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the joyous recklessness of early boyhood. He was as impatient for the noisy pantomime overture, and the bright troops of fairies in petticoats of spangled muslin, as the most inveterate cockney cooling his snub nose against the iron railing of the gallery. He was as ready to fall in love with the painted beauty of the ill-paid ballet-girls, as the veriest child in the wide circle of humanity about him. Fresh, untainted, unsus- . picious, he looked out at the world, ready to believe in every thing and every body.
“How you do fidget, Edward !" whispered Martin Mostyn peevishly; “why don't you look at the stage? It's capital fun.”
“Yes; I don't mean the tragedy, you know; but the supernumeraries. Did you ever see such an awkward set of fellows in all your life? There's a man there with weak legs and a heavy banner, that I've been watching all the evening. He's more fun than all the rest of it put together.”
Mr. Mostyn, being of course much too polite to point out the man in question, indicated him with a twitch of his light eyebrows; and Edward Arundel, following that indication, singled out the banner-holder from a group of soldiers in medieval dress, who had been standing wearily enough upon one side of the stage during a long, strictly private and confidential dialogue between the princely hero of the tragedy and one of his accommodating satellites. The lad uttered a cry of surprise as he looked at the weak-legged banner-holder.
Mr. Mostyn turned upon his cousin with some vexation. “I can't help it, Martin,” exclaimed young Arundel ; "I can't be
I mistaken-yes--poor fellow, to think that he should come to this !--you haven't forgotten him, Martin, surely?”
“Forgotten what — forgotten whom? My dear Edward, what do you mean ?”
“ John Marchmont, the poor fellow who used to teach us mathematics at Vernon's; the fellow the governor sacked because"
“Well, what of him?"
“The poor chap with the banner," exclaimed the boy, in a breathless whisper; "don't you see, Martin? didn't you recognise him ? It's Marchmont, poor old Marchmont, that we used to chaff, and that the governor sacked because he had a constitutional cough, and wasn't strong enough for his work."
“Oh, yes, I remember him well enough,” Mr. Mostyn answered indifferently. “Nobody could stand his cough, you know; and he was a vulgar fellow, into the bargain.”
“ He wasn't a vulgar fellow,” said Edward indignantly ;—“there, there's the curtain down again ;-be belonged to a good family in Lincolnshire, and was heir-presumptive to a stunning fortune. I've heard him say so twenty times."
Martin Mostyn did not attempt to repress an involuntary sneer, which curled his lips as his cousin spoke.
“Oh, I dare say you've heard him say so, my dear boy,” he murmured superciliously
“Ab, and it was true,” cried Edward; “ he wasn't a fellow to tell lies ; perhaps he'd have suited Mr. Vernon better if he had been. He had bad health, and was weak, and all that sort of thing; but he wasn't a snob. He showed me a signet-ring once that he used to wear on his watch-chain—"
“A silver watch-chain," simpered Mr. Mostyn, "just like a carpenter's."
“Don't be such a supercilious cad, Martin. He was very kind to me, poor Marchmont; and I know I was always a nuisance to him, poor old fellow; for you know I never could get on with Euclid. I'm sorry to see him here. Think, Martin, what an occupation for him! I don't suppose he gets more than nine or ten shillings a week for it.”
“A shilling a night is, I believe, the ordinary remuneration of a stagesoldier. They pay as much for the real thing as for the sham, you see; the defenders of our country risk their lives for about the same consideration. Where are you going, Ned ?"
Edward Arundel had left his place, and was trying to undo the door of the box. “To see if I can get at this poor
fellow." “You persist in declaring, then, that the man with the weak legs is our old mathematical drudge? Well, I shouldn't wonder. The fellow was coughing all through the five acts, and that's uncommonly like Marchmont. You're surely not going to renew your acquaintance with him ?”
But young Arundel had just succeeded in opening the door, and he left the box without waiting to answer his cousin's question. He made his way very rapidly out of the theatre, and fought manfully through the crowds who were waiting about the pit and gallery doors, until he found himself at the stage-entrance. He had often looked with reverent wonder at the dark portal; but he had never before essayed to cross the sacred threshold. But the guardian of the gate to this theatrical paradise, inhabited by fairies at a guinea a week and baronial retainers at a shilling a night, is ordinarily a very inflexible individual, not to be corrupted by any mortal persuasion, and scarcely corruptible by the more potent influence of gold or silver. Poor Edward's half-a-crown had no effect whatever upon the stern door-keeper, who thanked him for his donation, but told him that it was agen his orders to let any body go up-stairs.
“But I want to see some one so particularly,” the boy said eagerly. “ Don't
manage it for me, you know? He's an old friend of mine,one of the supernu—what's-its-names?" added Edward, stumbling over the word. “He carried a banner in the tragedy, you know; and he's got such an awful cough, poor chap."
“The man as carried the banner with a awful cough," said the doorkeeper reflectively; "why, I'm blest if it ain't Barking Jeremiah."
“Barking Jeremiah !" “Yes, sir. They calls him Barking because he's allers coughin' his
" I know you
poor weak head off; and they calls him Jeremiah because he's allers doleful. And I never did see such a doleful chap, certainly.'
“Oh, do let me see him,” cried Mr. Edward Arundel. can manage it; so do, that's a good fellow. I tell you he's a friend of mine, and quite a gentleman too. Bless you, there isn't a move in mathematics he isn't up to; and he'll come into a fortune some of these days—"
“Yes,” interrupted the door-keeper sarcastically, “I've heerd that. They chaffs him about that up-stairs. He's allers talking about bein' a gentleman and belongin' to gentlemen, and all that; but you're the first gentleman as have ever as't after him."
“ And can I see him ?"
“I'll do my best, sir. Here, you Jim," said the door-keeper, addressing a dirty youth, who had just nailed an official announcement of the next morning's rehearsal upon the back of a stony-hearted swing-door, which was apt to jam the fingers of the uninitiated, —"what's the name of that super with the jolly bad cough, the one they call Barking—”
“Oh, that's Morti-more."
He's one of the demons; but the scene's just over. want him ?”
“You can take up this young gentleman's card to him, and tell him to slip down here if he's got a wait,” said the door-keeper.
Mr. Arundel handed his card to the dirty boy.
“He'll come to me fast enough, poor fellow," he muttered. “I usen't to chaff him as the others did, and I'm glad I didn't, now.”
Edward Arundel could not easily forget that one brief scrutiny in which he had recognised the wasted face of the schoolmaster's hack, who had taught him mathematics only two years before. Could there be any thing more piteous than that degrading spectacle? The feeble frame scarcely able to sustain that paltry one-sided banner of calico and tinsel; the two rude daubs of coarse vermilion upon the hollow cheeks; the black smudges that were meant for eyebrows; the wretched scrap of horsehair glued upon the pinched chin in dismal mockery of a beard; and through all this the pathetic pleading of large hazel eyes, bright with the unnatural lustre of disease, and saying perpetually, more plainly than words can speak, “Do not look at me; do not despise me; do not even pity me. It won't last long."
The fresh-hearted schoolboy was still thinking of this, when a wasted hand was laid lightly and tremulously on his arm, and looking up he saw a man in a hideous mask and a tight-fitting suit of scarlet and gold standing by his side.
“I'll take off my mask in a minute, Arundel,” said a faint voice, that sounded hollow and muffled within a cavern of pasteboard and wickerwork. “It was very good of you to come round; very, very good !"
“I was so sorry to see you here, Marchmont; I knew you in a moment, in spite of the disguise.”
The supernumerary had struggled out of his huge head-gear by this time, and laid the fabric of papier-mâché and tinsel carefully aside upon a shelf. He had washed his face before putting on the mask, for he was not called upon to appear before a British public in martial semblance any more upon that evening. The pale wasted face was interesting and g’entlemanly, not by any means handsome, but almost womanly in its softness of expression. It was the face of a man who had not yet seen his thirtieth birthday; who might never live to see it, Edward Arundel thought mournfully.
“Why do you do this, Marchmont ?” the boy asked bluntly.
“Because there was nothing else left for me to do,” the stage-demon answered, with a sad smile. “I can't get a situation in a school, for my health won't suffer me to take one ; or it won't suffer any employer to take me, for fear of my falling ill upon his hands, which comes to the same thing; so I do a little copying for the law-stationers, and this helps out that, and I get on as well as I can. I wouldn't so much mind if it wasn't for-”
He stopped suddenly, interrupted by a paroxysm of coughing.
Edward Arundel looked grave, and perhaps a little ashamed of himself. He had forgotten until this moment that his old tutor had been left a widower at four-and-twenty, with a little daughter to support out of his scanty stipend.
“Don't be down-hearted, old fellow,” the lad whispered tenderly; "perhaps I shall be able to help you, you know. And the little girl can go down to Dangerfield; I know my mother would take care of her, and will keep her there till you get strong and well. And then you might start a fencing-room, or a shooting-gallery, or something of that sort, at the West End; and I'd come to you, and bring lots of fellows to you, and you'd get on capitally, you know.”
Poor John Marchmont, the asthmatic supernumerary, looked perhaps the very last person in the world whom it could be possible to associate with a pair of foils or a pistol and a target; but he smiled faintly at his old pupil's enthusiastic talk.
“You were always a good fellow, Arundel," he said gravely. "I don't suppose I shall ever ask you to do me a service; but if, by and by, this cough makes me knock under, and my little Polly should be left -I-I think you'd get your mother to be kind to her, wouldn't you, Arundel ?”
A picture rose before the supernumerary's weary eyes as he said this; the picture of a pleasant lady whose description he had often heard from the lips of a loving son, & rambling old mansion, wide-spreading lawns, and long arcades of oak and beeches leading away to the blue distance. If this Mrs. Arundel, who was so tender and compassionate and gentle to every red-cheeked cottage-girl who crossed her pathway, Edward had
told him this very often,--would take compassion also upon this little
If she would only condescend to see the child, the poor pale neglected flower, the fragile lily, the frail exotic blossom, that was so cruelly out of place upon the bleak pathways of life!
“Ifthat's all that troubles you,” young Arundel cried eagerly," you may make your mind easy, and come and have some oysters. We'll take care of the child. I'll adopt her, and my mother shall educate her, and she shall marry a duke. Run away now, old fellow, and change your clothes, and come and have oysters, and stout out of the pewter.”
Mr. Marchmont shook his head.
“My time's just up,” he said; “ I'm on in the next scene. very kind of you to come round, Arundel; but this isn't exactly the best place for you. Go back to your friends, my dear boy, and don't think any more of me. I'll write to you some day about little Mary.”
“You'll do nothing of the kind,” exclaimed the boy. “You'll give me your address instanter, and I'll come to see you the first thing tomorrow morning, and you'll introduce me to little Mary; and if she and I are not the best friends in the world, I shall never again boast of my successes with lovely woman. What's the number, old fellow ?”
Mr. Arundel had pulled out a smart morocco pocket-book and a gold pencil-case.
“Twenty-seven Oakley Street, Lambet h. But I'd rather you wouldn't come, Arundel ; your friends wouldn't like it."
“My friends may go hang themselves. I shall do as I like, and I'll be with you to breakfast, sharp ten.”
The supernumerary had no time to remonstrate. The progress of the music, faintly audible from the lobby in which this conversation had taken place, told him that his scene was nearly on.
“I can't stop another moment. Go back to your friends, Arundel. Good night. God bless you !"
“Stay; one word. The Lincolnshire property-”
“Will never come to me, my boy,” the demon answered sadly, through his mask; for he had been busy re-investing himself in that demoniae guise. “I tried to sell my reversion, but the Jews almost laughed in my face when they heard me cough. Good night.”
He was gone, and the swing-door slammed in Edward Arundel's face. The boy hurried back to his cousin, who was cross and dissatisfied at his absence. Martin Mostyn had discovered that the ballet-girls were all either old or ugly, the music badly chosen, the pantomime stupid, the scenery a failure. He asked a few supercilious questions about his old tutor, but scarcely listened to Edward's answers ; and was intensely aggravated with his companion's pertinacity in sitting out the comic business-in which poor John Marchmont appeared and reappeared ; now as a well-dressed passenger carrying a parcel, which he deliberately sacrificed to the felonious propensities of the clown, now as a policeman, now as a barber, now as a chemist, now as a ghost; but always buffeted, or