The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

whom he did not speak about his luckless condition, but whose silent sympathy and watchfulness greatly comforted the simple half-heartbroken fellow, who knows but he might have done something desperate, and have ended his days prematurely in front of Chatteris gaol? There he sate then, miserable, and gazing at her. And she took no more notice of him than he did of the rest of the house.

The Fotheringay was uncommonly handsome, in a white raiment and leopard skin, with a sun upon her breast, and fine tawdry bracelets on her beautiful glancing arms. She spouted to admiration the few words of her part, and looked it still better. The eyes, which had overthrown Pen's soul, rolled and gleamed as lustrous as ever; but it was not to him that they were directed that night. He did not know to whom, or remark a couple of gentlemen in the box next to him, upon whom Miss Fotheringay's glances were perpetually shining.

Nor had Pen noticed the extraordinary change which had taken place on the stage a short time after the entry of these two gentlemen into the theatre. There were so few people in the house, that the first act of the play languished entirely, and there had been some question of returning the money, as upon that other unfortunate night when poor Pen had been driven away. The actors were perfectly careless about their parts, and yawned through the dialogue, and talked loud to each other in the intervals. Even Bingley was listless, and Mrs. B. in Elvira spoke under her breath.

How came it that all of a sudden Mrs. Bingley began to raise her voice and bellow like a bull of Bashan? Whence was it that Bingley, flingly off his apathy, darted about the stage and yelled like Kean? Why did Garbetts and Rowkins and Miss Rouncy try, each of them, the force of their charms or graces, and act and swagger and scowl and spout their very loudest at the two gentlemen in box No 3?

One was a quiet little man in black, with a grey head and a jolly shrewd face -- the other was in all respects a splendid and remarkable individual. He was a tall and portly gentleman with a hooked nose and a profusion of curling brown hair and whiskers; his coat was covered with the richest frogs, braiding, and velvet. He had under-waistcoats, many splended rings, jewelled pins and neck-chains. When he took out his yellow pocket-handkerchief with his hand that was cased in white kids, a delightful odour of musk and bergamot was shaken through the house. He was evidently a personage of rank, and it was at him that the little Chatteris company was acting.

He was, in a word, no other than Mr. Dolphin, the great manager from London, accompanied by his faithful friend and secretary Mr. William Minns: without whom he never travelled. He had not been ten minutes in the theatre before his august presence there was perceived by Bingley and the rest: and they all began to act their best and try to engage his attention. Even Miss Fotheringay's dull heart, which was disturbed at nothing, felt perhaps a flutter, when she came in presence of the famous London impresario. She had not much to do in her part, but to look handsome, and stand in picturesque attitudes encircling her child: and she did this work to admiration. In vain the various actors tried to win the favour of the great stage Sultan. Pizarro never got a hand from him. Bingley yelled, and Mrs. Bingley bellowed, and the manager only took snuff out of his great gold box. It was only in the last scene, when Rolla comes in staggering with the infant ( Bingley is not so strong as he was, and his fourth son Master Talma Bingley is a monstrous large child for his age) -- when Rolla comes staggering with the child to Cora, who rushes forward with a shriek and says -- "O God, there's blood upon him!" -- that the London manager clapped his hands, and broke out with an enthusiastic bravo.

Then having concluded his applause, Mr. Dolphin gave his secretary a slap on the shoulder, and said, "By Jove, Billy, she'll do!"

-83-

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