When Goldsmith reached his chambers in Brick Court, he found awaiting him a letter from Colman, the lessee of Covent Garden Theatre, to let him know that Woodward and Mrs. Abington had resigned their parts in his comedy which had been in rehearsal for a week, and that he, Colman, felt they were right in doing so, as the failure of the piece was so inevitable. He hoped that Dr. Goldsmith would be discreet enough to sanction its withdrawal while its withdrawal was still possible.

He read this letter—one of several which he had received from Colman during the week prophesying disaster—without impatience, and threw it aside without a further thought. He had no thought for anything save the expression that had been on the face of Mary Horneck as she had spoken his lines—

“When lovely woman stoops to folly,

And finds too late....”

“Too late——” She had not got beyond those words. Her voice had broken, as he had often believed that his beloved Olivia's voice had broken, when trying to sing her song in which a woman's despair is enshrined for all ages. Her voice had broken, though not with the stress of tears. It would not have been so full of despair if tears had been in her eyes. Where there are tears there is hope. But her voice....

What was he to believe? What was he to think regarding that sweet girl who had, since the first day he had known her, treated him as no other human being had ever treated him? The whole family of the Hornecks had shown themselves to be his best friends. They insisted on his placing himself on the most familiar footing in regard to their house, and when Little Comedy married she maintained the pleasant intimacy with him which had begun at Sir Joshua Reynolds's dinner-table. The days that he spent at the Bunburys' house at Barton were among the pleasantest of his life.

But, fond though he was of Mrs. Bun-bury, her sister Mary, his “Jessamy Bride,” drew him to her by a deeper and warmer affection. He had felt from the first hour of meeting her that she understood his nature—that in her he had at last found some one who could give him the sympathy which he sought. More than once she had proved to him that she recognised the greatness of his nature—his simplicity, his generosity, the tenderness of his heart for all things that suffered, his trustfulness, that caused him to be so frequently imposed upon, his intolerance of hypocrisy and false sentiment, though false sentiment was the note of the most successful productions of the day. Above all, he felt that she recognised his true attitude in relation to English literature. If he was compelled to work in uncongenial channels in order to earn his daily bread, he himself never forgot what he owed to English literature. How nobly he discharged this debt his “Traveller,” “The Vicar of Wakefield,” “The Deserted Village,” and “The Good Natured Man” testified at intervals. He felt that he was the truest poet, the sincerest dramatist, of the period, and he never allowed the work which he was compelled to do for the booksellers to turn him aside from his high aims.

It was because Mary Horneck proved to him daily that she understood what his aims were he regarded her as different from all the rest of the world. She did not talk to him of sympathising with him, but she understood him and sympathised with him.

As he lay back in his chair now asking himself what he should think of her, he recalled every day that he had passed in her company, from the time of their first meeting at Reynolds's house until he had accompanied her and her mother and sister on the tour through France. He remembered how, the previous year, she had stirred his heart on returning from a long visit to her native Devonshire by a clasp of the hand and a look of gratitude, as she spoke the name of the book which he had sent to her with a letter. “The Vicar of Wakefield” was the book, and she had said—

“You can never, never know what it has been to me—what it has done for me.” Her eyes had at that time been full of tears of gratitude—of affection, and the sound of her voice and the sight of her liquid eyes had overcome him. He knew there was a bond between them that would not be easily severed.


But there were no tears in her eyes as she spoke the words of Olivia's song.

What was he to think of her?

One moment she had been overflowing with girlish merriment, and then, on glancing across the hall, her face had become pale and her mood had changed from one of merriment to one of despair—the despair of a bird that finds itself in the net of the fowler.

What was he to think of her?

He would not wrong her by a single thought. He thought no longer of her, but of the man whose sudden appearance before her eyes had, he felt certain, brought about her change of mood.

It was his certainty of feeling on this matter that had caused him to guard her jealously from the approach of that man, and, when he saw him going toward the coach, to prevent his further advance by the readiest means in his power. He had had no time to elaborate any scheme to keep the man away from Mary Horneck, and he had been forced to adopt the most rudimentary scheme to carry out his purpose.

Well, he reflected upon the fact that if the scheme was rudimentary it had proved extremely effective. He had kept the man apart from the girls, and he only regretted that the man had been so easily led to regard the occurrence as an accident. He would have dearly liked to run the man through some vital part.

What was that man to Mary Horneck that she should be in terror at the very sight of him? That was the question which presented itself to him, and his too vivid imagination had no difficulty in suggesting a number of answers to it, but through all he kept his word to her: he thought no ill of her. He could not entertain a thought of her that was not wholly good. He felt that her concern was on account of some one else who might be in the power of that man. He knew how generous she was—how sympathetic. He had told her some of his own troubles, and though he did so lightly, as was his custom, she had been deeply affected on hearing of them. Might it not then be that the trouble which affected her was not her own, but another's?

Before he went to bed he had brought himself to take this view of the incident of the evening, and he felt much easier in his mind.

Only he felt a twinge of regret when he reflected that the fellow whose appearance had deprived Mary Horneck of an evening's pleasure had escaped with no greater inconvenience than would be the result of an ordinary shaking. His contempt for the man increased as he recalled how he had declined to prolong the quarrel. If he had been anything of a man he would have perceived that he was insulted, not by accident but design, and would have been ready to fight.

Whatever might be the nature of Mary Horneck's trouble, the killing of the man would be a step in the right direction.

It was not until his servant, John Eyles, had awakened him in the morning that he recollected receiving a letter from Colman which contained some unpleasant news. He could not at first remember the details of the news, but he was certain that on receiving it he had a definite idea that it was unpleasant. When he now read Colman's letter for the second time he found that his recollection of his first impression was not at fault. It was just his luck: no man was in the habit of writing more joyous letters or receiving more depressing than Goldsmith.

He hurried off to the theatre and found Colman in his most disagreeable mood. The actor and actress who had resigned their parts were just those to whom he was looking, Colman declared, to pull the play through. He could not, however, blame them, he frankly admitted. They were, he said, dependent for a livelihood upon their association with success on the stage, and it could not be otherwise than prejudicial to their best interests to be connected with a failure.

This was too much, even for the long suffering Goldsmith.

“Is it not somewhat premature to talk of the failure of a play that has not yet been produced, Mr. Colman?” he said.

“It might be in respect to most plays, sir,” replied Colman; “but in regard to this particular play, I don't think that one need be afraid to anticipate by a week or two the verdict of the playgoers. Two things in this world are inevitable, sir: death and the damning of your comedy.”

“I shall try to bear both with fortitude,” said Goldsmith quietly, though he was inwardly very indignant with the manager for his gratuitous predictions of failure—predictions which from the first his attitude in regard to the play had contributed to realise. “I should like to have a talk with Mrs. Abington and Woodward,” he added.

“They are in the green room,” said the manager. “I must say that I was in hope, Dr. Goldsmith, that your critical judgment of your own work would enable you to see your way to withdraw it.”

“I decline to withdraw it, sir,” said Goldsmith.

“I have been a manager now for some years,” said Colman, “and, speaking from the experience which I have gained at this theatre, I say without hesitation that I never had a piece offered to me which promised so complete a disaster as this, sir. Why, 'tis like no other comedy that was ever wrote.”

“That is a feature which I think the playgoers will not be slow to appreciate,” said Goldsmith. “Good Lord! Mr. Colman, cannot you see that what the people want nowadays is a novelty?”

“Ay, sir; but there are novelties and novelties, and this novelty of yours is not to their taste.'T is not a comedy of the pothouse that's the novelty genteel people want in these days; and mark my words, sir, the bringing on of that vulgar young boor—what's the fellow's name?—Lumpkin, in his pothouse, and the unworthy sneers against the refinement and sensibility of the period—the fellow who talks of his bear only dancing to the genteelest of tunes—all this, Dr. Goldsmith, I pledge you my word and reputation as a manager, will bring about an early fall of the curtain.”

“An early fall of the curtain?”

“Even so, sir; for the people in the house will not permit another scene beyond that of your pothouse to be set.”

“Let me tell you, Mr. Colman, that the Three Pigeons is an hostelry, not a pothouse.”

“The playgoers will damn it if it were e'en a Bishop's palace.”

“Which you think most secure against such a fate. Nay, sir, let us not apply the doctrine of predestination to a comedy. Men have gone mad through believing that they had no chance of being saved from the Pit. Pray let not us take so gloomy a view of the hereafter of our play.”

“Of your play, sir, by your leave. I have no mind to accept even a share of its paternity, though I know that I cannot escape blame for having anything to do with its production.”

“If you are so anxious to decline the responsibilities of a father in respect to it, sir, I must beg that you will not feel called upon to act with the cruelty of a step-father towards it.”

Goldsmith bowed in his pleasantest manner as he left the manager's office and went to the green room.

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