Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The fair Irish maid online

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and apologizing, the one for his well-aimed words
and the other for his ill-aimed blow.

It was no secret every one knew it, including
Mr. Bowley and Mr. Shadd that the gentlemen
acting for the principals in the dispute, Mr.
Fenny and My Lord Cloyne for Captain Love-
less and Mr. Pointdexter and Mr. John Rubie,
M. P., for Mr. Tirowen, were anxious to come
to some amicable arrangement. To this it was
generally believed, and the belief was duly strength-
ened by Mr. Bowley and Mr. Shadd, that the pair
of seconds were led by the direct pressure of the
wishes of Miss O'Hara herself. Undoubtedly
the duel promised to be a serious business for the
adventurer from Kerry. Captain Curtius was prob-
ably the finest pistol-shot in all England he could
hit an ace of spades at thirty paces as long as
there was anything of it left to hit and Mr. Tiro-
wen, in the popular phrase, did not know one end
of a pistol from the other.

This in itself was not enough to prevent the duel
from taking place. If a choleric gentleman, in his
cups, goes so far as to strike or seek to strike an-
other gentleman, he cannot hope to escape the con-
sequences of his act because he does not happen to
know how to shoot straight. But the whole affair


was an awkward one. Miss O'Hara was desirous
that the thing (the disturbance at Ashford House),
should win as little publicity as possible Mr.
Bowley chuckled and Mr. Shadd chuckled to think
that the gratification of this desire was denied to the
hitherto overfortunate young lady and it was
pretty generally believed that she had made an
appeal to Captain Loveless, to which Captain Love-
less had generously responded. He, confident in
his matchless reputation as a pistol-shot, was
affable enough to express his willingness to let the
matter drop. That was what he would do. He
would neither apologize nor ask for an apology;
he would just agree to consider that the incident
had not occurred. This was so far satisfactory, but,
to the surprise of all concerned, or at least of most
of those concerned, it was the Irishman who proved
intractable. Mr. Tirowen positively insisted on the
duel being carried out. If Captain Loveless refused,
then Mr. Tirowen announced his intention of way-
laying the gallant officer in some public place and
repeating his original offense and so forcing the
gallant Captain to face his uncertain weapon.

Mr. Bowley chuckled and Mr. Shadd chuckled
as they recalled how the obstinate Irishman was
afforded satisfaction. Captain Loveless could not
do less, for his reputation's sake and his cloth's, than
consent to meet this incorrigible fire-eater. He was
most loath either to kill or maim his persistent
enemy on account of the pain it must cause Miss


O'Hara, for whom he professed a chivalrous re-
gard. (The idea of any man entertaining a
chivalrous regard for any woman caused Messrs.
Shadd and Bowley to indulge in paroxysms of
obscene mirth.) Captain Loveless declared to his
adversary's seconds that he was perfectly willing to
fire in the air on the occasion of the encounter, but
that he was, naturally, unwilling to be made the help-
less target for his opponent's fire. However igno-
rant a civilian might be of the proper employment
of firearms, there was always the whimsical chance
that he might by misadventure hit his mark. Then
it was that Mr. Pointdexter came to the rescue. He
undertook to see that his principal's weapon should
be a guileless instrument loaded only with a little
harmless powder and guiltless of ball. Under these
mirific conditions the duel took place and all went as
arranged. The antagonists duly faced each other.
When the signal was given Captain Curtius fired at
the sky, and Mr. Tirowen, making the best aim he
could at his enemy with deadly intent, blazed away,
and did no manner of mischief.



THE fashionable world, thanks to the whispers,
asides, innuendoes, and suggestions of Mr.
Bowley and Mr. Shadd and their kind, had been
highly diverted by the Loveless-Tirowen duel.
Mr. Tirowen, as a professed poet and a native of
Ireland, was congratulated on having at least one
resemblance to his illustrious countryman and con-
temporary Mr. Thomas Moore in that he had
played a part in a Hudibrastic duello. The pun-
gent paragraphs that made society smile made Mr.
Tirowen writhe. Mr. Tirowen, now very plenti-
fully in funds, thanks to a meeting with Mr. Heritage
at the Rotundo on the morning after his calamitous
escapade at Ashford House, had retired from Mr.
Fenny' s lodgings, and on Mr. Fenny's recommen-
dation had ensconced himself in the comfortable, if
costly, seclusion of Thomas's Hotel. There he
sulked the simile came from the classical Mr.
Shadd like Achilles in his tent. He sallied thence
to fight his famous duel. There he had the dis-
pleasure of reading the badinage of the journalists;
there he fumed to find himself a laughing-stock.


Very soon, however, society had other food for mirth
and our Dennis other things to think of than the
famous duel.

By this time "The Buried City/' Mr. Tirowen's
play, was in rehearsal at the Rotundo, and very soon
the evening of its first performance duly arrived.
Never was such a first performance remembered in
London since the production of "Vortigern and
Rowena." Mr. Bowley dug Mr. Shadd in the ribs,
and Mr. Shadd prodded Mr. Bowley in the stomach,
as they recapitulated, with inextinguishable laugh-
ter, the events of that astonishing evening. The
overture, "The Soul of Erin," was received in
silence, and the curtain rose for an audience seem-
ingly assembled, and for the most part actually
assembled, for the workaday purpose of seeing a new
play by an unknown author. But the first line had
not been spoken before the hubbub began. Some
one in a corner of the pit shouted out an indignant
demand that the play should be immediately taken
off. While the interruption was being resented by
the immediate and unsophisticated neighbors of the
interrupter another disturbance began in another
portion of the parterre, which was speedily followed
up by a series of like outbreaks in different parts of
the house.

As far as the interrupters seemed to have any
purpose in their interruptions, it appeared that they
resented the production of "The Buried City" be-
cause it had caused the postponement of a play


previously announced for production by Mr. Heri-
tage, a play by an author in whom up to that time
playgoing London had taken no manner of interest.
Now, however, it suddenly was made to appear that
to a section, and a mighty quarrelsome and bellige-
rent section, of Londoners the postponement of
this play was no less than a national calamity of the
gravest character. The play in question was a
tragedy entitled "Titus, or the Fall of Jerusalem,"
by a Mr. Philip Crinch, who with infinite pains had
gained a recognized place among those authors
whose work can be put on at any time without risk,
if without renown. By anticipating a little the
knowledge of Mr. Bowley and Mr. Shadd, and mak-
ing use of the later record of Mr. Redacre, it is
feasible to state that "Titus, or the Fall of Jerusa-
lem," was afterward produced at another theater,
attracted some curiosity on account of the Rotundo
riots, which had forced it into notoriety, and failed
to make any impression.

But on that first evening of "The Buried City,"
and for many evenings afterward, it seemed certain
that a large number of enthusiastic playgoers were
convinced that a grave injustice had been done to
Mr. Crinch in the first place and to all true lovers
of the drama in the second place by the retardation
of "Titus" and the presentation in its place of a
work by an unknown author who was openly re-
ported to be an Irishman and a rebel. Mr. Crinch's
friends hitherto wholly unknown to that most


worthy mediocrity made flagrant proof of their
affection for him and their prophetic admiration for
"Titus, or the Fall of Jerusalem," on that first
night. As fast as a clamorous voice was silenced
in one part of the house protest broke out in another,
to be succeeded in unbroken succession by similar

The Crinchites, as they came to be called, had
laid their plans and aimed their strategy well. They
leavened the lump of that first night audience to a
surprising extent, and their tactics were so successful
that not a syllable of the first act was permitted to
float across the footlights. A few ejections were
made in the interval, but the storm broke out again
on the rising of the curtain on the second act, and
silenced that act as effectively as the first had been
silenced. In vain did Mr. Heritage, at once fright-
ened and furious, make personal appeal to the
audience, standing, an incongruous figure of modern-
ity, in the midst of his bewildered players huddled
together in the garments of a romantic age. He
that had been the Jupiter of his theatrical temple was
treated as unceremoniously as the play had been
treated. Unless he would consent to withdraw
"The Buried City" and set up "Titus" in its stead
he should not be accorded a hearing on the boards of
his own stage.

Mr. Heritage, not unnaturally losing his temper,
endeavored to continue a policy of ejectment of the
offenders against the decorum of his theater, but it


soon became evident that there were far too many
Crinchites in the Rotundo to be dealt with satisfac-
torily in that manner. The uproar waxed momen-
tarily; the fiery cross of insurrection seemed to fly
from point to point, kindling enthusiasm in its
course. "The Buried City" was buried anew
under waves of sound.

The story of that astonishing first night flew over
London, and made the Rotundo the Temple of
Curiosity and "The Buried City" the one subject
of discourse. The desire to witness the perform-
ance that had been provocative of so much protest
was enormous. Had the Rotundo been like that
tent in the Eastern story which could be carried on
the palm of the hand and that yet would on the wish
expand to shelter an army, its powers of extension
would have been sorely tried. As it was, it could
only entertain a small number of those that were
anxious to be present, but those that were fortunate
enough to obtain admittance were certainly not
disappointed. They saw "The Buried City," but
they did not hear a single word of it. The pro-
ceedings of the previous evening were repeated
with an increased ferocity which, as Mr. Shadd
happily remarked, reduced the business of the stage
to "inexplicable dumb-shows."

Once again the fierce clamor for the slighted
masterpiece of the illustrious Crinch made the
lusters of the chandelier shiver. This time, how-
ever, the Crinchites found themselves faced by a more


formidable opposition than they had encountered on
the previous evening. Mr. Heritage, determined
not to be taken unawares, had made a levy of sturdy
swashbucklers to preserve the peace, had enlisted a
brotherhood of noted bruisers, that was dispersed
about the auditorium fired with liquor and enthusi-
asm for "The Buried City." The Crinchites got the
worst of it on that evening as far as physical contest
was concerned. Man after man of the disturbers
was haled from the theater howling undaunted his
demand for "Titus." But there were enough of
them present to wreck the performance. A policy
of ejection, even if carefully organized, takes time,
and the result of the battle was that once again the
poor players were unable to send a single syllable of
"The Buried City" to any expectant ear.

On the following night the real fun might be said
to have begun, the fun that had endured without ces-
sation to this very evening on which Mr. Bowley and
Mr. Shadd sat facing each other at Mr. Heritage's
table. For if one side to a controversy can engage
the services of professional pugilists to support its
views by force of arms, so can, and in this case so
did, the other. Whoever was inspiring the ardor of
the Crinchites was evidently prepared to back that
ardor with stout strokes. Bulky members of the
Fancy asserted a thunderous admiration for the
genius of Crinch, and emphasized their admiration
by planting smashing blows on the countenances of
those that failed to share it. Greek met Greek, as


Mr. Bowley aptly remarked, and the agitated pit was
promptly converted into an exaggerated prize-ring,
where splendid mercenaries slogged hard on either

Thenceforward the Rotundo was the one place in
which anybody who was anybody wished to be.
Nightly the din of battle reigned in the unfortunate
playhouse, nightly the subaltern giants of the noble
art contended unfamiliarly in a literary quarrel.
News of the Homeric struggle spread into the coun-
try and brought exiled Londoners hurrying to town,
spurning the muddy roads in their eagerness to
witness what were now known as the Rotundo
riots. Among these zealots was no less a person
than my Lord Byron, who actually was willing to
spare a few hours from newly married rusticity
in order to have at least a spectator's share in the
sport that was toward. His lordship, as Mr. Shadd
informed Mr. Bowley, was present in the house that
very evening, and professed, it seemed, much inter-
est in the feud and much curiosity as to the cause
of it.

Mr. Bowley and Mr. Shadd believed that they
knew well enough who was at the bottom of the
Rotundo riots. "Hell has no fury like a woman
scorned" was the felicitous quotation of one of the
pair in one of their papers, and the woman scorned
whom Mr. Bowley had in his mind was Lady
Doubble. Who but she had the instigation to
revenge herself upon a fellow presumptuous enough


to reject her proffered friendship and to slight her
charms. Mr. Bowley believed that Lady Doubble
would have been willing enough to see Mr. Dennis
fall before the pistol of Captain Loveless, and that
if she had had her way the duel would have taken
place according to the established code. Failing in
this, for the influence of Miss O'Hara proved more
potent than hers with the gallant captain, Lady
Doubble, baffled in one direction, sought, and indeed
found, satisfaction in another. She had serviceable
friends, she had abundance of money, she suddenly
discovered the merits and the wrongs of Mr. Crinch,
and she found means to inspire a goodly number of
persons with sympathy with those merits and those
wrongs. Here, according to Mr. Bowley and who
shall say that he was wrong ? was to be found the
secret cause of astonishing manifestations that abide
in history as the Rotundo riots.

Mr. Shadd, however, supported another theory.
He agreed, of course, with the "woman scorned"
doctrine, but his woman scorned was not Mr. Bow-
ley's woman scorned. Mr. Shadd's candidate for
that post of distinction was no other than " The
Fair Irish Maid "Miss O'Hara herself. Who, he
asked, had more occasion to feel hostile toward the
Irish dramatist than the young lady who had been
publicly flouted in her own house and in the presence
of her friends by that same dramatist ? What better
revenge could she find for her affronted feelings than
a public damnation of her uncivil lover's play ? Miss


O'Hara, according to Mr. Shadd, was the Goddess
of Reason of the Rotundo Revolution. She it was
who hired the bravoes, she it was who patronized
Mr. Crinch, she it was who prevented a not very
curious public from hearing a single word of "The
Buried City" by providing that public with an
entertainment much more kindling to its curiosity.

Mr. Bowley so far temporized with Mr. Shadd as
to admit that Miss O'Hara and Lady Doubble might
be partners in the conspiracy against "The Buried
City." But Mr. Shadd was for no such compromise.
He could not see that Lady Doubble had any place
in an enterprise which for him was entirely engi-
neered by the magnificent malice of Grania O'Hara.


ON this particular evening when Mr. Bowley
and Mr. Shadd discoursed in Mr. Heritage's
room and discussed the one subject of the town's talk,
the eruption of insurrection and counter-insurrec-
tion within the walls of the Rotundo was at its worst
so far. It was therefore a consolation to such loyal
citizens as the editor of The Whistle and the editor
of The Scourge that this was the evening which had
been chosen by His Royal Highness the Prince
Regent to pay a visit to the theater and to see for
himself the sport of which all the world was talking.
The news of His Royal Highness's intention to be
present spread as such news will spread, and at-
tracted to the tempest-tossed theater a more than
usually brilliant company of spectators. That all
the members of the new Princes' set should attend
was a matter of course, but a goodly number of the
old guard rallied round their semi-sovereign for the
occasion, Captain Morris and My Lord Coleraine
conspicuous among them. Mr. Brummell, fiddling,
as it were, while Rome was burning Mr. Shadd
again wore his most wonderful composition to


grace the battle. Mr. Redacre flitted from box to
box, the busy, curious, thirsty fly of all and any
gossip. My Lord Byron assured his friends that
the married state was ideal, and Henry Averill
regarded everybody and everything with his habitual
suave disdain.

The scene which His Royal Highness had the
pleasure of surveying was certainly sufficiently
astonishing. It was indeed a repetition of a scene
that had been enacted now for many successive
evenings, but with each performance it became more
charged with dramatic intensity. The whole of the
theater was filled to overflowing. The world of
fashion, the world of literature, the world of art,
nightly sent its representatives to throng the more
expensive parts of the house. But while the occu-
pants of the boxes and balcony came in their hun-
dreds, and often came more than once and more
than twice, they came for the most part solely to act
as spectators. The real theater for them was not
the boarded stage, but the spacious area of the pit,
which ever since the disturbance of the first night
was packed with those that lusted for battle.

The ceremonial on this occasion, as on all occa-
sions since the beginning of these whimsical riots,
was the same. It was followed with as much
formality as if it had been an ordered portion of the
programme. Silence reigned in the densely thronged
house while the overture, which was founded upon
"The Soul of Erin," had concluded and the curtain


had risen on the beautifully painted first scene of
"The Buried City."

But with the first words spoken on the stage, with
the utterance of the first syllables of Dennis Tiro-
wen's nobly molded blank verse, the signal for in-
surrection was given in the house, the standard of
rebellion raised. A chorus of voices instantly rose
demanding the immediate cessation of the play, a
chorus that swelled in volume with every second and
made it impossible for the players to make them-
selves heard. This rude and noisy challenge was
instantly answered by the counter-chorus of those,
and they were many and leathern-lunged, that for
one reason or another befriended the piece and that
insisted upon the performance being allowed to
proceed. For a while these clamors would con-
tinue, sometimes waning a little, sometimes waxing
as wild winds wane and wax in a storm, but always
drowning absolutely all sound of speech upon the
stage. There the players, no longer frightened as
they had been the first night by the unexpected
attack, moved through their parts and muttered
their words with as much indifference as they could
assume for the conflict that raged beyond the foot-
lights, a conflict that iteration seemed to assure them
must needs endure as long as Mr. Heritage persisted
in putting "The Buried City" upon his stage.

It did not take long, however, for the quarrel in
the pit that converted its habitual decorum into a
parliament of shrieks to become something more

22 325


than a war of words. For a while nothing more
violent would happen than the rival shouts of the
hostile factions, and the amused and delighted
spectators up-stairs had their ears chiefly appealed
to by the brawl, and had nothing more on which to
feast their eyes than an ocean of crimson faces
with gaping mouths that shouted war-cries or
swollen cheeks that sucked in the breath of new
efforts. Certain collocations of words had already
become the battle-calls of the two factions. Those
that were opposed to the production of "The Buried
City" had got into the habit of intoning like a
chant the words "Crinch, Crinch, give us Crinch/'
which when repeated monotonously by a hundred
voices had a very stupefying effect upon its hearers.
The partisans of "The Buried City/' however in-
spired, had taken a Celtic hint for their slogan, and
thundered "Tirowen aboo!" with all the breath and
energy thatwas in them. So long as the strifewas one
of words so long did these two sentences challenge
each other, bellowed with a faithful fury by either side.
Then some fierce demonstrator for or against the
play, growing more excitable with the rising tide of
the din, would suddenly feel that it was high time for
him to push or jostle or menace with brutal extremi-
ties of physical violence some other vociferous dem-
onstrator whose opinion for or against the per-
formance did not agree with his own. The ritual
of action thus once set in motion followed on its
ordered course. The person pushed or menaced


invariably retaliated with a vigor and ferocity at
least equal to that of his aggressor. Then the spec-
tators above, the fine ladies of fashion, and the
dandies, and the bloods, the men of letters, the
men of art, the men of law, all who belonged to so-
ciety or could seem to belong to it by paying for
expensive seats, were afforded an example of two
hot-headed Londoners bustling in front of each
other, squaring awkwardly at first and punching like
clumsy school-boys afterward, amid shrieks, jeers,
and encouragements of those immediately above the
combatants. For the most part encouragements
prevailed, each faction being anxious to back its own
champion who had proceeded from words to deeds
in attack upon or defense of the unfortunate play.
Generally this first brawl was thrashed out rapidly
and ended in the opponents being separated by the
partizans of whichever warrior was getting the worse
of it. But very soon the example of this earliest
duel would be followed by another pair in some
other part of the house whose hot blood could no
longer be contented by mere bellowings, and the
example thus reset would be imitated again by
others that sat or stood in the vicinity of these bat-
tlers or a little farther off. These sporadic combats
would multiply at first slowly and then swiftly, until
the contagion of strife spread the game of fisticuffs
all over the arena of the pit, and the excited beholders
tarred on the combatants as the nobility of old Rome
tarred on its gladiators.



The game of fisticuffs, and not fisticuffs alone.
Battle breeds battle. Hot-tempered humanity, see-
ing its fellows contending and finding the raw
knuckles of clenched fingers insufficiently potent for
the settlement of the dispute, took with enthusiasm
to more truculent instruments of strife. Men
brandished bludgeons, men twirled canes provoca-
tively, and were responded to by other men that
twirled canes and brandished bludgeons, and pres-
ently bludgeons and canes alike descended on con-
venient heads and shoulders and were struggled
for and snatched away and used in retaliation and
sometimes broken and their fragments flung abroad
over the contending sea of furious warriors. The
pit became the scene of an Iliad that only needed its
rhapsodist to rise to epic dignity, and as the conflict
grew so grew the attendant din.

Those that were not actually in the thick of the
fight, recognizing the fallibility of any attempt of the
human voice, however it might rival the bull of
Bashan to dominate such a hubbub with any hope of
effective dominion or even assertion, resorted to
artificial modes of interpreting their emotions.
They produced from recesses of their garments all
manner of contrivances, imported for the purpose in
hope of opportunity. They displayed tin trumpets,

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Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 18 of 20)