chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
| > next chapter >
AT length the evening, upon which the tragedy was to be
represented for the first time, arrived.
Markham in the mean time had been little of the manager, and
had not attended a single rehearsal, his presence for that purpose not having
been required. Moreover, true to his original intentions, he had not acquainted
a soul with his secret relative to the drama. The manager still knew him only as
Edward Preston; and the advertisements in the newspapers had announced the
"forth-coming tragedy" as one that had "emanated from the pen of
a young author of considerable promise, but who had determined to maintain a
strict incognito until the public verdict should have been pronounced upon his
A short time before the doors opened, Richard proceeded to
the theatre, and called upon the manager, who received him in his own private
"Well, Mr. Preston," said the theatrical monarch,
"this evening will decide the fate of the tragedy. A few hours, and we
shall know more. "
"I hope you still think well of it," returned
" My candid opinion is that the success will be
triumphant," said the manager. " I have spared no expense to get up
the piece well; and I am very sanguine. Besides, 1 have another element of
"What is that?" inquired Richard.
"My principal ballet-dancer, who is a beautiful creature
and a general favourite - Miss Selina Fitzherbert "
"I have heard of her fame," said Markham, " but
have never seen her. Strange as it may appear, 1 never visit theatres - I have not
done so for years."
"You will visit them often enough if your productions
succeed," observed the manager with a smile. " But, as I was saying, Miss
Fitzherbert has lately manifested a passionate desire to shine in tragedy; and
she will make her debut in that sphere tonight, in your piece. She will play
the Baron's Daughter."
"Which character does not appear until the commencement
of the third act," said Markham.
"Precisely," observed the manager. " But time is now
drawing on. Where will you remain during the performance?"
"I shall proceed into the body of the house," returned
Markham, "and take my seat in one of the central boxes - I mean those
precisely fronting the stage. I shall be able to judge of the effect better in
that part of the house than elsewhere."
"As you please," said the manager. "But mind and let me
see you after the performance."
Richard promised compliance with this request and then
proceeded into the house, where he took a seat in the centre of the
The doors had been opened a few minutes previously, and the
house was filling fast. By half-past six it was crowded from pit to roof. The
boxes were filled with elegantly-dressed ladies and fashionable gentlemen: there
was not room to thrust another spectator into any one point at the moment when
the curtain drew up.
The overture commenced. How long it appeared to Markham,
passionately fond of music though he was!
At length it ceased; and the First Act commenced.
For some time a profound silence pervaded the audience :- not
a voice, not a murmur, not a sigh, gave the slightest demonstration of either
approbation or dislike.
But, at length, at the conclusion of a most impressive
soliloquy, which was delivered by the hero of the piece, one universal burst of
applause broke forth; and the theatre rang with the sounds of human tongues and
the clapping of hands. When the First Act ended, the opinion of the audience was
decisive in favour of the piece; and the manager felt persuaded that "it
was a hit."
This was one of the happiest moments of Markham's existence -
which had latterly presented so few green spots to please the mental eye of the
wanderer in the world's desert. His veins seemed to run with liquid fire! - a
delirium of joy seized upon him - he was inebriated with excess of bliss.
Around him the spectators were expressing their opinions of the first act,
little suspecting that the author of the piece was so near. All those sentiments were unequivocally
in favour of the tragedy.
The Second Act began - progressed - terminated.
No pen can describe the enthusiasm with which
[-275-] the audience received the development of the drama, nor the
interest which it seemed to excite.
Inspired by the applause that greeted them, the performers
exerted all their efforts; and the excellence of the tragedy, united with the
talent of the actors and the beauty of the scenery, achieved a triumph not often
witnessed within the walls of that or any other theatre.
The Third Act commenced. Selina Fitzherbert appeared upon
the stage; and her presence was welcomed with rapturous applause.
She came forward, and acknowledged the kindness of the
audience with a graceful curtsey.
Markham surveyed her with interest, in consequence of the
manner in which her name had been mentioned to him by the manager ;- but that
interest grew more profound, and was gradually associated with feelings of
extreme surprise, suspense, and uncertainty, for he fancied that if ever he saw
Ellen Monroe in his life, there was she - or else her living counterpart -
before him - an actress playing apart in his own drama!
He was stupefied ;- he strained his eyes - he leant forward -
borrowed the opera-glass of a gentleman seated next to him ;- and the more he
gazed, the more he felt convinced that he beheld Ellen Monroe in the person of
At length the actress spoke: wonder upon wonder - it was
Ellen's voice - her intonation - her accent - her style of speaking.
Markham was amazed - confounded.
He inquired of his neighbour whether Selina Fitzherbert was
the young lady's real name, or an assumed one.
The gentleman to whom he spoke did not know.
"How long has she been upon the stage?"
"Between two and three months; and, strange to say, it
is rumoured that she only took two months to render herself so proficient a
dancer as she is. But she now appears to be equally fine in tragedy. Listen!"
Markham could ask no more questions; for his neighbour became
all attention towards the piece.
Richard reviewed in a moment, in his mind, all the principal
appearances and characteristics of Ellen's life during the last few months,- the
lateness of her hours - the constancy of her employment - and a variety of circumstances, which only
now struck him,
but which tended to ratify his suspicion that she was indeed Selina Fitzherbert.
His attention was withdrawn from his own piece; and be
determined to convince himself at once upon this head.
Taking advantage of the termination of the first scene in the
third act, he left the box, and proceeded behind the scenes of the theatre. But
while he was on his way thither, it struck him that if his suspicions were
correct, and if he appeared too suddenly in the presence of Ellen, he would
perhaps so disconcert her as to render her unfit to proceed with the part
entrusted to her. He accordingly concealed himself in a dark corner, behind some
scene-boards, and whence he could see plainly, but where he himself could not be
very readily discovered.
He did not wait long ere his doubts were cleared up in a few
minutes after he had taken his post in the obscure nook, Ellen passed close by
him. She was conversing with another actress.
"Have you seen the author? " said the latter.
"No - not
yet," replied Ellen. "But the manager has promised us that pleasure when
the curtain falls."
"He has made a brilliant hit."
"Yes," said Ellen. "He need not have been so bashful
if he had known his own powers, or foreseen this success. The greatest mystery
has been preserved about him: he never once came to rehearsal and the prompter
who copied out my part for me from the original manuscript, tells me that he is
convinced the author is quite a novice in dramatic composition, by the way in
which the piece was written - I mean, there were not in the manuscript any of
those hints and suggestions which an experienced writer would have introduced."
"I really quite long to see him," said Ellen's companion:
"he must be quite "
The two ladies passed on; and Richard heard no more.
His doubts were, however, cleared up :- Ellen Monroe was a
figurante and an actress!
He was not so annoyed at this discovery as Ellen had
imagined he would have been when she took such precautions to conceal the fact
from the knowledge of him and her father. Richard could not help admiring the
independent spirit which had induced her to seek the means of earning her own
livelihood, and which he now fully comprehended :- at the same time, he was sorry
that she had withheld the truth, and that she had embraced the stage in
preference to any other avocation. Alas! he little suspected what scenes that
poor girl had passed through :- he knew nothing of her connexion with the
statuary, the artist, the sculptor, the photographer, Greenwood, and the
Having satisfied himself that Selina Fitzherbert and Ellen
Monroe were one and the same person, and still amazed and bewildered by the
discovery, Markham returned to the body of the theatre; but, instead of
proceeding to his former seat, he repaired to the "author's box," which he
found unoccupied, and which, being close to the stage, commanded a full view of
The tragedy proceeded with unabated success: the performance of Ellen was alone sufficient to
give it an
extraordinary éclat. Her beautiful countenance - the noble and dignified manner in
which she carried her classic head - her elegant form - the natural grace and
suavity of her manners - her musical voice - and the correct appreciation she
evinced of the character in which she appeared, - these were the elements of an
irresistible appeal to the public heart. The tragedy would have been eminently
successful by reason of its own intrinsic merits, and without Ellen :-
her, that success was brilliant - triumphant - unparalleled in the annals of the
The entire audience was enraptured with the charming woman
who shone in two ways so essentially distinct, -who had first captivated the
sense as a dancer, and who now came forth a great tragic actress. Her lovely
person and her talents united, formed a passport to favour which not a
dissentient voice could question ;- and when the curtain fell at the close of
the fifth act, the approbation of the spectators was expressed with clapping of
hands, waving of handkerchiefs, and shouts of applause - all prolonged to an
unusual length of time, and frequently renewed with additional enthusiasm.
The moment the curtain fell Markham hastened behind the
scenes, and encountered Ellen in one of the slips.
Hastily grasping her by the hand, he said in a low but hurried
tone "Do not be alarmed - I know all - I am here to thank you - not to blame you."
"Thank me, Richard!" exclaimed the young actress, partially
recovering from the almost over-[-276-]whelming state of alarm into which the sudden apparition of
Markham had thrown her: "why should you thank me?"
"Thank you, Ellen - Oh! how can I do otherwise than thank
you?" said Markham. "You have carried my tragedy through the ordeal "
"Your tragedy, Richard!" cried Miss Monroe, more and
"Yes, my tragedy, Ellen - it is mine! But, ah! there is
a call for you "
A moment's silence had succeeded the flattering expression of
public opinion which arose at the termination of the performance; and then arose
a loud cry for Selina Fitzherbert.
This was followed by a call for the author, and then a
thousand voices ejaculated - Selina Fitzherbert and the Author! Let them come
The manager now hastened up to the place where Ellen and
Richard were standing, and where the above hurried words had been exchanged
" You must go forward, Miss Fitzherbert - and you too, Mr.
Ellen glanced with an arch smile towards Richard, am much as
to say, "You also have taken an assumed name."
Markham begged and implored the manager not to force him upon
the stage ;- but the call for " Selina Fitzberbert and the Author" was
peremptory; and the "gods" were growing clamorous.
Popular will is never more arbitrary than in a theatre.
Markham accordingly took Ellen's hand :- the curtain rose, and
he led her forward.
The appearance of that handsome couple - a fine dark-eyed and
genteel young man leading by the hand a lovely woman, - a successful author, and a
favourite actress, - this was the signal for a fresh burst of applause.
Richard was dazzled with the glare of light, and for some
time could see nothing distinctly.
Myriad. of human countenances, heaped together, danced before
him; and yet the aspect and features of none were accurately delineated to his
eyes. He could not have selected from amongst those countenances, even that
of his long-lost brother, or that of his dearly beloved Isabella, had they been
both or either of them prominent in that multitude of faces.
And Isabella wee there, with her parents - impelled by the
curiosity which had taken so many thither that evening.
Her surprise, and that of her father and mother, may
therefore well be conceived, when, in the author of one of the most successful
and beautiful dramatic compositions of modern times, they recognised Richard
The applause continued for three or four minutes -
uninterrupted and enthusiastic - as if some mighty conqueror,
who had just released his country from the thraldom of a foreign foe, was the
object of adulation.
At length this expression of approbation ceased; and the
spectators awaited in suspense, and with curiosity depicted upon their
countenances, the acknowledgment of the honours showered upon the author.
At that moment the manager stepped forward, and said,
"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour to inform you. that Mr. Edward
Preston is the author of the successful tragedy upon which you have been pleased to bestow your approval. I consider it to be my duty to mention a name
which the author's own modesty - modesty which you will agree with me in pronouncing to be unnecessary under such
circumstances - would not probably have allowed him to reveal to you."
The manager bowed and retired.
Fresh applause welcomed the announcement of the tragic
author's name; and a thousand voices exclaimed, "Bravo, Edward Preston!"
By this time Markham had recovered his presence of mind and
self-possession: and his joy was extreme when he suddenly recognised Isabella in
a box close by the stage.
Oh! that was a glorious moment for him : she was there
- she beheld his triumph - and doubtless she participated in his own happy feelings.
"Bravo, Edward Preston!" was re-echoed through the
And then a dead silence prevailed.
All were anxious to hear Richard speak.
But just at the moment when he was about to acknowledge the
honour conferred upon him and his fair companion by the audience, a strange
voice broke upon the stillness of the scene.
"It is false! his name is not Preston "
"Silence!" cried numerous voices.
"His name is "
"Turn out that brawler! turn him out!"
"His name is "
"Hold your tongue!"
"Turn him out! turn him out!"
"His name is Richard Markham the Forger!"
A burst of indignation, mingled with strong expressions of
incredulity, rose against the individual. who, from an obscure nook in the
gallery, had interrupted the harmony of the evening.
"It is true - I say! he is Richard Markham who was
condemned to two years' imprisonment for forgery!" thundered forth the hoarse
and unpleasant voice.
A piercing scream - the scream of a female tone - echoed through the house: all eyes were turned towards the
box whence it issued; and a young lady with flaxen hair and pale complexion,
was seen to sink senseless in the arms of the elderly gentleman who accompanied
And in another part of the house a young lady also sank,
pale, trembling, and overcome with feelings of acute anguish, upon her
So deeply did that dread accusing voice affect the sensitive
and astonished Mary-Anne and the faithful Isabella!
All was now confusion. The audience rose from their seats in
all directions; and the theatre suddenly appeared to be converted into a modern
Overwhelmed with shame, and so bewildered by this cruel blow,
that he knew not how to act, Markham stood for some moments like a criminal
before his judges. Ellen, forgetting where she was, clung to him for support.
At length, the unhappy young man seized Ellen abruptly by
the hand, and led her from the public gaze.
curtain fell as they passed behind the scenes.
The audience then grew more clamorous - none scarcely knew why.
Some demanded that the man who had caused the interruption should be arrested by
the police; but those in the gallery shouted out that he had suddenly
disappeared. Others declared that the accusation ought to be investigated ;-
people in the pit maintained that, even if the story were true, it had nothing
to do with the success of the accused as a dramatic author ;- and gentlemen [-277-]
in the boxes expressed their determination never to support a
man, in a public institution and in a public capacity, who had been condemned to
infamous penalties for an enormous crime.
Thus all was noise, confusion, and uproar, - argument,
accusation, and recrimination, - the buzzing of hundreds of tongues, - the clamour
of thousands of voices.
Some called "Shame!" upon the manager for introducing a
discharged convict to the notice of Englishmen's wives and daughters, -
the persons who thus clamoured did not utter a reproach against the immoral
females who made no secret of their profligacy, and who appeared nightly upon
the stage as its brightest ornaments - nor did they condescend to recall to mind
the vicinity of that infamous saloon which vomited forth numbers of impure
characters to occupy seats by the sides of those wives and daughters, whose
purity was now supposed to be tainted because a man who had undergone an
infamous punishment, but who could there set no bad example, had contributed to
And then commenced a riot in the theatre. The respectable
portion of the audience escaped from the scene with the utmost precipitation :-
but the occupants of the upper region, and some of the tenants of the pit,
remained to exhibit their inclination for what they were pleased to term "a
lark." The benches were torn up, and hurled upon the stage hats and orange-peel flew about in all directions ;- and
serious damage would have been done to the theatre, had not a body of police
succeeded in restoring order.
In the mean time Markham and Ellen had been conducted to the
Green Room, where a glass of wine was administered to each to restore their
The manager was alone with them; and when Richard had time to
collect his scattered ideas, he seemed to awake as from a horrible dream. But
the ominous countenance of the manager met his glance; - and he knew that it was all a fearful reality.
Then did Markham bury his face in his hands, and weep
bitterly - bitterly.
"Alas! young man," said the manager, "it was an evil
day for both you and me, when you sought and I accorded my patronage. This business will no doubt
injure me seriously. You are a young man of extraordinary talent ;- but it will
not avail you in this sphere again. You have enjoyed one signal triumph - you have
experienced a most heart-rending overthrow. Never did defeat follow upon
conquest so rapidly. The power of your genius will not vanquish the opinion of
the public. I do not blame you: you were not compelled to communicate your
former history to me ;- and it was I who forced you to go forward."
Markham was consoled by the language of the manager, who
spoke in a kind and sympathising tone of voice.
Thus the only man who would suffer in a pecuniary point of
view - or, at least, he who would suffer most - by the fatal occurrence of that
evening, - was also the only one who attempted to solace the unhappy
As for poor Ellen - she was overwhelmed with grief.
"You gave me fifty guineas for that fatal - fatal
drama," said Richard, after a long pause. "The money shall be returned to
you to morrow."
"No, my young friend, - that must not be done!"
exclaimed the manager, taking Richard's hand. "Your noble conduct in this respect raises you fifty per
"Yes - he is noble, he is generous!" cried Ellen. "He has been a
benefactor to myself and my father: it is
at his house that we live; and never until this evening were we aware of each
other's avocations. in respect to the stage."
"How singular a coincidence!" exclaimed the manager. "But I hope that I shall not lose the services of the principal
attraction of my company?"
"Yes," said Ellen firmly: " I shall never more appear in public in
that capacity of which I was lately so enamoured, but for which I have suddenly
entertained an abhorrence."
"A few days' repose and rest will induce you to change
your mind, I hope?" said the manager, who was really alarmed at the prospect of
losing a figurante of such talent and an actress of such great promise.
"We shall see - I will reflect," returned Ellen, unwilling
to add to the annoyances of the kindhearted manager.
"You must not desert me," said this gentleman, -
"especially at a time when I shall require all the attractions possible to
restore the reputation of my house."
Markham now rose to take his departure.
"I should not advise you to leave the house together,"
said the manager. "There may be a few malcontents in the street ;- and, at
all events, it will be as well that the ladies and gentlemen of my company
should not know of your intimate acquaintance with each other. Such a
proceeding might only compromise Miss Fitzherbert."
Markham cordially acceded to this suggestion; and it was
agreed that he should depart by the private door, and that Ellen should return
home in the usual manner by herself.
But before they separated, the two young people agreed with
each other that the strictest silence should be preserved at the Place, not only
with respect to the events of that evening, but also in regard to the nature of
the avocations in which they had both lately been engaged.
Markham succeeded in escaping unobserved from the theatre ;-
and, humiliated, cast down, heartbroken, - bending beneath an insupportable
burden of ignominy and shame,- with the fainting form of Isabella before his
eyes, and the piercing shriek of Mary-Anne, whom he had also recognised, in his
ears, - he pursued his precipitate retreat homewards.
But what a dread revelation had been made to him that
evening! His mortal enemy - his inveterate foe had escaped from the death which,
it was hitherto supposed, the miscreant had met in the den of infamy near
Bird-Cage. Walk some months previously: - his ominous voice still thundered its Markham's ears
;- and our unhappy hero
once more saw all his prospects ruined by the unmitigated hatred of the Resurrection Man.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
| > next chapter >