelphi and the Haymarket, neglecting, however, to mention the theatre in which he hoped to produce Laura's opera. 'The large stage of the Lyceum would be excellently well suited,' he said, 'for a fine production of Chilpéric,' and he besought Kate to apply herself to the study of the part of Fredegonde. His imagination led him into dreams of an English company going over to Paris with all Hervé's works, and Kate obliterating the Blanche D'Antigny tradition. Kate listened delighted, discovering in Dick's praise of her singing a hope that his love of her had survived the many tribulations it had been through; and while listening she vowed she would never touch drink again. Nor did her happiness vanish till morning, till she saw him struggling into his greatcoat, and foresaw the long dividing hours. But he had said so many kind things overnight that she was behoven to stifle complaint, and bore with her loneliness all day long refusing food, for without Dick's presence food had no pleasure for her, however hungry she might be. She would wait contented hour after hour if she could have him to herself when he returned. But sometimes he would bring back a friend with him, and the pair would sit up talking of women and their aptitudes in different parts. As none of them were known personally to Kate, the names they mentioned suggested only new causes for jealousy, and the thought that Dick was living among all these women while she was hidden away in this lodging from night till morning, from morning till night, maddened her. It seemed to her that having been out all day Dick might at least reserve his evenings for her; and one night she showed the man he had brought back to supper plainly that his absence would, so far as she was concerned, have been preferable to his company. 'I wouldn't have come back,' he said, 'only Dick insisted;' and interrupting his regrets that she did not like him, she said: 'It isn't that I don't like you, but you're used to women who aren't in love with their husbands, and I'm in love with mine.' The friend repeated Kate's words to Dick, who said he hadn't a moment till the cast of the new piece was settled, and a few nights later he brought back some music which he said he would like her to try over. 'But it's manuscript, Dick. Why don't you bring home the printed score?' The lie that came to his lips was that the score of Tr?ne d'écosse had never been printed, and this seeming to her very unlikely she said she didn't care whether it had or hadn't, but was tired of living in Islington, and would like to see something of the London of which she had heard so much.

'I've been in London all my life,' Dick said, 'and I haven't been to the Tower or to St. Paul's. However, dear, if you'd like to see them we'll visit all these places together as soon as Chilpéric is produced.'

With this promise he consoled her in a measure, and she watched Dick depart and then took up a novel and read it till she could read no longer. She then went out for a little walk, but soon returned, finding it wearisome to be always asking the way. So forlorn and lost did she seem that even the fat landlady, the mother of the ten children who clattered about the head of the kitchen staircase, took pity upon her and told her the number of the bus that would bring her to the British Museum, assuring her that she would find a great deal there to distract her attention.

It did not matter to her where she went if Dick wasn't with her; without Dick all places were the same to her, and the British Museum would do as well as any other place. She must go somewhere, and the British Museum would do as well as the Tower or St. Paul's. There were things to be seen, and she didn't mind what she saw as long as she saw something new. She couldn't look any longer at the two pictures on the walls-"With The Stream" and "Against The Stream," the wax fruit, the mahogany sideboard, the dingy furniture, the torn curtains; and of all she must get out of hearing of the children and the surly landlady, who a few minutes ago was less surly, and had told her of the British Museum, and all the wonderful things that were to be seen there. But she hadn't the bus fare, and didn't like to ask the landlady for a few pence. As long as she hadn't any money she was out of temptation, and it was by her own wish that Dick left her without money. As she walked to and fro she caught sight of his clothes thrown over the back of a chair in the bedroom; and he might have left a few pence in one of his pockets.

She searched the trousers; how careless Dick was: several shillings: one, two, three, four, five. Five and sixpence. She would take sixpence. As she walked out of the bedroom clinking the coppers the desire to read his letters fell upon her, and yielding to it she put her hand into the inside pocket of his coat and drew from it a packet of letters and some papers, manuscripts, poems.

'Now, who,' she asked, 'can have been sending him these Classical

Cartoons, number four?'

She read of heroes, the glory of manhood collected along the shores of the terrible river that guards the dominions of Pluto. She knew nothing of Pluto, but recognized the handwriting as a woman's, and the lines:

'Zeus, the monarch of heaven, clothed in the form of a

mortal,

Kneeling, caressed and caressing, drank from her lips

joy and love-draughts,'

caused Kate to dash the manuscript from her. A letter accompanied the poem and read:

'My dear, nothing can be done without you, and if you don't come at once we shall miss getting a theatre this season, and without a theatre we are helpless.'

Kate did not need to read any more. The letter left no doubt that Dick was engaged in an intrigue with a woman who had written some play or opera which he was going to produce, and the envelope out of which she had taken the letter bore the direction: 'Richard Lennox, Esq., Post Restante, Margate.'

'So it was lies all the while at Margate,' she said to herself, walking about the room, stopping now and again to stare at some object which she did not see. 'There was no American, and no Chilpéric, no Tr?ne d'écosse, no L'Oeil Crevé, no La Belle Poule, no Marguerite de Navarre. Lies, lies! Nothing but lies! He never intended to produce one of them, or that I should play "Fredegonde." Lies! Lies! And the great part in Le Canard à Trois Becs which would establish my reputation in London. Lies! He never intended to produce one of these operas,' she cried. 'He shut me up here in this lodging so that I should be out of the way while he carried on with that What's-her-name.'

Her brain at that instant seemed to catch fire, and snatching up some money from the mantelpiece, she rushed out of the house tumbling over the children as she made her way to the front door without hat or jacket. The sunlight awoke her and she looked round puzzled, and only just escaped being run over by a passing cart. In front of her was a public-house. Drink! She went in and drank till she recovered her reason and began to lose it again.

A 'bottle of gin, please,' she said, and put the money on the counter and returned to her lodging almost mad with jealousy and rage and thirst for revenge. 'No, she wouldn't drink any more, for if she were to drink any more she'd not be able to have it out with Dick, and this time she would have it out with him and no mistake. If he were to kill her it didn't matter; but she would have it out with him.' As she sat by the table waiting hour after hour for him to return, her whole mind was expressed by the words-'I'll have it out with him'-and she didn't weary of repeating them, for it seemed to her that they kept her resolution from dying: what she feared most was that his presence might quell her resolution. To have it out with him as she was minded, she mustn't be drunk, nor yet too sober.

He might bring home a friend with him, but that wouldn't stay her hand. Montgomery too had deceived her. Dick was rehearsing his opera; he had written music for that Mrs. Forest, and this was the end of their friendship.

Many hours went by, but they didn't seem long, passion gave her patience.

At last a sound of footsteps caused her to start to her feet. It was Dick.

'This is going to be an all-night affair,' he said to himself as soon as he crossed the threshold. 'I hope you didn't wait supper for me?' His manner was most conciliatory, and perhaps it was that conciliatory manner that inflamed her.

'Business, I suppose; I know damned well what your business was: I know all about it, you and your woman, Mrs. Forest; the theatre she's taken for you; where you are rehearsing Montgomery's opera. You cannot deny it,' she cried. 'Mrs. Forest is her name,' and reading in his face certain signs of his culpability her anger increased, her teeth were set and her eyes glared.

Dick feared she was going mad, and with an instinctive movement he put out his arms to restrain her.

'Don't touch me! don't touch me!' she screamed, and struck at him with clenched fists, and then feeling that her blows were but puny she went for him like a bird of prey, all her fingers distended.

'Take that, and that, and that, you beast! Oh, you beast! you beast! you beast!'

Her shrieks rang through the house as she pursued him round the furniture; he retreating like a lumbering bull striving to escape from her claws.

'How do you like that?' she cried, as she tore at him with her nails again. 'That will teach you to go messing about after other women. I'll settle you before I've done with you.'

Chairs were thrown down, the coal-scuttle was upset, and at last, as Dick tried to get out of the room, Kate stumbled against a rosewood cabinet, sending one of the green vases with its glass shade crashing to the ground, summoning the landlady.

Dick spoke about his wife having had a fit.

'Fit or no fit, I hope you'll leave my house to-morrow.'

'Meanwhile,' Dick answered, 'will you leave my room?' and he shut the door in the face of the indignant householder.

Kate, who had now recovered herself a little, poured out a large glass of raw gin, and to her surprise Dick made no attempt to prevent her drinking it.

'As soon as she drinks herself helpless the better,' he thought, as he went into the bedroom to attend to his wounds. The scratches she had given him before their marriage were nothing to these. One side of his nose was well-nigh ripped open, and there were two big, deep gashes running right across his face, from the cheek-bone to his ear. It was very lucky, he thought, she hadn't had his eye out, and it might be as well to go round to the apothecary's and get some vaseline, some antiseptic treatment, for nails are poisonous, he added, and his eyes going round the room caught sight of his clothes in disorder. 'Ah! she has been at my clothes,' and he took up the classical cartoons and his letters and put them away into his pocket, and went into the sitting room, and tried to explain to his wife that he was going out to see if he could get something from the apothecary to heal the wounds she had given him.

Kate did not answer. 'She's dead drunk,' he said, and it seemed to him that he couldn't do better than to undress her and put her into bed, and when he had done this he lay down upon a sofa hoping that he would wake first, and be able to get out of the house without disturbing her, leaving word with the landlady that he would come back as soon as his rehearsal was over, and make arrangements to leave her house since she didn't wish them to stay any longer. He fell asleep thinking that he might find his landlady in a different mood, and might persuade her in the morning to allow them to stay on. The vase, of course, should be paid for. There was a kindly look in her pleasant country face when she wasn't angry; his torn face might win her pity, and not wishing to increase his troubles, she would probably allow them to stay on; if she didn't he would have to find another lodging that very afternoon, which would be unfortunate, for his engagements were many. As it was he'd have to hasten to keep an appointment which he had made with Mrs. Forest in the National Gallery. 'She really will have to make some alterations in her second act,' he said, going to the glass. Kate had clawed him with a vengeance, and he'd have to tell Laura how he came by his torn face; and after some consideration it seemed to him that it would be well to admit that he had received these wounds in a conflict with a wife who was, unfortunately, given to drink. It was on these thoughts he fell asleep, and overslept himself, he feared, but Kate was still asleep, and without awakening her he stole downstairs to visit the landlady in her parlour, but hearing his step she bounced out of the room with a view, no doubt, to repeating the warning she had given him overnight, but the sight of his torn face brought pity into hers, and she said:

'Oh, Mr. Lennox, I'm so sorry for you.'

A little sympathetic conversation followed; and Dick went off to meet Laura, whom he recognized in the woman who leaned over the railings between the pillars, seemingly attracted by the view across Trafalgar Square. She still wore her green silk dress, the one which he had first seen her in on the pier at Hastings, and the long draggled feather boa.

'She doesn't spend money on dress,' he thought as he lifted his hat with not quite the same ceremonious gesture as usual, for he didn't wish to exhibit his scars yet.

'So here you are, Dick, and I waiting for you on the steps of this gallery, glorious with all the imaginations of the heroes.'

'She hasn't seen the scratches yet,' he said to himself, and turned from the light instinctively, preferring that she should make the discovery indoors, rather than out of doors. His wounds would appear less in the gallery than in the open air. 'Why didn't she take a little more trouble with her make-up?' he asked himself, and then reproved himself for describing it as a make-up. 'She's not made up,' he said to himself, 'she's painted,' and he wondered how it was that she could plaster her dark skin so flagrantly with carmine, and put her eyebrows so high up in the forehead. 'Yet the face,' he said, 'is a finely moulded one, and compelling when she forgets her cosmetics,' and while Dick regretted that she didn't show more skill with these, he heard her telling him that she would prefer to stop and talk with him in the gallery devoted to the Italian pictures than elsewhere; 'the sublime conceptions of Raphael raise me above myself.' And then, as if afraid that her words would seem vainglorious to Dick, she said: 'You're always in the same mood, never rising above yourself or sinking below yourself, finding it difficult to understand the pain that those who live mostly in the spiritual plane experience lest they fall into a lower plane. Not that I regard you, Dick, as a lower plane, but your plane is not mine, and that is why you're so necessary to me, and why, perhaps, I'm so necessary to you, or would be if I'm not. Come, let us sit here in front of the Raphael and talk, since we must, of comic opera. It's a pity we're not talking of the Parcoe who have been in my mind all the morning,' and she began to recite some verses that she had written. But, interrupting herself suddenly, she cried: 'Dick, who has been scratching you? How did your face get torn like that-who's been scratching you?' and Dick answered:

'My wife.'

'Your wife? But you never told me that you were married.'

'If I'd told you I was married I would have had to tell you that my wife is a drunkard and is rapidly drinking herself to death, a thing that no man likes to speak about.'

'My poor friend, I didn't mean to reprove you. How did all this come about?'

It wouldn't do to admit that Kate had discovered Laura's letters and poems in his pockets, and so he told the story of a former experience with his wife, and had barely finished it when Laura begged of him to tell her how he had met his wife. And when he had told her the story, to which she listened solemnly, she answered, and there was the same gravity in her voice as in her face: 'All this comes, my dear Dick, of lewdness.'

'But, Laura, I was faithful to my wife.'

'But she was the wife of another man,' Laura replied, 'not that that is an insuperable barrier, but you brought, I fear, lewdness into your conjugal life, and lewdness is fatal to happiness whether it be indulged within or outside the bonds of wedlock. I'm sorry,' she said, 'that you had to leave Yarmouth before my lecture on the chastity of the marriage state.'

'It wouldn't have mattered,' Dick replied, 'for my wife had taken to drink long before we met at Hastings.' An answer that darkened Laura's face despite all the paint she wore, and encouraged Dick to ask her if she had never felt the thorns of passion prick her when she ran away from her convent school.

She seemed uncertain what answer she should return, but only for a moment; and recovering herself quickly she maintained that it wasn't passion, which is but another name for lewdness, but imagination that had prompted this elopement, and that if she had gone to Bulgaria it was to seek there a nobler life than the one she had left behind.

'It was the immortal that drew me,' she said.

'Even so,' Dick answered, 'the mortal seems necessary for the immortal, and to provide him with a habitation a woman must give herself to a man.'

'That,' she replied, 'is one of the penalties entailed by our first parents upon women, but one that is entailed upon a condition that you have not respected, but which I have striven always to respect myself. It would be impossible for me to give myself to a man unless I thought I was going to bear him a child.'

It was on Dick's lips to remind Laura that a woman can always think she is going to bear a child, but he refrained, it seeming to him that his purpose would be better served by allowing Laura to justify herself as she pleased, and he waited for an opportunity to speak to her about the alteration which he deemed altogether necessary in the second act. But Laura was away on her favourite theme, and in the end he had recourse to his watch.

'My dear Laura, I'm due at rehearsal in ten minutes from now.'

'Well, let's go,' she cried.

'But, my dear, this is what I've come to tell you. The second act,'-and he explained the difficulty which would have to be removed. 'Now, like a dear, good girl, will you go home and do this and bring it down to the theatre to-morrow morning at eleven so that we may have an opportunity of going through it together before rehearsal?'

In the meantime, Kate lay on her bed, helpless as ever, just as Dic

k had left her; and it was not until he had given his preliminary instructions to the ballet-girls, and Montgomery had struck the first notes of his opening chorus, that a ray of consciousness pierced through the heavy, drunken stupor that pressed upon her brain. With vague movements of hands, she endeavoured to fasten the front of her dress, and with a groan rolled herself out of the light; but her efforts to fall back into insensibility were unavailing, and like the dawn that slips and swells through the veils of night, a pale waste of consciousness forced itself upon her. First came the curtains of the bed, then the bare blankness of the wall, and then the great throbbing pain that lay like a lump of lead just above her forehead. Her mouth was clammy as if it were filled with glue, her limbs weak as if they had been beaten to a pulp by violent blows. She was all pain, but, worse still, a black horror of her life crushed and terrified her, until she buried her face in the pillow and wept and moaned for mercy. But to remain in bed was impossible. The pallor of the place was intolerable, and sliding her legs over the side she stood, scarcely able to keep her feet. The room swam as if in a mist; she held her head with clasped hands; the top of it seemed to be lifting off, and it was with much difficulty that she staggered as far as the chest of drawers, where she remained for some minutes trying to recover herself, thinking of what had happened overnight. She had been drunk, she knew that, but where was Dick? Where had he gone? What had she said to him? All mental effort was agony; but she had to think, and straining at the threads of memory, she strove to follow one to the end. But it was no use, it soon became hopelessly entangled, and with a low cry she moaned, 'Oh, my poor head! my poor head! I cannot, cannot remember.' But the question: what has become of Dick? still continued to torture her, till, raising her face suddenly from her arm, she hitched up her falling skirts, and seeing at that moment the bottle on the table, she went into the sitting-room and poured herself out a little, which she mixed with water.

'Just a drop,' she murmured to herself, 'to pull me together. It was his fault; until he put me in a passion I was all right.'

Spreading and definite thoughts began to emerge, and for a long time she sat moodily thinking over her wrongs, and as her thoughts wavered they grew softer and more argumentative. She considered the question from all sides, and, reasoning with herself, was disposed to conclude that it was not all her fault. If she did drink, it was jealousy that drove her to it. Why wasn't he faithful to her who had given up everything for him? Why did he want to be always running after a lot of other women? Where was he now, she'd like to know? As this question appeared in the lens of her thought, she raised her head, and although boozed the memory of Mrs. Forest's letters filled her mind.

'Oh yes, that's where he's gone to, is it?' she murmured to herself. 'So he's down with his poetess at the Opéra Comique, rehearsing Montgomery's opera.'

A determination to follow him slowly formed itself in her mind, and she managed to map out the course that she would have to pursue. It seemed to her that she was beset with difficulties. To begin with, she did not know where the theatre was, and she could not conceal from herself the fact that she was scarcely in a fit state to take a long walk through the London streets. The spirit drunk on an empty stomach had gone to her head; she reeled a little when she walked; and her own incapacity to act maddened her. Oh, good heavens! how her head was splitting! What would she not give to be all right just for a couple of hours, just long enough to go and tell that beast of a husband of hers what a pig he was, and let the whole theatre know how he was treating his wife. It was he who drove her to drink. Yes, she would go and do this. It was true her head seemed as if it were going to roll off her shoulders, but a good sponging would do it good, and then a bottle or two of soda would put her quite straight-so straight that nobody would know she had touched a drop.

It took Kate about half an hour to drench herself in a basin, and regardless of her dress, she let her hair lie dripping on her shoulders. The landlady brought her up the soda-water, and seeing what a state her lodger was in, she placed it on the table without a word, without even referring to the notice to quit she had given overnight; and steadying her voice as best she could, Kate asked her to call a cab.

'Hansom, or four-wheeler?'

'Fo-four wheel-er-if you please.'

'Yes, that'll suit you best,' said the woman, as she went downstairs. 'You'd perhaps fall out of a hansom. If I were your husband I'd break every bone in your body.'

But Kate was now much soberer, and weak and sick she leaned back upon the hard cushions of the clattering cab. Her mouth was full of water, and the shifting angles of the streets produced on her an effect similar to sea-sickness. London rang in her ears; she could hear a piano tinkling; she saw Dick directing the movements of a line of girls. Then her dream was brought to an end by a gulp. Oh! the fearful nausea; and she did not feel better until, flooding her dress and ruining the red velvet seat, all she had drunk came up. But the vomit brought her great relief, and had it not been for a little dizziness and weakness, she would have felt quite right when she arrived at the stage-door. In a terrible state of dirt and untidiness she was surely, but she noticed nothing, her mind being now fully occupied in thinking what she should say, first to the stage-door-keeper, and then to her husband.

At the corner of Wych Street she dismissed the cab, and this done she did not seem to have courage enough for anything. She felt as if she would like to sit down on a doorstep and cry. The menacing threats, the bitter upbraidings she had intended, all slipped from her like dreams, and she felt utterly wretched.

At that moment, in her little walk up the pavement she found herself opposite a public-house. Something whispered in her ear that after her sickness one little nip of brandy was necessary, and would put her straight in a moment. She hesitated, but someone pushed her from behind and she went in. A four of brandy freshened her up wonderfully, enabling her to think of what she had come to do, and to remember how badly she was being treated. A second drink put light into her eyes and wickedness into her head, and she felt she could, and would, face the devil. 'I'll give it to him; I'll teach him that I'm not to be trodden on,' she said to herself as she strutted manfully towards the stage-door, walking on her heels so as to avoid any unsteadiness of gait.

The man in the little box was old and feeble. He said he would send her name by the first person going down; but Kate was not in a mood to brook delays, and, profiting by his inability to stop her, she banged through the swinging door and commenced the descent of a long flight of steps. Below her was the stage, and between the wings she could see the girls arranged in a semicircle. Dick, with a big staff in hand, stood in front of the footlights directing the movements of a procession which was being formed; the piano tinkled merrily on the O.P. side.

'Mr. Chappel, will you be good enough to play the "Just put this in your pocket" chorus over again?' cried Dick, stamping his staff heavily upon the boards.

'Now then, girls, I hear a good deal too much talking going on at the back there. I dare say it's very amusing; but if you'd try to combine business with pleasure--Now, who did I put in section one?'

Kate hesitated a moment, arrested by the tones of his voice, and she could not avoid thinking of the time when she used to play Clairette; besides, all the well-known faces were there. Our lives move as in circles; no matter what strange vicissitudes we pass through, we generally find ourselves gliding once more into the well-known grooves, and Dick, in forming the present company, had naturally fallen back upon the old hands, who had travelled with him in the country. They were nearly all there. Mortimer, with his ringlets and his long nasal drawl, stood, as usual, in the wings, making ill-natured remarks. Dubois strutted as before, and tilting his bishop's hat, explained that he would take no further engagement as a singer; if people would not let him act they would have to do without him. With her dyed hair tucked neatly away under her bonnet Miss Leslie smiled as agreeably as ever. Beaumont alone seemed to be missing, and Montgomery, in all the importance of a going-to-be-produced author, strode along up and down the stage, apparently busied in thought, the tails of a Newmarket coat still flapping about his thin legs; and when he appeared in profile against the scenery he looked, as he always had done, like the flitting shadow thrown by an enormous magic-lantern.

Kate sullenly watched them, gripping the rail of the staircase tightly. The momentary softening of heart, occasioned by the remembrance of old times, died away in the bitterness of the thought that she who had counted for so much was now pushed into a corner to live forgotten or disdained. Why was she not rehearsing there with them? she asked herself. At once the answer came. Because your husband hates you-because he wants to make love to another woman. Then, like one crazed, she clattered down the iron spiral staircase to the stage. She did not even hear Mortimer and Dubois cry out as she pushed past, 'There's Mrs. Lennox!'

In the middle of the stage, however, she looked round, discountenanced by the silence and the crowd, and, hoping to calm her, Dick advised her, in whispers, to go upstairs to his room. But this was the signal for her to break forth.

'Go up to your room?' she screamed. 'Never, never! Do you suppose it is to talk to you that I came here? No, I despise you too much. I hate you, and I want every one here to know how you treat me.'

With a dull stare she examined the circle of girls who stood whispering in groups, as if she were going to address one in particular, and several drew back, frightened. Dick attempted to say something, but it seemed that the very sound of his voice was enough.

'Go away, go away!' she exclaimed at the top of her voice. 'Go away; don't touch me! Go to that woman of yours-Mrs. Forest-go to her, and be damned, you beast! You know she's paying for everything here. You know that you are--'

'For goodness' sake remember what you're saying,' said Dick, interrupting, and trembling as if for his life. He cast an anxious glance around to see if the lady in question was within hearing. Fortunately she was not on the stage.

The chorus crowded timidly forward looking like a school in their walking-dresses. The carpenters had ceased to hammer, and were peeping down from the flies; Kate stood balancing herself and staring blindly at those who surrounded her. Leslie and Montgomery, in the position of old friends, were endeavouring to soothe her, whilst Mortimer and Dubois argued passionately as to when they had seen her drunk for the first time. The first insisted that when she had joined them at Hanley she was a bit inebriated; the latter declared that it had begun with the champagne on her wedding day.

'Don't you remember, Dick was married with a scratched face?'

'To judge from present appearances,' said the comedian, forcing his words slowly through his nose, 'he's likely to die with one.' At this sally three supers retired into the wings holding their sides, and Dubois, furious at being outdone in a joke, walked away in high dudgeon, calling Mortimer an unfeeling brute.

In the meantime the drunken row was waxing more furious every moment. Struggling frantically with her friends, Kate called attention to the sticking-plaster on Dick's face, and declared that she would do for him.

'You see what I gave him last night, and he deserved it. Oh! the beast! And I'll give him more; and if you knew all you wouldn't blame me. It was he who seduced me, who got me to run away from home, and he deserts me for other women. But he shan't, he shan't, he shan't; I'll kill him first; yes, I will, and nobody shall stop me.'

Dick listened quite broken with shame for himself and for her; as an excuse for the absence of his wife from the theatre he had told Mortimer and Hayes that London did not agree with her, and that she had to spend most of her time at the seaside. All had condoled with him, and when they were searching London for a second lady, all had agreed that Mrs. Lennox was just the person they wanted for the part. What a pity, they said, she was not in town. At the present moment Dick wished her the other side of Jordan. For all he knew, she might remain screaming at him the whole day, and if Mrs. Forest came back-well, he didn't know what would happen; the whole game would then be up the spout. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to tell Montgomery of the danger his piece was in; he and Kate had always been friends; she might listen to him.

Such were Dick's reflections as he stood bashfully trying to avoid the eyes of his ballet-girls. For the life of him he didn't know which way to look. In front of him was a wall of people, whereon certain faces detached themselves. He saw Dubois' mumming mug widening with delight until the grin formed a semi-circle round the Jew nose. Mortimer looked on with the mock earnestness of a tortured saint in a stained-glass window. Pity was written on all the girls' faces; all were sorry for Dick, especially a tall woman who forgot herself so completely that she threw her arms about a super and sobbed on his shoulder.

But Kate still continued to advance, although held by Montgomery and Miss Leslie. The long black hair hung in disordered masses; her brown eyes were shot with golden lights; the green tints in her face became, in her excessive pallor, dirty and abominable in colour, and she seemed more like a demon than a woman as her screams echoed through the empty theatre.

'By Jove! we ought to put up Jane Eyre,' said Mortimer. 'If she were to play the mad woman like that, we'd be sure to draw full houses.'

'I believe you,' said Dubois; but at that moment he was interrupted by a violent scream, and suddenly disengaging herself from those who held her, Kate rushed at Dick. With one hand she grappled him by the throat, and before anyone could interfere she succeeded in nearly tearing the shirt from his back.

When at length they were separated, she stood staring and panting, every fibre of her being strained with passion; but she did not again burst forth until someone, in a foolish attempt to pacify her, ventured to side with her in her denunciation of her husband.

'How should such as you dare to say a word against him! I will not hear him abused! No, I will not; I say he's a good man. Yes, yes! He is a good man, the best man that ever lived!' she exclaimed, stamping her foot on the boards, 'the best man that ever lived! I will not hear a word against him! No, I will not! He's my husband; he married me! Yes he did; I can show my certificate, and that's more than any one of you can.

'I know you, a damned lot of hussies! I know you; I was one of you myself. You think I wasn't. Well, I can prove it. You go and ask Montgomery if I didn't play Serpolette all through the country, and Clairette too. I should like to see any of you do that, with the exception of Lucy, who was always a good friend to me; but the rest of you I despise as the dirt under my feet; so do you think that I would permit you-that I came here to listen to my husband being abused, and by such as you! If he has his faults he's accountable to none but me.'

Here she had to pause for lack of breath; and Dick, who had been pursuing his shirt-stud, which had rolled into the foot-lights, now drew himself up, and in his stage-commanding voice declared the rehearsal to be over. A few of the girls lingered, but they were beckoned away by the others, who saw that the present time was not suitable for the discussion of boots, tights, and dressing-rooms. There was no one left but Leslie, Montgomery, Dick, Kate, and Harding, who, twisting his moustache, watched and listened apparently with the greatest interest.

'Oh, you've no idea what a nice woman she used to be, and is, were it not for that cursed drink,' said Montgomery, with the tears running down his nose. 'You remember her, Leslie, don't you? Isn't what I say true? I never liked a woman so much in my life.'

'You were a friend of hers, then?' said Harding.

'I should think I was.'

'Then you never were-Yes, yes, I understand. A little friendship flavoured with love. Yes, yes. Wears better, perhaps, than the genuine article. What do you think, Leslie?'

'Not bad,' said the prima donna, 'for people with poor appetites. A kind of diet suitable for Lent, I should think.'

'Ah! a title for a short story, or better still for an operetta. What do you think, Montgomery? Shall I do you a book entitled Lovers in Lent, or A Lover's Lent? and Leslie will-'

'No, I won't. None of your forty days for me.'

'I can't understand how you people can go on talking nonsense with a scene so terrible passing under your eyes,' cried the musician, as he pointed to Kate, who was calling after Dick as she staggered in pursuit of him up the stairs towards the stage-door.

'Well, what do you want me to do?'

'She'll disgrace him in the street.'

'I can't help that. I never interfere in a love affair; and this is evidently the great passion of a life.'

Montgomery cast an indignant glance at the novelist and rushed after his friends; but when he arrived at the stage-door he saw the uselessness of his interference.

It was in the narrow street; the heat sweltered between the old houses that leaned and lolled upon the huge black traversing beams like aged women on crutches; and Kate raved against Dick in language that was fearful to hear amid the stage carpenters, the chorus-girls, the idlers that a theatre collects standing with one foot in the gutter, where vegetable refuse of all kinds rotted. Her beautiful black hair was now hanging over her shoulders like a mane; someone had trodden on her dress and nearly torn it from her waist, and, in avid curiosity, women with dyed hair peeped out of a suspicious-looking tobacco shop. Over the way, stuck under an overhanging window, was an orange-stall; the proprietress stood watching, whilst a crowd of vermin-like children ran forward, delighted at the prospect of seeing a woman beaten. Close by, in shirt-sleeves, the pot-boy flung open the public-house door, partly for the purpose of attracting custom, half with the intention of letting a little air into the bar-room.

'Oh, Kate! I beg of you not to go in there,' said Dick; 'you've had enough; do come home!'

'Come home!' she shrieked, 'and with you, you beast! It was you who seduced me, who got me away from my husband.'

This occasioned a good deal of amusement in the crowd, and several voices asked for information.

'And how did he manage to do that, marm?' said one.

'With a bottle of gin. What do you think?' cried another.

There were moments when Dick longed for the earth to open; but he nevertheless continued to try to prevent Kate from entering the public-house.

'I will drink! I will drink! I will drink! And not because I like it, but to spite you, because I hate you.'

When she came out she appeared to be a little quieted, and Dick tried very hard to persuade her to get into a cab and drive home. But the very sound of his voice, the very sight of him, seemed to excite her, and in a few moments she broke forth into the usual harangue. Several times the temptation to run away became almost irresistible, but with a noble effort of will he forced himself to remain with her. Hoping to avoid some part of the ridicule that was being so liberally showered upon him, he besought of her to keep up Drury Lane and not descend into the Strand.

'You don't want to be seen with me; I know, you'd prefer to walk there with

Mrs. Forest. You think I shall disgrace you. Well, come along, then.

'"Look at me here! look at me there!

Criticize me everywhere!

I am so sweet from head to feet,

And most perfect and complete."'

'That's right, old woman, give us a song. She knows the game,' answered another.

Raising his big hat from his head, Dick wiped his face, and as if divining his extreme despair, Kate left off singing and dancing, and the procession proceeded in quiet past several different wine-shops. It was not until they came to Short's she declared she was dying of thirst and must have a drink. Dick forbade the barman to serve her, and brought upon himself the most shocking abuse. Knowing that he would be sure to meet a crowd of his 'pals' at the Gaiety bar, he used every endeavour to persuade her to cross the street and get out of the sun.

'Don't bother me with your sun,' she exclaimed surlily; and then, as if struck by the meaning of the word, she said, 'But it wasn't a son, it was a daughter; don't you remember?'

'Oh, Kate! how can you speak so?'

'Speak so? I say it was a daughter, and she died; and you said it was my fault, as you say everything is my fault, you beast! you venomous beast! Yes, she did die. It was a pity; I could have loved her.'

At this moment Dick felt a heavy hand clapped on his shoulder, and turning round he saw a pal of his.

'What, Dick, my boy! A drunken chorus lady; trying to get her home? Always up to some charitable action.'

'No; she's my wife.'

'I beg your pardon, old chap; you know I didn't mean it;' and the man disappeared into the bar-room.

'Yes, I'm his wife,' Kate shrieked after him. 'I got that much right out of him at least; and I played the Serpolette in the Cloches.'

'"Look at me here, look at me there,"'

she sang, flirting with her abominable skirt, amused by the applause of the roughs. 'But I'm going to have a drink here,' she said, suddenly breaking off.

'No, you can't, my good woman,' said the stout guardian at the door.

'And why-why not?'

'That don't matter. You go on, or I'll have to give you in charge.'

Kate was not yet so drunk that the words 'in charge' did not frighten her, and she answered humbly enough, 'I'm here wi-th-my hu-s-band, and as you're so im-impertinent I shall go-go elsewhere.'

At the next place they came to Dick did not protest against her being served, but waited, confident of the result, until she had had her four of gin, and came reeling out into his arms. Shaking herself free she stared at him, and when he was fully recognized, cursed him for his damned interference. She could now scarcely stand straight on her legs, and, after staggering a few yards further, fell helplessly on the pavement.

Calling a cab, he bundled her into it and drove away.

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