« ZurückWeiter »
Trimmer came, knowing Bracebridge and Taversham very well, and wondering what was required of him. He had seen papers printed, and knew the difference between "long primer" and "bourgeois." He wore no moustache, and carried his gloves in his hands, as though he might be called upon to write at any moment, and increase the size of the ink-stain on the corner of his right middle finger.
Faust acknowledged the attainments of Trimmer by submitting to him the proposed sizes of type for the paper, and consulting him on the method of bringing out a fifth edition, differing from the fourth by the introduction of a CC 'full head." Their conference was of an occult character, and ended by Faust reminding the Company that there he was-all that he waited for was instruction and money.
The day of publication came, and there was no type, and the compositors had all gone away, leaving Faust at the door of the office, with his hands in his pockets. What was the use of coming out, he said, without machinery, and without compositors that would do him credit? What were half a dozen papers like that little thing, when once the money was forthcoming, and the machinery was in, and he had proper instructions to do as he liked. That was what he was used to?
Pending the supernatural arrival of these conditions, Faust kept his hands in his pockets, except when he took one out to wipe his lips with, after a temporary adjournment to the nearest tavern, where he was negotiating with another sagacious speculator the establishment of a new publication expressly intended to support and be supported by the great advertising interest, under the title of "Marts and Manufactories of Modern Babylon."
Meanwhile Trimmer was holding levées of reporters, and Bracebridge was organizing his staff, and Brownjohn, whose hat was more off than on, lived on "Veveys" and soda-water, in a fever of distress because he was not allowed to interfere. At last, at eight o'clock on one great and auspicious evening the first number came out-rather blotchy as to its general appearance, and with a tendency to stick to everything it touched, like a chemical fly-paper.
It was scarcely a triumphant success, though really a staff had been organized as much as possible with regard to those private claims which were preferred by personal friends. The public did not at once appreciate all that was being done for them; and the next day we were all disgusted by a message from the manager of the Gemini Theatre, threatening action at law for breach of copyright of his play-bill.
The manager of the Gemini, in fact, got a profit out of the concession of his bill of the play, and he was a man not in the least likely to regard the "Unicorn" from a sentimental point of view. He regarded nothing whatever from a sentimental point of view, except his own early misfortunes; but on that subject he had been known to expatiate with great pathos at charity banquets. His reminiscences of those early dinners, when he was compelled to satisfy his hunger with a roll and treacle, at the wings, at rehearsal, frequently drew tears from those of his audience who sought engagements at the Gemini.
For a whole week the "Unicorn" was laboriously trotted out, and then the shareholders held a meeting, and wanted a dividend. next day Brownjohn had an amateur turn at editorship-doing the whole thing, begad sir, up in the office, where he saw those fellows set the type himself. It happened that there had been a trial at the Thames Police Court, and as Brownjohn couldn't be supposed to know that the reports wanted correction, there was enough bad language in the first edition to make the number a novelty, and give it quite an extra circulation. The next day was Saturday, and the contributors, of whom there were a good many, waited till three of the shareholders could be got together to respond to "a call."
Though the theatrical managers were cross-grained, nothing could have been handsomer than the conduct of the proprietors of those popular places of amusement, the Giralda, Holloway Granary, the Concordiamor, and several others. Mr. Johnson, who had Italianized his name, as a manager should, was delighted to see Brownjohn, Bracebridge, and Fortescue; and on their behalf those magnums tipped with gold-foil, and containing that delightful beverage which managers and actors always call "sparkling," appeared on the table with the celerity of a pantomime trick. An entire evening, by the aid of a carriage and pair, was devoted to sparkling, and the repeated hearing from private boxes of successive nigger melody and "great" comic singing. All that remained to be done was to have a number of boys to carry the papers, in a bright yellow livery, and six postillions in red jackets and top boots, to ride at a rattling pace on six piebald horses, and deliver intelligence to the clubs. Meanwhile, expenses must be cut down. What did the public want with a French correspondent, when anybody with fancy and intellect could write an original Paris letter out of the "Moniteur" of the day before yesterday? Who cared for reviews of books at a guinea a column? And as to leaders, who read 'em?
Three days after these questions were asked, Bracebridge was discovered staring wildly at an empty water-bottle, while the foreman of the printers asked for four columns of copy. The same night he departed, shaking the dust off his shoes upon the stairs. Taversham had simply declined to put in an appearance till somebody told him what was expected of him; and Trimmer was alone, grimly wondering what would follow. There was another "call,” and the shareholders had not received a dividend, though the "Unicorn" had been established three weeks. They must still diminish the expenses. Trimmer put on his hat, quietly bade the shareholders good-day, and Brownjohn and organization were triumphant. Then was the great opportunity for Harold Fortescue to come out of that shell in which adverse fortune had so long confined him. He may be said to have been hatched from that moment, and thought no more of editing a paper than he did of a game at croquet. Slashing, but light and genial dramatic criticism was his forte. He went to the theatre. It was a new play, and the well-known comedian, Mr. Silversand, had the great part in it.
"It must be regretted, however," said the "Unicorn," the next day, "that Mr. Silversand should have neglected the art of painting his nose, without which all his well-known confidence is unavailing."
This was not to be borne, and Mr. Silversand, in defence of his art and of his own reputation, brought his action. "Was it to be permitted," said his eminent counsel, "that the limits of legitimate criticism should be overstepped at the pleasure of every scribbler in an obscure penny newspaper, and that the private feelings of a gentleman should be outraged by an allusion to his public appearance, under the pretext of a dramatic notice." The jury, some of whom, perhaps, lived in Lambeth, and had probably been shown-up in a local print, said "No;" and the "Unicorn" had to pay damages. It was a great stroke of luck, for the other papers took up the subject, and defended the "Unicorn;" and the "Unicorn" printed their defence, and was threatened with further proceedings. Fortescue triumphed. A criticism on Mr. Grappler appeared in the next number, which said: "Nothing can exceed the artistic skill and true dramatic feeling with which this great actor paints his nose." There was another action, and fresh damages. What paper could fail after such a success? The "Unicorn" became a property!
"A Secret of the Confessional."
BY HESBA STRETTON.
My sleep must have lasted some time, though to me it seemed as if I had only just closed my eyes of my own accord, the better to imagine the secrets of Désirée's confession, when I heard a voice close to my ear-whether I dreamed it or not I could not tell-exclaim, in a marvellous accent of horror and anguish, the word, "Daughter!" I was in that strange, debatable region between waking and sleeping, when the mind cannot distinguish between the real and the imaginary. The curtain had slipped from my hold, but I drew its soundless folds aside again, and gazed out into the church. The dusk of twilight reigned there now, and the flames of the tapers upon the altar burned lower, but more brightly and redly. I was about to move, when (not more than an instant had elapsed since I had heard vaguely, and as if uttered by myself, the word " Daughter!") another voice began to speak in a low, dry, distinct, metallic whisper, which pierced sharply, with its keen and painful tone, into my ear. Yet I had not so much the impression of hearing articulated words as of having them traced in burning characters upon my brain, and even then not so much the words as their sense, their horrible meaning. Was I still asleep, and dreaming of Désirée's confessions? Once I heard a low, involuntary groan from the ghostly confessor beside me, whom I could not see, for the dry, keen voice beyond him was muttering, "Désirée knew that the child would never return alive."
I suppose I no more stirred or moved than one of the sculptured images of the saints in the niches on the walls; but the curtain fell from my nerveless fingers, and hid me again behind its heavy folds. I listened to the woman's sounding footsteps as she went away, and then the priest took off his white vestments, and paced up and down the aisle for a few times; but I remained still, paralyzed, and motionless. What I had heard, if my fancy was not betraying me, was enough to stupefy my senses and numb my brain. At last the dead silence of the church was restored, and with a simply instinctive precaution I drew the curtain a little on one side to make sure that I was again alone. At any rate, the corner where the confessional
I stole out
stood was dark enough for me to effect my escape unseen. like a murderer; neither eye saw me nor ear heard me. I gained the blessedness of the untainted air without, and groped like one struck blind among the trees; but the horror that was upon me did not pass away with the dream I had been dreaming in the con
You wish to know what I had dreamed? I had imagined then (place yourself in my position), that sitting there in the dark, seeing only very dimly through the grating the white-robed form of a priest on my right hand, I had heard the foster-mother of Désirée tell how, from love of her foster-child, who for fifteen years had been the sole inheritor of her father's wealth, and chiefly because her diminished dowry was the obstacle to her marriage with the rich Englishman, she had caused the death of the lost child. She had done it suddenly and violently, being irresistibly tempted to it as she and the boy were passing over a desolate moor; and the body of the child, which had been vainly sought along the course of the river, lay there unburied, except by the leaves and branches with which she had hastily covered it. I had dreamed also, and think of the awfulness of it, that the woman had muttered in answer to a question from the priest, "When I took the child from home, Désirée knew he would never return alive."
This was my dream; and I had to return with it to the château, where, as I drew near it, I saw Désirée watching for me, with the moon shining purely upon her, as it had done on the evening of my arrival. Her father was there, and the priest, and we sat down together to the evening meal, and there seemed no more than the graceful and customary sadness among us. M. Lalande conversed with his usual ease and Désirée uttered a sparkling sentence or two from time to time, as if, but for her sisterly grief, she could enter gaily into the conversation. I myself was stupefied. The excessive sultriness of the day, or the monstrous hallucination which possessed me, had produced upon my brain a singular lethargy. I saw and heard; but the impression made upon me was not direct it seemed rather to be the memory of some longforgotten scene-an occurrence of some former phase of life, which was once more represented before me, but only as in a drama, where I was a mere looker-on.
Before the long evening meal, over which we were accustomed to linger, was finished, I recollect rising from the table in silence, and