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Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

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riage that had moved her to any serious or tender
emotion. Captain Curtius on his side did not
believe that his game was by any means lost. He
was still less ready to believe it when on re-entering
the Gold Room he saw that the directions he had
given to a servant a little while before had been
faithfully carried out.



XVIII

WISDOM IN THE CAN

BY Captain Curtius's directions a servant con-
veyed a tray bearing a bowl of punch and
some glasses toward Dennis and set it down on a
table hard by the spot where Dennis and Mr.
Heritage were standing. "With Captain Curtius's
complements," the man said, to call Dennis's atten-
tion to the liquor, and stood waiting by the table.

Dennis's eyes sparkled at the sight of the punch.
"We must wet our bargain," he said, thickly, and
at once ladled out two glasses of the compound with
a hand so unsteady that he slopped not a little of
the liquid on to the tray. He took up one of the
full glasses and motioned to Mr. Heritage to take
the other.

Mr. Heritage did so, and, lifting the vessel to his
lips, looked over its edge at Dennis. "Here's wish-
ing you success," he said, and sipped a little of the
drink.

Dennis laughed foolishly. " Success to the play,"

he said, and drained his glass. The subtle fluid set

his jaded brain on fire. He hastily filled another

glass. "This is glorious stuff," he protested.

274



WISDOM IN THE CAN

"Here's your good health, Mr. Heritage." He
tossed off the second glass and filled himself again
a third, while Mr. Heritage sipped judiciously and
eyed Dennis with a quizzical smile.

"If I were you/' he said, quietly, when Dennis
had disposed of his third tumbler, "I should deal
quietly with that beverage."

"Deal quietly, is it?" Dennis protested. "Why,
man, it's as mild as milk; it's the elixir of life."

Mr. Heritage smiled and took another small sip.
He was a temperate drinker, and if he sometimes
exceeded discretion in other pleasures, he never ex-
ceeded in wine. But he was used to witnessing
examples of excess in wine, and Dennis's case af-
forded him a new illustration of its folly. His
libations of punch on the top of his indulgence in
unfamiliar wine had disordered his wit and de-
stroyed his self-restraint. It was probable that
somewhere in the back of his disordered brain he
felt an unwarrantable conviction that he was be-
having with great dignity and wisdom. He dis-
coursed volubly, if incoherently, on art; he favored
Mr. Heritage with an elaborate exposition of his
views as to the proper conduct of a theater, the
main thesis of which appeared to his diverted
listener to be that the theater, any theater, existed
chiefly for the purpose of producing the plays,
already written or to be written, of Mr. Dennis
Tirowen.

When he had expanded this theory for a con-
275



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

siderable time Dennis's unsteady hand groped over
the little table hard by him till it touched the
tumbler for which he sought. It was full again, as
he had found it full every time when, after he had
emptied it, he reached for it again. The servant
that stood by, a sedulous minister steadfastly obey-
ing the hospitable instructions of Captain Loveless,
saw to that. Dennis had continued to drink un-
checked by Mr. Heritage. It was none of his
business to prevent his new author from becoming
fuddled if such were his good pleasure. So Dennis
drank and babbled and babbled and drank, talking
ever thickly and more thickly of his genius and of
his play and of Mr. Heritage's good fortune in rind-
ing him. And all the time the conflagatory punch
burned up the residue of Dennis's wits, till he began
to drivel. Now he lifted his glass to his lips and
took a good swig of the liquor, and as he did so he
saw over the tilted rim Grania moving down the
long room toward him. To be faithfully precise, he
seemed to see two Granias, but the whimsical cir-
cumstance did not disturb him. He lowered the
vessel, splashing the lees of the contents over the
floor, while Mr. Heritage skipped nimbly aside to
escape contamination and shattering the glass into
fragments by the force with which he struck it
against the table.

Up to that moment nobody except Mr. Heritage
had paid any heed to Dennis or noted his condition.
The company had been too busy with their own
276



WISDOM IN THE CAN

devices, some playing cards, some talking scandal,
some bandying briskly the ball of elaborate flirta-
tion. But with the crash and clatter of the ruined
glass all attentions were diverted from other pur-
suits and all eyes were turned to the table where
Dennis stood swaying and laughing, with Mr.
Heritage near by surveying him with contemptuous
amusement.

Crania's pace quickened in her course toward
Dennis. Captain Curtius followed her, close at her
heels. Dennis lurched away from the supporting
table and staggered forward a few paces, bringing
himself to a halt uneasily by clutching at the
shoulder of an adjacent chair.

"Grania," he shouted, "Grania, my girl, all is well.
Old Heritage takes my play. Splendid fellow, old
Heritage, knows a man of genius when he sees one."

He looked weakly round in the endeavor to dis-
cover the manager of the Rotundo and address his
encomium direct to him. Failing hopelessly in this
attempt, he swung back again to face the multitude
of staring faces. He felt vaguely that the occasion
called for eloquence and should have it.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he stammered, "I have
the honor to inform you that Mr. Heritage, of the
Rotundo Theater splendid man, splendid theater
has been lucky enough to secure my splendid play
for his next production. I invite all of you to be
present at the first performance all of you, my
guests splendid event."
19 277



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

As he spoke he reeled against the chair, which,
luckily, retained its equilibrium, and, seating him-
self somehow, kept still, huddled up and staring
stupidly.

All this had happened very rapidly. The com-
pany preserved silence, highly diverted and wonder-
ing what would happen next. Grania had stood
still at the first sound of Dennis's voice, had re-
mained so standing while Dennis continued to
speak. He seemed to her to be speaking for a very
long time, during which she tried hard to think that
nothing was happening amiss. Round about her
she beheld mocking faces painted in smiles. Not
all were smiling. She saw Lord Cloyne's face
fiercely disdainful, she saw Lady Cloyne's face
bitten with anger. Lord Cloyne, indeed, was
much less indignant than his wife, and looked less
indignant. He was, in reality, very well content
with the way things were going. The objectionable
fellow from Ireland, whose sudden appearance he
had resented with a resentment which was all the
fiercer because it had to be concealed, was playing
Lord Cloyne's game excellently. No doubt Lady
Cloyne realized this as well as her husband, but she
was furious at such a scandalous scene taking place
in a house where she had been at least a vice-queen,
and she allowed a very open expression of disgust
to disturb the habitual tranquillity of her coun-
tenance.

As Dennis finished his drunken speech and
278



WISDOM IN THE CAN

stumbled into the chair Crania was suddenly aware
that Captain Curtius was close by her side and was
regarding her closely. She turned her head and
looked into his face. Captain Curtius desired to
show an impassive countenance, but for the life of
him he could not restrain an expression of malicious
victory. In a flash Grania seemed to understand,
and Captain Curtius saw the sudden rage in her
dark eyes. Yet in spite of this warning he was
irresistibly tempted to improve the occasion.

"Indeed, indeed," he said, softly, "I believe my-
self to be the better man."

Certainly there could be no question for any sane
observer as to which of the two looked the better
man. The one stood so erect and soldierly, wearing
his scarlet coat with so distinguished an air. His
handsome face, unstained by his excesses, carried
the fair color of health and strength; his smiling
eyes were clear and bright; his body was nobly
made and nobly poised; his movements were
supple; he seemed, indeed, a heroic figure. The
other squatted in his chair, hunched up helplessly,
his borrowed finery bedraggled and awry, his arms
listlessly pendent, his legs sprawling ungraciously.
There was the foolish grin of intoxication upon his
face where the triumphant wine had cruelly recalled
the lines that want and degradation had traced.
His cheeks were unwholesomely mottled, his eyes
glittered disagreeably, his hair was ludicrously
disheveled, for in the course of his conversation
279



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

with Mr. Heritage he had frequently, as meaning-
lessly, thrust his ringers through his locks in what
he imagined to be a highly poetic action. Even as
he sat he gesticulated foolishly, and it has to be
admitted that every now and then he hiccoughed.
It would have been hard even for a caricaturist to
imagine a more astonishing centerpiece for a
fashionable gathering. Only the iron influence of
an etiquette that kept them in mind of the presence
of their hostess restrained the majority of tjie women
from laughing audibly, restrained the majority of
the men from jeering openly. Grania, seeming to
observe everything about her with a singular lucid-
ity, caught sight of Mr. Pointdexter, and found him
quietly observant, surveying the intoxicated poet
with the cold impartiality of a judge scrutinizing a
prisoner; caught sight of Mr. Rubie, hot and em-
barrassed, obviously trying to devise some prac-
tical scheme for saving the situation, but unable to
think of anything satisfactory.

Grania felt, with a sudden pang, that she stood
on the edge of inevitable decision. Beside her the
well-made, well-kept, alert aristocrat, with the fine
face and the fine body, represented the world into
which she had newly come, the world which she
had learned if not to love, at least to appreciate,
the world of suave customs and bland formalities,
a world of pleasure palisaded, so far as was hu-
manly possible, against pain. Facing her, the
pathetic, collapsed creature whose nodding head
280



WISDOM IN THE CAN

lolled upon his breast with flushed face and falling
lids and gaping lips, whose limbs, through his own
ignoble folly, denied him service, the wretched ad-
venturer who had set out to win a crown and had
failed first and last, represented the world from
which she had come, although for the instant he
presented it very unworthily. As she looked at him
with tender, compassionate eyes that knew neither
scorn nor repulsion she saw him again as he had
been in kindly Ireland, strong and clean and simple,
ambitious, studious, a master of songs, a master
of music. Dennis of the Sweet Mouth. This was
Dennis of the Sweet Mouth, this bemused, bedrag-
gled simpleton that was now the laughing-stock of
a London drawing-room, the laughing-stock of her
guests in her house.

Crania's heart was as a fountain of tears that
flowed in sweet pity for her poor lover that had
fallen upon evil days and that had shamed himself
so gravely. But the shame, she felt sure, had not
been all of his own making. The covert malice in
Captain Curtius's smile assured her that he had
played his skilful part in bringing about poor
Dennis's degradation. Dennis had been wronged,
and she must right him; Dennis had been betrayed,
and she must aid him. She felt no resentment
against him, no repugnance at his self-caused plight;
any such feelings were swept away on the strong
tide of her profound pity for his loneliness, his de-
fenselessness, his defeat. The words of Captain
281



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

Curtius hurt her like a wound. He might indeed
be the better man, but Dennis was her man. She
sorrowed for him as a mother would sorrow for a
son that had come to like case; all her loyal soul was
eager to defend the friend who needed defense.
Come what might come, he was her beloved, and she
would never deny him.

She looked steadily into Captain Curtius's smil-
ing face. "Are you sure ?" she asked, in answer to
his speech. Then she walked quickly to where
Dennis sat, unconsciously pilloried, and stood by
him resting her hand upon his shoulder. At her
touch Dennis looked up at her with watery eyes, and
chuckled weakly. On all the staring faces amuse-
ment or annoyance had now shifted to intense sur-
prise and expectation. Grania looked very brave
and beautiful standing there with her hand on the
sick man's shoulder. Captain Curtius was tempted
to applaud, as at some fine scene in a play; Mr.
Rubie felt his heart swell within him; Mr. Fenny,
forgetting his apprehensions for his wardrobe,
could have changed places with Dennis to be so
championed; Mr. Pointdexter for an instant per-
mitted a smile of wry approval to temper the
wooden rigidity of his countenance; Mr. Heritage
wished that he knew an actress who could carry
herself so queenly.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Grania began, deliber-
ately following the example that Dennis had set
her, "you have heard one piece of news from Mr.
282



WISDOM IN THE CAN

Tirowen to-night; you have heard that his play
has been accepted by Mr. Heritage for production
at the Rotundo Theater, and he has my heartfelt
congratulations on the good tidings."

A burst of applause, led by Mr. Heritage, followed
Crania's words, for those that made her audience
liked her pluck in standing up for her guest and
friend, and admired the way in which she did it.
Dennis clawed vaguely at her hand and murmured
some maudlin words of gratitude. But Grania had
not yet said her say.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began again, "that
is not the only piece of news that Mr. Tirowen has
to tell you to-night." Here a little murmur of cu-
riosity ran round the room, for the manner of
Grania, as well as her words, suggested something
uncommon. Dennis himself, listening, lifted his
head and seemed to be struggling to regain control
of his disordered senses. Grania pressed her hand
a little more lovingly upon his shoulder, and went
on.

"Mr. Tirowen will tell you, or I will tell you for
him, that he and I are engaged to be married."

The words fell with staggering effect upon
Crania's hearers. Not a sound greeted them; they
were received with a well-nigh religious hush so
greatly did they astonish the company. Captain
Curtius swore beneath his breath; Mr. Rubie felt
as if he were trying to swallow a cannon-ball; Mr.
Heritage shaped his mouth for an inaudible whistle;
283



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

Mr. Fenny restrained an unexpected desire to laugh
hysterically; Mr. Pointdexter looked inscrutable;
Mr. Redacre hurriedly called his system of mnemon-
ics into play in order to record upon the tablets
of his memory the exact effect of the greatest sur-
prise it had ever been his privilege to witness in a
London drawing-room. But events moved too
fast for Mr. Redacre. Great as was the surprise
which Crania's announcement had made, it was
destined to be eclipsed, and that instantly, by a
surprise that was still greater.

The hush of surprise was still heavy on the com-
pany when they suddenly realized with a new
amazement that Dennis had risen to his feet and
was endeavoring to address them. At first, of
course, they took it for granted that the man was
simply going to indorse and emphasize what
Grania had said, but his earliest words taught them
that they were mistaken. Dennis seemed to 'be
inflamed with indignation, and his unexpected
anger appeared to have had an unexpected pow-
er of sobering him, for, though his speech was
somewhat thick, his words came separate and dis-
tinct.

"Nothing of the kind," he protested, vehemently;
"nothing of the kind. Ladies and gentlemen, I
assure you that Miss O'Hara is entirely mistaken.
We are not engaged to be married. "He turned to
Grania, who had grown frightfully pale, and ad-
dressed her. "You know very well, Grania, that
284



WISDOM IN THE CAN

there can be no talk of marriage between us for the
present. I have told you so plainly enough."

By this time all the company had risen to their
feet and were moving with common consent toward
where Grania and Dennis stood. It seemed evident
to all present that Dennis's drunkenness had taken
a new turn, as drunkenness sometimes will, but it
also seemed necessary to all that its display should
be reduced to silence instantly.

Many who did not know Grania well thought
that she might faint, and Mr. Rubie and Captain
Curtius were rivals in their efforts to approach her,
only to find that Mr. Pointdexter had forestalled
them both and was already standing by Crania's
side, ready to afford her any assistance she might
need. As a matter of fact, she did not seem to need
any. She stood very white and quiet, resting one
hand lightly on Mr. Pointdexter's arm, and com-
posedly assuring Lady Cloyne that of course Mr.
Tirowen knew his own mind and that she was sorry
she had caused him any annoyance. She did not
let any one see how profoundly she was disappointed
at the failure of her sweet plot to snare Dennis into
acceptance of an openly proclaimed engagement,
and though she was horribly hurt by the way Dennis
had treated her, she now blamed herself for her
gracious effort to coerce him.

Captain Curtius made his way to where Dennis
stood, all red with the rage of his intoxication's new
mood.

285



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

"Sir," said Captain Curtius, softly^ "permit me
to express the opinion that you are a peculiarly un-
attractive blackguard."

Those that heard seemed to agree and approve.
Dennis, whose changed drunkenness had restored to
him a certain control over his body and limbs, made
answer by attempting to strike Captain Curtius on
the face. The aim was wide, and Dennis's clenched
fist did no more than brush Captain Curtius's cheek.
The soldier put up his arm to parry the stroke, and
the force of his defense upset Dennis's balance.
He staggered and sat heavily in the chair and glared
at those about him.

"Two of my friends/' said Captain Loveless, still
in a low voice, and still with a quiet politeness,
"will call upon you in the morning."

Dennis did not seem to realize the meaning of
the Captain's words. The stupor of his first stage
seemed to be descending upon him again. He
murmured something sulkily, which those nearest
to him understood to mean "Damn your friends."

Captain Curtius turned to Mr. Fenny. "Will you
find out where the fellow lives," he said, still speak-
ing pleasantly, "and look him up in the morning?"

Mr. Fenny nodded. . He was thinking, in a phrase
habitual to him, that it was rather a blue outlook
for Mr. Tirowen. The little episode had happened
very rapidly. Now those that had been near to
Dennis began to edge away from him and leave
him to himself. He looked about him stupidly
286



WISDOM IN THE CAN

and rose with difficulty to his feet. He was trying
to say something, but the words did not seem to
come very readily to his stammering lips. He made
a piteous, ridiculous figure.

Now was the moment chosen by Lady Doubble to
assert herself. She had been chafing for long
enough at being delayed in her conquest of the
handsome young Irelander; she had watched him
with devouring eyes during the long course of his
conversation with Mr. Heritage, though all the
while she contrived to keep up a creditable show of
conversation, first with Mr. Rubie and afterward
with Mr. Redacre. When Dennis made his ridicu-
lous speech of invitation she was less impressed by
his drunkenness than by the fact that he remained
desirable. An animal rage possessed her when
Grania announced her engagement to Dennis, a
rage that was succeeded by a no less animal joy
when Dennis made his amazing repudiation of the
girl. Now she saw the chance to secure his friend-
ship. She rose from the sofa where she sat and
glided across the room with a motion which she con-
fidently believed to be swan-like till she came to a
halt beside the unhappy youth, who sat isolated and
shunned. Dennis was still gibbering absurdities,
but he became silent when Lady Doubble laid a
gently restraining hand upon his arm.

"Dear Mr. Tirowen," she said, affectionately,
"the room is very warm and I am feeling the effect
of it. Will you be so gracious as to escort me to my
287



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

carriage. If you will allow me to have the pleasure
of dropping you anywhere I shall be more than
delighted."

Some remnant of lucidity allowed Dennis to un-
derstand dimly that he was being offered a way of
escape from a bewildering situation which it was
beyond his powers to understand clearly. With an
effort he rose to his feet, stiffened himself against
the chair, and endeavored to regain control of a
distracted brain, to compel the whirling room
and blurred figures to stability and distinctness.
He was muzzily convinced that he had been carry-
ing himself with great dignity, also that he was
shamefully misunderstood; he was distinctly in-
clined to weep. Abandoning the chair, he clutched
at Lady Doubble's plump arm to save him from
falling and sprawling on the floor. Very fortunately
the good lady was strong enough to support him.
Piloted by his companion, Dennis made his uncer-
tain way across the room, mumbling what he be-
lieved to be appropriate expressions of farewell as
he went, while the silent company stared at this
new episode in an eventful evening as they had
never stared before. As the pair reached the door
Grania, who had been standing very still, made a
slight movement as if to advance and stay their
departure, but she immediately repressed the in-
clination, and in another moment Lady Doubble
had disappeared from the room with her drunken
poet, as it were, in her pocket.



BOOK III
THE PLAY'S THE THING



I

\
IN THE ROTUNDO

'""THE Annual Recorder for the year 1815, occu-
1 pied as it was with chronicling certain of the
greatest events of modern history, nevertheless
found place those in its pages devoted to social
events for a slight account of one of the curious
convulsions that occasionally disturb the equanim-
ity of theatrical history. The writer expresses his
sympathy for Mr. Heritage, manager of the Rotundo
Theater, who found himself the victim of a series
of demonstrations which turned for a time his
theater into a bear-garden. But the writer does
little beyond mentioning the fact that a cabal existed
which had all the appearance of being called into
being for the purpose of preventing the production
of a certain play, and that this cabal was opposed
by a counter-party in favor of the play, and that the
proceedings of the two forces attracted great num-
bers to the theater, not indeed so much to see the
piece as the battle that raged about it. From other
sources, however, and chiefly from the memoirs of
Mr. Redacre, it is possible to elicit a fuller account
of the extraordinary occurrence and of its secret
causes.

291



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

Mr. Heritage was very proud of the Rotundo
Theater, and he had plenty of justification for his
pride. The theater was popular with all classes;
it earned such special favor from authority, thanks
to the patronage of His Royal Highness, the Prince
Regent, that Mr. Heritage had a free hand in its
management. The Rotundo Theater made money
for Mr. Heritage, and Mr. Heritage liked money,
but he liked fame as well and wished to be regarded
as supreme in his sphere. He was pleased to be-
lieve that his theater was the handsomest in London;
he decked it; he adorned it; nothing was too good
for it that could increase its attractiveness. It was
dearer to him than a child, and Mr. Heritage had
no children. It was dearer to him than a mistress,
and report accorded him many mistresses.

The room which was reserved for the manager of
the Rotundo Theater, the room in which he trans-
acted his private business, interviewed favored
authors or pretty actresses, and occasionally enter-
tained his friends, was such a one as Mr. Heritage
believed to be worthy of his position and of himself.
As Mr. Heritage had an exceedingly high opinion
of both, it follows that the room was as gorgeous as
Mr. Heritage could make it. It was spacious and
pierced with a pair of windows that overlooked a
quiet back street where the stage-door of the
theater was. No sound reached that room of the
roar and clatter of the great main street on which
the pillared portico of the Rotundo stood.
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IN THE ROTUNDO

It was richly furnished after a fashion that how-
ever much it might suggest the opulence of its
owner and his desire to make that opulence evident


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